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Use the 4 Ps for Persuasive Writing

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

When you need to write persuasively, use the 4 Ps.

It is a writing formula –  a series of four writing tasks that you complete in your copy or your content as a way to persuade your reader to understand your point of view. Each task begins with the letter p:

The 4 Ps for writing persuasively: helpful writing formula for copywriting, content writing, fundraising writing with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

1. Promise

2. Picture

3. Proof

4. Push

Like other writing formulas, this one provides a helpful outline to follow. And like other good formulas, the 4 Ps is proven to work. It offers a simple framework to follow to achieve an end result.

In this case, the end result is persuasion.

That’s why this particular formula is especially useful to use when you work on a copywriting project. Copywriting – used in sales letters, appeal letters, ads – is writing to persuade.

But the formula is a helpful outline for you to follow in writing any kind of content in which you’re trying to persuade the reader to understand your point of view.

The Truth about Writing to Persuade

Persuasion can get bad press. You may think of it as “getting someone to think like me” or even coercion.

Readers are smarter than that. They can see through disingenuousness or even superficiality.

Plus, the thought of trying to manipulate a reader just doesn’t sit right with me.

The truth is that writing to persuade is writing to help a reader understand. You help the reader understand a problem or need, offer a solution for the problem or need, show that the solution works, and then invite the reader to use the solution.

This shift in thinking about writing to persuade – from thinking about it as coercion to thinking about it as bringing about understanding – is not just a way to feel good about what you write. The shift puts the focus on where it should be: on the reader, not you.

That’s what the 4 Ps helps you to do – focus on the reader.

The 4 Ps

Think of the 4 Ps as a series of writing tasks you complete in any kind of copy or in any kind of content –  all with the goal of helping your reader have more understanding. They are most effective when presented in this order.

1. Promise

Point out the problem your reader faces, the solution you offer, and a clear benefit that your solution offers – one that helps the reader with her problem or need. (You can refer to more than one benefit, but your promise should focus on a single one in particular.) You’ve done a good job with the promise if your reader clearly understands the one benefit you offer.

2. Picture

Paint a descriptive, vivid picture in the reader’s mind – tell a story or describe a scene – to help her understand your promise. Here is where you build understanding through feelings. Descriptive imagery in storytelling helps you communicate the benefit of your solution

3. Proof

Offer credible evidence that shows the reader why and how your solution works, appealing to her mind. This is where you build understanding through logic. Give proof like anecdotes, facts, statistics, outcomes, testimonials, and data to help the reader have a better understanding of your solution.

4. Push

Invite the reader to take action. Make an ask in a way that the reader understands the urgency to act sooner than later.

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