Writing to Persuade and Get Paid
I am about to start teaching a new course at the Sage College of Albany called “Writing to Persuade and Get Paid.” I plan to explore some of the central themes and lessons of the course in essay format, so if you are a student you can consider this required reading. For anyone else who chances across these words, you are free to choose whether to read on into the next paragraph. I will try to earn your continued attention.
[Students: please remember those last two sentences! Repeat them to yourself before you ask anyone to read anything you write, and then decide whether it might benefit from another round of proofreading and revision.]
This is intended to be a course for good writers and those who want to become better writers. While they may not all have been good or willing listeners, I do not know of any good writers who were not also (and first) good readers, so I suspect there may be greater value in presenting much of the course’s instruction in essay form rather than in-class lectures.
The course was originally going to be called “Writing for Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations,” but that title had too many characters to fit into the digital catalog’s course-title field, so I had to distill it a bit. (At some point I will want to discuss the distilling process, because just as with whiskey and maple syrup, the more you boil it down, the greater the kick. But I digress.)
In this course, we will explore and practice the different writing styles, approaches and mindsets needed to succeed in advertising, public relations, marketing and website applications. One size does not fit all when you are writing to persuade. Approaches that work in advertising will not work in public relations or as website content. Approaches geared for mass audiences such as advertising, public relations and websites are generally not effective for the narrow-focus writing required for marketing plans and business proposals. Each genre requires good, competent writing, but each has specific requirements that are different from the others.
Advertising has to be intrusive and attention-getting because it needs to grab your audiences' attention away from all the other persuasive messages that are competing for their attention. It also has to overcome their reluctance to be the target of unwanted advertising.
Writing for public relations may not call for as much verbal flamboyance as advertising, but it requires an understanding of newsworthiness and relationship building.
Marketing plans and business proposals need to provide a compelling, credible story that shows (not just explains) why your product, service, business or idea is going to provide tangible and emotionally satisfying rewards if your target audience takes the action you are advocating.
Website content is different from the three types of writing described above in that it is usually something your target audience is actively searching for, so instead of needing to convince reluctant audiences to pay attention, your job is to reward time-pressured and frustrated searchers for having found what they have been looking for.
In each case, you will need to understand your audiences’ objectives as well as your own. And you will achieve your greatest success when you understand that achieving your audiences’ objectives is the most certain route to achieving your own.