Writing Tips & The Psychology Behind Them

If you’re like me, you thrive on studying how the brain works. Psychology and the way we structure and write content to influence decisions is incredibly powerful. In this blog, I’ve listed my favourite tips to help you inject some psychology into your content to make sure it gets read! 

These tips are especially useful if you write for charities or organisations who work towards creating a better society as research has proved that long-form content works the best. In fact it was Dr Barnado himself who mastered the art of the 4 page letter back in the Victorian times.

Rule number one if you’re writing for charities or not for profit organisations: go bold with your values!

Tips to get you noticed, create engagement and influence an action

1.      Repeat core message.  Many of us suffer from marketing blindness – yes, that is a thing.  There’s just so much out there, we are not taking as much notice of the written word as we used to.  We have become expert speed readers skimming over these cleverly orchestrated words.  To make sure your message gets across repeat it (using different words obvs) in the intro, throughout the core and in the conclusion.

2.      Understand the ‘serial positioning effect’.  While we are on the subject of marketing blindness and our new-found talent for skim reading allow me to introduce you to the serial positioning effect.  Today’s readers glance at the top, then the bottom, then from left to right sifting through any words that jump out at them (hence the need to repeat your core message).

Now we know this pattern, be sure to place your core message at the top, call to action at the bottom and position the ‘nice to know’ stuff at the centre.  You can practice this on direct mail, website pages, electronic emails, leaflets and so on.

So, it goes without saying that when producing bullet points, put the most important points at the top and the bottom.  I know it feels weird and it’s not what we were taught at school, but according to recent research 84% of people can now remember the first and the last. 

3.      Can you use a metaphor? I’m going to mention marketing blindness for the last time. How many times do we see words like ‘amazing’, ‘unique’, ‘strong’, ‘the best’?  Probably more than you think and that’s because we see them so many times they have become meaningless.  Get creative with your writing – this will also differentiate your organisation from others as well as provide more meaningful content which your reader can relate to.  So, instead of saying you are dependable, say that you’re their rock.  Have fun with it!

 4.      Give facts.  Quite often you might have a message that you are finding hard to deliver.  If you provide facts then no-one can deny them.   And if you have moments when you think something is too upsetting, just think of the good that will come from it.  Think about how David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II programme showed what our oceans are becoming and how this awareness has resulted in driving positive change..

 5.      Give stats and figures.  This technique will back up your messages but consider how the brain processes numbers.  Saying 1 in 5 has more meaning than 20% as we can easily identity with this and visualise it.  Also, when there is a large number to strengthen a message, then give that as it will highlight an uncomfortable truth that needs addressing.

6.    Help the reader visualise the message.  Make the message tangible, for example state that if you give £3.50 this will …….”    This will also make it easy for the donor to speak about the charity with their friends and family and what they do to support it. 

 And when talking about the cost of donations, start with the top value first. 

7.    Convey a sense of urgency.   Use words such as now, today, join our mission, save a life today.

8.    Overcome objections.  Give some thought to the things that might put off a donor from making that call or giving details online.  Could they be worried about passing on their personal information? Could they be worried what will happen if they can’t afford to make a monthly donation? Address all their concerns. Say that the information will be safe and say what they can do if their financial situation changes. 

 And while we are on this topic, check out your micro-content aka error messages.  Some website have standard error messages which can be a little harsh and down-right shouty!  If someone innocently types in an incorrect format for an email address the last thing they want is to be shouted out – make sure your micro content reflects the way you speak to your audience.

9.     Give back some control to the reader.  To appease any readers who may be feeling a little unsure about whether or not to donate/buy, put some power back into their hands.  Use language such as ‘feel free to contact us if you have any queries’, or ‘if you’re not ready to commit to a monthly donation, consider a one-off donation instead’.

 10.   The power of because.  This simple word justifies a reason.  And it has been proven:

Back in the 70s the word ‘because’ formed the foundation for research for the first time.  An exercise was carried out in offices where someone approached a person using a photocopier machine and asked if they could go in front of them.

          Test 1. “Can I go in front of you BECAUSE I’m in a rush?”  94% of people let them go ahead.

         Test 2. “Can I go in front of you as I have copies to make?” 60% of people let them go ahead.

         Test 3. “Can I go in front of you BECAUSE I have copies to make?” 93% of people let them go ahead.

 So, there you go, it doesn’t matter what follows the word ‘because’ as we assume what follows is justified. ‘Because’ is the super-hero of planet word!

 11.   Create balance.  There are going to be messages which are hard to deliver.  They are going to pull at the heart strings.  To strike a balance put the reader into the message – thank them and tell them what a difference they are making to the lives of others.

12.   The power of stories.  Keep sharing real life stories to education and to say thank you.

If you would like to ignite your content give me a call and let’s work on a plan that gets results.