All content writing – from the biggest whitepaper to the smallest social media post – is about appealing to an audience’s emotion. When copy comes across as bland and emotionless, readers perceive it as being nothing more than an advertisement. Brands should be using content marketing as a way to connect with its readers and they do so by crafting pieces that speak to the needs of a consumer. However, when you’re punching up that next blog post, you need to be aware of the difference between being emotionally exploitative and emotionally resonate. Without understanding this distinction, you may be inadvertently overpromising, overdramatizing, and overreaching.
When content marketing veers into the lane of emotional exploitation, a piece of writing can almost come off as a threat. This kind of approach to composition finds writers making huge, negative assumptions about their readers. It paints the emotions they’re feeling in the worst possible light, and creates a scenario in which the potential client is at their wits end. It also makes readers feel bad about feeling bad. The issues that are presented in these exploitative pieces are the most heinous thing ever, and fails to validate the emotions, instead making readers feel isolated and worried. Even worse, exploitative writing capitalizes on fear by making enormous promises that the service or product being pitched will solve every single one of the reader’s problems. “You’re doomed. You don’t have a way out of this mess. Contact us and we will save you from yourself.”
Instead of bumming out consumers, content marketing should be appealing to audiences by resonating what they’re feeling. You can still identify pain points, but the reader should feel like they’re not alone. You want to confirm their emotions and validate the importance of those feelings. But the writing should make them feel like these reasonable concerns have reasonable solutions. Echoing negative emotions is important but presenting them in a positive light is equal vital. “It can be frustrating to experience these issues, but there’s always a way to fix things. Check out our approach to helping you get moving forward.” In this example, we let our reader experience their emotions, validate their feelings, and offer a solution for turning things around. There’s no huge promises and no dramatic language. By avoiding those negative clichés in our word choices and positioning, we can produce emotionally resonant copy.
Speaking to an audience’s pain points will always be a huge part of successful content marketing. In no way do we want to discourage you from appealing to those sensibilities. But there are some oft-repeated phrases and approaches that tend to veer on the side of negativity. Here’s a few common missteps that read as emotionally exploitative that you can cut out of your future posts.
It’s possible to restate and validate your audience’s emotions – even if they are negative – without making it seem like the end of the world. Referring to the reader as “tired,” “lost,” “in trouble,” “at a dead-end,” all might be accurate, but it’s only going to stress them out.
It may be true that the services or product you write about is the best on the market. But by engaging in trashing a competitor, you only come off as offering up problems instead of quantifying a solution. It also makes the writing sound very sales-y and will only hinder your credibility.
“Your life or job isn’t going well because you don’t have us.” Again, this may be true; a reader may be able to get more done or improve their situation by turning to your company for guidance. But, it also makes the reader feel dumb and reinforces the isolating feeling that emotionally exploitative writing creates.
Speaking to an audience effectively is all about understanding their context and being able to relate to them. By doing so, you can communicate values and solutions rather than fill them with unnecessary dread. Our whitepaper “Campfire Content: A Guide to Crafting Content for Your Audience’s Unique Context” breaks down this concept and many more. Download today to get started producing better content now.