words content emotion engagement

Emotion and Engagement: Why Words Still Matter

Today visual content, especially video, is everywhere. And there’s no denying the influence of great imagery on our emotion and memory: Research shows our ability to recall information jumps from 10% to 65% when it includes a relevant image.

But never underestimate the power of the right language. Not just clever words, but ones that spark emotion. Think back to the novels you read as a child. A well-crafted story would carry you away, ignite your imagination, make you feel.

Whether it’s a speech, a song or a TV sit-com, the ability to make your audience feel something underpins all effective communications. Making your audience feel something is the first step to building connection. And with connection comes familiarity, confidence, trust.

But it’s also important to choose carefully the emotion we want to evoke. A lot of content published today relies on negative language to connect and find common ground. It’s not surprising: historically, studies have shown we’re three times more motivated to avoid something painful or negative, than we are to gain something positive.

The times, they’re a-changing

Yet society’s behaviour is shifting: as the New York Times noted, social media users, who account for around 40% of the global population, are turning away from mass media philosophy (“if it bleeds, it leads”) towards the spread of good news. In fact, good news is now more likely to go viral!

Negative news has a tendency to accumulate in our minds. Once we reach saturation point, we tune out. And that spells bad news for content creators who rely on fear to motivate their audience.

Not all content has to be totally upbeat and positive. That’d be pretty boring! And sometimes we need a little shot of fear to spark action. But often, even industries that traditionally rely on fear to drive sales (eg. insurance) can reposition their content to empower customers and position themselves as a trusted partner, which leads to a better overall experience.

In any communication, the words we use are a key part of the customer experience. And they have an impact on the emotions your customers feel. What they feel affects how they think and act.

So next time you write a piece of content, pay attention to the words you use. Because words really do matter.

For more tips on how to improve your written content, check out our blog post Do your words work?

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