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.
Persuasive writing convinces readers to buy into a point of view. It’s a style of writing used in copywriting (writing to sell) and in nonprofit copywriting (writing to get your reader on board with your cause). Appeal letters, ads, direct mail pieces, capital campaigns, brochures, fundraising pieces or even basic promotional materials require persuasive techniques.
By writing persuasively, you convince the reader and get him to take action. You do this by appealing to his needs or wants and explaining how you meet them.
There are 3 players in the persuasive writing drama: the reader, the product, and you (the writer).
However, when you do your job well as a writer, these players do not carry equal weight. How you set them on your stage will determine whether your persuasive piece will be a flop … or a show-stopping hit.
The audience or reader – the prospect – is the most important player in persuasive writing. You write to him. Your cause is only a way for him to solve his problems or meet his needs. He interested in himself, his problems, his beliefs, and his needs. That’s why your primary focus of your persuasive piece should be on meeting those needs or wants.
Understand him. Who is he? Picture him in your mind, even using someone you know that fits the profile as you write. Identify the reader’s hot buttons – what beliefs and emotions does he have about your cause? What concerns or push back may he have? Use stories or anecdotes he can relate to. Include details to engage his senses as much as possible. Find out what words engage your prospect’s demographic and use them.
Persuasive writing is not about you – or even your product. It’s about your reader.
For nonprofits, the “product” is your cause. For businesses, obviously your product is the item or service that you are writing about. Bottom line, your “product” is what your piece promotes to the prospect as a solution, whether it is changed lives or air conditioning repair or a weight-loss program.
Where many would-be persuasive writers make a big mistake is to make their product the center of their piece. Remember: the prospect is the star of the show.
By all means, know your product inside out. Cite facts, statistics, and reputable studies about your product – but only to give proof that the product is the answer to the prospect’s problem or need. Inject quotes from experts to underscore credibility. Understand both sides of the issue. Then use what you know about your audience to address the reader’s concerns head on, anticipating their objections.
Persuasive writing is not about your product. It’s what about your product can do for your reader.
You and your product are two different things. Your reader only cares about what the product (or cause) can do for them. You are the least important player in the persuasive equation and the reader really doesn’t care much about you (sorry).
Instead, you are behind the scenes, while the reader is front and center and the product is the supporting character. Further, your story is way down on the list of what engages the reader. Stories about your cause or product, on the other hand, are extremely powerful – especially when they appeal to the prospect’s needs or wants. When considering where you fit into the production, look at yourself as the unnamed stage hand who pushes the star onstage. Your role is to get the prospect to act.
Effective persuasiveness moves the prospect to take action. Tell him what he should do if he is interested in what you’ve said, want to take advantage of the benefits you’ve offered, or at least find out more.
Persuasive writing is not about you. It’s what about your product can do to change your prospect.
Put your prospect in the spotlight. Show how your product can meet his deepest desires. Get yourself out of the way. Then you’ll have a hit.
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