You can’t always keep your Web content short and sweet. Some of your narratives are going to take longer form: case studies, white papers, e-books, presentations, conference proceedings, and other long form narratives can help build your brand, sell your services, and be valuable take-aways for your users. Writing longer narratives for the Web requires a special approach: you need to engage your user for a longer period of time while competing with their desire for instant gratification. How can you write in a way that keeps them focused for the long haul?
Summarize – state up front what your users will get out of their investment in your prospectus, case study, or white paper. Make it exciting, relevant, and worth their while. Give them a sense of what they will know after they read your document, and why it is important information for them to know. Your content can help them sell a crucial decision to the boss, or give them a leg up on a competing technology, or spark a conversation about the latest trends.
Organize – chunk your information into easy to digest, logical sections. Use headers and lead-ins to capture your users’ attention and focus their expectations. Take the time and effort to write a first draft and then share it with others to review, critique, and analyze. Longer form narratives depend on the editorial process for streamlining and refinement. This will ensure that your lengthier pieces retain your organization’s voice and that they maintain a logical and compelling flow.
Emphasize – use infographics, images, and other visuals to send your point home. But, make sure your images bolster your narrative rather than compete with it. Keep in-text links and other diversions to a minimum. Instead, offer a bibliography of links and resources at the end of your document.
Finally, channel the voice of your high school English teacher: remember that a good essay or story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You must state your thesis early – what is the problem you are going to solve? Your ending should contain a resolution, whether it is a case study describing how a client used your service to save money or a white paper on the state of education today and how your firm is addressing the most relevant issues. Sell your narratives just like you sell your products; after all, they are part of your unique intellectual property.