Writing Persuasive Copy

3 02 2007

Brian Clark, who writes one of my favorite blogs, Copyblogger, offers his Five Immutable Laws of Persuasive Blogging. Since blogs are marketing vehicles, these laws make them more effective.

It might be a stretch to call them “immutable,” but each law would certainly help push the message along. I want to take a deeper look at #2 (Law of Headlines and Hooks) and #5 (Law of the Story).

#2) It’s hard to understate the importance of headlines in communicating a message.  According to advertising guru David Oglivy, “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.  It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 per cent of your money.”

With so much riding on headlines, it may be tempting to load ’em up with as much information as possible. But according to Return Path Solutions, a short headline is far, far more likely to be clicked-through than a long one. In fact, the Return Path research shows that “click-through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters were 75 percent higher than for those with 50 or more.”   

Forty-nine characters is enough to communicate a clear message. The key point here is to keep the headline crisp and clear. It reads better and it even says more than a headline with extra words.  

#5)  There it is again. Stories get through when other types of messages get stopped at the door. Brian Clark says it’s because “they allow you to present a problem, the solution, and the results, all while the connotation of the story allows readers to sell themselves on what you have to offer.”  

Stories also illustrate Malcolm Gladwell main thesis in the The Tipping Point. Gladwell set out three ways epidemics spread: the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. Stories have a bit of all three, letting you create the context that’s right for your message, make it deeper and more interesting (and therefore more sticky), and reach the types of people who like to pass along good stories.  

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How to Make It Stick

28 01 2007

The always-awesome Guy Kawasaki says Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive While Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath could become the next pheonomenon for the business world.

The book, according to Kawasaki’s interview with the authors, expands on the “stickiness factor” idea from Malcolm Galdwell’s Tipping Point. Gladwell postulates that small, counter-intuitive factors make ideas particularly memorable. But according to the Heath brothers, an idea becomes sticky when it has some combination of six specific attributes:  

 JFK’s idea to “put a man on the moon in a decade” had all six of them:

  1. Simple A single, clear mission.
  2. Unexpected A man on the moon? It seemed like science fiction at the time.
  3. Concrete Success was defined so clearly—no one could quibble about man, moon, or decade.
  4. Credible This was the President of the U.S. talking.
  5. Emotional It appealed to the aspirations and pioneering instincts of an entire nation.
  6. Story An astronaut overcomes great obstacles to achieve an amazing goal.

If JFK had been a modern-day politician or CEO, he’d probably have said, “Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry, using our capacity for technological innovation to build a bridge towards humanity’s future.” That might have set a moon walk back fifteen years.

Of the six attributes, I find the last one fascinating. To be memorable, an idea has evoke a story, a narrative that leaves some sort of trace. I can see how the Man on the Moon example has that quality. It’s that extra something that enlarges the idea just enough to make it deeper and more substantial.