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Using Psychology to Write Better Long-Form Content

Writing a memorable lead for your long-form content can be difficult. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just gaze into your readers’ minds and figure out what tends to stick with them?

You probably won’t develop Professor X-like powers anytime soon, but you can use the powers of psychology to create an opening paragraph scientifically proven to be more memorable. Many content marketers already use psychology to appeal to their readers with short, provocative headlines and an easy-to-skim structure, but those are just the tip of the FMRI-ceberg.

Unbeknownst to you, I just used five brain hacks to write just the kind of lead I’m talking about. And while a magician may never reveal their secrets, an editor with a psychology degree just might.

Related: Dive into more ways to create compelling content on our blog.

1. The Verbatim Effect

People remember the gist of a conversation more easily than a word-for-word account of what was said. I could have hit you with a stat right off the bat: Fifty-five percent of readers abandon a webpage in the first 15 seconds, for example. But instead, I gave you the general idea: Grabbing readers’ attention in your lead so they will remember it later is hard, and you need to capitalize on psychology to do it.

When introducing your long-form content piece, lay out your message and takeaways clearly and concisely without getting caught up in the nitty-gritty right off the bat. Even if a statistic seems integral to your message, the likelihood that your audience will remember it is lower than the likelihood that they remember the general trend it indicates. Set them up for success by giving them the big picture up front, and dazzle them with an impressive stat or detail once they’re already in. See above.

2. The Humor Effect

Of the details in my intro, which are easiest to recall? Chances are the Professor X reference or FMRI pun come to mind. That’s because starting with humor, if it is appropriate to your audience, adds memorability and energy to your work.

Funny is interesting, which is why we are more likely to pay attention when something’s funny. When the brain uses more effort to break down the joke, it makes it easier to remember. Scientifically speaking.

3. Social Proof

If you’re reading this, you’re probably either my mom or you have some stake in content marketing and want to know what other people in the field are doing to succeed. So I led by telling you: They’re using psychology to better their writing skills.

When I did that, I touched on your desire to emulate people in a group you belong to. Your brain will remember that. Humans tend to conform to the groups we associate with, and you can use this connective thinking to your advantage by referencing the social and professional groups your audience is a member of early on in your content. For example, mentioning that employees in the finance industry use your product or services can further engage others from that industry who may consider doing the same.

4. The Fluency Heuristic

Do you remember the opening paragraph of your employment contract? How about the introduction to the last textbook you read? Probably not. They’re too dense, and it takes your brain a lot of effort to parse through the complex language that composes them. I presented my topic to you with simple, jargon-free sentences because it’s easier for your brain to understand, and your brain likes that.

Edit your opening paragraph word by word and sentence by sentence to ensure your long-form content contains reader-friendly language. For more complicated topics, add more subheads, bulleted lists, and short topics to help pace your reader.

5. The Primacy and Recency Effect

Engaging your reader is not only about knowing what to do but also knowing where to do it. I placed each of the above four techniques in my introduction because the brain remembers the first and last items of a series better than those in the middle. This means readers will recall your introduction and conclusion more easily than your body paragraphs simply because of where they are in relation to your other paragraphs.

You can apply these principles to your content’s conclusion as well; just be weary of redundancy, instead using them to craft a conclusion built on consumable, compelling messages that sum up your content and leave the reader with a good feeling about your business.

Making a memorable first impression in your long-form content is a lot liking making one in person. Be funny, convey your message clearly and concisely, appeal to group loyalties, and don’t get too bogged down in the minutia. People will remember you for it.

For more information on how to create engaging content, visit our blog.