Write LinkedIn articles the easy way using this clever storytelling hack

In this posting from the LinkedIn Agency Influencer program, PHD Melbourne's Simon Lawson explains why the secret to a great opinion piece is all in the planning

I have written and published 20 articles on LinkedIn over the past five months as part of LinkedIn’s #agencyinfluencer competition.

One question keeps coming up whenever I’m asked about my participation in the competition: “Where do you get the time to write all these articles?”

The simple answer is that I use a storytelling structure that I was taught by performers from Chicago’s comedy troupe, The Second City, as part of some training I received a few years ago. It’s this structure that helps me to create articles, with each article taking a couple of hours to write once I’ve established the bones of my structure.

I use the storytelling structure not only for writing LinkedIn articles, but also for writing award entries, laying out presentation flows and for establishing a simple narrative for new business pitches.

Of all the training I’ve received over the years, it’s probably the one that has stuck with me the most and I’d like to share it with you in the hope that you might find it useful in your work life.

I’ll lay out the structure in full, then let’s dig into it bit by bit:

1.   The Set-Up

An unknown man has been found unconscious floating in the sea off the coast of Europe.

2.   The Inciting Moment

He turns out to be a covert assassin.

3.   The Rising Action

He can’t remember who he is.

4.   The Hero Arrives

He’s actually a good guy who uses his exceptional skills to get himself out of any situation.

5.   The New Reality

Having defeated his adversaries, he retreats to an idyllic island location to be with his new love.

Did you guess the movie?

Of course, it’s The Bourne Identity (2002), and what a great film it is.

Ok, let’s begin…

The Set-Up

The set-up is where you introduce the context of the story, it’s the bit where you lay out the idea. You should try to make it as punchy as possible. Get to the crux of what you’re about explore as quickly as possible.

I’m going to use two of my recent articles as a reference point.

The Epidemic of Job Title Inflation

From Casual Fridays to Dressed Up For Meetings: What we wear matters

Taking the set-up from these articles:

1.   If having a job title is supposed to make it easy for others to understand what we do, why do we keep inventing new ones that camouflage rather than reveal?

2.   The typical dress code in the corporate world continues to become more and more casual, does what we wear matter?

The idea is to very quickly set the scene and let people know what it is that we’re about to explore, and the best set-ups end with a hook sentence that leaves the reader wanting more.

The really important thing to remember is that you’re not writing the article, you’re trying to refine a set-up: It should be a sentence only.

The other thing to remember is that you should try to keep your set-up to one single idea rather than having too many threads. If your set-up is too complicated, keep boiling it down until you get to that one single idea.

The Inciting Moment

This is the bit where we add the drama or the tension. It’s where you introduce the thing that’s going to make things hard.

A classic inciting moment in award entries is something like ‘unless the campaign works, the product in question will be deleted or discontinued’. You’re trying to make the task sound hard or to introduce a fact or observation that crystallises the challenge.

The inciting moment from my two reference articles:

1.   My industry of advertising is one of the worst proponents of job title inflation, with the same jobs being labelled with ever more elaborate job titles each year.

2.   There’s an old saying that you should dress for the job you want, it suggests that what we wear matters.

The Rising Action

This is where we make the task seem almost impossible, layering on another level of drama.

Using our award entry example, if the set-up is that we’ve been briefed on a failing product, the inciting moment is that the product will be discontinued if we don’t succeed, then the rising action might be something like: “We had a significantly smaller budget than our competitors”.

Using my reference articles again:

1.   Job titles are so out of control, potential clients have started to use ready-reckoners to try and decipher them.

2.   Daniel Kahneman’s work suggests people will form opinions based on what you wear.

The Hero Arrives

This is where you introduce the idea that is going to solve the problem established by the inciting moment and the rising action.

Back to our award entry, this is the part where you write about your insight, strategy and execution that will against all the odds, prevail.

The hero arrives from my reference articles:

1.   Introduce standard job titles that everyone understands.

2.   Adopt an appropriate work uniform

The New Reality

This is the end point, the part where you provide closure to your story.

Using our award entry example, this is where you lay out the positive results of your campaign and reinforce that the product in question will live happily ever after.

From my reference articles:

1.   With standard job titles, everyone understands what you do

2.   With a work uniform, you don’t have to worry about what you wear

I hope you’ve found this article useful and that my story-telling structure inspires you to share more of your thoughts on platforms like LinkedIn.

The key thing to remember is to write your structure before you start writing your article: Writing is the easy bit once you get your structure into place.

The last thing I’d like to leave you with is: Be authentic.Write about the things that genuinely interest you and that you care about, it will shine through, believe me.

Happy writing!

To see more pieces from the LinkedIn agency influencer program click the image below.


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