Pop-Up Video’s Lesson for Content Creators

Pop-Up Video’s Lesson for Content Creators

It’s wild to think that TikTok has become a vehicle for people to discover music. Growing up, I turned to traditional media to fuel my passion for music — radio, print, and television. 
 
One TV show I always gravitated toward was VH1’s Pop-Up Video. Although it only aired from 1996 to 2002, there are so many takeaways from this show that we can apply to content creation today. 
 
If you don’t remember Pop-Up Video, it was a mini music video marathon where fun facts would pop up onto the screen. As you watched, you’d learn various things about the musician, the video production, or other relevant factoids.
 
Here’s an example from the beloved Spice Girls video for “Wannabe”. 
 
My favorite pop-up reveals some Spice Girls history: each member was hand selected out of 400 women who responded to an ad for a girl group. 
 
 

A Content Creation Must: Education

The mark of any interesting piece of content is that it serves a purpose. Whether it be to entertain, inspire, connect, or educate, you want to publish content that feeds your audience. 
 
Although the factoids shared on Pop-Up Video are far from academic, they still educate the viewer. These fun facts provide context and insights that make the music video more enjoyable.
 
From your email campaigns, to social content and YouTube videos, incorporating facts is a surefire way to enhance your content. Here’s why:
 

Facts illustrate your brand’s WHY. 

As Simon Sinek always says, start with why. Sharing facts with your audience can illustrate how your company got started. 
 
For instance, after learning that 14 billion pounds of plastic end up in our oceans each year, two friends took action. Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze created, 4ocean, a company committed to removing plastic from our oceans.
 
Publish the facts about your industry that inspired you to make a change. 
 

Facts help establish credibility.

What better way to demonstrate you know your stuff than to spill all the facts? When people are in the research phase of the customer journey, they are weighing their options and comparing you to competitors. 
 
One way to instantly build your credibility with facts is to do a myth busting content series. This will educate your audience while you show your expertise.
 
For example, imagine you are an interior designer. You could debunk a design myth, such as “everything in your house should match.” Then, explain how to pair various colors, patterns, and textures. Better yet, illustrate it with photos and videos. 
 

Facts show your brand’s personality.

Your audience doesn’t choose to work with you solely based on reputation or impressive accolades. Personality is what sets you apart from the competition, especially if you have similar credentials.
 
Perhaps you’re trying to choose a financial advisor to help you set up a college fund for your small children. A candidate whose “About” page touches on personal details, like the fact that he or she is also a parent, may influence your decision. The other advisors you’re considering may be just as qualified, but you relate to this one more. 
 

Facts boost engagement. 

We all know that the purpose of social media is to be social! Positioning your factual content in a trivia-style format is a simple way to open things up for conversation. 
 
You can ask your audience to make a guess about a statistic, fill in the blank, answer true or false, or build intrigue with a “did you know” series.
 

Facts bring you closer to your audience.

A small fact about you or your company may be what inspires a potential customer to work with you. We like to buy from companies we are proud to support.
 
Share facts about how your brand gives back to the community. If you are a corporation who has also raised thousands of dollars for charity, let your audience know. These details can be the push you audience needs to hear before conversion. 
 

Facts inspire your audience to share.

In his book Contagious, Jonah Berger says that audiences like to feel smart. When we’re in the know about something, we’re more compelled to share this information with our social circles, both on and off social media. 
 
Going back to Pop-Up Video as an example, facts make for interesting conversation. The next time I’m out and hear a Spice Girls song on the radio, I may feel compelled to mention their backstory, which I learned from Pop-Up Video.
 

It’s Easy to Face the Facts 

Content creators can breathe a sigh of relief because interesting facts are all around us! Rather than banging our heads against the wall to come up with a creative content ideas all the time, all you have to do is a little research. 

Start by asking questions and you’ll learn of countless interesting facts to share with your audience. 

READ MORE: What Content Creators Can Learn from Ariana Grande 

READ MORE: 6 Reasons to Use Pop Culture in Your Marketing Strategy 

Marketers, Put Your Brand Voice on Autotune

Marketers, Put Your Brand Voice on Autotune

When you hear the word autotune, who comes to mind?
 
If you’re a pop culture fanatic, you may think of Cher, who is often credited as the first artist to experiment with autotune with her 1998 single, “Believe.”
 
