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The Art of Storytelling And Capturing People’s Attention with Kylie Slavik
I have with me my special guest, Kylie Slavik. When Kylie told me about her background as a spoken word artist who wrote and performed slam poetry and how she uses some of the same techniques to write marketing copy, I knew I had to have her on the show. Kylie discovered that grabbing attention and winning hearts works the same way in marketing as it does in art. Since then, she’s worked with Hollywood story consultants to better understand structure and neuroscientists to learn how the brain responds to a story.
She has generated over $20 million in revenue with clients in the transformation space including Sounds True, Astrology Hub, HeartMath Institute and several others. In our interview, Kylie provides some incredible insight into the brain chemistry of how readers respond to what you write and how a turn of phrase can either turn on or turn off your reader in an instant. I learned so much in this interview. I can’t wait to share it with you. Prepare to have your mind blown.
Welcome, Kylie, to the show.
Thanks for having me. It’s nice to be here.
I’m excited to have you here. As I recall from our initial conversation when you started getting into some of the insights that you have around the brand story, I got so excited that I was like, “Stop talking because we have to capture this in our actual interview.” I’m delighted that the day has finally arrived.You are the brand. You are the product. Build everything from that. Click To Tweet
Me, too. I remember that.
Let’s start by going back a little bit. Please share with our readers how you got to the point where you are now in your work. What is the Reader’s Digest version of Kylie’s journey?
It’s quite a story. I will give you the compressed version. I started writing poetry when I was nine. After I graduated from college at the University of Florida with an English degree, at that time, everyone would ask me, “What are you going to do with that?” People respect the arts a lot more now than they did when I was in college. I had to always answer that question with, “I’m not sure.” When I graduated, I was living in this small town, Gainesville, Florida. A group of my friends and I decided that there wasn’t enough poetry happening in that town. We created a venue and we called it ThirdEyeSpoken. We were 22, 23, running around trying to do poetry. It was a particular style of poetry that people would call slam poetry. It has a lot of hip-hop undertones and it’s usually raw. We did that for many years and I loved it but I was poor.
At a certain point in time, I realized I need to get it together here and do something else. I went to massage school. I started doing bodywork. I liked the business side of it more than I liked the actual healing side of it. I didn’t have the constitution to do as much bodywork as is necessary to make a career out of it. At a certain point, I was passionate about client attraction, how to get clients and all this stuff. There are a lot of holistic schools. There’s acupuncture, massage school, where I was living. They started asking me to teach and I thought, “This is way better. I love this.” I ended up diving into internet marketing and digital marketing. In my first business, I slapped up this website and I called it The Art of Healing Online. I had no idea what I was doing but it was cool.
There are a few other things that happened after that. Fast forward to I was managing an affiliate program for a successful woman coach and she asked me to write her Facebook ads. I am always one of those people that does crazy things. Even if I don’t know how, I’m like, “I’ll do that. No problem.” I was leading an affiliate program and this successful female coach in Santa Barbara asked me to write her Facebook ads for that launch. I had no idea how to do that or what I was doing. I was un-techie but I taught myself how to do Facebook ads in 2, 3 days. The first ad that we wrote had a 2,000% ROI and I didn’t know that was a big deal because I had no idea what I was doing or anything about paid ads.
To tie it back to the beginning of the story, what I learned about it was that when I was doing all that poetry and you have three minutes to tell a story that opened somebody’s heart or changes their mind about something, that’s what ads are too. I was doing what I had done as an artist and it was standing out on the internet because most people follow these formulas. People are like, “I’ve seen this a million times.” What I was doing was connecting with people’s hearts and inspiring them. I created my style of advertising and I’ve been doing it for over nine years. In the spiritual space, we work with people like Eckhart Tolle and Sounds True and things like that and run their ad campaigns. It’s been fun. Often, I wake up in the morning and ask myself, “How did this happen?”
The thing that grabbed my imagination is this idea of slam poetry translating to Facebook ads. I want to dig a little bit deeper into that. What are some of the qualities of a great slam poem that you find particularly effective in marketing and advertising? I also want to point out for our readers that this translates to writing your book as well because it is about developing and sustaining that emotional interest and connection in the work. Since we’re on Facebook ads, I’d love to hear you talk about what are some of the qualities of a great slam poem that translate well to Facebook ads?
