At the October PM Forum writing workshop we welcomed delegates from law, accountancy and forensic firms to the City offices of Simmons & Simmons (thank you for hosting!). The workshop covered writing basics, the psychology of persuasive writing and how best to adapt to different media and channels. We explored writing from professional services firms and looked at how to improve our firms’ written content. This post covers the key takeaways reported by the delegates at the end of the workshop. It form part of the learning resources for the session. Persuasive writing – Mindset, audience, headlines, key points and stories.
Delegate aims were wide-ranging and ambitious:
Desire to be more creative
Convert technical details into compelling content
Be more concise
Align and improve the tone of voice
Produce brighter social media posts
Promote greater engagement
Breathe originality into directory submissions
Increase event invite response rates
Adapt to different audiences
Differentiate through words
The Economist and McKinsey have strong reputations for producing clear and compelling copy. But we could not identify law or accountancy firms that can match those brands. Who would you recommend for outstanding copy?
Develop the right mindset
The time pressures on marketing and business development professionals are immense. So it’s easy to fall into the trap of producing writing in the fastest way possible. To convey the essential information without considering the needs and interests of the reader. To lean on AI tools to produce accurate summaries of complex thoughts. We scrimp on time and fail to convert words into feelings that drive action.
How do we make our words stand out? To grab attention? To shine like a beacon from a morass of mediocrity. We craft the message. We are writers. We are communicators. We are cheerleaders for our clients. We are translators of information into insights. We are miners of hidden gems from quarries of data. Divers for pearls in an ocean of words. We are persuaders. We are motivators. Our aim is to stir the soul. Or at least provoke the reader to “click for more…”.
Break free from our inner critics who suppress our intuition and shy away from creative endeavour. We need space, confidence and bravery to allow ideas to bubble up to the surface.
Appeal to the audience
Whilst our fee-earners are focused on what they want to say, we must champion the interests and needs of our audience. Some use data, analytics and research to develop deep insight into their target audience. Others create detailed personas against which to test written content.
“Empathy concerns our ability to share affective states with others; Theory of Mind represents our ability to interpret their mental state, their intentions and beliefs” (Blair et al., 1996)
Writers must develop empathy with the reader – where they are, what they are doing, how much time they have, what’s preying on their mind, their key questions and how they prefer to consume content.
Show your similarity to the reader. Be on the same wavelength.
Turn heads with powerful headlines
Some delegates found the use of hooks and headlines particularly useful.
Research shows we must capture attention in the first few words. Whether in an article headline or the subject line of an email.
Evoke emotion. Spark curiosity. Entice the reader in. Play on words. Prompt FOMO. Use metaphors.
In the June 2023 Why Headlines Are the Most Important Part of Any Content Writing | LinkedIn the author says: “A compelling headline not only grabs readers’ attention but also conveys the essence of your content, enhances search engine visibility, and contributes to a memorable brand image. As a content writer, mastering the art of crafting effective headlines is paramount to achieving success in the digital landscape”.
Focus on three key points
Plan what you want to say, the feelings you hope to stir and actions you wish to prompt.
Don’t attempt to cover too much. Keep things brief. Cut through complexity. Less is more. Be concise.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Albert Einstein
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” Albert Einstein
We explored different writing processes – experimenting with pens and keyboards. We battled against the urge for instant editing. Some found it helpful to prepare a mind map. Mind maps help you think about the ideal structure and flow of a topic. Mind maps reveal the key points.
Facts can be sterile. And impersonal. Stories help the reader connect. And engage. And remember.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” Seth Godin
We looked at social media posts and compared those with an anonymous corporate voice with others conveying a more personal tone.
Delegates enjoyed the material demonstrating story pyramids and different structures.
Ask fee-earners to share stories about clients or transactions of which they are proud. Encourage them to explain how they helped clients overcome complex challenges and to succeed against the odds. Tap into their interests and passions and capture their feelings. Listen to how they speak.
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