 
But if there’s anyone whose known for using autotune consistently, it’s hip hop artist, T-Pain. In fact, he’s so strongly associated with autotune that an iPhone app called “I Am T-Pain” was created to mimic the effect. 
 
Every one of T-Pain’s songs brings me back to my college days when I actually looked forward to going to the club. He had hits like Bartender, Buy U a Drank, and I’m N Luv with a Stripper just to name a few. 
 
These songs cut through the late 2000s competitive hip-hop scene. T-Pain was up against artists like Lil Wayne, Drake, T.I., Flo-Rida and Jay-Z and yet he still produced hit after hit.
 

The Secret to Brand Voice Differentiation 

 
Marketers can relate to T-Pain’s position as an artist. Your category is crowded. Whether it’s your personal brand or your business, you’ve got your own set of competitors. 
 
In the face of competition, most underdogs have their strategy all wrong. I’ve had countless clients who try to copy what their competitors are doing, throw more money at advertising, or invest in expensive innovations to try to demonstrate that they are better. 
 
From what I’ve seen, these efforts won’t push you ahead in the race — at least not as quickly as you’d hope. 
 
Take it from one of my favorite authors, Sally Hogshead, who says 
 
“It’s good to be better, but it’s better to be different.” 
 
And this is exactly how T-Pain stood out. He wasn’t necessarily better than other artists of his era, but he packaged his work in a unique way with autotune. It was something we’d never heard before. After his debut single “I’m Sprung” dropped, we were hooked.
 
Individuals and brands have a similar opportunity to differentiate themselves. You don’t have to be the best or have the biggest following to get noticed. All it takes is a creative approach that is unlike what the other guys are doing.
 

Finding Your Brand Voice

If you work in marketing, you may have heard about the 4 P’s of marketing which summarizes the pillars of a marketing strategy.  
 
They are
 
  • Product – Brand, Services, Packaging
  • Place – Market, Channel, Distribution
  • Price – Discount, Offer Price, Credit Policy
  • Promotion – Advertising, Publicity, Sales Promotion
 
The 4 P’s of marketing were introduced in the 1950s, yet brands are still leaning on them to create their marketing mix. 
 
However, customers of today are turned off when brands only speak to their products, pricing, placement, and promotion. The 4 P’s do little to differentiate your brand or make your audience connect with you. 
 
Instead, brands need to shift to the new P’s of marketing. In his book, About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising, Dan Hill says the new P’s of marketing are
 
  • Passion
  • Purpose
  • Personality
 
These are the 3 P’s are what will make your brand shine in 2020.
 

Breaking Down the 3 P’s: Personality, Passion, Purpose 

 
First, let’s start with personality, because this reminds me of T-Pain. His use of autotune added personality to his music and lyrics. He found a way to make his songs uniquely his by expressing himself in a different way.
 
We see this in other competitive categories. For example, Wendy’s stands out in the fast food wars by sharing their brand voice with a touch of sass. 
 

 
Next is passion. This is another commonality we see in the music industry and marketing. Musicians share their passions with us through song. Through their use of lyrics and melody, they get their audiences to feel something.
 
This should be every marketer’s goal — to get your audience to care and to feel your passion.  
 
Apple does this well. They’re not just passionate about technology, but what the technology can do for people. They want to spark your creativity. 
 
Same with Nike. They’re not just passionate about shoes and sports apparel, but what the apparel can do for you. They want to ignite your inner athlete. 
 
 
 
 
Lastly, is purpose. Your audience wants to buy from brands who have a purpose that’s bigger than your bottom line.
 
Today, we look for brands that are sustainable and socially responsible. And especially in light of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve seen tons of brands take a stand on both safety and diversity. 
 

A brand who’s never missed an opportunity to stand up for what they believe in is Ben & Jerry’s. 

 

Connecting with Your Audience with the 3 P’s

Remember: if you want to stand out and build a relationship with your audience, spend less time highlighting your products and promotions and more time expressing your personality, passion, and purpose.
 
Even T-Pain would agree that finding your unique brand voice can be a key to success. 

 
 
 
 
How to Tell Your Story – Inspired by Black Musicians Who are Part of Mine

How to Tell Your Story – Inspired by Black Musicians Who are Part of Mine

Just like the rest of the world, I’ve been doing some reflection on the people of color who have made an impact on my life. 
 
