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What’s the difference between content that sells and content that converts? The answer is emotions.
We’ve all read blog posts that do well to inform and argue, but they read as though they were written by a robot. They have no emotion: they have no soul. A reader may be after data or information, but they can’t connect or relate to data. And if you aren’t giving them something to hold on to, then you aren’t writing engaging or even fully relevant blog posts.
Emotional appeal is the key to unlocking an engaged and committed readership and truly growing your audience. But what is emotional writing, and how do you use it in a way that’s genuine and more importantly effective?
What is Emotional Appeal?
Let’s first go back to the fundamentals of writing an argument. According to Aristotle, there are three ways to appeal to your reader and get them on your side. These appeals can be logical, ethical, or emotional, but the best writing includes all three. While each of these can be tricky to balance, the emotional appeal is often the most misused.
Humans are emotional creatures: it’s in our nature. Humans do things because they’re happy or sad or angry or stressed or bored. Your ability to harness a specific emotion speaks to your ability as a writer. But too many people leave out the emotional appeal in favor of more logic because they make the false assumption that logic is better suited to forcing a decision. Worse, some writers forget logic entirely and go straight for the emotional jugular.
Emotional Appeal in Advertising
To use emotional appeal in advertising, you should be ideally working to reinforce something logical or factual. It works because by connecting emotionally, you are creating a human bond with the reader that not only convinces them to read your blog but to come back time and again to see what you have to say.
By now, you might be thinking, “Why does emotional appeal matter? I’m not trying to win an argument.” The truth is that you are. Because in the world of #content, you need to make a strong claim to each and every reader’s time. There are so many other places and ways for them to spend their leisure time: each blog post is arguing with the reader to prioritize you, even if the argument lies under the surface.
When Are You Using Too Much Feeling?
In some cases, the emotional appeal goes too far and veers off the road from appeal to emotional manipulation. You know it when you see it, even if the intention behind it is positive. One of the best examples of pathos gone too far is the use of the Sarah McLachlan song “In the Arms of an Angel” played alongside distressing footage of animal abuse. The cause is noble, but the commercials veer into emotional manipulation by trying to force a feeling or reaction (even when they don’t need to). Even Sarah McLachlan says she changes the channel when the commercial appears.
The ASPCA commercial falls into the realm of being excessively emotional, which can work against it. However, some emotional appeals veer out of the territory of being ‘too sad’ and instead are misleading or even entirely based on a fallacy. Some of the examples of inappropriate use of emotion include using loaded language (biased language, religious references, etc.), appealing to someone’s sense of guilt, or trying to use scare tactics.
Yes, these are emotional appeals, and yes, they are effective to an extent. But they won’t make your argument the way you think they might, and savvy readers can sniff them out quickly. If you feel the need to work too hard to appeal to emotion, then it’s time to rethink your strategy.
Appeal to Their Emotions by Getting to Know Them First
So how do you put all this back into finding and creating blog topics that resonate? It turns out that you can’t just put your feelings out there and hope someone connects to them. Your first step is to get to know your own audience.
As a blogger, you need to know that everything about your blog comes back to your audience: they’re your friends, critics, and customers. If you’re not writing for them, then you’re not writing about them, and you’ll find any attempt to use emotion to be very hit-or-miss.
Defining Your Audience
How do you get to know your audience? The first step is to define them. Are you writing for urban dwellers aged 20-35? Are you writing specifically for an audience who supports Barcelona FC? Are you looking for home cooks who want to improve their skills in the kitchen? Basically, ask yourself this: who do you want to read your blog? If you can answer this question, then you can start down the path towards getting to know them.
Remember that getting to know your audience more intimately takes time. As you dedicate more time to your blog, you’ll find it’s easier to choose content that will resonate.
Keep It Relevant Always
Once you know your audience, you start to gain an understanding of what they want to read. You can then use emotion to whittle down a broad topic into one that’s unique and emotionally engaging.
One of the ways to do this is to engage in problem-solving via storytelling, particularly when you’re writing about products or services. Every product or service exists as a solution to a problem, but if you’re too close to it, you may only see the innovation or the fancy parts. These aren’t things that appeal to the vast majority of readers. They want to know about the features, but they won’t engage with you because you have a list of things they might like. Instead, you need to put yourself in their shoes via your copy. Hold their hand and tell them a story. That’s the way to great copy.
Don’t Be Afraid of Controversy
If your audience is up for it, don’t be afraid to engage in controversy. Although many people try to stay away from it, writing about a controversial question or topic can engage readers, especially if other writers in your niche aren’t doing it. You should always do so tactfully and in a way that doesn’t purposely set out to offend readers. But sometimes addressing the elephant in the room appeals to readers’ sense of trust. It can also help you build your own voice.
Here’s a great example from a legal blog: What Does the Rule of Law Really Mean? The concept of the rule of law is very emotional, and the way the phrase is targeted in the media turns it from an innocuous phrase into a charged one. In this content example, Christopher Coble, Esq., breaks down the issue into digestible points while also providing context that better explains how it’s used or even weaponized.
The headline is emotional, highly-clickable, but also informative. It’s also balanced enough to attract readers and appeal to the logical side of their arguments.
Emotional Blogs Create Loyal Readers
Creating a blog is making an argument because you’re not only asking for a sale but for their time and energy in reading the blog. That’s why it’s so important to use an emotional appeal in both developing blog topics and in writing the piece itself. An emotional appeal reaches out to readers in a way that plain old facts can’t. It’s the difference between selling and converting.
Remember that emotional blogs aren’t those that manipulate. Very often, it’s a fine balance. You’ll learn more about crafting for the appropriate emotional intensity as you become more and more in touch with your audience. But the time you spend connecting with readers is as valuable as any SEO or advertising technique, so don’t neglect this connection in favor of data. It’s a balance of ethos, pathos, and logos that will help you grow.