How to Write Better Construction Job Stories
The time-tested construction job story is among the most powerful marketing tools, especially in a world where well-informed customers prefer a demonstration of your product or service in action over a hollow sales pitch. The problem with job stories is that many are boring, and therefore, ineffective. It’s time to start engaging your audience and stop wasting your time and money.
Technical People Like Good Stories Too
There’s a narrative that some within our industry, namely engineers, prefer dry, fact-based writing. I’m calling B.S.
While it’s true that engineers like technical writing with measurements and quantities, it’s also true that as humans we are all hard wired to enjoy effective storytelling regardless of which side of the brain drives us.
After all, the cavemen weren’t gathered around the campfire discussing the results of the latest soil sample.
I once sent a construction job story to a national magazine and the editor suggested that some of the content was too artistic. Most of the readers were engineers and preferred technical writing, she said. This is a good time to remind you that you should always be aware of and respect the needs of the magazine and editor before, during, and after submitting a job story.
Most of the story, in fact, was technical. A small portion was artistic. This balance was intentional because one of the unique differentiators at Fraley Construction Marketing is the ability to weave effective storytelling together with technical writing.
The following is the artistic language in question to give you a better feel for what we’re talking about here:
The sheer power of the RG 21 T pile driver can be felt as steel vibrates against steel high above. Sand particles rain down lightly and the beach flexes as the 45-foot-long steel pile seems to slide into sand with the ease of a candle pushed into a birthday cake.
What if I had written it like this?
The RG 21 T pile driver drove 45-foot-long steel piles into the sand.
Boring, right? It’s certainly more succinct, and one of the rules of effective writing is to avoid using extraneous words. With that said, there’s nothing you can say to convince me that the reader will find this version more interesting. The original passage was intended to engage the reader by making them feel as if they were on the jobsite with me. Mission accomplished.
Tap Into Your Inner John Steinbeck
Do you recognize this passage? (Hint: it was required reading for many of us in grade school).
The tractors came over the roads and into the fields, great crawlers moving like insects, having the incredible strength of insects. They crawled over the ground, laying the track and rolling on it and picking it up. Diesel tractors, puttering while they stood idle; they thundered when they moved, and then settled down into a droning roar. Snub-nosed monsters, raising the dust and sticking their snouts to it, straight down the country, across the country, through fences, through dooryards, in and out of gullies in straight lines. They did not run on the ground, but on their own roadbeds. They ignored hills and gulches, water courses, fences, houses.
You’re correct if you identified it as a passage from the classic novel “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck. This book is full of incredible prose. This resonated with me because of the way he so descriptively captures heavy equipment at work. Admittedly you’re probably not going to write like Steinbeck, but wouldn’t your job stories be better received if you could tap into some of this writing magic?
Job Stories are Not Fiction
Let me state the obvious. Fiction writing and non-fiction writing are different. While heavy construction firms don’t need to mimic fiction writing, they should incorporate some of the creative writing techniques.
Don’t just tell us that your crane hoisted a 20,000-pound bridge beam. Describe it for us in detail. What sounds did you hear? Was the engine roaring? Were the backup alarms ringing in unison like slot machines at a busy casino?
What sights did you see? Did a plane fly overhead from a nearby airport? Was a crew of workers nearby pouring a concrete floor? Was the jobsite so thick with mud that the crane’s outriggers had to sit on wooden cribbing?
We could keep going but you get the idea.
“Engage the reader by making them feel like part of the action.
Use these passages sparingly throughout the story, but don’t get carried away or you may come off like an aspiring fiction writer.
Effective Storytelling is the Differentiator
Effective storytelling is the differentiator in the heavy construction market where the competition is tight and your audience’s time is limited.
The person you’re trying to reach may not have the luxury of sitting in front of a computer and reading articles during the work day. They may be working in the field for 12 hours.
Upon returning home, he or she might decide to read, but there are so many options. Check Facebook? Read a trade magazine? Return emails? One thing is certain. They won’t waste valuable time reading a job story unless it’s well written. Put these tips into play and your job stories will stand a much better chance of getting read.
What other techniques have you found effective for writing interesting job stories?
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