WCB-Alberta writer transforms article through story structure
I love it when my clients send me before-and-after pieces after I present a writing workshop.
For one thing, it’s gratifying to see that people’s writing actually improves after I visit! For another, these pieces make great case studies in good writing.
Workers Compensation Board-Alberta writer Caren Baroudy recently did a wonderful job rewriting an article for the WCB’s client magazine. Notice how her rewrite:
- Focuses the angle on reader benefits. Baroudy moves from event to impact, changing the story angle from WCB’s new opioid claim rollout to how employers can help save employees from addiction and overdose by using the board’s new resources.
- Uses the feature-style story structure. This approach has been proven in the lab to be more effective at reaching readers. It also allows writers to plug and play their information into an existing format, saving time and effort. In fact, Baroudy did much of this revamp during a morning workshop — a workshop in which your dear writing coach spent most of the time talking.
- Keeps the piece short. The revised piece weighs in at less than 200 words — a one-minute read. The original is actually a little longer, at 213 words. Which goes to show that you can use the feature-style story structure even when you don’t have a lot of space.
Here’s Baroudy’s original piece:
|Headline||You’re in the driver’s seat!||The headline is interesting enough, but doesn’t relate to the topic: opioid abuse. It might work better for an article on, say, drunk driving or texting and driving.|
|Deck||Opioid Claims Management rollout now complete||This deck gives us a sense that the story is going to cover the event instead of the impact.|
|Lead||Throughout 2012, Medical Services and Customer Service worked together to improve the resources available to help claim owners effectively manage opioid claims. The result included new eCO enhancements and some minor changes to the management process, all designed to help claim owners manage these often challenging claims.||Any time you see the phrase “Throughout [year]” at the beginning of a story, you know it’s going to be a background lead, aka blah-blah-blah background. There’s a reason the feature-style story structure places the background in the third paragraph, not the first.|
|Body||Business training facilitated information sessions to all Customer Service teams in November, referring to the analogy that the claim owner as the decision maker is in the driver’s seat. Claim owners have the task of ensuring injured workers receive the services they need to return to work. In cases of severe injuries where a return to work is not possible, claim owners provide services to improve an injured worker’s quality of life.The rollout focused on:||What’s in it for me? This angle — what we did, how the sausage was made — isn’t very interesting to clients whose employees are abusing opioids.|
|Conclusion||Find out more about the tools and resources available for opioid claim management including new tutorial videos by visiting EW > Business Tools >Opioid Claim Management > Resources||There’s nothing wrong with this call to action, but it isn’t very rousing.|
And here’s Baroudy’s rewrite:
|Headline||Solid Opioid Claim Management prevents addiction and overdose||This headline reflects the real subject of the story. To tighten the headline, lead with the benefit and avoid repeating “Opioids,” I’d go with “Prevent addiction and overdose” for the headline.|
|Deck||Opioid resources can keep you on course||The deck signals a WIIFM angle.|
|Lead||In Canada, overdose deaths involving prescription medications now vastly outnumber deaths from HIV. By some estimates, prescription drug overdoses have killed 100,000 North Americans over the past 20 years.||A startling statistic is one good approach for a lead that shows instead of tells, that’s concrete, creative and provocative.|
|Nut graph||Good opioid claim management can literally save an injured worker’s life, but it isn’t easy. Here’s what you can do for your injured worker to help keep them, and you, on course.||This paragraph deftly puts the story “into a nutshell” and shows the reader how she’s going to benefit from the piece.|
|Body||These three tips transform the story into a service, or how-to, story. I love lists that start with imperatives, such as “familiarize,” “engage” and “let.” We call the imperative voice the command voice, but in a tipsheet like this, it’s really the invitation voice.|
|Wrap up||Solid Opioid Claim Management prevents addiction and overdoses and in essence, can save a claimant’s life.||After telling readers what you’re going to tell them in the nut graph, then telling them in the body, here’s where you tell them what you’ve told them. This wrapup is nice, neat and sweet.|
|Kicker||By following these steps, you can help your claimant avoid becoming an unfortunate statistic.||Here Baroudy ends with a bang and comes full circle by referring back to statistics in the lead.|
Thanks to WCB-Alberta’s communication leaders, Marcela Matthew and Dayna Therien, for sharing this piece with me and for letting me share it with you.
And to my other clients: I’d love to see your befores and afters. Please send them to me. It will help me illustrate my tips and techniques — not to mention feed my ego.