Great writing is essentially the art of convincing people to listen to what you have to say. But, how can you pry your readers away from their day-to-day concerns? What would make you the most person in their lives—at least until they have finished reading what you have written?
1. Writing great headlines
You need to act fast, since first impressions tend to overshadow all other impressions. The headline will determine if people will even read what you have written.
Your headline is the first and perhaps only impression you will make on your reader. So writing great headlines is an important skill to learn.
As David Ogilvy instruction, “The headlines which work best are those that promise the reader a benefit.
2. Follow through with a great opening
The most important passage is the opening paragraph. In the few seconds it takes to read it, most readers decide if finishing the tale is worth their time. If your introductory paragraph is dull or disjointed, your reader probably will not have much interest in continuing to read the rest of what you say.
Master copywriter Eugene Schwartz often spent an entire week on the first 50 words of a sales piece — the headline and the opening paragraph.
An effective introductory paragraph both informs and motivates: it lets readers know what your story is about and it encourages them to keep reading.
Your introduction should begin with an engaging statement devised to provoke your readers’ interest. In the next few sentences, introduce them to your topic by stating general facts or ideas about the subject. As you move deeper into your introduction, you gradually narrow the focus, moving closer to the core point of your article – getting them to support your cause or get involved in some way.
3. Learn how to write great copy
You want to write copy so irresistible it makes your readers scramble down the page — begging to do whatever it is you want when they’re done reading — whether it’s to make a donation, sign a petition, or join your newsletter.
When you are trying to get people to respond to your requests you need to write seductive sentences, that make people care about your cause and want to participate. Eugene Schwartz says that “No sentence can be effective if it contains facts alone. It must also contain emotion, image, logic, and promise.”
4. Create a story
“The skill it takes to produce a sentence,” Stanley Fish said, “ is also the skill of creating a world.” In other words, forming great sentences produces the effect of submersing your readers within imagined worlds.
View your blog posts like you are a storyteller. A good story begins with a character in conflict, amplifies that conflict so life is miserable, and then ends with a resolution.
Create an interesting setting. Introduce the character. Describe her life. Introduce conflict, the challenges they face that have disrupted their lives. Share their journey and finally show them some form of resolution that has been made possible by your help and those of your donors, and remember, a good story has a plot with twists and turns.
Most importantly your supporters must see themselves in this journey. Often the things we write about are very different from the lives and experiences of your readers, so it is important to make the story relatable, by introducing situations that your supporters understand and have experienced in some way.
5. Write about someone that people will love
Part of writing seductive copy is to use stories about real people that readers can connect with. Whether you want to persuade people to make a donation, gain an email subscription, or motivate a change in behaviour, your dramatic story will fail if it doesn’t have one thing – a relatable protagonist.
In other words, your story needs to be about someone we can care about, that is experiencing something that we understand.
Even more important is that your readers can relate to the character in some way. They need to imagine that they would feel in the same situation. Making the person in your story relatable will enable your readers to empathise with them, care about the horrors they face and when we read about them we want to will them to succeed, to survive, even to thrive.
If they read the story and think, “I don’t know what I would have done in that situation,” you’ve been successful.
6. Introduce an enemy
In every great story there is an enemy, a force or darkness, or maybe just a calamity or problem that challenges your protagonist and is the the cause of their suffering. It is their struggle against insurmountable odds that generates drama and suspense.
By creating a credible challenge you enable readers to relate to your protagonist and, if written well, will even make them want your protagonist to succeed. You want this. You want your readers emotionally engaged in their journey.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, we don’t have to look very far or deep to discover these themes. The existence of inequality and suffering are what brought nonprofit organisations into being.
7. Introduce the solution
Once the reader is sufficiently involved in your story, and the problem that it represents, you need to offer them a solution. That is, demonstrate how your programs and services can resolve the problems and, perhaps more importantly, how the people (or our animal friends) you have written about can be helped out of the situate they find themselves in.
You need to convince potential supporters that you and you alone are in a position to change their lives and that with their help you can save your protagonist and set the world to right.
8. Support your bold claims
You must prove to potential donors that your solution will work, that is they make a donation, it will be effective, that it will resolve the situation or help the people you have written about.
You must create the feeling that there is not another organisation in a better position to deliver results, save lives, fund research into cures, protect animals or whatever your particular cause or campaign may be.
9. End with happiness
Once you’ve sucked people in with your headline, entranced them with your opening, and drawn them into your story, you may find yourself wondering how you wrap up this great piece of writing.
Endings are crucial because the last impression you leave with people is the most important, both in terms of response and emotion. That’s why having a clear understanding of what your goals for the piece are, and knowing where you’re going when you start, are the keys to going out with style. Oh, and don’t forget a call to action.
10. They want to know how the story will end
Don’t forget them after you have made a donation. Now that they are invested in the story they want to know how it will end, what happened next.
Now, it’s your turn
What do you think about writing content that converts? Have you seen any non-profit copy that you thought were done particularly badly — or well?