Aside from the incredible people I’ve come to know personally, there are a number of famous Black people who sparked my interest in music.
 
I didn’t realize it until now, but some of my earliest memories of music are thanks to Black musicians. 
 
When I was four years old, my parents had a record player. There were two vinyls I had access to: the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album, and Donna Summer’s Greatest Hits.
 
You’d think given my age I’d gravitate toward Alvin and the Chipmunks, but they bored me quickly. Nope, as much as I love the ’90s, it was ’70s disco that stole my heart. 
 
 
Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” was the first song I ever loved that wasn’t a nursery rhyme. There was something about the way it started off slow and soulful, with the flutter of the flute and jingle of bar chimes. I loved the suspense it built leading up to the disco beat. I’d start spinning in circles as soon as it dropped.
 
I remember meticulously flipping the record to listen to “MacArthur Park.” The lyrics befuddled me — I didn’t understand why someone would leave a cake out in the rain. It was a visual my childhood imagination would paint every time I heard it.
 
The queen of disco inspired these moments, but I also have fond memories listening to the king of pop. On car rides with my dad, we’d sing Michael Jackson’s Bad album we had on cassette. As a young girl, I felt so rebellious singing about being bad, when I’d always been told to be good. And with my limited vocabulary at the time, the simple lyrics “I’m bad” resonated with me.
 
 
 
When I was five, I got my hands on my very first CD: Mariah Carey’s Daydream. I don’t recall the details as to how I got it or why, but it quickly became my favorite thing. 
 
 
 
I’d flip through the CD’s insert, staring at pictures of Mariah, in awe of her beauty. 
 
I studied the lyrics to songs like “Open Arms” and “Fantasy” while other kids read fairy tales.
 
Someone brought to my attention that her Boyz II Men duet “One Sweet Day,” was about death — an idea so foreign to me. From then on, I cried when I listened to it, fearful of my parents dying.
 

 
 

Your Story is the Change

As I reflect back on these childhood memories, I think of how they shaped me into who I am today. But beyond that, they remind me how much the world needs change for our Black community. 
 
Yes, it’s great to see all the black squares, the messages of hope, or the links to resources. But we can’t achieve change until we embrace our differences. And to do that, more people need to openly share them.
 
I talk a lot about differences and sharing your story when it comes to personal branding, but in our fight for racial equality, this message rings true in a bigger way. We are all empowered with platforms to use our voice.
 
I hope this post inspires you to share more of who you are not just right now, but every time you introduce yourself. 
 

Making Personal Branding *Personal*

In my personal branding course, I teach my students how to present themselves in a competitive world. There are countless people who will have similar qualifications or backgrounds as you. To stand out, you have to articulate what makes you uniquely you.
 
That’s where personal stories come in.
 
When we talk about ourselves, most of us mistakenly spit out positions we’ve held, companies we’ve worked for, or certifications we’ve earned. Ever read someone’s “About Page” that just felt like a ramble of their resumé? BLAH.
 
It’s your story that will make people connect with you.
 
Stories humanize you. Whether you’re interviewing for a new job, pitching to a client, or networking at a conference, they make a lasting impression more than any title or credential. 
 
 

How to Tell Your Story

Don’t think you have an interesting story to tell? Let me put your mind at ease.
 
Traditional storytelling says stories need heroes. In grade school, you probably studied The Hero’s Journey, popularized by Joseph Campbell. We believed every story had to be adventurous, suspenseful, challenging, and triumphant.
 
But Kindra Hall, author of Stories That Stick, says stories don’t need heroes. They just need characters. 
 
The stories I shared with you are hardly heroic. There was no villain or battle to overcome. No brush with death or groundbreaking revelation. 
 
Instead, I took the simple moments and objects from my childhood —  a record player, car ride, and CD — and wove them into a story to illustrate who I am. 
 
As you set out to build relationships and tell your story in the real world or online, start with your own memories. They can be from your childhood, or more recent. 
 
If your memory needs jogging, here are a few questions to help you rediscover some special moments:
 
  • When was the first time you became interested in the field or trade you’re in now?

  • Is there a person in your life who inspired you to pursue your passion? How did you meet this person, and how did they influence you?

  • What hobbies or interests from your childhood have stuck with you into your career?

  • What school subject did you excel in the most? Do you remember a certain project that you were most proud of?

  • What is your most prized possession and why?

  • Who is the first teacher who noticed your potential?

