Persuade Me With Words

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February 17, 2015 by Kathryn Kuttis

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Writing is about persuasion. With more information competing for our attention, the relationship between writer and audience is increasingly a matter of worthiness.

Here’s how I see the relationship:

(Writer): My thoughts are clear and meaningful. I understand you. I wrote this just for you. This is information that will make you better.

(Reader): I’ll keep reading if it’s worth my time. You need to make it clear so that I can see that you understand me.

The first sentence of whatever you write is vital and usually takes a longtime to write. It either conveys thinking that resonates with the reader or it doesn’t. Like a headline, it sets the tone of your approach and makes your effort clear.

How many times have you stopped reading something after the first or second sentence? Tone and word choice are important. These depend on the audience you are trying to reach. What do you know about them? What do they want? Are you reading what they read? Can you use some of their language? Are you able to solve a problem for them?

Writing strategically is an art. It balances the information you have for the reader with what you need them to do for you. Each sentence needs to build on the one before it to win over the reader and convince them that there’s more to come. Ideally, you’ll have a perfect blend of evidence and observations that will cause them to believe something or prevail them to your way of seeing things.

A simple example is a cover letter for a job application. You state the obvious with clarity, “I am applying for this position.” Then you win them over by demonstrating an understanding of their need. “My knowledge of social media strategy and industrial brownfield reclamation make me an ideal fit for this position.” Don’t forget to use their language. You can find it on their website or in the job posting.

Employers want to hire people who can help them. Meet them more than halfway by doing some research. Show them how you will be useful to their organization. Explain your experience as it relates to their immediate need. Provide them with a reason to hire you.

Here are your news kernels for week seven:

Twitter PR hashtag offers tips in what not to do (PRDaily) It’s easy to get it wrong when you haven’t done the research. PR is about building mutually beneficial relationships. How will you do that for your client and their audiences?

David Carr’s Last Word on Journalism, Aimed at Students (NYTimes) After his death in the NYTs newsroom Thursday, media reporter and best-selling author David Carr leaves a legacy of knowledge. Don’t miss a chance to explore the beautiful syllabus he prepared for his media class at Boston University. What does it tell you about the future of storytelling?

Carl’s Jr. Unveils Grass-Fed Burger With Side of Nudity (HuffPost) How does a major food chain that has never made any claims to health or sustainability suddenly introduce a grass fed- burger? What does it mean by “all-natural.” What does it say about consumers?

The Governor Who (Maybe) Tried to Kill Liberal-Arts Education (TheAtlantic) The University of Wisconsin revised their mission statement and then blamed it on a drafting error. Why is this such a big deal and how could they have handled it better?

The Future of Advertising Still Rests on the Art of Connecting Brands and Consumers (AdWeek) This new state of advertising sounds a lot like public relations. Do the same truths apply to both industries. Will words like digital and technology eventually fade away?

 Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber resigns amid criminal investigation, growing scandal (OregonLive) What can Secretary of State Kate Brown do to restore trust to the governor’s office? How would you advise her first 100 days in office?

The Third Revelation of Father John Misty (Grantland) How does a brand image work for an artist that is always evolving? Talk about audience engagement and taking time to tell the truth to build a loyal fan base.

Rampant medication use found among L.A. County foster, delinquent kids (LATimes) Are pharmaceutical companies responsible for overmedicated children in foster care? What can the attorney general do?

Kanye West: “Beck Needs to Respect Artistry and He Should Have Given His Award to Beyoncé” (Pitchfork) What do you think of Kanye’s award show behavior? Is he embracing a strategy or unable to control himself in front of the cameras?

‘SNL’ 40th Anniversary Special Dominates Ratings With 23.1 Million Viewers (Variety) NBC dominated the ratings with their SNL special. Who was watching? After 40 years how has the audience changed? What did NBC do to engaged these different audiences?


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If you share an interest in public relations, media and visual design, this might be a good place for you to hang out. I started this blog to exchange ideas with my students at the University of Oregon. They keep me (and maybe you too) at the forefront of social media, visual communication and career development. Here you'll find our best ideas, links and learning as we write, create and blog our way through a course on Strategic PR Communication.

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