The most recent persuasive writing course – up in Manchester last week – generated some interesting discussions about effective technique. Here are a few tips to add to those in previous persuasive writing blogs.
1. Red mist words
There are some words and phrases that I really dislike. Because they are over-used, meaningless and lazy. They are marketing jargon words that lots of people use. So check out the list and identify which appear in your writing and consider what alternatives you could use.
- Partner led service
- Personal service
How do you feel when you read them? When I am in “Red Pen Princess” editing mode, these words are struck out ruthlessly.
If you are trying to get the attention of a client, contact or referrer – try embedding their name, web link or social media account names into your article or blog. They will be alerted to your use of their name during their own PR searches and scans.
Emails are intrusive and annoying and we get far too many of them. So if you have to use them, make sure the subject line contains a compelling reason they should be read and, if possible, the action required. And adopt a personal style. And keep it short. Really short.
4. So what? test
Read your writing from the perspective of your reader. Apply the “So what?” test. If the answer to “So what does this mean to me?” isn’t absolutely clear then write it again with the audience at the forefront of your mind. Features tell, benefits sell.
5. Brand consistency vs individual personality
List out the words your organisation would use, and those that you wouldn’t. Create a vocabulary to guide your writers.
Prepare a table comparing the personality words for your brand, for particular practice areas and then for individual partner personalities. This way you can lean more to the brand words for formal writing and more to the individual personality words for informal writing such as blogs and social media. This is particularly helpful if you have to write or edit material from a variety of authors.
In pitch situations there is a further complexity – the need to adopt or reflect the language used by the client. Then they will feel you are connected to their culture.
6. Technical vs persuasive writing
Most professionals earn their keep by writing technical documents and reports for clients. Clients pay them to do this and are therefore predisposed to read what is written.
But when you are writing for marketing or sales purposes, you have to entice the reader in – persuade them that it is worth reading the content you have provided. And the marketing and sales audience do not know you – so you have to win them over. And they may not have the same level of technical knowledge – so you have to keep things simple.
Persuasive writing is different because it connects with the audience – and evokes emotion.
Write as if to a child – that way you will explain complex ideas simply. I remember one of the first lawyers I worked with over 25 years ago telling me that the mark of a true expert was the ability to convey complexity simply. Or consider your audience as an uninformed genius. Even the most complex topics covered in TED lectures start with a simple idea and build up layers of complexity.
Bridges help to make connections between what people know and new information. See the blog on storytelling http://kimtasso.com/selling-legal-services-storytelling/
7. Content management
In firms where there are lots of professionals all writing for articles, blogs and social media you will need a content management plan to ensure that the key messages about the firm, the core markets and key services are identified and appear as a constant theme through all writing. There are some great books on content management, for example: http://kimtasso.com/book-review-valuable-content-marketing-by-sonja-jefferson-and-sharon-tanton/
Provide a clear indication of what’s in the article or blog and why people should read it. There is lots of research on how to attract readers with good titles – and try to avoid those that are considered “click bate” (an unrealistic promise for disappointing content). You also need to include key words and phrases that will be used by the search engines. And take care when sharing those titles on social media sites where truncation may mean readers don’t see the full title. Brevity is next to Godliness.
9. Key messages
There should be no more than three key messages in what you are writing. How do you want the reader to feel? What do you want the reader to do? Hopefully, you will have identified the use of emotion to connect with the audience and the need for simplicity and consistency in this blog!
For details of future MBL writing courses – http://www.mblseminars.com/Outline/Persuasive-Writing—How-to-Enhance-Your-Business-Development-Opportunities/8073/
For details of future Professional Marketing Forum writing courses – http://www.pmforum.co.uk/training.aspx
See the list below for other blogs on persuasive writing