It does tie into books too because it comes down to having a good hook or creating enough intrigue for people to want to keep reading. I know when we write books or when we write ads, there has to be this clear path of here’s where you are now and here’s what you’re going to get. It’s the same in a poem but I would layer that with an extra layer of intrigue. You start these poems out with a big question, a big statement or something that maybe is unbelievable and then you prove it through a story. It has to have a character. It could be me. I could be talking in first-person and sharing a story about my life. A lot of times I did poetry about other people’s lives and what was happening for other people. Sometimes I got abstract and spewed philosophy but those didn’t go over as well.
A lot of times, people need to hear that story. Whether it was like a redemption story of somebody being in a hard place and overcoming it or a story of something that was happening in the culture, there’s a lot of that as well. If you go to a poetry slam, you’re going to hear a lot about current events and the artist’s take on what does this means for me? What does this mean for my life? What does this mean for us? How can we reconcile what’s happening versus what we feel? There are a lot of different things like that but it all comes down to having a good hook and that’s what I do in ads.
I wrote this ad and the headline was Have You Heard of These Famous Failures? I juxtaposed all these stories about JK Rowling scribbling Harry Potter on a napkin and getting rejected 22 times or whatever it was and Steve Jobs getting fired from Apple. What I know about entrepreneurs is that they’re afraid of failure and a lot of them are also afraid of success. I hung a story around the emotional experience of my audience. We can do that with books as well.
Something else that I know is true about slam poetry is its brevity and how you’re able to convey a complete image in a few words. Would you say that’s also something that translates to the ads?
I tend to write pretty long ads. When I start working with people and I write their ads, they’re confused about that. They’re like, “Why is this so long?” However, the brevity is I do write short ads too. It depends on what I’m trying to achieve with the ad. Even with a longer ad, it’s still pretty short. 600 and 800 words are not a lot of words. The main thing I need to accomplish in a short period of time is getting people interested, showing them something they’ve never seen before.
Maybe they’ve seen the concept but I’m wrapping it in an idea or a presentation that they’ve never heard of before. I know that’s what people have to do with trying to pitch a publisher. It’s like, “I’ve never seen this before. This is interesting.” That’s the first thing I want them to think. I want to answer the question, “What’s in this for me? What am I going to get? Why do I care? If I click on this, am I going to get this immediate gratification?”
Those are two key elements of the saleable concept for a book. I am loving this. It’s that unique in the marketplace. Why is this different? Why do we need this book? Why should we publish your book when so many people are talking about this topic? This comes up a lot in the health, fitness, medical or personal development arenas, which is also where your work is in this wellness on all levels of being. Do you find it particularly challenging to help people in these noisy spaces differentiate? If so, how do you do it?
I don’t feel like it’s that challenging for me because I have a finger on the pulse of every message that’s going out in my industry so I always know how to tweak it a little bit even if it’s just talking about Harry Potter. That was an ad for somebody that did entrepreneurial training. I know that there weren’t any other ads on Facebook that were opening with Harry Potter versus Steve Jobs all in one ad. Sometimes it’s not even differentiating the person. It’s being able to make an emotional connection with the audience and that is what differentiates the person because a lot of people can’t do that. It’s shocking.
You’re differentiating how you’re opening the conversation so that it’s a pattern interrupt for the person looking at the ad or the reader. It’s true, changing context or reframing how you’re coming at the conversation is also important. What was the second point that you said right before you got into that one because I wanted to pick up that trend?
What’s in it for me?
Speak a little bit about that because this is such a big deal with books.
It’s one thing to tell me an awesome story on Facebook. Even if it doesn’t relate to me, I might get engaged in it because it’s interesting. It’s a pattern interrupt and our brains love that. We’re hardwired to scan for is this a threat or is this something I like. That pattern interrupt engages the mind enough to try to figure that out. That’s how I see it. If we don’t answer how is this going to help me then it becomes another ad or another piece of content that people like but it doesn’t translate into sales. I have to deliver what’s on the other side of it.
What we were doing with that Harry Potter and Steve Jobs ad is we were talking about how it tied into how everybody has their own unique genius and that we don’t need to follow the same formulaic path to success or for a webinar about finding your signature genius and building your work around that. The what’s in it for me is this idea of, “I’ve been out there. I’ve tried to do this the way everybody told me to do it. It didn’t work because I can’t be squeezed through this cookie-cutter way of doing business.” Somebody that’s had that pain of like, “I’ve spent $100,000 on business coaching and I have nothing to show for it.” Now we’re saying, “Don’t go out there and try to do what everybody’s telling you. Let’s start from the inside out and so the outside in.”