  • What did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?

  • What was a pivotal moment when you decided to set a new goal or make a change?

  • What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Who gave it to you, and in what context?

  • What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in both your personal or professional life?

  • Has anyone ever told you couldn’t do something? Did you prove them wrong?

  • What is something you failed doing? How did you overcome this?

 
You’ll notice many of these questions require you to reflect back on your childhood. I believe our calling doesn’t always find us in adulthood. We first experiment with our interests as children, and follow that path. Sometimes we change course, but there’s probably a story there, too. 
 
No matter the medium, portraying your personal brand means getting personal. You can have the flashiest website, most impressive portfolio, or most coveted award, but it’s your story that makes you memorable. 
 
Find it and tell it every chance you get.  
 

More on how to tell your story:

Start a Podcast: The Newbie’s Guide

Start a Podcast: The Newbie’s Guide

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! 
 
If you’re reading this, that means you want to start a podcast, which also means you aren’t afraid of putting yourself out there and sharing your thoughts with the world.
 
In my opinion, overcoming self-doubt and fear is the hardest part about starting a podcast. It can be paralyzing to most, but not for you. 
 
You’re here, which means, you’re on the path to fulfill your podcasting dreams! And I’m so freakin’ proud of you. 
 
So, let’s keep this momentum going, shall we? You’ve got this!
 
 

Before You Start Your Podcast

Now for some tough love. 
 
Make no mistake, podcasting is a lot of fun, but it’s also a commitment.
 
You owe it to yourself and your listeners to publish consistently, which requires a lot of time, effort, and creative energy. 
 
So the first step: make sure you’re up for the challenge! If you stick with it, all of the hard work is worth it. 
 
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start your podcast:
 
      • Why do I want to get into podcasting?
      • What is the purpose of my podcast — to entertain, educate, inspire? 
      • Why should people listen to my show?
      • Who should listen to my podcast?
      • How often will I publish new episodes?
      • How will I come up with consistent material?

Branding Your Podcast

Once you have a vision for your podcast, you have to brand it so people recognize it. 
 
 

Naming Your Podcast

Branding starts with coming up with a name for your podcast. I recommend making it short, relevant and easy to remember. 
 
Then, think about how you will promote your podcast. You’ll likely want to secure a domain name to reflect your podcast title, as well as social media handles. Do your research with a domain registrar like GoDaddy. You may choose to promote your podcast on your personal website or channels, but it’s still a good idea to lock in these names while you can.
 
If the domain you want is unavailable, consider different iterations. For me, @makingthebrand was taken, so I grabbed @makingthebrandpodcast and makingthebrandpodcast.com. 
 
 

Designing Cover Artwork

Good news — you don’t need graphic design experience to create professional looking podcast cover artwork. There are tons of free tools available! 
 
My personal favorite is a free graphic design website called Canva. Once you create your account, create a new file that is 3000×3000 pixels.
 
From there, you can browse a variety of templates that you can modify. You can change the colors, fonts, and messaging. 
 
Remember, your cover artwork will appear as a small thumbnail at first. Make sure your text is big and bold, and that your photos are relevant to your podcast’s topic. 
 
Also, unless your podcast is about podcasting, do not use graphics of a microphone or headphone as your artwork. This is a rookie mistake! 
 
❗️CAUTION: A lot of podcast dreamers get stuck at this stage because they can’t settle on a perfect logo or design. Do not let this be you! You can always change your artwork later. If you’re really hung up on it, consider hiring a freelance designer. 
 
 
 

What You’ll Need: Equipment and Software

One of the most intimidating parts of starting a podcast is knowing what equipment or software to buy. Plus, you may not be ready to invest in top-of-the-line microphones or other hardware.
 
My all-in cost to get my podcast off the ground was about $300, but you can get by on a lot less (or a lot more, if you’re willing to splurge!).
 
Since this is a guide for beginners, I’m sharing the basics. 
 
 

Microphone

Audio quality is a must when it comes to podcasting. You can’t rely on pretty images or flashy video to uplevel your podcast content. You’ve got nothing but sound, so you need a fantastic microphone! 
 
I purchased the Audio-Technica ATR-2100xUSBfor $63 on Amazon in 2019. The price has since gone up to $99, but it looks like it comes with a better stand, and the overall mic quality may be even better. It’s still a great price! Audio-Technica is a reputable brand.
 
