It takes more than a creative idea to craft a memorable, engaging article. To hold a reader’s attention for the duration of a story, communicators need to apply the right strategies to connect with their audience.
Here are five tips on how to make your writing resonate with readers.
1. Loosen your language.
Don’t believe the myth that a folksy, conversational style is unprofessional. Most readers want you to talk to them, in the second person, explaining your points as if you’re speaking face-to-face. Just make sure your copy is clear, concise and compelling.
- Stuffy and distant: You must make sure that you implement a social media program that isn’t just for one month but lasts for at least six months. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that you’ll generate leads.
- Conversational and compelling: If you expect leads to start pouring in after just 30 days of social media marketing, forget about it! Stick with social media for the long term — at least six months.
2. Choose a single compelling theme.
Unlike releases crammed with facts, quotes, multiple angles and background information, an article or blog should build on one engaging story line. If you try to cover too many themes, then readers won’t know where you’re taking them and will quickly lose interest.
Compare these two leads for an article on increasing employee engagement:
- Unfocused: An engaged employee is more productive, according to many studies. In order to engage employees, companies need to cultivate a positive culture, offer workplace training that fuels their careers, develop employee teams that support each other and encourage managers to have more face-to-face communication with direct reports.
- Laser-focused on a single theme: If you want to engage direct reports, speak to them more — face-to-face.
3. Seamlessly transition from lead to substance.
A clever, captivating lead is a good start, but not enough to hold readers’ attention. You need to create a natural bridge to the meat of the story. One way is to simply expand on the main theme. For example, if your article is advising small employers on how to recruit qualified employees in a tight job market, then your lead/transition/substance might look like this:
- Lead: Losing top talent to bigger companies? Tell them why smaller can be better.
- Transition: Even if your annual revenues are south of $5 million, you can still woo job candidates by explaining the pros of joining your small company on your website, job search engines and social media. You can highlight advantages such as quickly moving up to managerial roles, a friendlier work environment and more-personalized support.
- Substance: Below are four strategies for uncovering and communicating what makes your small company an ideal place to launch a career.
4. Craft explicit, “tell me more” subheads.
Remember what John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John said in their hit, “Summer Nights,” from the movie “Grease”: “Tell me more, tell me more!”
Your subheads should evoke that same appeal from readers — to tell them more about the topic. See how each subhead below teases the reader about a specific tip in an article about how to ace a job interview.
- Show you’ve researched the company
- Balance listening and speaking
- Bring up relevant news about their company or industry
5. Close by underscoring the main theme.
Without simply repeating the lead, find a way to reiterate the key theme and make it memorable. Bring up a new fact to support your position, offer specific next steps, incorporate the bigger picture, or provide a reason why this point is so important. Below, see how I did it for this column!
Don’t let your articles get ignored by editors continually besieged by submissions. Make your copy stand out by honing in on an appealing and relevant theme that will win over gatekeepers and wind up on the eyes of readers — your target audience.
Jack E. Appleman, APR, is a PR/business writing instructor and author of the top-selling “10 Steps to Successful Business Writing.” He is driven by the belief that everyone can dramatically improve their writing by following key techniques, and has helped thousands of communication pros and others achieve better results from their work. firstname.lastname@example.org