To be persuaded, the reader must see and must care

hearts-and-mindsWhether you are writing marketing copy, a business proposal or a new procedure you expect people to follow, you need to touch both your reader’s heart and their mind in some way. Impersonally presented facts or reasons, no matter how clearly they are presented, are not strong enough to move people away from their existing way of thinking or behaving.

How many facts that you have already seen or heard today? If you’ve browsed a news website or walked past some billboards, you will have seen multiple facts. Most of those will have washed over you – you see them but you don’t care. You only become interested in stories when they connect with your interests or something you are passionate about. Similarly, just presenting bland facts to your readers is useless if they don’t care.

Well reasoned writing is not sufficient. Our minds are stuffed with facts, and most of them we need to ignore in order to function sanely. If facts are connected in some way to our vital interests or sympathies, then we’ll pat attention. So, find out what is important to your readers, and relate your facts and your arguments to that.

On the other hand, merely stirring the emotions is very unwise if there is no solid reasoning to back up your position. Stirred emotions can arouse suspicion about a proposal or persuasive document, and tell our reason to investigate further. Emotions can create discomfort and paralyse action if they are out of step with our reason.

Emotional writing is not sufficient. It is folly to stir emotions that cannot be justified by rational facts and argument.

(built on ideas from Don Pfarrer; Guerrilla Persuasion)