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Writing for Direct Marketing?  Make me care.

When it comes to persuasive writing — the kind you’re doing if you’re writing an annual fund letter or appealing to prospective students — your job is to make me, the reader, care: care enough that I open the envelope, and care enough that I read beyond your first sentence.

How? Well, a good guide is to ensure your copy answers three simple questions:
1. So what?
2. Who cares?
3. What’s in it for me?

Whether you’re asking me to donate or want me to visit your campus, those questions are a great place to start. Why? Because they force you to switch your mindset, taking you from what you need (an annual fund gift or another paying body in your first-year class) and moving you to consider what I need: a reason to read your copy.

In making that transition, you need a communication bridge: something that connects what you need with what I need. That bridge is called “persuasion,” and it’s the tool of the trade when you’re doing any kind of direct marketing copywriting.

Persuasive writing is compelling, brief, and clear. It’s positive, personal, and motivating. When you’re writing persuasively, you’re not crafting the great American novel or forming the perfect five-paragraph essay. Persuasive writing is writing that sets out to influence a reader’s thoughts, actions, or emotions. It’s grabbing readers by their metaphorical lapels and shaking them, showing them why your message matters.

Bottom line, persuasive writing is about talking to your reader in an authentic voice and making them the hero — not a bystander — to your institutional greatness.

There’s a whole science to persuasive writing, tried-and-true methods and techniques you can use to build a bridge to your reader. We’ll consider these one by one, in future tips.

Maura King Scully

by Maura King Scully
Principal, MKS Communication