For people that have had that pain, there’s a huge, “What’s in it for me?” What’s in it for me is, “You are the brand. You are the product. Let’s build everything else from that.” People love that message. That’s a message that a lot of people have in the business training space. They counter to what has been presented over the years and that’s a great way to do it. That promise or that claim also needs to be backed up with social proof or like, “This is worked for other people. This is how I did it.” That’s another sub element of what’s in it for me. It has to also prove how this works for other people. If you’re up here and blowing smoke, I don’t want anything to do with it.If you want to create a loyal brand following, freaking people out is not the way to do it. Click To Tweet
That’s also a key element of a book where you have to be able to not only say, “This is my theory of how to shift this area of your life. Here are some anecdotal stories of people that I’ve worked with. Here are some statistical data on how things are going to go.” All of that social proof and third-party verification can be so useful as well.
Even in a book, if you look at the cover, who endorsed it in that first couple of pages? I know from experience with publishing, the publishers are a big deal. Who’s endorsing your book?
That’s a key element of a book proposal. If we can deliver a book proposal to an agent and a publisher that has a few notable names on there for endorsers, that’s a big selling point. I want to go back to what you said about the book cover. We’re talking nonfiction, instructional type books. The subtitle is or should be the what’s in it for me statement. The subtitle should be communicating to the potential reader, “This is what you’re going to get out of the book.” You can have a nice, punchy, memorable, short title but that subtitle is where you’re going to tell them, “This is why you should read this book.”
It’s the same thing in copywriting. If I’m writing a sales page, that first line is either going to be something that grabs people’s attention fast, something weird or it’s going to be something direct on what this is. That second line on a sales page is going to say something like, “Learn to meditate in fifteen minutes a day and cure your insomnia.” It’s usually telling people that you can have this thing without what you don’t want and it’s not going to be that hard.
There’s your formula for the saleable what’s in it for me sentence, “Here’s what you’re going to get so you can have this without having to experience this other thing.”
It’s like, “Get spiritual without having to scale the Himalaya.”
“Find enlightenment without having to give up all your worldly possessions.”
That’s good. Someone should write that.
We have a new course. What I’m getting out of this is there are a lot of tools in effective advertising that can be incorporated throughout a book and to support that transition from the reader to client or customer without being salesy. Maybe talk a little bit about that idea because one of the things that are annoying when you’re reading anything whether it’s a Facebook ad or a book is stealing like you’re being sold. What are some of the techniques or frameworks that you utilize in your copywriting so that readers don’t have that experience so they feel it’s more like a conversation?
This is a huge topic. There was a shift in advertising when social media came out. They used to call it interruptive marketing. You’re watching the TV show and you’re listening to the radio and you have no choice but to watch the ad. You could flip stations but they all play the ads at the same time. You’re going to end up watching an ad. When social media came about, you don’t have to. You can scroll past it. You don’t have to click on it.
What that did was it created this whole different type of marketing that we call empowerment marketing and it’s based on the idea that the person reading the ad has the power and not the advertiser. They have the power to choose and the power to read or not read. They have the power to comment and the power to ask questions or challenge the advertiser. It’s this whole conversation that everybody can see.
There’s a critical shift that had to happen and certainly not everybody has made this shift. Those who have not are realizing that they need to and they’re calling people like me or our agency to see and I laugh. If your business isn’t empowering people then we’re not going to help you with an ad. I’ve said that to people before. The idea of empowerment marketing is you’re essentially telling people who they could be if they interact with your brand and it has to be true. If it’s not true, it’s going to feel salesy and you’re going to have to manipulate because you’re selling a lie.
You’re going to have to strong-arm people to buy a lie because people can smell a lie. They know and get it. What we do is look at what is the emotional experience people want to have or what is the identity people want to see themselves as having? Can we speak to that in an empowering way? Can we show them that they can make these changes? One of my mentors, Jonah Sachs, wrote a book called Winning the Story Wars. It’s the most important book of my career. Have you read it?
I’ve read that book. I love that book.
One of the things that Jonah talks about is we don’t show people in our ads that they are great. We show them how to be great. When you ask for a structure or formula, that’s what it is. I refer often to Nike and Apple because they’re the best story marketers on the planet. I don’t think anyone has done it better. The core story of Apple is the disenfranchised weird artists can contribute at a high level. Everybody who’s a little bit weird and creative has an Apple.
