So what is the goal of great writing, and how can it change your presentations? Professional writers always have one main goal in mind with everything they write: to transform their audience. Great writers strive to help their audience see through different eyes, act differently, change the way they interact with the world.
Anyone can throw words together and make complete sentences (case in point: most of the blogosphere), but if you want to actually have impact through your writing, you must learn to write for transformation. It's the difference between being merely informative and being compelling and persuasive. There are three simple steps to transformational writing: 1) writing for a specific audience, 2) using the right venue, and 3) choosing and executing the right type of transformation (there are three).
1. Specific Audience
If you want to reach your audience, it’s absolutely crucial that you understand them, get out of your own perspective, and write to their perspective. One of the first things I do with every piece I write is identify my target audience, things such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, location, income level, purchasing habits, hobbies, talents, interests, etc.
When I know who I’m talking to, I’m prepared to custom tailor the message to resonate with them specifically. For example, words such as “revolutionary,” “cutting-edge,” “fresh,” or “in vogue” will more likely resonate with an 18-25 age group, whereas a 60-70 age group will probably have negative reactions to them, who prefer things that are “proven,” “safe,” and “sensible.”
2. The Right Venue
By venue I mean the medium used to convey your message, including such things as magazines, newspapers, journals, books, radio and TV ads, blogs, websites, etc. The venue you choose is, in large part, determined by your audience.
For example, if I’m writing a lengthy article on monetary policy intended for scholars and economists, the best venue is probably a scholarly journal. Few people can stand to read long blocks of meaningful text on a computer screen, I probably won’t have enough space to make my case in most magazines, etc. On the other hand, if my content is concise, simple, and intended for a broad audience, perhaps a newspaper article makes sense.
All of us are exposed to written communications that we skim or ignore, yet if that same message is presented in a venue more palatable to us, we’re much more likely to spend time reading it. Writing for transformation requires utilizing the best venue for our subject matter and audience.
3. The Right Transformation
There are three types of transformations: know, feel, and do. A know transformation seeks to give the readers new information, or old information arranged in a different way, to help them to learn and know things they didn’t know before, in such a way that changes their life and perspective. A feel transformation obviously seeks to evoke strong emotion in the audience, while a do is designed to get an audience to take very specific, immediate, and tangible action.
Amateurs look at this list and try to do all three; professionals focus on one and nail it, because doing so affects the others. How do you want people’s lives to change because they read your message? What do you want to see occur in them? Do you primarily want them to know, feel, or do something? Pick one–yes, just one–and execute it well, and the others will take care of themselves.
If you want your message to actually have impact, you must learn to write for transformation. Know who you’re writing to, use the right venue to reach them, and choose the right transformation and execute it well. After all, transformational writing is the only writing worth reading.