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Patsy Cline's 'She's Got You' is a content marketing master-class in storytelling

Patsy Cline's 'She's Got You' is a content marketing master-class in storytelling Blog Feature

Liz Moorehead

Director of Web & Interactive Content, Speaker, Host of 'Content Lab' Podcast

January 21st, 2020 min read

My mother was never a woman who did anything in half-measures — forever mythic in stature, in my childhood eyes.

She was a charismatic, Chanel No. 5-scented, Italian whirlwind of assertively-sized gold hoop earrings, impeccable hair, flawless fashion sense, and perfect makeup. (Whereas I only got comfortable putting on eyeliner after turning 30 and have, quite literally, never purchased hairspray. Clearly, my familial apple tumbled quite far from her genetic style tree.)

She also loved Patsy Cline, who was an American country music singer from the 1950s until she died tragically in a plane crash in 1963.

So, from a very early age, I have so many mental snapshots of moments where Patsy Cline records figured prominently as the soundtrack.

While watching my mom cook dinner, as she hummed quietly to herself in our kitchen. While sprawled out on the living room floor, crayons everywhere, intensely scribbling into a coloring book. While listening to my mother tell me all of the fabulous stories about when she and all of my great aunts lived in the same building at the Watergate in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s.

As a result, I've developed a similar emotional attachment to Patsy's music that, today, borders on religious devotion. Although her melodies and lyrics may seem deceptively simple at first, the more I've listened to her as I've grown up, the more I've realized why she has such staying power.

The starring role of Patsy Cline in my life

Depending on the song, her soulful, dulcet voice could crack your heart open with ease or bring an irrepressible smile to your face with welcoming pep. But they are all equally classic.

There's one song of Patsy's, however, that has woven itself through the fabric of my being as it introduced and reintroduced itself at different periods of my life, to the point where I consider it a part of who I am — "She's Got You."

Or you can listen on Spotify.

(At this point, I would ask that you take three minutes to listen to it, otherwise what follows will not make sense. Or put it on in the background as you continue to read.) 

As much as I would love to stand before you today and say I've only ever been lucky in love, knowing nothing of heartache, that's simply untrue. In fact, as a woman in my 30s, you might say I'm a professional in getting my heart broken.

I say that without a trace of self-pity; that's just how life works.

So, in reaction to the numerous times I've been dumped, romantically scarred, or faced with crushing rejection, I would always do the exact same thing. I would get in my car and drive — on highways, around wherever I was living, or on long road trips — and cry while listening to Patsy Cline, as a way to find some measure of relief. 

Of all her songs, "She's Got You" was the one that always stuck. It was the one song that I emotionally grew through, as I learned to navigate the twists and turns of love in my late teens, late 20s, mid 20s, and so on. 

Then, a couple of weekends ago, I found myself doing the same once again

There I was, on a cold January afternoon, driving around the winding roads of the neighborhood I currently live in, in Annapolis, sifting through my emotions, with tears streaming down my face. (It would seem I did inherit my mother's penchant for melodrama.)

Just as it was late last year, 10 years ago, and beyond, "She's Got You" was the song that seemed to reach out through the noise and confusion with a warm, understanding embrace, as if to say, "You'll be OK" in a way that I actually believed it. And felt it.

I ended up continuing to drive around for an hour that day, listening to it on repeat. 

As I began to emerge from my mental fog, I questioned for the first time:

"What is it about this song in particular? What makes it so powerful after all of these years? Why do I always come back to it?"

It's not unique in its overall theme.

In fact, her catalogue is full of sad songs of lost loves, missed connections, and remembering better times. But "She's Got You" was always different. It always easily cut through deep layers of my well-fortified defenses like a blade.

Why?

A look at the lyrics of 'She's Got You'

I began my thought process by thinking back on the lyrics:

I've got your picture
That you gave to me
And it's signed with love
Just like it used to be
The only thing different
The only thing new
I've got your picture
She's got you

I've got the records
That we used to share
And they still sound the same
As when you were here
The only thing different
The only thing new
I've got the records
She's got you

I've got your memory
Or, has it got me
I really don't know
But I know, it won't let me be

I've got your class ring
That proved you cared
And it still looks the same
As when you gave it, dear
The only thing different
The only thing new
I've got these little things
She's got you

I've got your memory
Or, has it got me
I really don't know
But I know, it won't let me be

I've got your class ring
That proved you cared
And it still looks the same
As when you gave it, dear
The only thing different
The only thing new
I've got these little things
She's got you

The first thing that struck me was how simple the lyrics are. In fact, of the 186 words in the lyrics, only 55 of them (30%) are unique. What's more, the average word length in this song is 3.8 characters, the average sentence length is 4.7 words, and a staggering 72% of the words (134) are ONLY ONE SYLLABLE.

I was baffled because, as I listened to it over the years, it always felt so complex and deep and... I don't know... like it was written just for me. Surely, a song so profound had more to it than these numbers were telling me.