It’s not because it’s a better hardware. A lot of hardware people even say, “This is not built as well as a Dell or a PC but we still have them.” With Nike, they don’t come out and say, “You’re awesome. You’re amazing. Wear our shoes.” If you watch their stories, it’s a story of hard work pays off. With a little bit of determination and persistence, you can be great. It’s about showing people how to be who they want to be. If you can do that, you don’t need to hard-sell. It’s off the table.
I am having goosebumps as I’m hearing you speak because I’m thinking of having watched the Nike brand marketing for as long as I can remember and this whole idea of Just Do It. They never say you’re going to automatically be great by wearing their shoes. What they’re saying is, “This is a tool to help you achieve your maximum greatness.” It’s inspiring. I think of the one with the woman running early in the morning.
It’s such a great example, which is why I’m unpacking it some more because it speaks to a deeper reason why I am even thinking of athletic shoes. It’s not about how it looks to others. It’s not about that weird, prestigious certain sneaker. In their marketing, they’re going for something deeper. This is vital to books on every level, title, subtitle and how you’re framing the whole conversation of empowering your reader to see how they can become great with what you’re putting in the work.
If you can accomplish that, you’re good. You don’t have to sell because people are asking you, “How can I be involved with what you’re doing?” Apple never says, “Buy our computer.” They don’t talk about the features of a computer. They don’t need to.
That’s true. What’s in it?
Once in a while, they might talk about a camera upgrade or something like that. That’s knowing their audience because people buy Apple for better artistic features, cameras, audio and things like that.
I keep drawing this connection to books because I see so much value here for our readers. An expert has so many details in their own mind of their process, outcomes, certain steps that you need to take, nuances up the yin-yang. The question is which details are going to resonate emotionally with your reader? Which details are going to capture the imagination of your reader and call them forward?
The broader answer to that question is any detail is going to because a lot of people miss the sensory detail or aspect of writing. It’s that old difference between showing versus telling. If you show me something even if I don’t necessarily relate to it 100%, I’m going to be more drawn in. Maybe you’re a mother of seven people and you’re giving me a day in your life and I don’t have kids, I can still relate to an aspect of that story because maybe that mother feels stressed out and busier. Maybe she feels guilty because she’s taking care of all the kids and has a little bit of resentment.
I’m going to think to myself, “There are things in my life that I feel are obligations that I don’t want to deal with.” There’s that. If you want to take it a step further and be more specific, you look at the day in the life of your reader. What are they thinking when they wake up? What are they thinking when they go to the gym? What are they thinking when they eat dinner? Sharing details that match that experience.
It’s reminding me of an exercise that I do with all of my clients when we’re developing their saleable concept, which is getting into the heart and mind of their ideal reader and choosing one person and inside themselves asking these questions, attuning to the vibe of that person. What keeps you up at night? What are your hopes, dreams, desires? What are you afraid of? We ask on both the aspirational and also the avoidance side. We’re tapping into that emotional life of the ideal reader because that’s where all the decisions get made. We make decisions emotionally especially buying decisions and then we justify them intellectually. If you’re going for the reader’s intellect, you’re not going to get that same level of engagement.
I agree with that wholeheartedly. It’s true.
This is important. It’s not even necessarily like a writing technique but it’s a way of approaching writing is what I’m seeing that’s building here. What I love and what’s coming forward is that it applies to any kind of writing for an audience as far as I can see.
A lot of what I talked about, I didn’t know this as I was figuring it out. I was shooting from gut instinct with everything I was doing. I had to learn the science of it because people kept asking me to teach it and things like that. A lot of what we’re talking about has a deep root in neuroscience. It’s about the way that the brain works. One of my copywriting mentors talks about the triune brain. I can’t remember exactly how it works but the first level of the brain is that reptilian safety, fight or flight. If we can’t get past that, it will never go to the emotional centers or the logic centers at all.
One of the most important things is making sure that whatever we’re putting out there doesn’t make our audience feel unsafe so it’s not too challenging in the beginning. We wait to challenge people more towards the end or after we’ve established a relationship. We want to reiterate that this is something that they say that they want and we’re going to show them how to get it. We’re not poking too much at things that make them super uncomfortable.
