3 steps to persuasive writing for executives

3 steps to persuasive writing for executives

As an executive, you must constantly persuade clients, C-suite colleagues, employees and others to see things your way.

Today, with fewer face-to-face meetings, much of this influencing takes place through email or other written channels. Your ability to win over readers—especially employees—with the right words has become more critical.

But doing so can add fuel to your emails and related communication. It can also enhance your success as a leader.

Persuasive writing for executives

Three keys to persuasive executive writing

1. Address their “WIIFM” in the subject line

Don’t wait until the opening of your email to tell someone “what’s in it for me?” (WIIFM). Because if the subject line doesn’t clue them into why they should care, they may not read the rest of your message.

For example, if you want the staff to check out your new benefit plan, don’t just convey the features. Highlight the one you believe will most likely appeal to the typical employee and succinctly convey this feature in the subject line.

Compare these two subject lines:

New benefit plan features

More engaging, addressing specific WIIFM
Flexible paid time off on the way

2. Tap the reader’s emotions

In many cases, you need to appeal to a person’s emotions like pride, inspiration or joy to engage them. For example, you may be ecstatic about your organization’s outstanding year-end achievements. But many employees won’t reap much satisfaction from this positive news. You need to give them a reason to care. Appeal to their pride. Credit them for these accomplishments.

Compare these two subject lines:

No credit to the staff

A year of resounding success!

I’m thrilled to tell you about some of XYZ’s outstanding accomplishments this year. Our success is the result of teamwork throughout the organization. We seamlessly adapted to a new leadership structure and enterprise technology. I am proud to work here. I hope you are too!

Credits the employees

An exceptional year—YOU made it happen!

Thanks for your role in paving XYZ’s path to success this year! Your ability to seamlessly adapt to our new leadership structure and enterprise technology helped make this happen. I’m proud of you!

3. Don’t tell—show!

However, just telling your audience isn’t enough. Say you’re driving down the highway on a hot summer day and see a billboard that reads, “Best Ice Cream in Ohio.” Will you believe it? Probably not. To persuade someone to take action—to stop and enjoy—you need to show them why the ice cream is special. How about a dynamic excerpt from a favorable review? Or a summary of results from a customer survey?

Compare these two emails trying to convince employees that their feedback on the new software is welcome:

All tell—no show

After researching several new budgeting software programs, we’re launching the ABC system, so please start using it by June. 1. Your feedback is welcome.

Shows—with evidence and empathy for users

After researching several budgeting software programs, we believe the ABC system will reduce your data entry time by 20% in the first six months. We’ll launch the system June 1. Let us know of any start-up or compatibility issues so we can make immediate adjustments to ensure the software suits your needs.

Persuading employees and other stakeholders will always be tough. You need to continually put yourself in their shoes and figure out how to create messages that resonate with your readers—and engage them as quickly as possible.

About the author

Jack E. Appleman, APR, is a well-known PR/business writing instructor and coach.

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