Storytelling is an excellent tool for marketing managers who want an engineering PR agency to promote an engineering product or service based on its superior quality and technical capability. However, engineers are a tough and unforgiving audience. Slip up and you can undermine your entire argument, causing readers to keep browsing to competitors’ sites.
So what appeals to an engineering audience and how can you build stories that appeal to them? Here are a few rules from our Senior Comms Consultant for engineering, Elaine Cobb, to follow.
1. Research, research, research
It’s essential to get under the skin of the industry you’re selling into. For example, I was writing content to promote a specialist premium tool for the forestry industry last week, which isn’t my normal patch.
So, rather than dive straight in, I did some basic research: legislative trends, environmental issues, forestry products, ecological forestry zones, how operators navigate issues around the rights of indigenous peoples, the state of the market and the supply chain, as well as how the big players are presenting themselves and the strategies followed by major forestry nations and industry bodies. Having done my homework, I understood the pressures faced by forestry companies and could write something relevant.
I also checked out my client’s customer carefully: their products, markets, pricing, etc. So when I interviewed the expert, I was able to ask relevant questions and got great answers.
Much of my research wasn’t spelled out in the content I created but it helped me avoid making any blunders, and I made the best use of the expert’s time and knowledge.
The same goes for any industry – only when you have a grasp of the issues faced at the sharp end can you hope to write a story that appeals to your audience. And if your introduction is weak, then nobody will read the rest, no matter how compelling your evidence.
2. Short sentences, straightforward construction, simple words
We often write content that needs to appeal to people around the world. It’s often translated into other languages and it’s often consumed by people who don’t speak English as a first language.
If you want to influence people, you need to make sure they can understand your messaging – so keep it simple.
3. Avoid fancy scene-setting
In a bid to do storytelling, some writers try to emulate the big-name celebrity interviews that appear in the Sunday supplements. These are some of the most high-profile stories we see today, so it makes sense to follow their approach.
However, as they’re the lead story in the supplement, the journalist faces the challenge of fulfilling thousands of words from just a five-minute interview.
To plug the gap, they write about their arrival to the interview, the venue, how they were greeted by the PR, the furnishings, the lack of time, how the interview was stopped short because they asked about the celebrity’s divorce… we read them because of the A-list draw and the fantastic photography.
But with a talkative and insightful interviewee and plenty of industry context, you should have plenty of content to fill 1,500 words of editorial space. The tricky thing is to be strict about sticking to industry issues, avoiding branded mentions, and taking care around sensitive topics.
4. There are seven stories in the world – but engineering companies should only use five of them
In fiction, they say there are only seven stories (overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, rebirth, comedy, and tragedy).
And the same is true for engineering companies – with the exception of comedy and tragedy (for obvious reasons).
A case study about how a product helped a customer save money could be an example of overcoming the monster, rags to riches or voyage and return. The achievement of an R&D programme is a quest. A major step in technology or major improvements to a production line could be framed as a rebirth.
In practice, companies want to show how they help their customers to save money, save time (which is often the same as saving money) or save carbon dioxide emissions, improve quality or respond quickly to save the day.
The skill of a specialist engineering PR consultant is in recognising the story in a piece of software or a new widget and presenting it to the audience respectfully and with supporting evidence. They don’t let storytelling get in way of the story.
Contact us today if you want advice on making your engineering stories more persuasive.
Written by: Elaine Cobb, Senior Comms Consultant for engineering