Must Love Movies

The truth is, I could happily watch a movie every single night of the week. Not the same one, of course, that would be tedious.

But a good movie, on a comfy couch, with my feet up on the coffee table and a hot cup of herbal tea in my hand … to me, that is a perfect evening (sorry ladies, I’m already taken).

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Luckily, my wife Linda enjoys movies as well – granted, she’s quite a bit more discerning regarding the type and quality of film she’ll endure. But even so, we still have plenty of overlap in our respective interests.

And so from a “What should we watch?” perspective, all has gone well these past 20+ years together. Even when we began having kids, we would just wait until they went to bed and then watch whatever we wanted.

That’s all changed, however, now that we have a 16-year-old daughter.

First of all, Emily never goes to bed, so waiting on her is a lost cause.

And second, because Emily’s taste in movies fits neatly within the narrow confines of “Romantic Comedy” (or “Rom-Com,” as we like to say), that’s pretty much all we ever watch when she’s around.

I have to confess though, I’ve kind of grown to like Rom-Coms (must be all that herbal tea). Even though, at a high level, they are all nearly identical:

  1. Two exceedingly attractive (but bafflingly lonely) people meet and instantly dislike each other.
  1. The two people continue to bump into each other over the next movie hour or so, in a variety of humorous and serendipitous ways.
  1. Each one has a funny, but cynical, side-kick friend whose sole purpose in life seems to be the offering of extremely bad romance advice.
  1. Ten minutes before the movie ends the two realize they are in love and, time permitting, they get married.

So here’s the question I’ve been struggling with: How can these movies be entertaining (or any movie of a well-worn formula, for that matter), when we all know, right from the beginning, how they’re going to turn out?

The answer? It’s not the structure of a Rom-Com that matters. That’s just the framework within which the dialogue, characters and circumstances live.

We don’t watch to see how it turns out – we know they’re going to get married – we watch to see how it unfolds. The value is in the telling of the story.

I mention this because when it comes to creating content – whether newsletter, special report, presentation, or whatever – many of the professional service providers I work with are overly concerned with breaking new ground and uncovering new insights at every turn.

Those things are fine, but they are few and far between and, most important, not necessary for creating compelling content. It’s like saying we can’t make any more movies because all the storylines have already been used (which they have).

Rather, and like a good movie, the elements that make your content a box office hit with your audience are:

  • Dialogue. Write/speak in a normal, conversational tone. Like this. See how easy it is?
    Avoid all that corporate blah blah and explain your ideas simply. That alone will differentiate you from 95% of what passes for business writing.
  • Characters. I could have eliminated the first 400 words of this newsletter and gone straight to the “business lesson.”
    But when I instead take the time to communicate that lesson as part of a story about my wife and daughter, it’s more understandable, more interesting and more memorable.
    Plus, sharing some personal information makes me appear more likeable. It’s an illusion in my case, of course, but a necessary one, nonetheless, if you hope to get hired as a professional service provider.
  • Point of view. Expert positioning (another prerequisite for being hired) isn’t only a function of unearthing new facts or having an idea that nobody’s ever had before.
    It also comes from weighing in and taking a position relative to what’s happening in your industry, what’s wrong (or right) with the way “things are done,” and offering suggestions for how to make improvements.

    Figure out what you believe in, stick your flag in the ground and harp on it. That’s not redundancy, that’s called marketing.

Bottom line. If what’s keeping you from creating and publishing content is a concern that you’ve got “nothing new to say,” you’re worrying about a problem that doesn’t exist – and ignoring a much bigger one that does: you’re invisible.

Find a way to consistently voice your personal, interesting, opinion-filled spin on what matters to your prospects and clients and you’ll have a blockbuster on your hands. I’ll save you a seat at the Oscars.


25 thoughts on “Must Love Movies

  1. Laura E. Kelly

    Love the term “Gazette” for your renamed newsletter—it harkens back to an earlier day when we had more time to read and absorb things like gazettes. It’s almost Ben Franklin-ish (which is a compliment).

    I shared this post with my husband who is an author trying to figure out the best ways to construct speeches around his nonfiction book topic, now that he’s being asked to do presentations. The advice you give about “personal, interesting, opinion-filled spin” works for speakers, too, since I know my husband was tempted to try to stuff a lot of info and insights into his speech to “give value.” But people really want to be entertained, to watch something unfold in a story-ish sort of way , not to have info shoved down their throats. Seems like your advice about starting off a newsletter with a personal anecdote would also be a great way to start a speech, as the speaker tries to engage audience members sitting there with their arms crossed, thinking about what they’re having for dinner later on. After that the speaker just has to fill the remaining 40 minutes (!)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Laura!
      Funny you should mention that. I NEVER begin a presentation to any group of more than about 10 people without a story. Particularly if it appears to have nothing at all to do with the topic, it draws people immediately in and keeps their attention as they wait for the connection to be made. Plus, it gives you a couple of minutes to get settled in as the audience stares at you! All the best to your husband and his book.
      – Ben

      1. Katherine Andes

        In my last speech about SEO, I opened with a story about how I accidentally scared Michael Jackson (right after Thriller) when I encountered him on Sunset Blvd. It had nothing to do with copywriting or SEO, but the audience loved it.

