Friday, May 18, 2007

Everybody LOVES a Juicy Story

readership is declining rapidly
There was a time when email newsletters were a novelty. Even the quirky, semi-professional email newsletters got read. In fact, small- to midsize businesses had an advantage. When the company had something useful to say, provided information that could not be found anywhere else, and spoke honestly to customers without all the self-promoting hype, their email newsletters developed a loyal audience. Email newsletters were inexpensive and a great way to reach customers and build relationships.

Then large corporations with big budgets flooded cyberspace with enewsletters that were little more than thinly disguised self-promotional vehicles. People stopped reading and believing the hype. Today, even the most honest, promotion-free enewsletter can get deleted or tagged as SPAM before it has a chance to build up readership.

So how can we get prospects and customers to read enewsletters? How do we grab their interest and let them know we truly feel their pain and have a solution that addresses their problems? Simple. Write fiction stories about the drama that goes on in their day-to-day professional world.

Not a case study or an application story --- been there. Tried that. Those real-life stories are good marketing tools, but not unique enough to make our customers' customers drop everything to read the next issue of an enewsletter. No, we want to write juicy fiction stories that are real "page turners.” Evocative dramas that leave you hungry for more. Think daytime soaps with a twist.

We have the perfect client test case
This client provides litigation support services to Bay Area law firms. The target audience for its enewsletter is primarily paralegals and documentation managers working in high-pressure law firms. Both male and female, aged 25-55, they are very organized and professional. But sometimes, it seems that no matter how good they are, they aren’t as good as the lawyers they serve. Many complain that they feel like they’re always at the bottom of the hill when the crap rolls down. Plus everyone’s always in a hurry. The stress is almost too much too take.

And while many of them say they have no time to read our client's enewsletters no matter valuable the information, they continue to sign up. The enewsletter, sent quarterly to 2,000 people, scores an amazing 35% open rate, of which 15% click through. So we know somehow these paralegals MAKE time for good information. And we're betting a good, juicy story will be exactly what we need to cut through the marketing clutter and increase the number of subscribers so that we can justify increasing frequency.

Think Boston Legal with a twist
See, there’s this paralegal whose work is never good enough for her boss.
And there’s office romance. And intrigue. And backstabbing. And offers to join a new firm. Just like Boston Legal or other popular law shows that come and go, the strength of the characters will pull them in and makes them want to read more. And woven in the drama will be mentions of our client’s solutions that help solve the paralegal's problems. But nothing obvious, of course.

The research is already done

Over the last year we've written dozens of case studies from interviews with paralegals and the client's account managers. We know what goes on in the law firms.
When my senior writer and I pooled our notes, I realized we had a great story platform. Now all we have to do is convince our client this is a good idea. That might not be easy.

"You've spent so much time helping us transition from our folksy logo to a more sophisticated image. How will running a fictional serial in our newsletter support our new marketing direction?" asks the client.

Good point. This isn't something one of the big national firms would do. But we have a hunch that paralegals will be grateful for a little entertainment and levity in their high-pressure, buttoned-up jobs. As they read the stories, they'll know that San Francisco Legal feels their pain and understands the pressure they're under. Plus it will get their newsletter opened and read, building a loyal audience.

"But what about ROI?"
Well, we know the audience is so limited in what they can say and do in their profession, they crave a little entertainment and notice anything out of the ordinary.
For example, a colorful "Going Green" flyer adorned with cute little tree frogs cost $800 to produce and brought in $2,000 worth of new business for the client. And an exhibit graphic we produced starring a sressed-out paralegal was a showstopper. Plus, the cost of producing content for the enewsletter won't go up since both of c3PR's senior writers are closet novelists who will jump at the chance to get paid to practice their passion. They'll make sure every story's just outrageous enough to be a little beyond believable so no one's offended. And we'll provide open, read, click-thru, forward-to-a-friend and new subscriber statistics to track the results of every issue.

Curious about how Polly Paralegal fends off the advances of Larry Lawyer and convinces Amy Account Manager from the Legal Services Firm to do the job in half the time? Or how Nancy NewEmployee is sleeping her way to the top? It’s all in the next exciting edition, so subscribe to today. You won’t want to miss an issue!

Mar Junge is the principal of c3PR and a closet novelist. Her first novel for the Young Adult market, Gypspy Blood, has been accepted as one of five to be reviewed by Author Barbara Shoup at the Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop in August. (But she's not quitting her day job just yet.) We'll know by mid June whether the client will let us test this idea in their enewsletter. If you'd like to read the first exciting installment, email and she'll send you the link. If this client doesn't go for it, maybe we'll launch our own enewsletter telling stories about what really goes on in a P.R. firm. Think it would be juicier than what goes on in a law firm? If you're a fiction writer too, maybe this can be a group effort!

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