One of my team members has an old chocolate lab named Jed (whose name was inspired by the awkward Jed Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies).
If you’ve ever owned a dog well into his late years, you know all too well the details my team member uses to describe this poor old pooch:
“He’s arthritic which causes him to fall over constantly, he’s overweight as a result of the arthritis, he smells like wet dog meets garbage, and every month is prone to more and more ‘accidents’ in the house. All this and that (censored language) dog still manages to eat a cupcake left unattended on a counter that’s at least 42″ high.”
So when the time came for the team member to take a vacation, it came down to this: Finding a dog sitter for Jed.
She called in every favor possible: “Please, I’m going on vacation. Would you watch Jed?”
She tried playing Jed up: “Even in his old age, Jed loves to play and he’s really friendly.”
She tried downplaying Jed: “He’s an old dog, so he’s more calm than younger, friskier dogs.”
She even attempted baiting with compensation: “I’ll pay you to dog sit!”
All to no avail. Everyone loves dogs! What’s the deal? These were dog people – they cried while watching Old Yeller and bawled at the end of Where the Red Fern Grows.
Then my team member realized her problem. She wasn’t going to sell that stinky, mangy ol’ lovable dog by promoting Jed “the dog.” She had to appeal to her audience’s emotions to get them to act.
“I know watching Jed is a lot of work, but you’re the only one who he trusts. You just have a way with him.”
Sold: “I’d love to watch Jed!”
Creating Strong Emotional Drivers
In the case of Jed, no one wants to watch a mangy old dog, but they do want to feel good about themselves. By appealing to the emotional “bond” the audience had with Jed, the team member was able to convince her audience that they wanted to watch Jed. She did this by breaking her audience’s emotional barriers and perceptions (“I know he’s a lot of work, but-“) as well as push that emotional hot button (“-you’re the only one he trusts”) and bring it home (“You just have a way with him”).
First, finding those emotional barriers, hot buttons, and more depends on your audience. The team member knew her first step was to find dog people (not cat people). By understanding the dynamics of your audience and their intent, you will have a greater handle on piquing their interest in the title.
Once you have the reader hooked on your title, you have to maintain their interest with compelling original and informative content. Think of articles like living, breathing conduits of information and the key to move that information is emotion.
7 Emotional Hot Buttons
The stronger the feeling, the more likely your audience will act and share your content. Target these 7 emotional hot buttons:
- Positive emotion: Amusement, interest, surprise, happiness, delight, pleasure, joy, hope, affection, excitement, awe – powerful positive content is known to be more viral than negative content.
- Contrast emotions: Should negative emotions be present, such as anger or anxiety, contrast them with positive emotions or empathy.
- Personal emotion: Help your readers see themselves in the content rather than merely feeling empathetic.
- Stacking emotions: Each point escalates to a new emotional level.
- Belonging emotion: Insider content that makes the reader feel as though they are in the know – such as nostalgia.
- Altruistic emotion: Content that makes the reader believe they’re doing good (by virtue) and it makes them feel good.
- Identity emotion: Content the reader feels represents them or reaffirms their identity – “This is who I am.”
Even if you have a “stellar” product or service that’s better than Jed the dog, use emotional drivers to create compelling content that prompts action. They may be consuming data faster than you can blink, but readers are humans with incredible needs and powerful wants. Connecting with them on an emotional level may be what your writing is missing.
Questions? Comments? Let us know in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you!