When you read the article “Russell Brand: my life without drugs” in the Guardian you’ll notice 2 things:
- It’s a fast-paced read by a good writer (Brand) with a compelling story to tell.
- He uses STORY to achieve his real goal of embedding a vivid message in the reader’s mind.
‘My life without drugs’
That’s not a bad title to grab your attention… Your title is an opportunity to get part of your message across. Unfortunately it’s wasted by many writers and speakers.
One way to come up with a good title is to imagine someone reading a list of ten titles – with yours in the middle. They can only choose two that interest them. Therefore, they have to decide based only on how interesting your title seems.
With that in mind, now read your title out loud and see if you think it will grab your audiences’ attention.
Sentences that hook you
Russell Brand has a unique talent for crafting sentences that hook you in. Note the attention-grabbing caption on the photograph in the article:
‘I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain.’
Here’s the sub-title / introduction. Not quite as exciting. However I assume it’s written by the editor at the Guardian and not Brand:
Russell Brand has not used drugs for 10 years. He has a job, a house, a cat, good friends. But temptation is never far away. He wants to help other addicts, but first he wants us to feel compassion for those affected.
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So, what’s his story?
Have a read for yourself, but in short, he explains how he still thinks about using drugs everyday to escape the pain and frustration of life.
Brand pulls you into his story with cracking wit and honesty. He combines this with a story that progresses as any good story should. Firstly, with a hook. Then a structure that tells you a little but leaves you curious to see how it turns out; and finally, a satisfying ending.
But he also has a message that fits perfectly. Just before the end. In fact, It fits so well and makes so much sense that the reader is likely to take the message on as a good idea. Even to support or take action on the message.
What’s his message?
Again, read it for yourself and see what you take away. But, in a nutshell, he argues that the idea of drug addicts as ‘selfish little criminals’ doesn’t help anyone. And that the goal of his charity is to;
“…popularise a compassionate perception of drunks and addicts, and provide funding for places at treatment centres where they can get clean using [proven] principles”.
He wraps up the message by connecting personally to the reader, and then weaves in his own success in getting clean:
“I know that as you read this you either identify with it yourself or are reminded of someone who you love who cannot exercise control over substances. I want you to know that the help that was available to me, the help upon which my recovery still depends is available.”
How to use this technique yourself…
Clarify your message FIRST. Then review the elements of your story that are compelling – and that have most relevance to the message.
This simple, but structured process will reduce the time it takes to refine a story for a speech or article.
By embedding a vivid message, you will not only make your story more interesting, but much more engaging, valuable, and successful.
Great explanations can be incredibly powerful. Use them to get your message across.
If you’d like media training or develop your public speaking or presentation skills, consider:
- Message Development Sessions
- Media Training
- Presentation Skills Training
- Presentation Skills public course
- Personal Coaching