Another aspect of keeping them out of that fear mode is to continually be encouraging. Even if you are going to introduce an exercise that might be challenging, you can pre-frame that so that they understand, “This one might feel a little harder but here are some ways to navigate that.” That’s what it’s like to the kid at the side of the pool and you’re letting them know you’re there to catch them if they jump.
We can always create safety even when we are pushing people a little bit. It’s keeping that top of mind. I’ve always told my clients and students that one of the most important jobs of a copywriter and a storyteller is to create safety for the listener.
I’m fascinated that you studied the brain science of how people are going to respond and react to the writing. What are some other insights from that study that our readers might benefit from having?
One of the people I studied the most is a man called Paul Zak. He’s such a nice guy. He’s done more research on story on the brain than possibly anybody because he was funded by DARPA, which is a weird thing. They wanted to study the effect of storytelling on de-escalating violence in times of war. They gave him millions and millions of dollars to do it. What he did was he hooked people up to all these electrodes and studied their brainwaves when they watched Super Bowl commercials, which is a funny thing.
On the more emotional commercials like Google, it has some tear-jerkers. Budweiser does too, which is a funny thing because it’s this boring beer. They have some emotional stories that they played in the Super Bowl. What he discovered was that storytelling spikes the oxytocin in the brain and he calls it the Moral Molecule. Oxytocin will help us to feel connected, safe and comfortable. There are only a few things that can stimulate this feeling of oxytocin in the brain but it makes us lean in and want to connect. It’s like the connection drug. You can also get it from eating chocolate.
That was one of the biggest things I learned was exactly how storytelling impacts people to feel what they want to feel. A mother who has a newborn survives a lack of sleep by the production of oxytocin. It’s like, “This is a beautiful little baby. I’m going to wake up at 2:00 AM and it’s going to be beautiful.” I encourage people to go to YouTube and search for the Google and Budweiser commercials because they will make you cry.When you make the audience the hero, then what you're doing is really inviting them into the story. Click To Tweet
I got to throw one in. I don’t remember which one it was. I remember when I was pregnant with my son, I cried at a Super Bowl Pepsi ad. It was around 1995. If anyone wants to try to find that one, it’s on YouTube. I remember thinking, “This has got to be pregnancy hormones. I cannot believe I’m sitting here crying.”
You got a 1-2 punch on that one.
Oxytocin is a bonding hormone as well. One of the things that we need to accomplish in a book especially when you’re a subject matter expert, hopefully, you’re writing a book with some back-end plan. You’re going to be able to share something with your readers that they might pay more than $20 for. You can accelerate your brand growth, business growth and your income growth by doing so. One of the unique aspects of a book is that you get anywhere from six-plus hours where you’re alone with this reader, probably in bed with them. They’re giving you their undivided focus and attention.
You can spend $30 million on a Super Bowl ad and not even get that for 30 seconds. When we think of the power that is intrinsic in that author-reader relationship especially when you look at it as a one on one relationship and not a one to many. What I’m gaining insight from your sharing is that part of this is probably biochemical. This person’s brain is pumping out oxytocin if you are writing to them in the right way. The brain is bathed in oxytocin while they’re reading your book and they’re bonding with you. Why is it that we feel so connected to some authors? We feel that we have a relationship with them.
I’m loving this because I’m, for the first time, making this connection. Part of this is biochemistry. You can blow that opportunity too by being overly confrontational and presumptive. One error that authors make in the writing is to say things like, “I know you must be having this experience.” I’ve been aware for a long time. What happens is that’s a disconnect. The subconscious mind says, “Screw you. You don’t know me. I’m done.”
“Don’t tell me what to think or feel.”
“You don’t know how I think.” It also probably shuts off that oxytocin and puts them into your defensiveness. It’s going to trigger the wrong biochemical experience as well.
Things like that would produce adrenaline and cortisol. Advertising 100 years ago relied on that. They wanted to freak you out and present their product or service as the thing that’s going to calm you down now that they’ve freaked you out. People still do that and it does sell. What it does is it creates a lot of PR and people that are not loyal. If we want to create a loyal brand following, that is not the way to do it.
The other thing that I hate in ads that, fortunately, is going out of style but you still see is when they hop on and start shouting at you. Often, car dealerships do this a lot or sometimes some other things. You’re like, “Shut up.” That can be also an error that can be made in a book to give the reader the impression that you’re shouting at them versus speaking with them.
I love speaking with them. That’s awesome. In my line of work, that translates into ads where people put all caps in the headline. I can’t stand it. In a headline, I will capitalize every word but I’m not going to capitalize every letter. I find it offensive. It puts me on the defense.
