by Bryan Heathman
Increasingly, as the shrinking world encroaches on that endangered species known as Attention, the need to influence – and to influence quickly – grows more urgent all the time.
Whoever said, “Talk is cheap” obviously wasn’t sending a text message to his teenager. The price of Attention grows more precious all the time.
Whether you’re trying to reach your kids, your team, or the audience for your latest Pulitzer Prize-winning saga, the point is the same. If you’ve got something to say in this age of brevity, it pays to make it count. Odds are you won’t get a second chance to drive your point home.
Let’s take a look at 3 concrete ways you can make your message count.
When you’re sending a text, writing an email, drafting copy for your website, or writing an article for national syndication, the challenge is the same – to compel. The written word is the clearest, most compelling form of communication, and therefore persuasion.
Writing might best be described as the oldest form of permanent influence. While leaders of the past might have achieved their aims through coercion or just plain brute force, it’s the subtler means of influence that won the hearts and minds of the people.
To reach the most people, that influence is achieved through writing. The written word surpasses the status of mere “importance” for cultural impact. It’s essential for shaping policy, for moving the masses, for engendering compassion, and yes, for getting your kid to take out the garbage before you get home.
So as a leader, how do you do that? While it may seem too good to be true, there are certain verbal tactics you can use to influence others with the power of your pen… or your qwerty keyboard, as the case may be.
With that in mind, here’s a brief primer on magically converting hearts and minds with the power of your written words.
1. Presto Change-O, It’s All About “You”
Yes, it’s true: There are certain magic words you can use to capture the attention of the folks you want to influence with your writing.
The first thing to notice is that your audience wants something from you. In fact, all they want is to know how you can help them. If you want to influence people, start by putting the focus on your audience. Wherever possible, use the word “you” instead of “me”. “You” is the sweetest word in the world, second only in importance to the reader’s actual given name.
If you need to talk about yourself in your writing, as much as possible say “we” instead of “I.” Include the reader in your shenanigans like an errant school chum on a weekday night after curfew. Then watch how this Secret Club status will galvanize even the most wishy-washy to your cause.
2. Imagine A World Influenced by You
Another magical word that engages even the most obstinate reader is that imperative command, “Imagine!”
This tactic works in a couple of ways. Follow me now as I lead you down the wind-swept path of the imagination to the craggy salt-scented shores of Influence…
See? You couldn’t help yourself. That sentence engaged your imagination, and we didn’t even go anywhere.
By calling upon your reader to imagine, you have immediately harnessed their presence of mind and led them willingly into your world. Harnessing the imagination means immediate engagement with your readers, leading them to a point just steps away from compliance with your wishes.
3. Explain Yourself
If you want to capture the hearts and minds of your audience and win the masses, try putting your message in context for your readers. This can be neatly packaged in the simple word “because.” Why should your whole department work late? Why should voters support your initiative? Why should your kid take out the trash?
Because, that’s why.
Well, okay, maybe “because” is not the total answer. You learned that when you were eight years old, right? But many of the best answers have started with the word “because.”
- “Because we need to boost sales so we can keep our jobs.”
- “Because it will fund literacy programs in our community.”
- “Because, if you do your chores then you’ll be able to keep that phone.”
Because is a powerful word. It puts your position in context and gives readers a compelling reason to follow you as a leader.
By putting the focus of your message onto your audience, leading them through the realm of imagination, and giving them compelling reasons, you can convert casual readers into galvanized evangelists for your cause. As you type your next email, lead with these 3 keys to commanding Attention in this era of shortened attention spans.
And who knows? You just might win that Pulitzer after all.
Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success. Bryan works with businesses and authors, both as a publisher and rainmaker. Bryan is author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book on converting website visitors into paying customers. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes executive positions with Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.