  2. Joyce S Kaye

    Another great e-newsletter… oh, I mean (new) gazette! I learned years ago in MLM training “Facts tell, stories tell.” It’s true. Stories get people to connect at a heart (or “human” if you wish) level, and that helps to blossom relationships. All types of relationships. And, in my book, that’s what e-newsletters are for: to connect, then to grow relationships, which can lead to business (if it’s a biz e-newsletter of course), and even more. Thanks again, Michael. [I love stories AND I love movies too! See, we connected!]

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Glad you like the Gazette word. Me too! And … what’s your favorite Rom-Com movie (I have to go with Harry Met Sally, which we all watched a couple of months ago and it really stood the test of time!)?

      1. Joyce S Kaye

        My favorite Rom-Com is “You’ve Got Mail” – the ‘modern’ version of “The Shop Around the Corner.” Did you know that, and have you and Linda watched it? I like the modern one better.

        1. Michael Katz Post author

          Yes, definitely watched that one, Joyce. Although (as a Rom-Com aficionado), I thought Sleepless in Seattle was a lot better!

      2. Laura E. Kelly

        Hi, I love a good rom-com so can’t resist listing my favorites:

        • Bridget Jones (Renée Z. is very cute and funny in this rom-com take on Pride and Prejudice and the lame fight scene between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant is a classic)
        • Notting Hill (a good soundtrack, with Hugh Grant doing a touching job playing the girl role)
        • French Kiss (Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan have great chemistry; listen for Kline singing La Vie en Rose at the end)

        Have you seen those ones yet?

  3. debbie hagen

    Love the new title and “gazette”, although I have always loved the Blue Penquin. Since I am in process of re-inventing my business, and will be focusing more onto my newsletter for this transition (had newsletter and retail store, but without products to sell, my content is needing change) your chnaging is very timely. I love your newsletters and shamelessly read them for free. I am, however, working on a plan that will soon allow me to use your services and pay you for them. Just a few more months of freeloading, I promise. Of all the marketing gurus that have sent me “stuff”, yours is the only one I still ask to receive. Please keep them coming!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sounds great Debbie! Looking forward to working together when you’re ready (Shameless self promotion: already lining people up for the next “one year marketing” session. We’ve two months into a current session and people loving it. Wait list is here:

      Good luck with the new biz!

  4. Lisa

    I love the “Likeable Expert” description. Thank you for another great example of using a story to make a point. Your advice about voicing “personal, interesting opinionated spin” is very helpful.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Glad it hit the spot Lisa. And me too, very happy with the likeable expert description too.

  5. Francisca

    Well done, Michael! I like your new name, new look… and glad you didn’t drop the penguin. I no longer write ezines, but still enjoy reading your material. (This is not the email address I’ve been subscribed to your newsletter since 2008, btw.)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Don’t worry, Francisca, I have too many penguins in my office to ever abandon those guys! Thanks for reading.

  6. Mary E

    Smart phones are common among a particular part of the population A. those that can afford the monthly fees and B. those that want another piece of technology to deal with.

    There are massive numbers of unemployed and retired or just low income earners who couldn’t possibly devote a $100 plus each month to a smart phone. When the costs of having one come down it will be a great thing for all people just as cell phones have changed developing and third world countries.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Indeed I do! I prefer humans. (BTW, if you want to see the thread on the QR code thing, it’s on this post, over here:

  7. Rusty

    I’m responding to the technology issue you brought up with comparing real estate signs: getting your prospective customers to use all this new technology reminds me of an incident in line at the Pet Food Store yesterday. The older woman in front of me was very quiet while the clerk was explaining the rebate and survey on her receipt. “You just go online, type in this code, scroll down to the rebate, and then type in your email,”…etc.

    The woman replied: “Dear, that would be nice if I had a computer.” She took her receipt and left. It makes me wonder how many people over 60 really use a computer and tolerate all the new changes in “simplifying” our lives?

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Great example Rusty! The conversation is actually over here though on this post:

      Feel free to repost your comment there so the other people tracking it will see it.


  8. Michael

    Michael as always you are on the money. I had a some computer problems there for a while, but I have since gotten back on track where I can keep up with some of the good stuff out there over the internet.

    Keep up the good work buddy and know that some of your advise is getting through this peanut of mine……

    Take Care!
    Michael Perry


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