It’s like, “Why are you yelling at me?”
All capital letters are the equivalent of screaming.
I wonder what the brain science is behind that. It doesn’t seem like it would be but everybody has that experience.
It feels attacking. I don’t know the exact brain science. When I talked about the power of being the viewer or the reader, it’s putting too much emphasis on the advertiser. It’s like, “I deserve that much of your attention right away,” without creating any relationship first. Our brains make these choices in milliseconds. We’re deciding, “Do I like you? Do I not like you?” It’s within a millisecond. That type of presumptuous thinking, “What I have to say is important that I’m going to scream it at you,” is not something that people are going to lean into.
I think back to even my days of parenting. Nobody pays attention because I’m yelling. The only time that’s served is if someone’s about to step into a street with an oncoming bus, maybe then you should yell at them or if they’re about to touch something hot. When we use it outside of that context, it does become so much about the person delivering the message and not enough about the person.
Brands that make themselves the hero of the story, that’s a huge mistake.
Talk some more about that because that’s a big one and there are a lot of nuances there. Share a little bit more about that idea because that’s a big one.
Brands that make themselves the hero come across as braggy, inauthentic and too much about them. When you make the audience the hero, what you’re doing is inviting them into the story. We use Nike and Apple as a good example of that. If you watch a Nike commercial, they don’t talk about, “These shoes are better than those shoes.” I’ve never heard them do it. What they do is they make a story of the unsung hero or the unlikely hero and people relate so much to that story that they go, “If this person can do it, I can do it.” That’s what you want people to be thinking and feeling. That is how you make the audience the hero.
Back to neuroscience, I went to a seminar with a man named Robert McKee and he wrote a book called Story. It’s probably the number two book in film school that people will read. If you look at the back of the book, he shows all the films that he had a hand in. They’re usually that film that didn’t follow the boring Hollywood formula but it keeps you guessing and they’re like, “What’s going to happen next?” One of the things he said in the seminar that was priceless for me and it stands out as the biggest takeaway was that you can have an underdog or an overdog.
The underdog is what 99.9% of people relate to being. The overdog is usually that point .01% that’s high in politics, CEOs of oil companies or pharmaceuticals or something. They see themselves as the overdog. It’s a small percent of the population. He said that people relate to that underdog. If your story shows the unlikely hero because more people relate to that, they’re going to feel like they are in that story. He said that coming out as the overdog, which is the all caps, the my brand is better than this brand, it shuts people’s brains down because they relate. They see it as the overdog and what they see is the overdog is trying to block them from achieving their goals.
A good story is almost always about the pursuit of a goal. There isn’t a story without a character pursuing a goal. If you present as that overdog, you’re putting it in the mind of the reader or viewer that you’re stopping them from getting what they want. Whereas if you show them that storyline of the unlikely hero, now they’re like, “That’s awesome. I want Luke to defeat Darth Vader. I want William Wallace to get the English out of Scotland.” There are multiple ways of addressing this issue but that’s one way.
I want to plus what you’re saying because one of the things I know is effective in book writing and some authors are initially afraid to do it is to share a story or several stories of your failures and challenges. Everyone that we work with is highly accomplished and has done some great things. It’s easy for the reader to feel like, “I could never be like that. I could never do something like that.” When you are willing to be vulnerable about your own experience of some of the things you’ve had to overcome to be who you are now, that can be enrolling and help the reader find your story relatable. Even if you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a top dog, if you’re willing to share some of the challenges that you went through to get there, you can make yourself relatable.
I find that a lot of the most successful people are willing to do that. Elon Musk, for example. Like him or don’t like him, he’s a weird guy. He shares in one of his biographies that someone else wrote about how he got picked on so bad as a kid and how he liked girls that didn’t like him because all he wanted to talk about was rockets and going to Mars. He became the wealthiest person in the world. A lot of people could look at that and be jealous. I call it invoking empathy instead of envy. A lot of people could look at him and be envious. If he’s willing to share all these nerdy things about himself, now we’re like, “That would be cool if he got to Mars.”
I love what you said, invoke empathy and not envy. That’s priceless. That’s a great way to encapsulate what we’re talking about.
It made sense.
I want to go back a little bit because there was a question I wanted to ask as a follow-up. What are some other examples of missteps where an author or an advertiser can accidentally appear as they’re trying to be the big dog even if that’s not their intent? This is the thing that it’s easy to unconsciously step in.
