It’s easy to incite emotions on the Internet, particularly anger and shock. Take a look at all the tabloid-style headlines advertised in the right-side columns and across the footers of numerous entertainment websites. If they aren’t focused on digging dirt on the latest celebrity in the news to spur your rage, these headlines are enticing you to look at shocking pictures of plastic surgery mishaps. The creators of this content know you are tuning all it out, so they are doing everything they can to appeal to your emotions as quickly as possible at a quick glance. And if there is that one chance something grabs you, like a photo of a cute kitten that’s too special for words with the most precious headline … they have you.
That’s the culture we operate in.
Appeal to the Motivating Emotions
When it comes to creating effective web content, one key to resonating with the audience is to appeal on a motivating, emotional level. You want to reach in grab ahold of their hearts, guide them toward your call to action. Convert them to customers and complete a full transaction. We are aiming to influence and motivate using emotional appeal as our gateway, carrying the audience through the journey using information and education to complete the process. Let the positive experience from content to becoming customer be the reason this person continues to return.
No Dirty Tricks
We walk a precarious line in content marketing: emotional appeal without manipulation. That means no scaring, pandering, shocking, angering, or any other dirty tricks. There is a balance you need to strike among valid, authentic content that communicates the story you need to tell while engaging the necessary emotional nerve.
Let’s say you are writing a piece about a new toddler-sized car seat with the latest safety restraint system. It’s obvious you want to appeal to parenting instincts, which includes the desire to protect their children, and a mother’s and father’s love. You could play on fear, as in here’s what would happen if your child doesn’t use this product if an accident occurs, but what are you truly accomplishing by saying such a thing? Not only are you are cheapening the product and brand’s image and the company’s reputation by focusing on the what if scenario by playing into dread and fear, you are evoking a parent’s worst fears. The attitude of the story is no longer a genuine one of helping the consumer, it has become an alarmist tabloid message meant to scare them into submission.
Focus on the positive: a happy, healthy child with mom and dad riding home from the playground safely in the back of the car. That might sound mundane, so you put your creative writing skills to work and build a fun, imaginative car trip home only a child’s mind could dream.
Strong content resonates with the audience because it is informational, educational, and moving. It calls people to action because their emotions have been engaged in solving an issue they can identify with, based on the details they just read about. They have this need to act; they are inspired. Being realistic, not every piece of content will draw inspiration out of every reader though it doesn’t hurt to thrive for it. Here’s why: the audience picks up on your emotions, too.
It’s a subconscious connection between artist and audience that has always existed. It transcends time and space, meaning the emotions behind what you wrote and published in a book five years ago communicate to and affect a reader tomorrow who lives 3,000 miles ways. If nothing else, this should illustrate the power you have as a content creator, the power you have to influence others, and your ability to appeal to an audience’s emotions when you want to and need to.
As you target a specific emotional appeal, make sure you are both true to the subject and true to yourself. Readers can sense fluff right away and will discard the content before finishing it. Portray the product or service accurately, get the facts straight, and communicate honestly.
David G is a freelance writer in Connecticut who happens to publish dark fiction and horror stories.