Writing For Strategic Influence

Today, I'm beginning a new series on the subject of “writing for strategic influence”.

This will be of interest if you want to use the power of persuasive writing to change, improve, expand, and empower your business.

But first, I'll need you to bear with me; it's necessary to explain the ideas behind this new series of articles.

The time has come to move beyond our old models of writing to persuade.

In the world of old media (radio, newspaper, and television) there was a clear distinction between writing that was intended as content, and writing that was intended to be persuasive.

The “content writing” took the form of entertainment, commentary, and news; the “persuasive” forms of writing were self-promotional, advertising, and marketing.

Today, the Internet has fundamentally shifted the way we receive, process, and act upon information. The walls that separated content from marketing have not just been taken down, they have been obliterated.

Michel Fortin has written convincingly about “The Death Of The Sales Letter”. With seemingly prophetic insight, Michel accurately predicted the coming trend that would spell the end of the stunning effectiveness of traditional online “sales letter websites”. They still work-only not nearly as well as they once did. Things have changed. I recommend you read his work on this subject.

Seth Godin writes with equal prescience about the end of what he calls the “TV industrial complex”, and the advent of the “Linchpin” (the essential individual who makes a powerful difference).

These are striking insights into the new world of persuasion and marketing; and I propose to you that they are only partial glimpses of the reality that has already begun to manifest around us.

I propose that far from simply being a different way of delivering persuasive copy, the new “content marketing model” is actually a reflection of something far more significant.

No longer do our customers accept our neatly packaged, carefully honed, isolated messages about our own products and services.

In today's world, our customers (and our prospective customers) are able to see the entire persona of an individual or company with startling accuracy. They can read praise from clients and customers, read articles written by and about the company, and see reviews from actual buyers.

They can also easily identify complaints against a person or company by doing a simple search on the Internet. They can assess how the person or company deals with such complaints. They can read the market’s response to mistakes the person or company may make in the pursuit of their business. In other words, everything is marketing, and marketing is accurate because it’s no longer possible to control it.

Thus it becomes more important than ever to think about the written words we generate, both content and marketing. In fact, my proposal is that we stop thinking about them as two different forms of writing.

I find it more useful to adopt a new paradigm: that of writing for strategic influence. Let me explain…

Let's begin with this tacit assumption: if everything our company (or an individual, if the person is a solopreneur) engages in is in fact visible, transparent, and available for public inspection… gone are the days we could “have a marketing message”.

A new day has arrived. Instead of “having” a marketing message, we must “be” a message.

Every communication we engage in with our customers and our prospective customers should be thought of as simply writing another page in our “book of communication”.

What this means is: we have arrived at a time when accountability is no longer optional, it is simply reality.

We have to think more carefully about everything we say, and everything we do. This is a good thing. It raises the bar for all of us who work in the service of other people (and what is work, or business, if it is not being in the service of other people?).

So if every communication (answering the telephone, handing off a business card, putting out a flyer, a Google ad, a blog post, e-mail, or public talk) is in fact marketing… it becomes necessary to be conscious of what sort of influence we wish to have in the marketplace.

The marketplace is, ultimately, a marketplace of ideas. Spread your idea far and wide, and see it have an impact on the world. Good or ill, time will tell.

Ideas have always been influenced by the written word. Literature has been the medium that molds mindsets. Literature has now expanded and moved off the printed page. Literature now includes blogs, e-mails, and YouTube. Writing happens in all sorts of formats-from essays like this one, to 140 character blurbs on twitter.

It's time to start thinking about what sort of strategic influence we wish to have on the world around us-and how we are going to craft our messages to achieve that influence.

This is “the new copywriting”.

Your life (and your business) is literally an open book. The pages, starting today, are blank, and yours to write. What story will you write?

I can't tell you what your message should be; first, as I have already alluded to, I think you must become your message. Whatever you're selling, you first have to live. That part, I cannot do for you.

The upcoming articles in this series will focus, instead, on the actual techniques you might wish to consider in the process of spreading your ideas through persuasive writing.

To be clear, these techniques will apply whether what you are selling are concepts, products, or services. The techniques we will discuss should be applicable whether the group you wish to influence is your family, your city government, your church, your Board of Directors, or customers and prospects.

I look forward to your feedback.

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.