In the last installment I gave you a 30,000 foot view of persuasion, and what you must DO with your communication in order to be persuasive.
Now that you know what to do, you still have to learn about how to do it.
Today, I’m going show you how.
Today, I’m going to reveal the three vital characteristics your communication must have in order to get people to feel, believe and listen to what you have to say.
In the words of Mark Ford, from his great book “Persuasion: The Subtle Art of Getting What You Want:”
Effective Persuasion is the Presentation of
Emotionally Compelling Ideas with Clarity and Specificity
First, let’s talk about the emotionally compelling idea.
If you’ve ever surfed facebook (or just been on the internet), you’ve probably seen people share viral articles from places like Buzzfeed and Upworthy.
When you see a headline from one of these sites, you probably have an urge to follow the link to the article, despite your best attempts to ignore them.
The reason viral content is so interesting and irresistible is because it plays to your emotions. The headlines are written to be the equivalent of flashing lights. They’re designed to appeal to your most primitive reptilian brain.
There are many ways to pull your emotional strings.
There are, however, a few emotions which are the most powerful.
Can you guess what they are?
Here’s a hint: there are seven of them. And they are deadly.
Yup, it’s exactly what you’re thinking.
Now, I want you to know that these seven emotions can be used positively or negatively. Framing these emotions as the seven deadly sins just emphasizes how powerful they are.
Think about how these emotions are used in the clickbait you see:
Lust – Lust could be used to convince you to improve your health, or employed as sex appeal in an advertisement. People are motivated by sex.
Gluttony – Any kind of extravagance in general. Lots of reality shows are based around this emotion.
Greed – How a dim-witted stay at home mom who couldn’t hold down a job at McDonalds made 5 grand last week working from her phone booth sized kitchen and how you can too!
Sloth – Getting something for nothing, or receiving benefits with little effort or work, instant gratification.
Envy – Eliciting desire by featuring somebody else’s accomplishments or assets – “5 Secret Butt Toning Exercises Kim Kardashian Uses to Maintain her Beautiful Bodacious Booty”
Anger – Anything that provokes outrage or anger. People like to be outraged.
Pride – Anything that feeds the ego or associates you with some sort of victory or big benefit.
Now, not all compelling content falls under these seven emotions.
Content can also be compelling for more traditionally “positive” reasons as well.
Stories that inspire awe, disbelief or shock value are always great to see. Human interest stories that evoke empathy and tug at your heartstrings are great as well. Funny and cute stories or videos work very well too.
Confirming peoples’ biases is also a very powerful tactic. People want to read or hear more about things they already believe in. This is especially powerful in emotionally charged issues like politics, religion, or other polarizing issues.
Now, I Want you to know that having an emotionally compelling topic or story by itself isn’t enough. You need to present that story in a clear and specific manner.
The best way to be clear is to write or speak at a low grade level – ideally below a 7th grade reading level.
One metric you can use to monitor readability is the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. Scores over 70 correspond with a 7th grade and lower reading level.
Most great sales letters have scores of over 75. This post has a score of about 66.
Using simple words and short sentences will keep things easy to read. Speaking in the active voice instead of the passive voice will keep things simple too.
Here is an example of active vs passive voice: “Bobby won the tennis match” vs “the tennis match was won by Bobby.”
Microsoft Word, and Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress have built in FK scoring. Microsoft word will tell you the FK score after you spell check your document. Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress will tell you the FK score in the “content analysis” box in the post edit page. There are also several online resources that will score your document.
Speaking and writing at a low grade level is challenging. It’s a lot harder than you think. However, if you want to keep people engaged it’s vital. People will simply tune you out if you’re hard to understand.
Another way to keep things easy to read is to include a lot of paragraphs. Nobody wants to look at a huge wall of text.
Short and simple paragraphs keep people engaged and make your writing much more accessible.
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of looking at a mountain of text, beginning to read it, and then quitting because it was obnoxious.
Keep things simple.
It’s especially important to speak simply to your patients. I think as chiropractors we forget how much we know about health and the human body. When we start speaking to laymen about health, it’s like a tax accountant talking to us about tax codes. It’s a foreign language for most people.
To hear simple speaking in action, listen to Donald Trump speak sometime. Listen to one of his rallies on YouTube, and you’ll see a master persuader at work.
Trump’s been criticized in the media for speaking at a fourth grade level. The media doesn’t realize that Trump’s ability to speak simply benefits him tremendously.
Trump keeps people engaged with very emotional topics and simple speech. He also has one central idea to all his rhetoric, which is making America great again.
Having one major theme or idea connecting your speech or writing is the “specificity” I mentioned earlier.
The key to specificity is not going off on tangents in your speaking or writing. You want every word to reinforce the core emotions that your content is stirring. If you start to go off track, you’ll lose people. This is a big secret to writing successful sales letters and other compelling material.
So, to summarize: for your content to be irresistible it must stoke strong emotions with clear, simple writing, without deviating from the core theme or going on tangents.
If you’d like to learn more about Trump’s persuasion skills and boost your own skills at the same time, I urge you to take a look at Scott Adams’ blog.
Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert cartoons, and is a trained hypnotist with outstanding persuasion skills of his own. You can find his blog at http://blog.dilbert.com/.
I also highly recommend Mark Ford’s book Persuasion: The Subtle Art of Getting What You Want, which I referenced in the beginning of this article. Mark Ford is a prolific author, very successful copywriter and a great mentor. If you liked this article you’ll love his book on persuasion.
In the next installment I’ll go over the mechanics of how to cultivate a persuasive personality, so be sure to subscribe to my blog if you haven’t yet.