Whether you’re writing a book, blogging, or preparing your podcast, there’s a key to winning over your audience.
Writing a book? A blog? Notes for your podcast? Even if you’re not there yet, even if that’s one of your “#goals,” these tips are for you. Maybe you’re:
- writing a memoir hoping to impact people with the life lessons you’ve learned,
- doing a podcast to get followers and referrals for your coaching business, or
- blogging as a therapist so people who can’t afford counseling can get mental wellness advice and strategies they would not otherwise have access to.
In any of those scenarios, it is crucial to answer your reader’s objections.
Why Addressing Your Readers’ Objections is Important
Assuming you’re not just engaging in a journaling exercise for your own benefit—in other words, you want people to pay attention to what you have to say and come back for more—there’s a key objective you must attain in your writing: your audience’s trust.
Here’s a great example: years ago for a college course, I took advantage of an extra-credit opportunity and read a book by investigative journalist Seth Mnookin. That the topic of the book is deeply divisive is . . . an understatement.
Now, I’m a hard sell. I don’t know if that’s due to being the daughter of a salesman whose other two children—my siblings—revel in sales and have spent most of their respective careers selling. Maybe it’s because of jobs I’ve had where I sat near the sales personnel or client reps in my organization. I could hear them glad-handing and cajoling customers and prospects, and that sort of sweet-talking does less than nothing for me.
That plus my general propensity towards mistrust means that no matter how sparkling and shiny the service, product, or argument, I don’t buy anything easy. The harder you try to persuade, the more you argue, the less I’m convinced.
Yet Mnookin managed to convince me of his point of view. In fact, what he did was help me reach my own conclusion on the topic.
How did he do it? He answered my objections. And that’s how he earned my trust.
Trust is Crucial for Building and Keeping Your Audience
At the risk of sounding creepy, I will say that your reader—or listener—should feel like you get him. I certainly felt like Mnookin understood me—or rather, my perspective. He understood that people like me would read the anecdotes he told, the data he analyzed, and the research-based evidence he presented, and would come back with, “Yeah, but what about . . . ?”
I did. At the time I read his book, I didn’t have a strong opinion on the topic (which shall remain nameless), but plenty of my family and friends did. I remember thinking at the end of each chapter: “I see his point, but he still hasn’t considered XYZ.” Or, “That was a good argument, but I can see at least two loopholes in it.”
Chapter by chapter, without ever explicitly acknowledging those objections, Mnookin addressed all but a couple of the most minor ones. I was sold.
Mookin’s writing in this book supports a well-known principle: everyone likes to feel understood. Feeling understood builds trust. And if people don’t trust what you’re saying, they won’t accept it.
Before you write, consider what might get in the way of people accepting your message. Figuring that out and discussing it in your writing will go a long way toward building that trust with your audience. They’ll feel like you’ve gotten inside their head! (Again, not in a creepy way.)
How To Approach Answering Readers’ Objections
So how do you go about doing that?
It’s much less complicated than you might think. Whether you’re a recipe blogger, a podcasting marriage counselor, or a cancer survivor writing your memoir, you’ve personally covered the territory of your topic, whatever it is.
If what you’re communicating has to do with your business, you’ve already run into people’s objections before:
- “I can’t afford it,”
- “That’s not my personality,”
- “I don’t think I need that,”
- “But so-and-so said ________!”
And so forth. You’ve had clients say these things to you, and you’ve heard colleagues discuss them. It’s easy to write those little anecdotes up or pull out scientific evidence that answers whatever obstacle your readers may feel is in their path.
If you’re hoping to convey a lesson via your personal journey, however, this step might be a bit more nuanced. After all, your cancer survival story may differ from someone else’s. You might have had great success with a marketing hack you perfected, but others might have had the same degree of success doing something different.
Either way, there are several ways to get where you need to go.
- Point out those who’ve had different results. If, along your path, you’ve run across other people who handled things differently than you and didn’t have a good outcome, you can point that out. (You may want to change the names of those types of examples or fictionalize other details, though.)
- Use research, surveys, and other evidence-based data. Studies and other science-backed data that support your claims are a great go-to as well, e.g., “Within two weeks of me deciding to work two days a week from home, the communication between me and my husband had vastly improved. This is not surprising: a study by XYZ University shows that people who commute more than 25 minutes one way every day have a higher divorce rate than people with shorter commutes.”
- Generalize your specific experience. Maybe a strategy you used to defeat corporate burnout was scheduling horseback rides or going fishing. These activities may not be for everybody. Instead, you can stress that the reader should find time for an activity that she finds restorative.
- Acknowledge that not everyone’s path is your path. This builds on the previous strategy but goes a step further.
For example, you may have gotten a handle on your household finances by cutting up your credit cards and going cash only, but other people may have managed to take charge of their budget using less drastic steps.
Depending on the topic you’re writing about, other things may come into play: personality, energy levels, disabilities, interests, family/lifestyle, and much more.
This is where humility comes in—is how you did it how everyone has to do it? Your way may be an excellent way, but it is unlikely to be the only way. Spending time thinking about this and finding other people who’ve been successful or experienced something similar to what you’re writing about will give you a broader perspective and ultimately, improve your writing.
(Note two things: 1) that several of these strategies use storytelling. For more on how to use storytelling to win over your readers, check out this post; and 2) some of these strategies apply to non-fiction writing based on professional knowledge as well as writing based on an individual’s story.)
The book I read by Seth Mnookin used most of these strategies. He didn’t always explicitly state the objections he answered, though. Depending on the tone and flow of what you’re writing, you may choose to bring it up: “Now, some of you may be thinking . . .” Then, you address it.
Often, however, you can discuss it indirectly via an experience. For example: “I once had a client who thought vision boards were only for artsy types, which she was not. I helped her figure out how to create a vision board that incorporated lists and bullet points; she found she enjoyed it!”
Also, if you’re using data, you may be able to present and explain the information without acknowledging that it’s directed at an objection someone might have.
However you choose to do it, and whether your readers realize it or not, answering their objections to your message gains you their respect. Your audience will trust you. They will see you as a thoughtful person, someone who understands their perspective, someone worth reading (or listening to).
I don’t know if Mr. Mnookin consciously went through that process or whether it was intuitive.
What I do know is, it worked.