Persuasion is part art and part science.
There are many data-based strategies to successfully create persuasive communication. That's the science. Likewise, there are just as many techniques for delivering the words, ideas, and data that persuasion often requires. Knowledge and mastery of those techniques is the art. And, like science, art can be learned.
So, today I want to share five key characteristics of persuasive blog posts and a simple five-paragraph template for creating your own persuasive blog posts.
Five Characteristics of Persuasive Blog Posts
There are countless books and papers on how to write more persuasively, but I'm going to share the characteristics I've found most effective based on 30 years (ouch, I'm old) of persuading folks using blog posts and other content marketing tools.
The most persuasive blog posts are...
Far too often, we allow our emotions to color our style. Passion is great, but in written communications, passion usually clouds, hides, and often replaces fact. To convince the skeptic, strip your posts of emotional language and pleas entirely.
Writers fall back on emotional language because they lack any meaningful data to support their position. Sometimes the data doesn't exist. But more often the lack of data is because the writer is too lazy to do the work to find the necessary supporting data.
The truth is that it's much harder to argue with data than opinion, so find the most compelling data and include it in your posts.
3. Proven, Not Told
In a great scene in A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise's character tells Demi Moore's character, "It doesn't matter what I think, only what I can prove."
Never have truer words been spoken. When you're trying to persuade "the other side" to come around to your point of view, build your case using logic, facts, and proof served up like breadcrumbs. You want the reader to follow the breadcrumbs down a logic trail that you believe will deliver reasonably intelligent, logical people to your desired point of view.
We live in an ADD world. Although I disagree that humans' attention spans have shortened, I emphatically believe humans' time to pay attention is at an absolute premium. Don't make your reader wade through War and Peace. Make your point, make it well, and move on.
5. Not Lines Drawn in the Sand
At some point, your blog post will venture into the land of opinion: the point of view you're promoting and encouraging your reader to adopt. If possible, don't state it as a black-and-white decision. Instead, give the reader permission to acknowledge the point without having to agree or disagree.
Soften the landing with phrases such as "the data seems to support you should do X," or "research suggests doing Y leads to positive outcomes." Softening words, such as "seems" and "suggests," give readers permission to draw their own conclusions vs. having to begrudgingly accept yours.
It may feel like nothing, but that one little change can often be the difference between successful and unsuccessful persuasive efforts.
Did you see what I just did there?
A Template for Writing Persuasive Blog Posts
Now that we hopefully agree on the characteristics of a persuasive blog post, let's move on to writing them—more quickly and efficiently.
Any time I'm looking to speed up a creation process, I look for templates. I'm a big fan of templates because they help clarify your thinking and focus your writing by keeping you on point and reducing or removing tangential rants that often find their way into persuasive writing.
Over my 30-year career, I've had to write a lot of persuasive content—letters, memos, sales decks, whitepapers, and, of course, blog posts. Although this template is designed to write better, more persuasive blog posts, it works exceedingly well for creating all those other forms of persuasion, too.
Though this template may not be perfect, it works for me—and hopefully you.
1. Don't bury the lead
In the first paragraph, summarize what you're going to tell the reader. Explain the current state or problem that you're trying to change. In broad strokes, define the change you seek. Then, offer up a view of the future if the reader adopts your point of view.
If readers are already inclined to agree with you, your job is pretty much done. But if they're not so inclined, you'll have to work a bit harder. So, let's move on to designing the actual persuasion portion of your blog post.
2. State your case in a single line or short paragraph
Tell them what you want them to believe. Don't hedge. Use simple, clear language devoid of vague words and phrases.
3. Use three paragraphs to make three arguments
Why only three paragraphs? Because, believe it or not, there is actual science supporting the theory of three in making persuasive arguments.
Use the first sentence of each paragraph to make a persuasive argument. Use another 2-4 sentences to provide relevant support points or data that you can link to or reiterate. And, yes, ideally include three supporting pieces of data for maximum effect. I call that data triangulation.
If you have more than three arguments, that's fine; You can include them. But ask yourself whether you really need them to successfully persuade the reader. As they say in sales, once you've made the sale, shut up. The same can be said for writing.
4. Use the final paragraph to reiterate your point of view and suggest that the supporting data successfully makes your case
If you're trying to entice the reader to action, give them a simple next step or action to take. Far too often we incorrectly assume that lack of action on the reader's part is the result of too little persuasive fuel, when in truth there is just too much friction associated with the requested action.
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And that's it. A simple five or six-paragraph format for quickly and easily crafting your next persuasive blog post. Give it a try.
More Resources on Persuasive Writing
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