12 August 2010
Word count: 525
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Image by mlsj1_99
Last week we looked at the ‘Why, Why, Why’ method that helps you find the thing that will get your reader’s attention – the emotional trigger that will motivate them to act.
I’d like to continue on that theme today and talk about another method you can use to do the same thing.
Mutual problems, hopes & desires
We frequently (or constantly) think about our own problems, hopes and desires. Thinking about other people’s concerns is sometimes very difficult.
Or at least it seems to be difficult.
The fact is, we live and work in communities – groups of people with similar (or even the same) problems, hopes and desires. So it really isn’t terribly hard to think about how to speak to the mutual concerns we have with our readers.
The Venn diagram method
You can use those mutual concerns to get people’s attention. It’s a method that writing coach Daphne Grey-Grant suggested we use to ‘sell’ our ideas.
This method uses a Venn diagram to find out where things overlap or intersect. For example, in the illustration above, the dark area in the center shows where the contents of the ‘You’ and ‘Me’ circles intersect – that is, things they both have in common.
Awesome it is!
You may not be able to see the fine print label to the right of the circles above, but the illustrator called this section ‘Awesome’.
It’s awesome because it uncovers the place where you find win-win solutions. It’s where the things that matter to you meet with the things that matter to your reader -- where you can give something to them and gain something yourself.
Daphne gave an example of this from her days of working as a newspaper editor back in the 1980s. Every week she received hundreds of press releases from people who asked for free space in the newspaper to announce their events. For example, maybe a Boy Scout troop was holding a fundraiser, and they would ask Daphne to put a few lines in the newspaper to announce it.
Unlike paid advertising, the announcements from press releases are included in a newspaper only if space allows. Unfortunately, there was never enough free space for all of them. So Daphne had to decide which announcements to print. She based her decisions on how the ‘give-aways’ would benefit the newspaper.
And how do you benefit a newspaper? By informing or entertaining the readers. That’s how editors keep readers (and keep selling newspapers).
So the writers of the press releases who took the time to say how their stories would benefit Daphne’s readers were the ones that she was happy to give newspaper space to.
Readers will ‘buy’ your ideas if those ideas bring them value. If you can ‘sell’ your ideas, you’ll also gain value.
So before you start to write – especially if you’re proposing an idea or requesting something – take some time to list what’s important to you and to your reader. Then focus on that awesome spot in the middle, on the things you both have in common. This is how to grab the reader’s attention and create a win-win situation.