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Why I'm not a fan of (over) dramatic storytelling in emails
👉 though many would disagree
You know the sort.
Emails that begin with disaster: “I almost died”. “It was the worst moment of my life”. “I sobbed all night”.
The next paragraphs continue the story and pile on more drama. Then more drama. Then more.
Then finally you get your business tip.
Not a fan.
Not that they don’t work in a sense. They absolutely grab your attention. You definitely want to find out more.
If written well they’re like good fiction, drawing you in.
And a lot of experts tell you to use them. You’ll see them held up as best practice.
I’m not convinced.
Usually, the business insight you get is a bit of a letdown compared to all the drama they’ve built up. But that’s not my main issue.
Where I think these sorts of emails go wrong is they set up the wrong relationship with your reader.
They create distance.
A hyper-dramatic story sets you up as an actor performing. Not a friend discussing or a mentor advising.
When I used to watch a lot of business speakers the ones I valued the most weren’t the ones who seemed to have a word-perfect script and brilliant projection. They were the ones who seemed to be present in the moment chatting with me (no matter how many people there happened to be in the audience),
Great speakers tell great stories. As do great mentors and friends. But they do it in a way that keeps you with them in the moment. It feels like they’re chatting to you and sharing their story rather than performing it.
Sure, every now and then they may wheel out that barnstormer about their worst sales meeting ever. Or when they flew to Geneva to try to “accidentally” bump into a client who was speaking at a conference only to find they’d been bumped from the agenda.
But 90% of the time they chat to you like normal people. They share ideas and insights illustrated with interesting stories.
But the stories don’t take over. They’re not so dramatic that the business impact gets relegated to the shadows. The stories shine a light on the insight.
When later, we’re thinking about hiring someone, the people who spring to mind are the people who talked to us like mentors and friends talk to us - not actors who performed for us from behind a mask.
And never forget that the role of your emails is not to impress your readers with your brilliant storytelling. It’s to get them to do something like hire you.
Of course, everyone is different.
Some people are impressed by barnstorming actors. I guess that’s what keeps the credit card machines ringing at “free” seminars.
But I think most people want to hire people who will talk with them, not at them.
And for me, reading those over-dramatic stories in emails feels like I’m being talked at not with.
PS the type of writing that makes it feel like you’re a mentor or trusted friend helping your readers is something I’ve dubbed “conversational emails”. And it’s the style of email I teach in my new Unsnooze Your Inbox course on Creating an Effective and Engaging Email Newsletter.
You can find out more and sign up at the special launch price here.