Top persuasive writing tips – Audience, structure and content (Feb 2019)Posted on: February 9, 2019
These top persuasive writing tips – Audience, structure and content. These were chosen by delegates of a Professional Marketing writing workshop in January.
Lawyers, accountants and surveyors focus on the technical content they want to share. Persuasive writing starts with a focus on the needs of the reader.
Use the marketing concept of segmentation http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/back-basics-importance-segmentation-personas/ to consider the different groups who will read the material.
The message and style must be adapted to readers’ needs. Some readers will be technical experts and others may be lay readers. Some readers might be professional buyers and others occasional users of the service. For information on the Decision Making Unit (DMU) see http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/professional-selling-tips/.
Your value proposition must be reflected in your writing. This might be different depending on the specific service being promoted to a particular segment of the markets-services matrix.
There is a lot of material about value propositions (e.g. http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/faq/what-is-a-value-proposition-or-usp-and-how-do-i-create-one/). You need to explain succinctly why your service is different or better than others. And what value the buyers will receive. It helps to think about the box of benefits your firm delivers – and extract a different mix depending on the needs of the particular audience segment.
Emotional connection through storytelling
Connect emotionally with the audience. A key method of doing this is storytelling. We can create characters and scenarios that the reader can relate to for the self-referencing effect. Storytelling techniques are covered here: http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/selling-legal-services-storytelling/
At school and college we were taught to structure essays using: beginning, middle and end. But this isn’t appropriate for persuasive writing. It is unlikely that the reader will actually get to the conclusion.
Another common structure is: tell them what you are about to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you have told them. While this scores top marks for repetition and reinforcement (and uses both the primacy and recency cognitive biases), it doesn’t quite hit the spot on persuasion.
We explored a variety of structures that attract and retain attention. Problem and solution, chronological, topical (hijacking), spatial (e.g. compare geographies), theory and practice, question and answer, simple to complex (used in all TED lectures http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/book-review-ted-talks-official-ted-guide-public-speaking-chris-anderson-presentation-skills/), general to specific and order of reader importance.
We revisited the journalist’s inverted pyramid. Ensure the entire story is captured in the title and the first paragraph. http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/how-to-write-a-press-release/ We also touched on the AIDCA model (Attention Interest Desire Conviction Action).
Content and language
To move from dry, technical content to more engaging, persuasive content we considered: Data. Information. Insight. We need to do more than “dump” data on our readers. We can create a curiosity gap. We should provide insight.
From precision to persuasion
Identify the purpose of your writing. What do you want to achieve? What do you want the reader to think and remember? What do you want the reader to feel and do? Restrict our message to no more than three key points.
Our lawyers, accountants and surveyors are Subject Matter Experts (SME). They are technical experts. They are not trained to sell. We have to support them in their shift from precision to persuasion. Whilst preserving the integrity and accuracy of what they write.
There were examples where metaphor was used to increase understanding and add interest to the reader. Here’s a wonderful example:
“The house was a war zone, a minefield, air-kisses popping at every step, cannon-fire laughter, backslaps like bombs” (The woman in the window, A J Finn)
Show don’t tell
We looked at language to create vivid mental images and evoke sensations. This British Airways advert for holidays in the Caribbean illustrates the point: “Alive with the purr of hummingbirds and the roar of waterfalls”.
We practised making writing concise. For example:
- eliminate redundant words (e.g. from “In my opinion, I believe that she is best” to “She is best”)
- remove vague nouns (e.g. from “He is expert in the topics of tax and regulation” to “He is expert in tax and regulation”)
- strengthen weak adjectives (e.g. from “The day was very good” to “the day was amazing”)
- remove filler words (e.g. from “For all intents and purposes, it is good” to “It is good”).
As marketers, we try out different approaches to see which is most effective by performing Split A and B testing. So be brave and try out the same piece of content with and without the use of persuasive writing techniques to prove your point.
Remember that our writing needs to do well with the search engines too. http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/search-engine-optimisation-seo-update/
Brochures and blogs
Usually at workshops the focus is in on digital communications. But on this occasion there were questions about print communication such as brochures, credentials documents and research reports.
To avoid producing an expensive and inward-looking vanity publication, you need to know what it is for and how it will be used. You might send it before or after meetings, to accompany tenders, to leave in reception and meeting rooms, to use at events, to cross-sell services. Printed document may have a long shelf-life.
The importance of design and the “look and feel” (texture, weight, glossiness etc) will be paramount. It needs to pass the flick test for those who flip through the pages. The structure will be important as there are no opportunities for hyperlinks to explanatory information.
With the advent of digital printing technology it is possible to produce a highly personalised document even on a short print run. Thus you achieve the happy combination of highly polished production with total personalisation without breaking the budget.
I offered creative examples of award-winning brochures. These included the use of children’s illustrators for conveying consultancy services using the metaphor of the Knights of the Round Table. Getting partners and legal trainees to complete drawings of each other and photographing the social interactions. Driving property partners to colourful and lively client locations for their sector shots.
Delegates were keen to learn how to make blogs sticky. I have provided guidance on attractive, concise blog posts before:
Extracting content from busy professionals can be challenging. There are techniques on how to get blood from a stone http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/content-development-get-blood-out-of-a-stone/
And we talked about tools such as Passle http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/expert-rock-star-using-passle-content-creation-distribution/ to make it easier for fee-earners to select and curate material for their blog posts.
Future writing courses (MBL) for lawyers, accountants, surveyors and other fee-earners http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjMuMCBqaLgAhVhTxUIHcKIA9gQFjAAegQICRAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mblseminars.com%2FOutline%2FPersuasive-Writing—How-to-Enhance-Your-Business-Development-Opportunities%2F8073%2F&usg=AOvVaw0OXVygbHRDfSx8N-hggUaI
Future writing courses (Professional Marketing Forum) for marketing, communications and business development professionals https://www.pmforum.co.uk/training.aspx
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