Thursday, October 18, 2012

Three essentials for persuasion

Kare Anderson, a consultant and former journalist, writes that keeping three things in mind will help you persuade your audience.

These, I believe, are useful whether you're writing a white paper or a web page.
1. Actionable. Motivate people to take some first action, however small, and they are more likely to take another. Reduce the number of actions it takes for them to participate or to buy. To secure connection with your intended audience or market, aspire to offer the equivalent ease of Amazon Prime's one-click buying.
My work with clients often involves identifying the "call to action." What do you want the visitor to a website or reader of an email to do? How easy do you make it for them to do it?
2. Interestingness. Make your message so unexpected, novel, provocative or otherwise odd that they are compelled to pay attention even if they are supposed to be doing something else. For example, instead of admonishing Texas for dumping garbage on the roadside, a public service campaign appealed to their Texas pride with the behavior-changing, actionable slogan, "Don't mess with Texas." 
"Interestingness" is something of a mouthful. Nevertheless, this bit of advice is important. For a writer venturing into the business jungle, just shooting every cliche in sight can help make a company's message stand out in all the clutter.
3. Relevance. When you hear a speaker who appears to be speaking directly to you, or you read about a situation that you are facing, you are much more likely to remember it.  You can increase relevance by getting specific sooner. That may mean you capture fewer people overall — but you will capture more of the right people, the people you need to reach. A specific example proves the general conclusion, not the reverse. Yet most conversations, speeches and even advertising campaigns begin with generalizations. By beginning with background, or qualifiers, as we instinctively do we are creating underbrush to obscure our point. Only the most optimistic will remain listening, thinking. Look for the specific detail that can buttress your general conclusion, your main differentiating benefit, and start with it. Then build your story, point by point, like stepping stones across the pond, keeping us involved with you.
I recently gave this piece of advice to a company that has a very specific identity and yet has the capability to help any and all comers. If, however, it tries to be all things to all people, it will be nothing to no one.

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