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Long-form content and the art of persuasion

Long-form content is not only a search darling. It also gives digital marketers options beyond the ubiquitous how-to articles or quick commentaries on local news. With long-form content, brands have a fantastic opportunity to use their digital platforms as a tool for establishing thought leadership and influence.

Like many public relations professionals, I’ve drafted and placed quite a few contributed articles arguing my client’s point of view on a particular issue. Placement in top publications was always (and still is) challenging to get because there’s limited opportunity.

But since most brands are publishers today, it’s much easier to develop and share articles arguing a point of view about issues important to your business. These can appear on your own blog, be pitched to other blogs and online publications, and be used in your traditional PR efforts.

A point-of-view article is a very powerful persuasion tool, but only if it’s expertly crafted. Drafting a long-form article will require content marketers to think and work like journalists and to employ the persuasion skills of public relations professionals. An article designed to influence others will require thorough research to gather supporting evidence and multiple viewpoints.

Here are a few tips from my journalist’s toolkit that will help you build a more persuasive argument.

Be relevant by finding a news hook.

It may not always be possible to take advantage of a hot news story, but publishing your point of view on current news will not only garner more views, it also may generate PR opportunities. For example, a POV article about corporate security practices will get more play after a recent cyber attack makes the news.

Present the facts objectively.

Define the issue and its surrounding debate by clearly describing the problem and the positions of key players. Help your audience understand the facts – all of them. The more complete a picture you paint, the higher your credibility and the stronger your argument will be.

Make your case.

Discuss at least three reasons why you believe what you do, and support them with research and data from independent, trusted, and well-known sources.

Acknowledge the opposing viewpoints.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but ignoring other perspectives will undermine your argument. Instead, provide facts and data that disprove your opponents’ thinking. If they have a valid point, say so.

Conduct primary research.

Don’t limit yourself to a Google search. Find and interview the key players. Field your own survey. Gather data straight from the source. There are several benefits to using journalistic techniques to research a topic. Not only will you uncover new information, you’ll also gather rich stories that can illuminate your point of view.

Know your audience.

As with any communication, you must have a deep understanding of those you’re trying to persuade and the beliefs they hold. This will help you set the appropriate tone and storytelling approach for your article.

Of course, you’ll need to structure your argument so that it sells your point of view. At this point, PR skills come into play. The trick is to waltz up to the line of promotion – but don’t cross it. More on that in future posts.

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