Want Better Copy? Try Telling the Truth

Here’s a nifty little ethical dilemma for you:

Is it OK to combine several true stories into a “composite” for your marketing?

Fiction writers do this all the time (and even many “non-fiction” writers).

The question came to me by way of a marketing consultant who was working on an autoresponder sequence for a dentist client.

The client had some amazing stories to tell from dozens of different patients over the years.

And the consultant was wondering if it was ethical to combine these stories into a fictitious character to give them “more impact.”

His biggest worry was running into trouble with the alphabet agencies who watch marketers—like the FTC.

Now I’m no lawyer, and I don’t play one on the Internet either.

If you’re going to create a fictional story for your marketing, you’d better be clear up front that it’s fiction.

You can **probably** get away with it in that case.


That does NOT mean it’s a good idea from a marketing perspective.

People are naturally skeptical of anything you say in your marketing, so how do you think they’ll respond when you say, “And while this story is entirely made up, you really can have perfect teeth with no pain, we promise!”

Any extra dramatic punch you get from the “enhanced” story is instantly gone, and you’ve ripped your credibility out by the roots.

Here’s a secret about stories that most people don’t realize:

The emotional impact of a story doesn’t come from WHAT HAPPENS in the story (the plot).

It comes from including the little details that show the MEANING BEHIND what happens.

And it’s devilishly difficult to make up those little details in a convincing way.

In marketing, “Truth is more convincing than fiction.”

So instead of manufacturing some phony plastic meta-character, what I’d do instead is create an autoresponder sequence that will drip, drip, drip on prospects with a bunch of short, true-to-life, name-changed-to-protect-the-guilty stories.

Each email is hyper focused on ONE story and ONE emotional benefit.

For example, if you’re writing an email about what to expect on a visit, you might start out talking about a guy who was terrified to get his cavity drilled.

This poor guy had been to a dentist when he was 13, and the schmuck just went at him with the drill before the Novocain had set in… Because of that he didn’t sleep the night before he came to see this particular dentist, and his hands were shaking when he sat down in the chair…

But 5 minutes later, the dentist has him laughing and relaxed, and he barely even felt the filling at all. Now even the nightmares he used to have before every dentist appointment are gone.

You write 50 different stories like this, and eventually you’ll find the one that resonates for a particular patient.

And not only do you bring in more business, but you also don’t have to worry about jail.

See? Win-win.