Editor’s note: This post was originally published on April 2, 2009. We’re running it again today to show you how to take advantage of the powerful combination of copywriting and audio content.
There’s nothing easier than audio content, right? Just fire up your recording software or teleseminar service and start talking away.
Well, sure … but “easy to create” doesn’t guarantee anyone will listen (or keep listening).
Take some time to structure and prepare for your recording, however, and you can crank out exceptionally engaging audio content that still only takes a fraction of the time that polished writing would.
Even though you’re not producing written content, what you put down on paper before you record will make all the difference. Let’s look at outlining your audio presentation first before discussing the copywriting techniques that work as well for audio as they do for text.
Structuring your audio presentation
Structure is just as important to compelling audio as it is to an article or other written content. The quickest way to lose a listener is to fail to achieve a coherent flow of the points you’re trying to make.
A detailed outline that guides you through the presentation and reminds you when to use your key engagement techniques (covered below) is absolutely imperative for most people to effectively present in audio.
So, you might outline your presentation with this structure:
- Attention. Attention begins before the audio presentation begins, because you have to convince someone to listen in the first place. So the title of the presentation and key bullet points of what’s in store for the listener is where attention begins, but you must maintain attention with a compelling opening to the audio combined with a reiteration of what value the listener will receive for sticking with you.
- Empathy. Why empathy? Because you’re trying to form a bond with the listener. You’re trying to create a sense of intimacy that forms a connection. If you achieve that connection with listeners, they’ll know you understand their problems. That makes the desire for your proposed solution naturally stronger … and this is much easier to achieve with your voice than it is with text.
- Solution. Don’t drop the ball when it comes to effectively explaining the solution. Holding attention and establishing empathy will be all for naught if you fail to communicate exactly how and why the solution works. Just because you understand how and why the solution works doesn’t mean that the listener is getting it, so you’ll want to augment understanding as much as possible.
- Action. At this point, hopefully you’ve created desire for the proposed solution. But creating desire is not enough. You’ve got to expressly ask or tell the listener what to do next, and also make the call to action as compelling as possible. It shouldn’t be pushy, but it can’t be assumed that the listener will take the next step on his own … so be a leader.
Now let’s take a look at how we’re going to present the content in a compelling manner. After that, we’ll look at an example of how each technique fits within our presentation structure.
1. Stories and anecdotes
The most powerful persuasive content strategy is storytelling and the smart use of anecdote. Besides being highly engaging, stories are the most effective way for people to decide for themselves that what you’re saying is accurate. So, by choosing the right stories, you’re actually pointing people in the direction you desire.
What’s the secret to choosing the right story or anecdote? No matter the subject, the right story is always one way or another about the listeners. Remember that and you’ll become a persuasive spoken-word storyteller.
2. Metaphors, similes, and analogies
Want someone to “get” what you’re saying? How about if you want them to “get it” in a particular way? The key is to get metaphorical by using language that directly compares what you’re explaining to something the listener already understands.
Beyond ensuring comprehension, the strategic use of metaphor or analogy can be highly persuasive. By choosing the right comparison, you can steer people in the direction you want. Positive associations can be created at will, and potential stumbling blocks can be neutralized or reframed.
Mirroring is the ultimate empathy tool. Mirroring is a technique in which you demonstrate that you are a kindred spirit to the listener (it helps immensely if this is authentic). In other words, you’re just like your listeners (or more importantly, you used to be just like them … but now you’re what they want to be thanks to the solution).
This is why your word choice is important even though you’re not “writing.” In that regard, David Ogilvy said it best:
If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.
4. Mind’s eye scenarios
With “mind’s eye scenarios,” you ask the listener to visualize the desired beneficial outcome they hope to achieve, and then tie that desired future projection to your solution using scenarios and results. In other words, this time the subject of the story is literally the listener.
You can prompt someone to imagine what they want, and combine that with various related scenarios and potential outcomes that result from the action they take today. This can be a highly persuasive strategy when your solution is tied into a learning scenario that plays out in the prospect’s mind.
An example of structure paired with technique
All of the above may seem a bit esoteric, so let’s look at how we might do this with a real podcast. Let’s say you’re really passionate about the “location-independent lifestyle” and are actually living that way, and you want to convince people that it’s totally doable for anyone who earns their living online.
Attention: Lead with a mind’s eye scenario that instantly engages the listener and sets up the content that follows:
Imagine you woke this morning in Paris to the smell of rich black coffee and soft warm croissants. No, you’re not on vacation … this is just another regular ol’ day. And last month it was Buenos Aires …
Empathy: You’ve told people what content is coming in the solution section, but before you get to that, tell a personal mirroring story to better connect with listeners:
Two years ago, I thought becoming a world traveler while continuing to earn a living was an impossible dream, especially since I have small children …
Following the “I get how you’re feeling” story, tell the “I’m now where you want to be” story that reinforces that the earlier mind’s eye scenario is achievable:
Well … I really did wake in Paris this morning, and enjoyed that coffee and croissant before getting on the phone with a client. And Buenos Aires was exquisite last month …
Solution: Convincing people they can really do what they want to do can be harder than it seems, especially when fear and doubt are involved. Use plenty of analogies to common and simple tasks to show that your solutions are doable, and augment with success stories of location-independent professionals you personally know:
Many people believe that they’ll never create the location-independent lifestyle for themselves due to all the initial hurdles. But think about things you now take for granted that seemed insurmountable at first. Like driving a car for instance …
Action: What do you want listeners to do next? Ask them to do it … and be confident about it. You’re trying to improve lives, no reason to be apologetic about it.
Use the power of audio to your advantage
Want to know why copywriting and written content can be so difficult?
It’s because you have to find a way to communicate things like enthusiasm, excitement, and sarcasm with static words and punctuation alone. It’s no wonder so many resort to exclamation points, yellow highlighting, and emoticons to make sure people get the point.
When your communication tool is your own voice, it gets much easier. Your inflection, tone, and laughter are naturally apparent, which allows your passion and sincerity to shine in a way that might be lost in text.
You can even “hear” someone smile as they speak, and that’s pretty powerful.
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