 

 
 
Be sure to purchase a windscreen to protect your mic — they’re under $5! If you want to add more personality, get a multi-pack which includes a variety of colors. You can switch them out depending on your brand, mood, or theme. 
 
Another popular starter microphone is the Blue Yeti, which currently retails for $129.99. 
 

If you really can’t splurge right now, you can get by recording your microphone using Apple headphones, or recording with your computer in a quiet room. There are editing programs that can help improve your sound quality in post-production. 
 
The lesson here is to use your judgement. Test to your sound and ask yourself if you would be able to tolerate it for 30 minutes to over an hour. If it’s unpleasant for you, it will be unpleasant for your listeners. Don’t risk it.  
 
 
 

Podcast Distribution: Anchor

With just a podcast name, cover art, and a microphone, you can technically push your podcast live (yay!), so I’m skipping ahead to tell you about Anchor.
 
Anchor.fm is a free online podcast host that not only distributes your podcast to major streaming platforms, but it also has recording and editing capabilities built-in. 
 
Personally, I like to edit my podcast in a different program, and then upload to Anchor.  But recording and editing natively within Anchor is an option if you don’t want to invest in more software, or if you are not too savvy with audio editing. 
 
anchor podcast
 
When you sign up for Anchor, they will push your podcast live to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play and more with just a few simple steps. They also create a dashboard where you can review your podcast analytics. You can also easily set up episode scheduling, monetization, and sponsorships directly through Anchor. 
 
As a beginner, Anchor is a great option. It’s free and has everything you need! But there are some paid podcast hosts, like SimpleCast or Libsyn, that you may want to consider as your podcast grows.
 
 
 

Recording and Editing

When it comes to editing, it’s all about working with your skill level. Yes, you can use Anchor and get acquainted with their editing platform, especially if you are on Windows. But if you have a Mac, you may have some experience using iMovie or Garage Band. Many podcasters can record and edit audio tracks pretty seamlessly in these programs, and they’re free!
 
More advanced podcasters may edit in Adobe Premiere. I’ve also heard good things about a program called Audacity, but I use ScreenFlow.
 
My ScreenFlow plan is $129/year and covers the basics of both video and audio editing. I purchased it so I can create my own video tutorials and record my screen (such a plus!), but it works just fine for audio-only files.
 
 
Beginners can easily navigate ScreenFlow. It has simple commands that let you split and cut clips, and options for overlaying a voice recording over music. 
 
My favorite part of ScreenFlow is the “remove background noise” and “smooth volume levels” functions. Simply checking these two boxes drastically improves my audio quality. 
 
If you cringe at the sound of your own voice, know that you aren’t alone! Nailing your delivery takes practice. Just be sure to bring some energy! And if you mess up or stutter over a word, you can just re-record! 
 
Here’s a quick tip to help speed up your editing process: anytime you mess up, clap loudly into the microphone. This will make your audio waveform spike, so you have a visual cue as to what clips to cut. 
 
When you’re done editing, export your file as a .AAC and upload directly to Anchor! 
 
 
 

Music

The right music sets the mood for your podcast and is a huge part of its branding. You’ll use music to record your podcast intro and outro, which leave a lasting impression. 
 
You can find a ton of royalty-free tracks online, but I chose to purchase the exact track I wanted from PremiumBeats for under $50.

 
When you record your intro, make sure you tell people who you are and what your podcast is about. Add this to every new episode, but you should also do an in-depth introductory episode of your podcast to kick things off.
 
Most importantly, don’t forget to pack in a ton of personality! If you hook your audience early, your audience will keep on listening. 
 
Your outro is a great opportunity to plug other content, such as additional episodes, how to follow you on social media, where to subscribe to your email list, or how to join your Facebook group.
 
 
 

How to Promote Your Podcast

Now for the fun part — finding podcast listeners! 
 
There are countless ways to promote your podcast. Of course, you can share it with your followers on social media, but there’s a catch.
 
When people are on Instagram, they want to be on Instagram. 
When people are on YouTube, they want to be on YouTube.
When people are on Twitter, they want to be on Twitter.
 
Do you see where I’m going with this? You can’t just dump your podcast episode on social media and expect your audience to drop everything to go listen. This is too disruptive.
 
Instead, you need to design teasers that are right for the platform. 
 
