Pull them in, make them care, keep them reading. Here’s how…

Just the other day, I was struggling to find a way into a case study I was writing. The facts were compelling enough, and there was a happy ending (there always is with case studies – didn’t you know?) but something was missing.

And then I realised what it was. Involvement.

Involving the reader by connecting with them. And the very best way to connect with somebody is to tell a story, which is exactly what I did. Except here’s the twist: I let somebody else tell it for me. 

I called up my client’s client, and ask them to start at the very beginning. Tell me in your own words, I said, and that was all it took. Quote after quote poured out of their mouth. The story was so engaging, and on such a personal level, that I barely had to write it up. I just interwove facts with the quotes and the story came alive. 

I was reminded of that when I watched a TED talk by Andrew Stanton of Pixar, responsible for Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo and countless other films.

In The Clues to a Great Story, he talks about having a singular goal from the first sentence to the last, and about obeying the greatest story commandment: make me care. (Sound familiar? It’s also the greatest copy commandment.)

He also talks about starting with the ending (which I regularly do with copy) and holding back something (ditto). Along the way, he drops in some great quotes, including “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once your know their story,” and “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty”. 

His talk is packed full of great advice for anybody who writes anything. And yes, that includes case studies. Enjoy. 

[If you’re reading this in an email, click here to see the talk on TED.com]