However, in reality, it's short, to the point, and quite repetitive. 

And, if you drill down even further, you'll find that the true underlying power of this ballad punches is almost exclusively held within what is probably one of the absurdly short and simplistic sentiments:

"I've got [fill in the blank], she's got you."

That's the only thing she really says, verse after verse after verse. There's no story arc. No progression. Just a stillness and an unhurried willingness to dwell in her static emotions of grief, loss, and resigned jealousy.

And it's that one statement that would echo in my psyche, haunting me, heartbreak after heartbreak.

The inescapable, all-consuming anguish of finding myself in second place, if that. The emotional impotence of being forced into silence, as a graceful loser, when all I want to do is scream and cry and ask why, why not me?

Because I've got this broken heart, and she's got you.

I continued to ponder like an obsessive. 

How was this possible? I was always led to believe that profound writing was expansive, with lots and lots of big words. 

Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning. 

But first, a little digital marketing table-setting

Today, the digital marketing space is exceptionally crowded with content. Lots and lots of content. Blog articles, videos, and podcasts are the norm now for businesses. 

The thing many of us refuse to say out loud (for whatever reason) is that you now also have to be memorable, in addition to educational. Meaning, you can answer a buyer's question honestly, thoroughly, and accurately, but still do so in a way that's completely and utterly forgettable.

That's the kiss of death for content marketers.

So, I coach our internal contributors to always ask themselves when they finish a draft:

"Could anyone else have written this but me?"

If the answer is yes, then they need to go back and find ways to infuse their personality, values, and humanity into it.

You can do that in a lot of ways, but the three most tried and true methods are:

  • Tell a personal story that drives the narrative forward
  • Use a conversational tone (write how you speak, quirks and all)
  • Rely on asides and references that call-back to interests, hobbies, etc.

For the purposes of today's lesson, we're going to only talk about the first one.

What makes a great story?

If you were to put all of the works of all of the greatest and most captivating storytellers in content marketing next to each other, they would all look wildly different, from actual substance to personal style.

That's as it should be. 

But all of those personal stories used in content marketing all have one thing in common — the secret ingredient that makes their audiences go, "Wow, yes. That's it."

They're all crafted by keeping one golden storytelling rule in mind:

Your story must feel like your audience's story. 

No matter what you talk about, it must feel as if you're reaching into the minds of your readers and mirroring back all of their thoughts, fears, questions, and ideas. Otherwise, you'll come off as self-serving, out of touch, and unfocused on the true problem that you need to be solving. 

You must give only enough detail to make the memory or experience real and personal to you, but focus the main thrust of what you're saying on the thoughts and truths you share (or have shared) with your audience. 

Brie Rangel did that when she shared her experience of being called "too nice" at work and as a leader, and Dan Baum did it when he exposed his struggle with imposter syndrome

It's also how Marcus Sheridan opened They Ask, You Answer — with a raw recollection of his business almost going over a cliff at the start of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.

You still need the personal touches, though

Yes, all of Brie's, Dan's, and Marcus' points could have been made, in theory, without the use of their own stories. 

But they would have been soulless and inhuman.

And, most importantly, they would have failed to do the one thing every single piece of content must do — clearly express to the audience in unimpeachable terms:

"I am the exact person who can actually help you, because I know exactly what you're thinking and feeling. I also know what it is that you're really looking for, and what questions you'll have along the way. And I know those things because of my unique experiences and perspectives."

You don't always need to get emotional or dig deep into your mental cellar for a heart-wrenching story to do this, of course. But you must accomplish that feat in some way if you want any hope of having your message resonate and stick.

You also don't need to be some flower-y wordsmith with some masterful command of the English language. (Although, please, I beg you to have a good editor at least proof your work before it goes live.)

You just need to be purposeful in what story you tell, which details you do and do not include, and specific in the words you use to convey your message.

That's exactly why I've never let go of that song

"She's Got You" bears the undeniable fingerprint of Patsy Cline's singular style, as well as the era in which it was recorded. 

While I relate to the sobering pain of holding onto memories and photos of loves I've lost (or who remained unrequited), I've never had a man give me his class ring. And though I own a well-loved and often-used record player, Spotify tends to be my musical platform of choice.

But then there's the tireless refrain in each verse:

The only thing different
The only thing new
I've got these little things
She's got you

The words and sentiments are so very simple. But they're a concise expression of emotions that are timeless and universal. Over and over again, she sings them throughout the song, and each time I'm pulled deeper into this feeling of being truly understood and less alone. 

You can help solve a problem. You can make people laugh. You can move people to tears. You can even happily surprise someone with a fun fact. 

But if you don't create those moments — no matter how big or small — where someone reading or hearing your words says to themselves, "That's me, they really understand," you'll never foster the trust we're all seeking to build with our audiences. 

You'll also be forgettable.

The good news is, you don't need to be F. Scott Fitzgerald to do it. You just need to be like Patsy Cline — personal and laser-focused on the truths that, sometimes, we're a little scared to admit are real.

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