Emotive copy: How to grasp and engage your audience

Emotive copy: How to grasp and engage your audience

Imagine a life with no depth of feeling. No moments of grand elation, and no slate of minor joys. No existential despair or crushing sadness. No nerve-grating annoyance, complex affection, or lingering envy. Just bland neutrality. If you’ve ever suffered from severe depression, perhaps you have some idea of what that’s like. It’s unpleasant in a way that transcends conventional unpleasantness. It’s fundamentally tiresome.

I mention this in relation to copy because there’s a fair chance that your creative content is comparably tiresome. Just as we want our lives to be filled with qualitative meaning, we want the content we read to both convey and evoke emotion — and when it doesn’t, it might as well be indistinct background decoration given its inability to be remembered.

For a brand with any ambition, building a strong audience connection is a top priority, and that certainly requires being memorable. To get ahead, then, you must provide emotive copy that attracts relevant readers and gets them engaged. Here are some tips for getting it done:

Learn what your readers want

Before you can connect with an audience, you need to know as much as possible about it. How do your prospective readers communicate with one another? What topics are they interested in? Are they looking for even-handed commentary or the enthusiastic expression of opinion? 

Never forget that different types of people want different things from the content they consume, and exceptional quality won’t get you very far if you deliver it in the wrong form. Think about someone who truly cannot stand mob stories being told to watch The Sopranos, for instance: they might recognise the genius of its construction, yet fail to engage with it even so.

To better understand your audience, you’ll need to conduct research. Take a look at your social media followers to see what else they do through social media. What posts do they share? What profiles do they follow? You can also reach out to them directly to ask them questions about what they want from your brand (the direct approach is often the best).

Lean on storytelling elements

Through your content, you’re always trying to sell something. Maybe it’s a product you offer, or a service you provide. Perhaps it’s your expertise. It can even be a concept or a point of view. The point is that you want the reader to come away from your content agreeing with your main stance. This is easier said than done, though.

One of the most important parts of really getting someone to engage with your content is including an element of storytelling. In most cases, you’ll want to tell the story of the reader (or a fictional client) going from whatever issue drove them towards you to whatever your solution will achieve for them. This is because stories grab attention like little else. 

I first saw the term “emotional movement” in a guide about how to construct dialogue from Jericho Writers, but it neatly encapsulates what you should be going for here: each part of your narrative should involve emotional development for the protagonist. Here’s a simple example:

Your protagonist wanted to spend more time with their family and eat healthier meals (good), but they have little time and didn’t know where to start (bad). They looked for solutions and found nothing suitable (frustration) — but then they heard good things about your recipe book (hope) and decided to try it (faith). As it happens, the recipes they’ve used are perfect (happiness), and they’re looking forward to trying even more of them (excitement).

By telling stories through your content, you can draw people in much more easily, and entertain and inform them so much more powerfully than could be managed through any other approach.

Show personality and fallibility

Copywriters in the business realm can easily fall into the habit of being very hesitant with their writing — always eager to come across as resolutely professional. This is a huge mistake. The appearance of professionalism doesn’t demand a clumsy lack of contractions or the use of buzzword-adjacent terminology. It merely demands quality: a lack of glaring typos, a consistency in style, and an evident awareness of the underlying issues.

This means that you can (and should) stop worrying so much about attracting mockery or criticism for doing things like including personal anecdotes or admitting company mistakes. Showing personality in your copy is a great thing (HubSpot has some tips on this), because it demonstrates your feelings, humanises your company, and makes people want to support you.

If you’re not entirely sure how to do this, imagine yourself talking excitedly about your company to a new friend unfamiliar with it. That’s the kind of tone you should be going for. Write what you’d speak on your most eloquent day, and you’ll end up with smooth and natural-sounding content that’s capable of gaining and keeping a lot of attention.

Use imagery (where appropriate)

Images are excellent at conveying emotion, and while we are talking about copy here, imagery is as relevant to copy as illustrations are to many books. Sometimes you can’t express something with adequate force through words alone, so you need some kind of visual accompaniment that pushes people to feel.

Take charity content as an example: charities need to drive donations, something they can only do with any consistency if they focus on emotion, yet simply talking about children in poverty will never have the potency of a photo of children in poverty. You can also look at the inclusivity campaigns that have popped up in recent years: it’s one thing to discuss the importance of representation, but it’s another entirely to actually depict it.

In addition to including impactful images where useful, you can also use emojis and GIFs — though be very careful, because you can easily overdo it. Plenty of companies now overload their posts with generic GIFs and come across as rather desperate. Use them sparingly to accessorise your primary points, and they’ll be far more meaningful.

Each of the tactics we’ve looked at here has something to offer when you’re trying to create powerful emotive copy, but there’s one other thing you need to get ahead — and that’s passion. If you don’t care about what you’re doing (and what you’re writing about), then your content will always be somewhat lacking.

If you don’t feel that passion, then maybe you’re working in the wrong field — or perhaps you’re simply worn down. Look after yourself first, and do what you can to rediscover your enthusiasm: the more you feel, the more you can inspire your readers to feel.

About the Author

Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer at MicroStartups; offering articles full of expert marketing tips and trips for new business owners. Go and check them out!

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