While teaching at Purdue University in the 1930s, professor Alan H. Monroe developed a handy way to organize sales presentations. It was so handy that the approach was eventually coined “The Monroe Motivated Sequence.” Widely used over the years, his sequence provides a proven outline for action and intent—one that any blogger, but especially law bloggers looking for ROI, will find beneficial.
If you are like many blawgers (attorneys blogging about the law) that I speak to, you are probably feeling that the drag between the time invested in writing posts and realizing any return is getting longer—the competition for eyeballs increases daily. I assure you that if you apply the principles—established decades ago by Mr. Monroe—you will not only be helping your readers, you will be helping yourself.
What’s in the box?
In a nutshell, The Monroe Motivated Sequence is a technique for developing persuasive speeches (and other content, arguably blog content) that inspire people to take action. If you watch TV commercials, you’ll see it in all its glory. It is the dominant method used in advertising but can easily be applied to all forms of content marketing such as law blogging. It only involves five, fairly straightforward, steps:
- Attention Step: Induce your audience to want to listen.
- Need Step: Offer a problem that needs to be addressed.
- Satisfaction Step: Offer a solution that will remedy the problem.
- Visualization Step: Show how life will change for the better if the solution is adapted. Or demonstrate what will happen if no steps are taken to solve the problem.
- Action Step: Offer a specific plan for implementing the solution.
Basically, as you write your next post you will walk the reader (prospect/buyer/client/friend) through both rational and emotional steps to clarify the issues and actions that may be taken.
To begin, get the attention of your audience by using a story, a dramatic statistic, a quotation, etc. Next, write something that taps into the psychological need of the audience—this is what motivates action and causes them to read your post to the end. In some cases, you might go beyond establishing that there is a significant problem by suggesting that the need will not go away by itself. Use statistics, examples, charts, illustrations, etc. to convince your audience that not only is this an issue, but also that there are steps for action.
Although some will say that you need to solve the issue in your post, speech or conversation, I disagree. All you really need to do is to provide a viable suggestion of a solution that could be implemented to solve the problem. What you are aiming for is to give readers just enough information that they will want to pick up the phone and pay you for that solution. When appropriate, you might even suggest what could occur if the solution is not implemented. Be visual and add details that lead the reader up to some practical point of action. Offer at least a few ideas of what they might do on their own to solve the problem. Above all, be truthful and sincere. If you are writing about an issue that requires legal counsel, say that. Hopefully they will contact you.
Dominic Spencer, an instructor at the University of Central Florida describes the sequence like this:
Attention: Hey! Listen to me. You have a PROBLEM!
Need: Let me EXPLAIN the problem.
Satisfaction: But, I have a SOLUTION!
Visualization: If we IMPLEMENT my solution, this is what will happen. Or, if we don’t implement my solution, this is what will happen.
Action: You can help me in this specific way. Can you help me?
The advantage of using the Monroe sequence is that it is methodical. It saves time. It works for even the most technical legal blogger. Bonus: Readers will actually read your content when they can quickly understand what’s in it for them. Using the Monroe sequence you lead with the value proposition, what readers stand to gain from reading the post, instead of beating around the bush.
STOP beating around the bush
Many law bloggers open a post with a paragraph spewing technical language such as case cites, decisions, courts, and etc. It may come as a surprise to most attorneys that this is actually NOT the MOST IMPORTANT THING. Au contraire, the most important thing for a busy reader (i.e., executives, general counsel and others) is to be able to quickly identify whether or not reading the full post will be worth their time. If you give them what they want on the front end, you will keep them. They will read through the post, learn something new that you have alerted them to, and call you, or at least subscribe to your blog, which may lead to a trusted relationship to be converted to business.
Is your law blog boring?
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but if you look carefully at your blog’s analytics, not just the traffic but also a drill down to the content stats, you’ll probably find that the average visit duration for most posts is well under a minute. You may have 500 visitors to a 500-word post, but with an average visit duration of 45 seconds it means that visitors are not reading it. They are dropping off. And arguably, it is probably because the post missed the first step: Induce them to listen. If you miss the first step, the rest doesn’t matter and ultimately you’re going to find that the time spent writing the post is rarely equal to the time spent by all visitors to that post. Sure, your title may drive traffic to the post, but when readers see a page of text (no visuals) and a lead paragraph that says “On April 1, 2014, blah, blah, blah, in the Fourth Circuit, blah, blah, blah,” the majority are lost and gone.
Are your blog visitors speed-readers?
It is entirely possible that your blog content has attracted a stable full of speed-readers, but not likely. A 2012 speed-reading test sponsored by Staples as reported in Forbes Magazine, reports that the average adult reads “prose” text at 250 to 300 words per minute. The average “high-level executive” can read 575 wpm and the average college professor, 675 wpm. Speed-readers can do 1,500 words per minute.
So, as mentioned above, if you are getting an average visit duration of less than a minute and your posts are longer than 300 words, guess what? Yes, you’re losing them.
For law bloggers there is an extra layer. It’s not simply about word count. It’s about readability. A post of 300 words may have 50 instances of technical references or jargon that will take three minutes or more to assimilate and comprehend, while a post of 500 words written in plain English may take only a minute. Keep this in mind as you construct your post. Using the Monroe sequence is a safety net, a structured approach to persuasive writing.
I know EXACTLY how long it takes to write a substantive blog post. My own blog here is testimony—I’m down to about one per month. (I spend nearly all my days writing content for clients and the well runs dry.) But when I do write, I want it to make a difference. I want visitors to benefit from my labors, see things in a new light or learn how to do something better. And yes, I want them to call me when they need help.
In order to do that, I have to get them to read the posts. I have to induce them to read. So, I offer a problem to be addressed and typically lead with a story or illustration of that problem. I communicate by demonstrating that I have a horse in the race. I feel their pain—I’m listening to them and tuned into their needs. Only after I establish that connection am I able to help them visualize the problem and show them how it will change things for the better if this or that solution is adopted. Sometimes I can demonstrate what will happen if no steps are taken. Finally, I always try to include a practical offering for implementing a solution on their own. In some cases, the solution is not so easy but I typically suggest where they might go for help—which is not always a straight line to me!
In this case, however, it is. If you need help understanding your analytic data in order to develop an action plan for improving your content and distribution—and ultimately your ROI—contact our team at Law Gravity (lawgravity.com). We’ve been helping others navigate the murky waters of social media and content marketing since 2008. We want to help you too!