Delegates from legal, financial service and industry, joined me last week for a full day workshop on persuasive writing. Whilst it is usual to have business development professionals and experienced partners on this session, it was great to welcome a number of trainee solicitors too. During the session we created our own persuasive writing checklist – here are the highlights.
Planning – Before you start writing
Agree your aims – Why are you writing? What do you hope to achieve? How does this material fit within your overall marketing or sales strategy? What do you want the reader to do as a result?
Understand your audience – We examined numerous tools to explore and research the audience. Develop empathy. Understand their decision-making process. Some found personas helpful.
Choose a writing process – Do you prepare a list of key points? Flesh out bullet points? Prepare a mind map or storyboard? Conduct an interview? Or just start writing or typing?
Look at the data – What results have you achieved with past writing? What sparked engagement?
Use AI tools – Maybe for research. Maybe to gain ideas and inspiration. Or to experiment with the use of metaphors or tone of voice
Experiment with structure – We explored different approaches to structure to differentiate your writing and bring your message to life
Drafting – When you write
Keep the audience in mind – Use empathy. Remember their interests. Meet their needs. Provide something of value.
Make an emotional connection – Connect with your reader. Be evocative. Move them.
Keep it simple – Only use as many words as possible. Use the simple to complex model seen in TED lectures if it’s a complex or technical topic
Write for the channel – Some channels encourage lots of words. Others keep it brief. We talked about the link between the message (content) and the channel (medium)
Vary the pace – Use some short sentences. And others that are a little bit longer.
Choose language wisely – Your words can create mental images. Use figurative language. Stimulate the senses. Write for different sense preferences. Use power words.
Highlight the key points – Remember the power of three
Adjust the tone of voice – Formal or informal? What impression do you want to create?
Use the active tense
Pique their curiosity – Pose questions. Draw them in.
Tell stories – Have you shared stories instead of facts and figures? Have you drawn the reader in? Show, don’t tell.
Be persuasive – Remember all the tools we discussed?
Adhere to your guidelines – You may need to follow a brand book or a style guide
Check the grammar – No one likes mistakes
Be human – Write as you speak
Be concise – Can you say it with fewer words? Can you use bullet points? Diagrams? Less is more
Craft the title – Invest significant time in creating a title that attracts attention and describes the content. If the title doesn’t entice, they won’t read
Promote action – What do you want the reader to feel? And do? We explored different calls to action
Editing – After you have written
Allow incubation time – Set your writing aside. Preferably overnight. Look at it again with fresh eyes.
Remove jargon – Have you made your writing accessible? Have you assumed the readers understand the technical terms you use?
Use Plain English – Run it through a readability analyser?
Replace generic words – We looked at lists of overly-used words. Have you been original? Lyrical? Created mental pictures? Have you avoided cliches?
Use inclusive language – Remove words and phrases that put people off
Reduce – Make it more concise. Cut out the fat. Adhere to the word count. Less is more.
Make it scannable – Are there sufficient sub-titles and sub-headings?
Consider SEO – Will the readers and search engines be able to find your material?
Obtain feedback – See what others think
Use AI tools – Use it to improve what you’ve written. Or to reduce it down to the required number of words. Or to convert it into a format suitable for different media.
Work the design – Follow your brand guidelines. What colours to use? Is there space for the words to breathe? What images will you use?
Test it – Your marketing people can help you with A/B testing to see which works best
Repurpose – How can the writing be used elsewhere? Elaborate. Cut short. Recirculate. Change the emphasis. Use in different media.
Adapt to the audience
Different approaches to drafting and their impact
Solve their problems and meet their needs
Appeal to their emotions
Keep it simple
Clarity is key
Focus on the benefits
Less is more
Call to action
ChatGPT gives you a good place to start, but it needs to be edited
Allow time for editing
Selected delegate poll results
Business writing experience?
50% Around 6 out of 10
33% 7 out of 10
17% 8 out of 10
Topic of most interest?
17% What is great writing (fundamentals)
33% Persuasive writing
17% Communications strategy
17% Writing for digital media
17% Writing tools (including AI)
How good is your grammar and use of English?
33% Very good
What’s your usual writing process?
20% Take a brief
60% List bullet points
20% Jot notes over a day or two
How much time do you allocate for editing in a writing project?
60% 0 – 25%
40% 26% – 50%
How persuasive do you think your writing is?
60% Sometimes persuasive
40% Quite persuasive
What do you think is most powerful in persuasion?
20% Rational/logical argument
40% Benefits (what’s in it for me?)
20% Words and language
To what extent will you try to use storytelling in the future?
25% Our material isn’t suitable for stories
50% Client confidentiality will be an issue
25% I plan to develop more stories in future
How useful do you think personas might be?
20% Really useful
80% Possibly useful for some writing
Are there written guidelines for how to write about your firm
60% Yes – and they are used
40% Yes – but they are not used
To what extent do you use media relations?
20% It’s a key part of our strategy
40% A lot
40% About average
Which of the following traditional channels do you use the most
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