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Mar 31, 2023 BY A Mighty Citizen Marketing

3 Creative Writing Techniques to Elevate Your Organization’s Copy

The power of story stretches back to pre-history. Picture tribal elders around a fire, shamans sharing myths, or hunters recounting a dicey encounter with a woolly mammoth. Over millennia—and with the advent of mass media like novels and films—the techniques of storytelling have been distilled into easily digestible concepts.

Here are three, in no particular order, that can help your organization elevate its copy:

1. Start Your Story in the Middle of the Action

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This technique is often referred to by a fancy Latin phrase, in media res, or “in the middle of things.” Good storytellers try to think of ways around obvious openings like this: Stacy wakes up to her alarm clock and gets out of bed.

Instead, they try to introduce Stacy (or your target audience) in the middle of doing something more interesting, like this:

Stacy felt the sweat running down the back of her legs as she rushed down the sidewalk towards the courthouse.

Who is Stacy? Why is she in a rush? Why is she visiting a courthouse? These questions draw a reader in for answers.

The in media res technique can help you leverage the pain points in your target audience’s journey. With a relevant pain point singled out, you can paint a relatable picture and position your organization as the solution.

For example, imagine a professional association that wants to launch a campaign to gain more members who have just taken their credentialing exam. Their campaign might focus on a fictional member in the middle of figuring out their next career move. An ad could read something like this:

Maria just found out she passed her board exam. Now what?

For storytelling purposes (and for marketing purposes), Maria’s story doesn’t start with her decision to pursue an education in a particular field; her story “begins” on the cusp of something more, i.e. in the middle of things.

Depicting Maria in the middle of a pain point shows your target audience a concrete, relatable way your organization can help. And it’s more compelling.

2. Use An Active Voice

An active voice basically makes your copy feel more immediate and dynamic. It has to do with the way you position your subject in a sentence:

Active: Avery secured a job offer.

Passive: A job offer was secured by Avery.

Both sentences mean the same thing. However, the active voice makes Avery seem more, well, active. It’s punchier. Shorter.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid the most obvious signs of a passive voice, which include is, are, was, were, be, being, had, have, and will. While it’s impossible to avoid these words entirely, try to use an active voice as much as possible. Here’s an example from a made up government campaign for constituents to conserve water:

Active: You Protect our City. Visit to learn more about water conservation.

Passive: Our City is Protected by You. has more for you to learn about water conservation.

Again, both versions send roughly the same message but with two different levels of urgency. The active version positions the subject, “You,” as the agent of change, then compels the reader to visit the website. Conversely, the passive version emphasizes the city rather than the target audience while the CTA sounds like a suggestion to visit the website whenever you get around to it, no rush.

3. Show, Don’t Tell.

When we distinguish between showing and telling, we really mean demonstrating and explaining. Too much explaining is a drag; it takes an audience’s focus away from the action, character’s emotional arc, and the sights and sounds of the setting—all the things that make stories interesting.

Too much telling or “on-the-nose” language makes your brand boring. Even though “We Fix Cars” might be a decent tagline for an auto repair shop, long-term campaigns can benefit from language that captures a feeling without directly mentioning a product or service.

Let’s say a manufacturer of high-end travel backpacks wants to target avid hikers. We’ll call the backpacks Fancy Travel Packs. Simply talking about the size of the backpacks, durability of the materials, and customer-friendly return policy misses an opportunity to capture something more.

What about the buyer’s adventurous spirit, the new travel memories they can make, or the peace of mind that comes with being packed and prepared for anything?

Showing these emotive aspirations makes for a more engaging hook. It speaks to the target audience on a human level and, ideally, makes them want to dive into the product specs afterward. Here are some examples:

Telling: Fancy Travel Packs are durable and have room for all your stuff.

Showing: Scale the highest mountain with Fancy Travel Packs.

Bonus Tip: Try to think about how your copy interacts with its imagery. If the imagery does some of the “telling”—like showing a hiker at a campsite with the backpack visible and open—then the copy can focus even more on “showing” the emotional appeal with aspirational language. The same is true in a reverse situation. What’s important is to consider the balance of direct versus indirect representation of the product or service.

Don’t just tell your organization’s story—paint a picture for your target audience that shows them how they fit into your story—and how they’ll live happily ever after when they choose your organization.

Mighty Citizen knows a thing or two about storytelling—we’ve been helping our clients tell their stories for over 20 years. Get in touch!


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