So don’t just post a graphic saying “new episode!” on Instagram. Maybe you do an IGTV episode that teases one of the topics. Then, once you’ve captured someone’s interest, you direct them to the full episode. 
 
You can also go on Instagram Live with your podcast guests, or share video snippets on LinkedIn, or long-form video on YouTube.
 
But all of this is so much easier with the help of a platform called Headliner
 
Headliner is a free online tool that helps you create audiograms. An audiogram is a customized graphic that is attached to sound. Here’s an example of one of mine that I shared on Twitter: 
 

Once you log in to Headliner,  you can search your podcast and choose from any of your episodes. Then, upload a graphic, choose a waveform style, color, and add captions if you’d like!
 
You can also customize the size of your audiogram to format it for Instagram Stories or other orientations. It’s one of my favorite tools! 

 

Pitching Guests and Interviews

The secret to growing your podcast is simple: collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!
 
When you interview and feature other people on your show, you now have another person helping to promote it. Most interviewees will share their episode with their own audiences, or at least re-share your promotional announcements.
 
As you build your podcast, you should also be out there engaging with a community on social media. Keep an eye out for people with interesting perspectives or experiences that would be a great fit for your show.
 
Then, shoot your shot!
 
Send them a genuine DM expressing what you admire about their work or expertise, and politely invite them on your show. 
 
You’d be surprised how honored people are to be featured on a podcast. It’s a win-win! You get a new person to help add value and grow your podcast, and the interviewee gains exposure too. 
 
Aim high! You’ve got nothing to lose.
 
After the interview, make sure you profusely thank your interviewee. I recommend sending a handwritten card. It’s a great personal touch to strengthen your relationship! 
 
 
 

Monetizing 

I know what you’re thinking… SHOW ME THE MONEY!
 
If you’re in podcasting for the money, you need to change your mindset. You first need to focus on adding value and building your audience. 
 
If you want to try your hand at monetizing sooner rather than later, Anchor has built in sponsorship functionality. You can record ads within the platform and get paid based on the number of listens.
 
Once your podcast is growing and you have some clear data about your listener demographics, you can put together a podcast media kit and start pitching potential sponsors.
 
But for now, enjoy the process of being a beginner. Experiment until you get clear on your style and find your voice, and you’ll be making money soon! 
 
 
 
This Storytelling Tip Explains Why “All Too Well” is Taylor Swift’s Best Song

This Storytelling Tip Explains Why “All Too Well” is Taylor Swift’s Best Song

During a performance for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series last year, Taylor Swift addressed something I’ve known for quite some time: her best song isAll Too Well.” 
 
Several media outlets have ranked Taylor’s songs over the years, and “All Too Well” is almost always at #1. Here’s a quote from a write-up in Rolling Stone by Rob Sheffield:
 

“You can schaeden your freude all over the celebrity she reputedly sings about, but on the best day of your life you will never inspire a song as great as ‘All Too Well.’ Or write one.”

And this is not an unpopular opinion. Every Swiftie knows that “All Too Well” is an absolute masterpiece. It’s on her fourth album, RED, and it happens to be one of her longest songs at 5 minutes and twenty-seven seconds. 
 
From the first line, you cling to her every tragic word. Taylor said she loves screaming the lyrics together with her fans at her shows.
 
 
As someone who has always been in awe of Taylor’s writing, I wanted to analyze what makes “All Too Well” her best work. She has over 150 songs in her catalogue, so what’s different about this one?
 

Storytelling Through Lyrics in “All Too Well” 

I recently read a book called How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark, which has an entire chapter about storytelling through song lyrics. It’s fascinating to see how songwriters are able to paint storylines, evoke emotion, and illustrate such vivid details through a single line or verse. 
 
But it was another book that really helped me understand what “All Too Well” gets right. 
 
In Stories That Stick by Kindra Hall, she explains the components that make a great story. One of them is this: great stories ZOOM IN on the details.
 
A common storytelling mistake is speaking in generalities, which makes our writing too vague. When you zoom in, you drill down to the specifics. This is where the magic happens.
 
It’s one thing to write a song about love or heartache, but the story escalates when the listener can envision the details — faces, places, objects, and everything in between.
 
This is the entire premise of “All Too Well”. The title itself speaks to how Taylor remembers specific moments of her relationship “all too well.” 
 
Rumor has it, the song is about Jake Gyllenhaal.
 
