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by Kimberly Blaker
Blogger & Freelance Writer for Hire
Engage and Compel blog

 

A blog on how to engage audiences and drive

them to action

 

One of the biggest hurdles most businesses, professionals, and writers face today is retaining reader attention long enough to convert or compel them to action. The results of a 2015 study by Microsoft Corp. found attention spans have plunged by approximately 33% since the turn of the millennium.

write engagingly to hold reader attention

To be exact, the average attention span is now a mere 8 seconds. As older generations pass away, it’s likely this average will decline further. So businesses, non-profits, and professionals need to take heed.

Blog do-over, or how not to make my mistake

I was reminded how crucial it is to gain reader attention quickly after recently rolling out a new blog. I wanted to provide something of value for free to my visitors and clients. After brainstorming I narrowed it down to two blog ideas. There was Engage and Compel, which is this new blog on how to write engagingly and persuasively. But instead, I chose Digital Age Writing, which would cover the evolution of writing and grammar in the 21st century.

I should have thought it through and asked myself: how many in my target audience really want to study grammar? On a good day, maybe one in a hundred? I was also quickly reminded that even writing about grammar is boring with a capital ‘B’.

Still, I might have overcome the boring factor for some readers if I’d incorporated more elements that make writing engaging and compelling. But out of my own lack of enthusiasm for the topic, I failed to put forth the effort I normally pour into my writing. Though even if I had, reading and learning about grammar would appeal only to a small percentage of my clients. Which brings me back to what should have been my first choice for a blog, Engage and Compel.

Lessons for you and me

So what lessons can we take from this? First, write on topics that interest you and you feel passionate about whenever possible. Your enthusiasm will shine through to your readers, which in itself will make it more engaging and compelling. This is especially important if it’s your own blog.

Don't let this be your audience! Write engagingly and compellingly.
Don’t let this be your audience! Write engagingly and compellingly.

If you’re getting paid to write, you may not have that choice. But that’s a whole different ball game anyway. If you’re like me, as a professional freelance writer, the money you earn and your desire to attain more work from a client is always an amazing incentive to put your heart and soul into a topic that isn’t at the top of your list.

Second, you’ve got to write engagingly and compellingly every time regardless of whether you love the topic or not. Otherwise, you’re wasting your valuable time and effort. And I promise, in the age of minute attention spans, visitors won’t give you a moment of their time to waste.

Best things for you are yet to come

Before you begin to wonder if I have anything of real value to offer you, hang in there for just a little longer. I’m going to tell you how Engage and Compel can help you keep your readers focused, compel them to action, and have them coming back for more.

Not only that, I’m going to provide you proof of my ability to engage and persuade at the end of this post – and you’ll see I’ve done it in some big and exciting ways. I’m not telling you this to toot my horn. Rather, I want you to know I’m going to bring value to you in my weekly blog. Equally important, I want you to realize the great potential for yourself once you’ve mastered the art of persuasion.

What’s in store for you?

I won’t lie. I do intend to incorporate very brief grammar lessons in some of my posts. I’ll tell you why shortly and how it applies to being able to write engagingly. But Engage and Compel will have a much greater scope than grammar. In fact, the main theme of this blog will be specifically on techniques you can incorporate into your writing to create compelling and engaging copy for a broad range of mediums.

I’m truly excited about helping you with this. Without a doubt, this blog beats the humdrum of an all-grammar related blog. I know it’s going to be really fun because persuasive writing is my favorite form of writing. Not to mention, I’m really good at it, too. But most importantly, it’s going to bring great value to you.

Whether you want to sell the public on an idea (or ideal) or sell your services or products, I’m going to teach you the ropes.

The fun stuff

In Engage and Compel, you’re going to discover the many important elements to writing engagingly and compellingly. This is where the fun begins because you get to dig deeper into people’s psyches; use your creativity; hone your skills; and ultimately, produce material that grabs and retains readers. In my blog posts, I’ll cover the following as they apply to compelling and engaging writing.

  • voice

  • tone

  • rhythm

  • variety

  • clarity

  • emphasis

  • vocabulary

  • imagery

  • sentence structure

  • titles

  • story telling

  • first draft

  • editing and revising

  • strategy

  • angle

  • content length

  • use of images or video

  • formatting

  • reader attention and expectations

  • forms of media

  • research and resources

  • documentation

  • writing tools

  • your expertise

  • social media

  • knowing your audience

  • demographics & psychographics
  • connecting with readers

  • brainstorming

  • touching readers emotions

  • analogies and metaphors

  • urgency

  • call to action

And there’s so much more. But I won’t overwhelm you. I promise to bring this to you in thorough yet digestible chunks.

