“Do Not Read This Blog Post”

by Meryl K Evans | Category: Blogging, Language, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 2 comments

That’s not a typo in this entry’s title. It must be negative week as I came across two compelling entries on using negativity in writing.

Admitting Weaknesses

I took an superb online writing class from Jeff Sexton, the author of the Accentuate the Negative post. He gave great examples of how showing the downside of a product or service could gain more credibility than one that has nothing but raves.

Remember Avis? “We’re number two, we try harder.”

I’ve been fortunate to work with clients who use my services again. However, I had a client that didn’t work out. When I stopped working for the client, I asked for a testimonial and said that I didn’t expect a positive one. The client chose not to do it.

But it’s understandable as few want to go on public record making a negative statement about someone’s work. I don’t think I could do it as I prescribe with Lyndon B. Johnson’s approach — criticize people in private. I read a story about the former U.S. president who asked a staff member who did something embarrassing aside where he lectured him. I couldn’t find the story — if anyone knows the story, please let me know.

Using Negativity to Create More Clicks

The second entry comes from David Meerman Scott. In Do Not Read This Post (yeah, I read it and stole his headline — actually, doesn’t putting “” around it indicate I’m quoting him?), he discusses the use of “not” and the importance of delivering on the headline. Take care and “Don’t let people think that you really are being negative or exclusionary.”

Exclusivity also increases want. Example: Google’s Gmail. To get an account required receiving an invitation. Somehow Google pulled it off without coming across as “exclusionary.” Though plenty of blogs had comments from those who had not received an invitation feeling left out or not “in the in crowd,” the whole campaign didn’t emit a negative tone.

Like Scott says, have fun with using the negative approach.

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2 comments

  • Posted by Jeff Sexton on October 23rd, 2007, 9:36 AM

    That’s for the trackback, Meryl. Just had a couple of quick comments for you that I thought you and your listeners might like:

    1) You’re right that negative, or at least slightly negative, reviews add credibility to the positive ones, I haven’t seen examples of this in testimonials (though I’m not downing the idea). The difference between reviews and testimonials are that anyone can leave a review, but you have presumably asked for and selected your testimonials. So…if you want to add some credibility enhancing negativity to testimonials you might either:

    a) Call them reviews and install a form where clients can leave unsolicited reviews

    b) Call them testimonials and instead of looking to get a negative testimonial, look to get a testimonial that starts out negative or doubtful and then turns positive. I.E. “I had my doubts about Meryl – she was so expensive and her ideas were crazy – but we hired her, used her crazy ideas, and business went up by 50%! We love you, Meryl”

    By addressing the objections at the start of the testimonial, the happy ending is that much more powerfully persuasive.

    2)The Negativity that works in headlines has to do with our brains “hardwired” inclination to look for problems. But rather than me blabbing about this, I’ll just direct you to the single best primer on headlines I’ve ever come across: Sean D’Souza’s Psycho Headlines. It’s a free PDF he offers when you sign up for his newsletter over at Psychotactics.com. Great stuff.

    -Jeff

  • Posted by Sean D'Souza on May 17th, 2009, 5:13 PM

    What people call negative is not negative at all. Telling a child to look both sides before crossing the street, is not negative. The weatherman telling you to get out your umbrella is not negative.

    It’s just a factor of letting the person/client know of the impending problem or issue.

    Just because it’s a problem, or has the potential to be problem doesn’t make it negative.

    Sean D’Souza´s last blog post… The Role of Get-Rich Quick Merchants

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