 
Right from the first verse, Taylor sets the scene and tells us about a scarf she left at Jake’s sister’s house. 
 
I walked through the door with you, the air was cold
But something’bout it felt like home somehow and I
Left my scarf there at your sister’s house
And you still got it in your drawer even now
 
She could have simply mentioned that she left some of her stuff there, but she zooms in on the scarf. It inspires us to think about what the scarf represents. Why would he keep the scarf? He must miss her, and the memories they made. This simple item now has meaning.
 
Taylor continues to illustrate objects and moments in the lyrics:
 
We’re singing in the car, getting lost upstate
Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place
And I can picture it after all these days
 
‘Cause there we are again on that little town street
You almost ran the red’cause you were looking over me
Wind in my hair, I was there, I remember it all too well
 
Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turning red
You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-size bed
And your mother’s telling stories’bout you on a tee ball team
You tell me’bout your past, thinking your future was me
 
‘Cause there we are again in the middle of the night
We dance around the kitchen in the refrigerator light
Down the stairs, I was there, I remember it all too well, yeah
 
And then, in a heart-wrenching turn of events, Taylor zooms back in on the scarf:
 
But you keep my old scarf from that very first week
‘Cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me
You can’t get rid of it,’cause you remember it all too well, yeah
 
Although it may seem like a small detail, the scarf adds so much color and context to this love story. It helps us gain a deeper understanding of the characters and their feelings.
 
This same logic needs to be applied to your own writing. 
 
You may think no one cares about a scarf, or the minute details of your experiences, but they transform a story from ordinary to extraordinary. Don’t leave them out.
 
How significant can a small detail be? The Rolling Stone article said Taylor’s scarf should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 
 

A Swift Tip: How to Zoom in on Your Own Storytelling

Whether you’re writing a novel, a song, or the copy for your “About” page, details are powerful.
 
So how do you pack more of the them into your writing? 
 
It starts with remembering them… all too well.  
 
This is why Taylor Swift has been journaling since she was a teenager. She writes entries about her daily life, which makes every moment and emotion crystal clear. 
 
All of her songs start off as rough drafts in her journal, including “All Too Well.” With the purchase of her latest album, Lover, Taylor included scans of her original entries. As a fan, it was fascinating to see her process, chicken scratch and all. 
 
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Take it from one of the best songwriters of our generation: journaling is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your writing and your life.
 

The Secret to Effective Journaling

Does anyone else have a bunch of empty notebooks lying around? 
 
I admit, I’ve picked up journaling many times in my life, but it never stuck. I’d get super excited, and write every day for a week, then stop. 
 
That all changed when I received a journal as a gift for my 30th birthday. I hadn’t recorded my twenties the way I wanted to (or maybe that’s a good thing!), but my thirties would be different. 
 
Here’s how to make your journaling habit stick: 
 

Get a journal you like. 

This is another small detail that makes a big difference. I felt so uninspired to journal in ratty spiral notebooks and composition books. 
 
There are so many beautiful journals that suit your personality and get you in the mood to write. Choose a color, style, and format that you love.
 

Do it your way. 

Most people perceive journaling all wrong. It’s not meant to be stressful — it should actually reduce your stress. But it starts with giving yourself permission to do it your way.
 
No, you don’t have to write every day. 
No, you don’t need long entries. 
Yes, you can draw and add stickers and have bulleted lists and do all the things that make it yours
 

Set a trigger.

If you really want journaling to be a habit, you need to keep your journal in sight and incorporate it into your routine. Maybe you keep it next to the coffee maker, so you write after you make your morning coffee. Or after you make your bed, you place it on your pillow so you write at the end of the day. 
 
Attach your journal to something else you do every day, so it remains top of mind. 
 
 

Still not sold on journaling? 

Here are some of my favorite quotes that may inspire you: 
 
“Journal what you love, what you hate, what’s in your head, what’s important. Journaling organizes your thoughts; allows you to see things in a concrete way that otherwise you might not see. Focus on what you think you need to find in your art.” -Kay Walkingstick
 
“A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to become. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.” -Brad Wilcox
 
“Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life expanding.” -Jen Williamson
 
“People who keep journals have life twice.” -Jessamyn West
 

READ MORE: The Storytelling Lesson From NBC’s This Is Us

LISTEN: Songwriting & Brand Storytelling: What Marketers Can Learn from NBC’s Songland