Better explain that one, huh?
Back in 1997 when I bolted from the big law firm and moved down to Austin, my plan was to become a screenwriter. Feast or famine, damn the consequences, starving artist type stuff.
Well, instead of writing screenplays, I got caught up in the Web 1.0 boom, and read a lot of books about the film industry in my downtime.
Turns out, being a screenwriter in Hollywood ranks somewhere below “best boy” and “key grip” when it comes to actual influence. Not exactly inspiring.
The only way to have true influence in the film world as a writer is if you are also the director and/or producer. That fact made me realize that I am really an entrepreneur, not a pure writer.
And being an entrepreneur is so much like being a Hollywood writer / director / producer, except you operate in the real world. But often the writing part gets neglected, and that ultimately hurts the business.
I’m not only talking about writing in the content marketing sense. Anyone starting a business is primarily responsible for both the big story and the day-to-day tales, in one way or another. Online, that responsibility is amplified by the benefits that great storytellers enjoy in the social media environment.
Odds are you’re the writer / director / producer of your own business. So here are a few concepts and tips on how to the nail the story — while you’re also directing and producing a profitable business.
I’ve based this loosely on Alex Epstein’s Crafty Screenwriting, and I offer links to a few screenwriting classics down below.
This is the element of a movie and a business that makes it unique. Your USP, your elevator pitch, your remarkable benefit. Without this, the odds for success go way down. Your audience must have a compelling reason to do business with you.
Plot is where the meat of the story takes place. In business, this is where you live your big story. Without a cohesive plot, the movie is a mess, and that’s true for any business as well, online or off.
In these days of the micro-business, you’re definitely the bankable star that needs to carry the flick, but the people you employ and contract with are also characters in your business story. Cast them well.
In film, action is what characters do, while dialogue is what they say. In business (especially online), actions speak louder than words when it comes to how you treat your customers and clients. But action in business is more than that — you’ve got to actually implement those big ideas of yours, rather than waiting for someday to come along.
While action is key, the dialogue can make or break a film or a business. Thanks to social media, we can now speak and listen to our customers and prospects. Start a real dialogue, listen and respond well, and these “outsiders” become star characters in your story, too.
In film, genre refers to the general audience classification a particular movie falls into. In business this is comparable to your niche. If a film speaks to the wrong genre, it can fail spectacularly. It’s the same in business if you have a great product but you’re speaking to the wrong audience.
The magic in any script (and therefore any movie) is not in the first draft, but in the editing. While in business it can be bad to constantly change directions, it’s often the case that your initial story will need tweaking, based both on feedback and changing circumstances. And sometimes, you’ll need to do a total rewrite to stay competitive. The key to that challenging task is to stay ahead of the curve, and proactively modify your story rather than reactively trying to change course to save the ship.
Creating a winning business and writing a winning screenplay are oddly similar tasks. And if you want to learn how to tell better stories and write better copy, you could benefit from learning the craft of screenwriting and applying it to your business and marketing efforts.
If you’re interested in telling great stories, check out these classic screenwriting books:
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field.
So here’s to you and your winning business story …
Editor’s Note: This is a Copyblogger Classic post, originally published in September, 2006. We’ll be republishing classic content from the archives from time to time, updated — as this post has been — to be sure the advice is as relevant as ever.