Persuasive writing – Mindset, audience, headlines, key points and stories

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

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
  • Captivate readers

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.

Hooks, Headlines and Hard-Wired Words: 11 ideas for better writing (

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.

Synthesise into three key points. Power of three – Writing and presentation basics (Video) (

Tell stories

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.

Video – The art of storytelling – Kim Tasso explains and demonstrates

selling legal services with storytelling (

Storytelling book reviews: The Story Advantage and The Story Factor (

Related posts

22 tips on being a persuasive writer in professional services ( August 2023

Hooks, Headlines and Hard-Wired Words: 11 ideas for better writing ( October 2022

Video – The art of storytelling – Kim Tasso explains and demonstrates April 2021

Storytelling book reviews: The Story Advantage and The Story Factor ( March 2021

Book review – Persuasion: The art of influencing people by James Borg ( March 2021

Power of three – Writing and presentation basics (Video) ( December 2020

Seven secrets of great business writing (Video) VASTCOP ( April 2020

Writing tips for finding news stories, backstories and explainers ( April 2019

Top persuasive writing tips – Audience, structure and content ( February 2019

Persuasive writing – titles and tweets ( November 2017

Persuasive writing – nine writing tips ( October 2017

selling legal services with storytelling ( September 2017

Persuasive writing tips – five technical questions ( March 2017

persuasive writing – for business development ( February 2017

Business development writing for lawyers ( July 2016

Book review – Peter Frederick’s “Persuasive writing” ( January 2016

5 favourite thoughts on business development writing ( March 2015