Here's a little follow-up from the session I did yesterday at the North Carolina PRSA Public Relations and Marketing Seminar. (Click here to download the packet)

Gold Standards for opinion and persuasive writing

We came up with "Gold Standards" for opinion and persuasive writing. These are the traits and criteria we want our persuasive and opinion writing to embody:

  1. Has a clear point of view
  2. Includes facts, data, details
  3. Includes a call to action
  4. Connects with audience
  5. Establishes what's in it for me (the reader)
  6. Has an emotional appeal or aspect
  7. Is concise

Click to enlarge. Copyright 1995-2010 Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. Used by permission.

Making it happen

We used the Content-Purpose-Audience Strategy™ (at right) to plan our writing. The CPA is where we begin to meet our criteria. Here's how:

1. Point of view: The MAIN IDEA block helps us establish our point of view when we develop the most important thing we want the readers to know.

2. Facts, data, details: The KEY DETAILS block gives us a chance to  include evidence, examples and explanations that support our premise and give the reader the information they need to know.

3. Call to action: The PURPOSE blocks give us a chance to spell out exactly what we want the audience to think or do after they consume the content. The THINK relates and reinforces the MAIN IDEA.

4. Audience: The AUDIENCE blocks help us focus on the people we're trying to reach, including the questions and objections they might have. This is a great place to figure out the details that will help you connect with them.

5. Relevance: The QUESTIONS block is where you begin to work out the information you need to show the audience what's in it for them. You really bring this home in the CONTENT and PURPOSE blocks, connecting the dots to make your case.

6. Emotions: KEY DETAILS is the best place to make the emotional appeal using an example or anecdote to set the stage. But your word choice and voice also contribute to the emotion of a piece, and those are generally determined by your audience (what terms are appropriate for them?) and your purpose (what will compel them to think or act?).

7. Concision: The entire strategy can help you be more concise because as you work through it, you begin to weed out content that doesn't serve your purpose, main idea or audience's needs. This focus enables you stick to the most important and relevant information, which is the key to staying on point.

As we draft, we find further opportunities to tune up the text to reflect these standards, particularly the "big" stuff like ideas (CONTENT) and actions (PURPOSE). Revision is where we can hone in on things like word choice, voice, concision and emotions.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!