Stop Losing Your Readers!
You’ve written pages and pages of material to promote your business, and you’ve worked hard to get it all in front of people, either on the Web or in print. You know that you should be seeing higher quality results than you are, and you don’t know what is wrong.
You’re losing your readers, and you don’t have to.
Communication of any kind is fundamentally built on two-way transactions; just as in any other business transaction, there must exist a certain balance of value that justifies the energy used up by the transaction itself. Your reader invests time and energy in order to comprehend what you have to tell them, and expects a certain degree of value return on that investment. When the reader begins to sense that the return isn’t going to happen, the reader stops reading. As a writer, your primary job is to make sure that the reader never reaches this exhaustion point.
So how do you deliver true value to your reader?
Lead by providing an emotional point of identification.
Underneath all our rationalizations and societal norms, human beings are fundamentally emotional creatures engaged in a neverending quest for validation. Understand that quality and use it.
With your headline and lead, provide a sense of empathy and an acknowledgment of the unique needs that define the reader’s relationship with you. Address the individual and connect with those needs. Reassure your reader that you understand them, and that they have indeed come to the right place for the validation they seek.
Acknowledge the individual, promise satisfaction, and then deliver.
People don’t read in groups. Don’t write to them in groups.
Writing is a conversation, not a speech; your writing must speak to the individual, who will then choose to read your words for specific reasons that you must acknowledge and appreciate.
Perhaps she has a problem and needs a solution. Maybe he wants distraction and entertainment. They could be looking for something to emotionally identify with, a reminder that someone else in the world feels the same as they do about something. Your lead should acknowledge the reader’s unique motivation and make a firm commitment to satisfying it.
Once the promise has been made, the rest of the piece should deliver on that promise. Include nothing that doesn’t directly contribute to the goal of satisfying that obligation; don’t wander or go off on tangents, and don’t change the subject.
Deliver on your promise: quickly, efficiently, effectively.
Anticipate criticisms and confront them directly.
Never forget that your reader is intelligent; assume that your flaws are obvious and that the weak points in your logic will be noticed quickly and criticized harshly. As you write, imagine that your unique, individual reader has the power to ask penetrating questions and to argue with you about your points and assertions.
Do your own research and seek out primary sources; don’t report word of mouth as established fact. Don’t lie. Don’t condescend. Always assume that the reader is your equal or better, and anticipate criticisms. Address them openly and directly, and don’t ever take reader trust for granted.
Respect your reader as a peer, at all times.
You’re not doing a favor to the reader with your writing; the reader is doing a service to you by reading it. Be gracious and grateful, and respect the reader’s time and energy as the limited resources they are.
Make your points quickly and efficiently; if you require more than 300 words to make a single point, then you are most likely making more than one. Be direct, and avoid interjecting your personal life and opinions except where they directly relate to the needs of your reader. Don’t be a bore.
In the end, effective writing inspires more than attention – it compels action. It convinces the reader that future transactions with you will be conducted with respect, integrity and power; your readers can then know to expect continued value in the future.
In the business world, that is a reader who comes back.
Robert Warren (www.rswarren.com) is a professional writer, editor and
communications consultant. His Florida-based practice specializes in
helping independent professionals establish and build expert reputations
through effective use of the written word.