It’s the “g” word

I’m sure you’ve already guessed it – grammar. Are you groaning yet? Well, I promise this will only be a very small part of what I bring to you each week. Learning to write engagingly and compellingly means applying good spelling and grammar. That’s because it’s hard for most readers to take someone seriously when misspellings abound. Equally problematic for readers are awkward sentences that require multiple readings to understand and choppy or confusing writing resulting from a lack of transition words. But I’ll serve this to you in tiny bites. That way you’re more likely to retain it and incorporate it into your writing. I swear, it’ll be well worth the reward once you see the transformation in your writing.

These are some of the areas of grammar I’ll address in my blog.

  • words

  • spelling

  • punctuation

  • formality

  • sentence structure

  • semantics

See now. It really isn’t that bad after all.

If you write engagingly and compellingly, these exciting stories could be yours

Now for the proof I promised you. Though this section is about a few of my big accomplishments as a result of my ability to write engagingly and compellingly, in a sense, it’s also about you. How is that? First, I want you to know the experience I bring when it comes to the power of persuasive writing and how I can teach you these same skills.

Second,

I want you to envision yourself achieving similar results.

I want to inspire the confidence in you that you’ll soon have all the tools under your belt. If you want to change hearts and minds with your writing or sell your products and services, you’ll have the know-how to do it.

So let me begin with a brief summary of my professional writing background. I’ve written more than 100 articles and commentaries that have appeared in well over 250 print and digital publications. But actually, because many magazines I work with are regulars, I’ve actually been published in excess of 500 times. I’ve also done a lot of other writing ranging from business and non-profit writing to authoring a book.

But without further adieu, here is some of the really good stuff that’s resulted from my ability to write engagingly and persuasively. I’ll highlight only a few though, lest I risk losing your attention – and you – altogether.

Maybe it wasn’t Shark Tank, but –

Long before I became a professional writer, at the mere age of 26, I wanted to start a business. So I wrote a thorough and persuasive business plan seeking an investor (not a lender) for $25,000. Not to give away my age, but according to inflation calculators that equates to $46,750 today.

Now, if you watch Shark Tank, you might think obtaining an investor is relatively simple. That’s because on Shark Tank potential investees have already been vetted. In real life, it isn’t that simple or likely especially for a business that doesn’t yet exist and has no track record. But because I had devised and written such a convincing business plan, I obtained an investor.

All it takes is one compelling writer

Now let me jump just a few years ahead. I became a social advocate and activist on a number of social and political issues. During this time, I wrote persuasive letters to several local government and school bodies requesting they cease a variety of long-held practices that were in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. Given the amount of public support these practices had, the likelihood of change was slim. But because my letters were so compelling, several of these bodies did cease their beloved, yet unconstitutional practices.

Endorsements by world renowned authorities

A couple years later, I became a professional freelance writer. I also originated, co-authored, and edited my first book, an exposé titled The Fundamentals of Extremism. The problem though, I was a first-time author and needed some really good endorsements to give my book an edge.

So I persuasively wrote to several authorities from whom I really only dreamed of receiving endorsements.

I was a complete stranger to these authorities, a couple of whom were international celebrities.

Well, not only did they read my book, but every single one wrote a raving endorsement of my engaging and compelling book. You’ve likely even heard of one or both of them:

  • John Shelby Spong, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church, who’s best-selling books have sold more than a million copies.

  • Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, ethologist, and first Simonyi professor of public understanding of science at Oxford. His books have sold several million copies.

Legislation rises from the dead

If I’ve already bored you to tears, feel free to drop down below and sign up for notification of my future instructive posts, so you too can learn how to engagingly and compellingly.

But this is the last one, I promise!

One of my more recent examples is very close to my heart on account of my son having schizoaffective disorder, a serious mental illness (SMI). In 2015, I became an advocate to help

reform America’s broken mental health care system for those with SMI. Many advocates of this reform, much to their credit, had dedicated substantial time and effort over the years toward bringing needed change. But in an uphill battle, they had eventually lost hope, energy, and momentum. 

So I created several efforts to move the bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR2646) through congress. With the power of the pen, I caught the group of 200+ advocates on fire and led them through these efforts.

I also wrote persuasive articles, web content, and social media posts to garner public support. In addition, I created a family stories packet and wrote a compelling letter to congress, which was mailed by advocates to all 530+ U.S. House and Senate members.

As a result, we succeeded in pushing the nearly dead HR2646 through the committee in which it had stalled. Many of the monumental measures of this bill became the mental health care portion of the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in December 2016. I’ve been credited by these advocates as playing an instrumental role in this long overdue victory.

It’s your turn now

Please feel free to share your comments about this post at the bottom of the page. I only ask you to stick to the topics of this blog, be respectful of others, and refrain from profanity.

If there’s a particular topic you think would be of value to my readers or have other unrelated questions or suggestions, write me at kimberlyblaker@kimberlyblaker.com

Also, if you think others might find my new blog useful, I hope you’ll share it.

Engage and Compel: How to Engage Audiences and Drive Them to Action

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