The Wizard's Techniques for Creating Persuasive Content
Recently I found myself re-reading one of my favorite marketing books, Accidental Magic, by Roy H. Williams. Roy is the genius behind the Wizard Academy and this book is an inspiration. In it he offers a fantastic synopsis of some of his most powerful ad writing techniques. So in the interest of helping us all become more persuasive writers and marketers, here are some techniques worth trying.
According to Roy, fact and fiction both happen in our brains all the time. That’s because our brains can be divided into two main hemispheres, left and right. And each of these operates in vastly different ways. “The right brain is intuitive and subjective. It sees the big picture; it’s where you appreciate music and the arts. Your left brain is logical, linear, and objective; it focuses on the details.”
“Doubt is what happens when the security guard of the rational, logical left brain isn’t sure whether or not to accept an idea. The right brain, however isn’t troubled by such issues. It isn’t concerned in the least about the plausibility of an idea; that’s a judgment it’s happy to leave to the left brain.”
Write to the Right
Since the decision-making left brain is inherently skeptical, it’s slow to sign-off on new ideas. Hence, it is hard to persuade. Ever notice most people are hesitant, if not downright combative, about accepting ideas that fall outside their worldview? That’s the left brain doing what it does best. It’s the filter we use to make judgements about the world we live in.
That’s why it’s so critical that marketers write to the right brain, where new ideas are always welcome. But how do you reach the right brain when the left is always on guard? You need to win the hearts of your readers. Make your writing emotionally enticing. Make your readers FEEL something! Try getting a little poetic. Use metaphor, simile, personification, and symbol to express your ideas. Writing that makes your readers feel something will pique their attention long enough to let new ideas sneak in.
If you want to get the left brain to accept something new, make your prose musical. Consider the relationship between music and lyrics. Which is catchier? The music of course. Ever find yourself singing along with a song almost against your will? The lyrics just get stuck in your head. That doesn’t happen very often when reading a blog or a webpage. Although, you may never be able to write prose as catchy as a Top 40 hit, you can mimic the merits of music to make it memorable. And that can temporarily subdue the left brain’s filter.
Try taking the Dr. Seuss approach. Use meter, alliteration, and assonance. Not sure how to do that? Pick up one of his books and start reading. Seuss was the master of musical writing. He consistently used meter to establish pacing while incorporating alliteration, assonance and rhyme. All this made his words sound pleasing to the ear. Mastering meter takes some practice, but creating rhythm in your writing will up its persuasiveness.
Create Vivid Mental Images
A simple way to increase the persuasiveness is to create vivid mental images with your writing. The right brain goes gaga for these. Think about word choice. Intentionally choose words that are unusual and destroy black words whenever you see them. A black word is anything that doesn’t contribute to a vivid mental image. Conjunctions, prepositions, articles, and “filler words” are all possible culprits.
Adjectives may also fit into this category. Although at times they can be useful, compelling verbs and specific nouns are far more effective for creating mental images. To add movement to your writing, focus on verbs. Adjectives create static images, but verbs are like watching a video. It doesn’t take long to get bored watching an image. So infuse compelling verbs into your writing to keep the story moving in the reader’s mind.
Here’s a tricky (but effective) technique. Think of the edge of a picture, or as Roy calls it, a frame line. “When [an] image extends beyond the frame line, the viewer’s imagination reacts by filling in what was left outside the frame.” Frame line magnetism is all about giving your readers “just enough” information and letting them figure out the rest. Never tell your readers what they already know or what is obvious. Let them finish the story for you.
Here’s an example:
“Spider, Spider, on the wall.
Ain’t you got no smarts at all?
Don’t you know that wall’s fresh plastered?
Get off the wall, you dirty... (long pause) ...spider."
Did you fill in the blank? That’s what frame line magnetism is all about. Lead your readers along, and then let them finish what you started. This an effective way to get the right brain’s attention.
All of these techniques are designed to appeal to the right side of the brain. So if you want to reach deeper into your reader’s psyche and be a little more persuasive, try a few of these out.