A recent Lewis PR blog post shares insights from a talk given by Jon Favreau, who was until recently, President Obama’s Director of Speechwriting. He shared 5 rules of speech-writing that I think need to be applied not only to important political speeches, but to every piece of content your marketing department produces. I’ve borrowed my headings below directly from the Lewis PR blog. Quotations below are also from that blog post.
1. “The Story Is More Important Than the Words”
Before you start writing, you must know what story you’re trying to sell. Favreau says he would always start by meeting with Obama to talk over what he wanted to say. “The interesting thing about the President is that he always instantly gave the most logical outline of a speech I had ever heard. I was always impressed by his ability to start with clear rhetoric….”
This is important. Understand what you’re trying to get across, why it’s important, and what the key points will be first. Then you can weave in arguments, anecdotes and stories to illustrate or demonstrate the key points.
2. “Keep it Simple”
“Long speeches are the easiest to write. They are also the most forgettable,” Favreau explained.
It takes much more discipline to write something short than to write something long. But shorter pieces are almost always more effective. Your target audience doesn’t have time for long blog posts and won’t remember long speeches.
It’s also important to keep your subject matter simple enough that your audience will find key take-aways that they can remember and share with colleagues.
I like how Favreau says it: “remember that a speech about everything is a speech about nothing. Narrow your story down to the essential point.”
3. “Always Address the Arguments Against Your Position During Your Presentation, Not After”
This isn’t just important in politics. It’s also very valuable in your blog posts, white papers, articles, presentations and other content. Think about the objections your reader might have to what you’re saying. Address them directly.
Here’s Favreau’s approach: “You should find them [objections] and address them during your speech. When Obama was trying to deliver his Health Care Reform Plan in 2009, the most important part of his speech was to find the arguments that the Republicans would think of and contradict them.”
4. “Empathy Is Key”
Just knowing your audience is not enough, Favreau said. “You have to know what the world looks like when you are in their shoes.”
This is why your buyer personas are SO important. Your content will only be effective to the extent that it’s written in a way that the audience can relate to, that demonstrates an understanding of their needs and their problems, and that genuinely tries to help.
5. “There Is No Persuasion Without Inspiration”
According to Favreau “The best way to connect with people is through stories that are important to people’s lives.” Obama’s speeches do this quite well, but it’s just as important for technology marketers. Find the personal stories from your customers. Spend time with them to find out what’s important to them. Listen carefully for the inspiring stories, and weave these into your content. I’m not talking about mindless testimonials. Find meaningful anecdotes that help you connect with your audience – and more importantly, that help them connect with your story.