3 Things You Can Learn from the Don Corleone School of Writing

Don Corleone School of Writing - gangster

Since the advent of the Internet, the word community has taken on new meanings.  At one time a community was a group of interacting people living in a common location.  These days a group of individuals can meet in a virtual location. That sounds like a blog doesn’t it?

In any case there leaders understand the dynamics of building community and that is the objective of every blogger.  And writing is our tool.

Throughout history there have been communities that have just worked better than others, not because of  laws or rules but because the members worked together through common interests.  The Mafia is a community that succeeded because of the trust built within its membership.  The fictional Don Corleone is someone who knew a great deal about building  community.

Community is mostly based on natural law.  Communities function best when they are based on the Golden Rule, the code of reciprocity. Do unto others…

One of  my favorite movies is  The Godfather.  Early in the movie Don Corleone is accepting visitors when the baker,  Bonasera comes for a favor.

The scene clearly shows how the Don is more interested in having a long term relationship with the baker, rather than have a simple tit-for-tat transaction.  It’s those relationships that kept “the family” going.

Don Corleone in essence tells his friend that you can’t just pay me for a favor.  We need to have a stronger relationship built on trust and respect for one another.

A closer look at the scene reveals three components that the Don uses to build relationships.  It’s an art.

It’s an art…no really I mean an A-R-T. That’s an acronym for
Attention
Reputation
Trust.

Blogger, Chris Brogan’s wonderful book, Trust Agents, describes the ART in his opening story about another Mafia character,  Donnie Brasco.  Obviously the Mafia metaphor tells us a lot about trust.  The lesson here is the theme of the book: become a trusted member of your community to become most effective.  And certainly all writers  want to use their voice to be effective.

And so the first requirement of a blog is to get attention.

1. Attention

There is a quote from the Arthur Miller play, The Death of a Salesman: ‘“Attention must be paid.”   Bloggers  must strive to get attention immediately.   In order to get it we must provide a hook.  Usually that comes early, as in the headline of the post. The Donnie Brasco story in Brogan’s book, or Bonasera’s pressing story about his daughter, in the Godfather scene are stories that get our attention immediately.
Stories reel us in.  We get hooked because we “feel” something.  That’s our emotions speaking to us and we want to learn more.  We are taken by surprise.  We want to find out more.  We ask questions that lead us to want to know more.
In the book, Made to Stick, by the Heath Brothers, two components of creating sticky ideas are surprise and stories. Using stories to get attention, especially surprising stories is sticky writing.  And sticky writing is good writing.

2. Reputation

In ancient Athens, salesman were considered to have the best reputations.  Unlike modern “salesmen” they were known for their integrity and honesty.  They knew the art of rhetoric, or mastery of language.  The bones of rhetoric are composed of three principles: ethos, pathos and logos.
Ethos is your character, your integrity…who you are.
Pathos is your ability to listen to your audience with empathy.
Logos for writers anyway, is your knowledge and ability to write.  If you sold toasters it would be your knowledge about toasters.

All three components, ethos, pathos, and logos combine to create your credible reputation.  All three must be in place for your readers to believe and trust you.  By applying these three principles you will build trust in the community.  Enough trust leads to a solid reputation.
Go back to the video and watch how Don Corleone uses ethos pathos and logos to make his point…or gives Bonasera and offer he can’t refuse.

Consistently producing good writing keeps you visible in the community.  Donnie Brasco showed up regularly at Carmello’s Restaurant in Manhattan.  Don Corleone’s reputation, as they say, precedes him.  Reputation is built over time. Become a great blogger and your reputation will precede you.  Build your reputation for being dependable and reliable by consistently posting good copy.  By developing character, listening to your audience and becoming an expert in your field, you will build your reputation.

3. Trust

Consistent, crisp, informative writing will eventually create a sense of trust in your community.  Without trust your blog will end in a silent death.
People will come to trust you because of your writing and and your display of empathy.  Your writing will become the physical evidence of your listening.

Readers will come to see you as someone who cares about them.  They will see you as someone who is competent enough to express opinions.  They will trust you, and readership will grow.  Trust is nothing more than a display of  competence and caring.  By empathically listening to your audience you will show them how much you care.

These three ingredients are what Brogan calls the new currency of the internet.  Money is not the currency of a “trust agent.”  Let’s take the focus off of monetizing our blogs.  Let’s truly be more interested in our community.  Let’s serve them instead of being served.

As writers we ought to be aware of words like, empathy, dependability, reliability, consistency and professionalism.

The Golden Rule.  This natural law can be the missing ingredient for any good writing.  I like to call it my WIDIOM Rule: Would I Do It On Me.

Reciprocity reveals something about you as a writer and a human being.  It shows your respect for your readers.  It shows that you are willing to go through a transformative process with your reader, rather than a transactional process.  You want to build relationship rather than just sell an idea and walk away.  Get your audience attention.  Build your reputation slowly and consistently with great copy.  Build your community on trust.

It’s all about the relationship.  The Don knew that.  That’s what made him the Don.

On the Internet we are not paying for people’s attention.  We are building trusting relationships over time.
That’s the secret ingredient to great blogging.  And that’s what Don Corleone knew.

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About the author

Barry Polanski

Barry is a practicing dentist in Cherry Hill NJ. He is the author of The Art of the Examination, and TAO of Dentistry, self-help books for the dental community. His blog TAO of Dentistry is one of that industry’s leading blogs.

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