Mark Twain said the difference between the right word and the almost right word is “the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Twain had an incredible knack for nicely summing it all up, didn’t he?
The value of your content and/or your offer is what ultimately matters. And yet the words you use to demonstrate that value and present that offer will determine to what degree people take action.
The goal of this post is to give you some examples of words that bring the lightning. And by lightning I mean words that invoke and engage emotion.
Of course, these words work exceptionally well in written copy, too. But with multimedia content, you’ve got a lot more electricity to draw upon.
With audio, you’ve got the enthusiasm and emphasis that comes from your voice inflection and tone. And with video, the power of relevant visuals to enhance your message should not be underestimated from a psychological standpoint.
There are way more emotional trigger words and phrases than the examples I list here. And there are many more categories of emotion to tap into. My hope is to simply get you thinking about word choice, regardless of content format.
Let’s get started.
Health and Hope
They say if you don’t have your health, you’ve got very little. And health as a metaphor also works for all sorts of other areas outside of the realm of mental and physical wellness, such as relationships and businesses.
Likewise, if you don’t have hope, life is bleak indeed. The desire to believe that things will be better in the future is a primary motivator for action, recently exemplified as a core theme of the Barack Obama campaign for U.S.
Anger and Frustration
Let’s face it, a lot of people are pissed off about a lot of things, and empathizing with that anger while simultaneously engaging it is very powerful. You don’t provoke anger for anger’s sake though; you do it to create an identification with your solution that ends the anger and moves people to a more positive emotional state.
Tapping into the frustration your audience feels can be incredibly actionable. After all, frustration stems from the inability to solve a problem. If you have a real solution, identifying with the frustration first intensifies the immediate desire for that solution.
Betrayal and Revenge
The word betrayal itself is a powerful emotional trigger word. As a theme, it powers Shakespeare’s most powerful works, and runs repeatedly though current headlines regarding the economy, Wall Street, Big Pharma, and on and on.
Revenge is the desire that results from betrayal, and it’s so powerful because revenge connotes action. The action you want people to take, however, is more along the lines of “living well is the best revenge,” not something ugly or destructive (unless you’re selling something ugly or destructive, but that’s your issue).
Turn the tables
The Forbidden and the Powerless
The power of the forbidden is why banning books to prevent exposure to the ideas in them is a stupid strategy. It’s why we’re drawn to secrets and why Adam took the apple from Eve. In a nutshell, we want what we can’t have (or what we’re told we shouldn’t have), and respond favorably to a solution or promise that we can now have it.
Powerlessness is frustration taken to the extreme, and we’ve all felt it. Beyond that which is forbidden, we feel a solution is literally unattainable. Beyond anger, we feel intense resentment. The ability to empathize with and empower those who feel this way makes you a hero.
Passion and Urgency
When your audience is passionate about what you have to say or sell, there’s no need to convince them of need, it’s all about want. Beyond attaining the objects of our desire, we love to experience excitement along the way. So don’t take passion for granted; enhance it!
It’s not enough to make someone want to do something, you’ve often got to get them to take immediate action if they’re to take action at all. A sense of urgency is an emotional response that can range from fear of loss to unbridled enthusiasm, and one way or another you’ve got to create it at your close.
Before you forget…
While it’s fresh on your mind…
The Power of the Right Words
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is determined by the level of emotional identification that word prompts. In other words, the right emotional trigger words take the same basic message to all new heights. Don’t settle for lightning bugs on a clear summer night when you could be shooting for the stars.