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Crossman’s Crash Course in Audience Engagement: Step Two – Understand

No matter where you are on the “writing continuum” you’ve no doubt encountered a situation where you need to write an article or web page that grabs audience attention and doesn’t let it go. It’s a stressful task for most of us – these things don’t just write themselves. And even if we know the job requires creating rapport with our readers and engaging their interest, it’s not always obvious what steps we need to take to get there.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. I tell people why my program or initiative is important.
  2. I show them I understand their pain.
  3. I add an emotional component.
  4. I reference experiences my audience will embrace and
  5. I use language that incorporates different motivational precepts.

My previous blog posts looked at the importance of telling folks why your program or initiative is important and today we’re going to examine the importance of showing your audience that you understand their pain.

My current copywriting mentor is a man by the name of Dean Edelson, and he works out of Sedona, Arizona. Dean is a brilliant writer and an amazing stand-up comedian; he’s expensive and he’s worth it! He is also an avid student of the human condition.

Dean is cheerfully relentless about the importance of ensuring all my copy is phrased around my audience’s experience rather than my own. Although it’s something I already knew, he has taught me new techniques for doing this more effectively.

If you’re a senior executive, or a corporate communicator, with some solid writing experience behind you, it might be worth remembering that much as you might command respect in your circle of influence, people generally aren’t focused on you. They’re focused on their own lives. I don’t mean that in an unkind way – it’s just that as we all blur through our daily chaos, we aren’t especially concerned about what other folks tell us is exciting, interesting, important or cool. If you want to stop us in our tracks and pull us into your orbit, you need to tell us how what you’re offering is going to make our lives easier, better, safer, more efficient, more interesting, more productive or more comfortable.

And of course, in order to decide which criteria to emphasize, you need to understand your readers’ pain. What do your readers find difficult or discouraging? If you aren’t sure, ask them. And find out what you need to do to ease that pain. No empty promises, though – if you say you’re going to help, then you really do need to help.

Writing to engage an audience is an enchanting challenge and there is a lot involved in the process. My next blog post in this series will examine the importance of writing with emotion. Until then, if you have a comment, please leave it below!


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