One of my friends talks a lot about selling the destination and not the plane. If I’m selling a trip to Hawaii, I’m not going to talk about the TVs on the flight, the air conditioning and the comfortable seats. I’m going to talk about the palm trees, ocean breeze, five-star hotels, food and hiking. That’s putting the reader in what they want at the center of the story. I see this in the health and wellness world more than anything else because there’s a resistance to marketing. They fall back on to like, “I have to explain what I do.” People don’t often understand what they do so then it becomes more important to them that they’re heard and understood.
Instead of looking at what the person wants, they look at what they’re doing and they almost explain it almost defensively. It’s like, “I do this thing. I went to this school. I learned this.” You see that on a lot of websites in particular. Nobody cares. That’s a big mistake I see people make is they talk about those features and what it is that they’re selling instead of what the person wants. There is a place and a time to speak about features of something or to speak of the system that you’re selling but it’s not in that first split second of whatever it is that you’re doing. That’s not the time for it. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see people make. They don’t know. They’re not trying to make it. They feel that they’re supposed to do that.
Maybe they intuitively understand they have to differentiate. They’re differentiating the wrong thing at the wrong time. Do you have another one?
I do. We touched on it a little bit earlier. It’s that difference between showing and telling. I could go up on stage and I can say, “Story marketing is where it’s at. Here are the statistics. Here’s the proof. Here’s what corporations are doing to shift their advertising budget in the story.” Nobody cares. I could get up there and tell a story about how I discovered telling stories, talk about the struggles and the wins along the way. Now I’ve shown them why what I’m saying is true in a way that engages them instead of telling them, in which case they won’t care at all.
Once you realize that’s the truth then you can see how it’s common sense. It’s how human advancement has happened. Before we even had books and anything in writing, all knowledge was passed down orally through storytelling. We remember stories. We don’t remember numbers. We don’t remember statistics as well. What we remember is that story because we get that imprint. Maybe the oxytocin helps us lock that memory.Sell the destination, not the plane. Click To Tweet
We remember stories to the point that we’re able to relate stories and hand them off. It’s intrinsic to being a human being that our attention is drawn to stories, held to stories and then we are able to relate and relay stories among one another. It is such an important piece of teaching. I know that these books have existed for a while but there’s a term for it now called a prescriptive memoir where you’re telling a series of personal stories but they have a teaching point to them. The story of your experience is showing them the point and not just telling them the point.
I know a great example that probably a lot of our readers would have heard of is Make Your Bed. It’s written by a retired Navy Admiral. It’s a bunch of chapters. It was a New York Times bestseller. In each chapter, he tells a story or two and it has a point. Each chapter has a point about how to have a successful life. He built it out of a commencement speech. They weren’t calling it prescriptive memoir at the time but that is a great example that anybody can find quickly and check out. It is a more highly publishable way to share your story than a memoir with a three-act arc and everything else. That’s a much tougher sell for a famous person.
I’ve never heard of that before but that’s awesome and it makes total sense to me why it’s trending upward.
I never heard of the term before. We’re on the leading edge. Do you have any parting thoughts or anything that you would like to share with our readers that I didn’t cover or that you would like to leave our readers to consider?
We talked about this a little bit in the beginning, the one thing is to get good at hooks. What is the hook of your book? What is that main point? It may be an old idea but how can you present it in a new way? Even your chapter titles and your concept need to be a hook. Anything you can read or watch on YouTube or read books about that has to do with the art of the hook, that will serve you in everything you do for the rest of your life. It is the most important thing I do every day. I only have five minutes to figure it out. It is something that you can get good at fast. Another recommendation would be to look at other books in your niche and how are they doing that? What are their chapter titles? What is their title? Be aware of it and get one step ahead. Do it better.
That is such great advice. Kylie, thank you so much. This has been valuable. I have learned much. I know our readers are going to as well. Thank you again for being on the show.
Thank you. I learned a lot too, which is always exciting. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a joy.
About Kylie Slavik
As a former spoken word artist, Kylie discovered that grabbing attention and winning hearts works the same way in marketing as it does in art.
Since then she’s worked with Hollywood story consultants to better understand the structure, and neuroscientists to learn how the brain responds to a story.
She’s generated over $20,000,000 in revenue with clients in the transformation space, including Sounds True, Astrology Hub, Heartmath Institute, and more.