I’m back in the swing of things here at Find the Red Thread HQ (also known as my apartment in downtown Boston!), which means I’m also back in the swing of doing a more in-depth look at one Swipefile article this week, with some thoughts on how you could use the story in your own content and presentations.
And this one’s a doozy—from the title, to the content! You can read the full story here. It got a *lot* of comments when I posted it over on LinkedIn, so I figured it warranted a broader audience (namely you, dear readers!).
The Story: There’s A Good Chance You’ve Made Out With A Drowning Victim From The 1800s
- As if the title alone weren’t enough to get you to read the article, the first line opens up a big curiosity gap, where we’re introduced to “L’Inconnue de la Seine (the Unknown Woman of the Seine)” and told that “there’s a good chance [we’ve] kissed her directly on the mouth.” [Um…what?]
- Instead of telling us how all the kissing happened, the post first tells us more about L’Inconnue: that she (supposedly) was an unknown woman found drowned in the Seine in Paris in the late 1880s. [There’s a lot more doubt about who she really is than the article lets on. If you’re curious, you can read more about the other theories over on Wikipedia.]
- There’s a quick side tour into how police at the time set about finding the identities of unknown people: they’d display their (chilled) corpse in the equivalent of a shop window so people could see and ideally, put a name to the nameless. There’s some evidence that this was done for more than just missing people, though—and that these “corpse windows” were very popular with the public. [Eww.]
- The girl, despite her tour de la fenêtre, remained unknown, yet perhaps because of it, she became very, very popular. The reason? As the story goes, a morgue worker was so taken by her beauty that he decided to create a death mask of her. People made copies of that mask… and having one became the thing to have.
- The post mentions that people started to make up stories to explain who the girl was and what might have happened to her.
- She also became the subject of a horror story where the mask “goes on to kill a bunch of people“ and then brings us back to the headline with the tease that this was “essentially the opposite of what fate eventually had in store for it.”
- We’re then introduced to Asmind S. Laerdal, a 1950s doll manufacturer who created a soft plastic doll, “Anne,” using the mask as inspiration.
- Around the same time, Dr. Peter Safar developed the chest compressions we now know as CPR, along with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He wanted to spread the idea, so he approached Laerdal for help.
- Laerdal’s son had survived a near-drowning, so he was eager to do so. The result was the CPR mannequin we now know as Resusci Anne, “the most-kissed face in the world,” that’s saved 2.5 million lives.
And so, if you’ve taken CPR training and used that mannequin, you, too have “kissed” L’Inconnue de la Seine. You’re welcome [?!].
How you could use it…
There are all sorts of potential applications of this story and some of its supporting info nuggets. A few that come to mind for me:
- How some seemingly gross things (corpse windows, for example) make sense in context [How else could police identify unknown bodies prior photographs?]
- The power of a story, and the powerful need to create one where one doesn’t exist [For example, reading some of the other articles on L’Inconnue de la Seine reveals that many agree the details of the face are too precise to be that of a drowning victim. I’m also fascinated by what amounts to 19th-century fan fiction about her.]
- Bizarre fads [especially if you feel that the Tulip mania of 1637, or Beanie Babies, are too familiar to folks as examples]
- The power of legacy, especially in unforeseen ways
- And, as Nola Simon pointed out to me on LinkedIn, the importance of understanding your rights around owning or protecting images of you or your likeness
Do you see others? Email me and let me know!
But let’s not stop there.
There are also lessons you can draw in your own messaging and content creation from both the headline and the structure of the article itself. The headline combines seemingly unrelated concepts…and then personalizes them “there’s a good chance you…”. How could you do something similar with one of your posts or updates?
The post avoids being clickbait, though, by actually paying off the headline in the article itself (important!), starting with the first line. But notice how the authors still don’t fully answer the question the headline and first line introduce right away. They don’t say: “the CPR dummy you were trained on uses the face of an 1800s drowning victim.” That’s kind of like saying “The butler did it,” right at the beginning of a mystery novel.
They could have, of course, but instead they do something I talked about last week: they both satisfy your curiosity and create it. They satisfy your curiosity by letting you know the drowning victim in the headline is known as “L’Inconnue de la Seine.” They create it by again personalizing something about her: that you’ve likely “kissed her directly on the mouth, in a manner of speaking.”
They then leave the kissing part as an open, curiosity-creating loop, while they back up and explain more about the drowning victim and how her face came to be one you kissed.
That last bit is part of why doing your own #swipefile research can be so helpful to you and your own messaging. Not only will you find stories that will grab your audience’s attention, you can explore and analyze why they caught your attention in the first place.
By the way, if you ever come across something you think would be perfect for my #swipefile, or others’, tag me on social (@tamadear on Twitter and @tamsenwebster everywhere else) or send me an email to let me know!The headline combines two seemingly unrelated concepts...and then personalizes them. How could you do something similar with one of your posts or updates? Click To Tweet
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