There are two ways to communicate about a problem, the traditional way and the brain-based way. This goes for writing a blog post, an email, a web page, an article, or a newsletter. In fact, for all of your content marketing, think about how your readers may be reacting to what you say.
Traditionally, the way to write about a problem, the way I was taught in graduate school and the way most of us in business or academia were taught, is to:
- Define the problem
- Analyze the problem
- Provide options
- Recommend a solution
Let's look at a better way, based on research from brain-based neuroscience:
2. Stimulate desire
3. Reinforce with reasons
This isn't really new, copywriters have used this as a guide for years. But what's new is that scientists have now shown through brain imaging that it's practically a waste of time to appeal to reasons before you appeal to emotions. The brain centers for higher order thinking aren't even engaged in most instances of communications.
What happens is that the more primitive centers of the brain scan a message for pattern recognition, to match it up with their previous experiences and beliefs. If it matches, the reader feels relief, again in the emotional centers for reward.
The brain centers for reasoning still aren't engaged. The reader is now experiencing confirmation bias, and feels satisfaction.
Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions and to irrationally avoid information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs.
If on the other hand, the message is new or different from our previous thinking, we immediately reach for feelings of cynicism and skepticism, and deploy rejection. We are not prone to immediately accept new ideas or enthusiasm for change, let along take action that's different from what we're used to. We will first raise objections and find flaws in the messenger's presentation.
Our confirmation bias doesn't like to be disturbed. This is why it's so important to recognize possible objections in a sales page, and address them.
I bring this up because even if content you're writing isn't designed to sell or persuade, you should be aware of the universal human tendency to look for confirmation of readers' own beliefs and experiences in a message.
When you write, be prepared to address both types of reactions in readers: those who emotionally agree and care about what you say, and those who reject what you say.
But before you try to address those objections, make sure you spend time writing your content to appeal to readers' emotions first.
How? I'll write about this tomorrow, but here's what I'm thinking would be good ideas:
- Stories about the audience’s problems (“These problems are serious…”)
- Stories about the likely trajectory of the problems (“These problems are getting worse…”)
- A story about how you dealt with adversity that is relevant to the issue under discussion – particularly if you're new to the audience
- A surprising question or challenge in an area of interest to the audience