With the world watching Obama on inauguration day, it was inevitable that people would carefully analyze his speech from a variety of different angles. But I’m sure not even his young, hotshot speechwriter Jon Favreau (sorry, not Mikey of Swingers fame) foresaw that Obama’s speech would offer some helpful insight into all of our future online content.
With it well known that politicians are the kings and queens of rhetoric, what techniques of theirs can we implement into our own work?
It’s no mystery that any good piece of writing has to hook the audience right away. For Obama, this meant utilizing language that kept us hanging on his every sentence. If-then clauses kept us asking a collective, “If what?” (See a shameless example in this article’s headline.)
In terms of online writing, pose a question in your headline. With all the numerous blog posts and articles out there, there has to be something to set your article apart. And if the headline can already get your audience thinking and asking questions, you have a significant leg up on your competition.
Obama ran his campaign on the premise and the promise that, “Yes, we can.” This implies that “we” are in opposition to “them,” and that these two diametrically opposed groups are engaging in a spirited debate. The natural inclination for anyone interested in the topic is to join that debate.
For all your online writing, don’t forget to utilize this inclination to join a conversation already in progress. The more interaction promoted by your article, the better. If your article has a place for comments, make sure to respond and keep the conversation alive.
People love to feel like they are part of a group. That’s why it’s smart for politicians to use inclusive language. Something as simple as throwing around “our,” “we,” and “us” can create an instant camaraderie among your audience. It’s also smart for politicians to make reference to situations and people that are largely known by that audience, thus making them feel even smarter, cleverer, and even more a part of the group.
This strategic use of in-jokes and inclusive language can foster a similar camaraderie among your online readers.
Politicians have to be particularly careful when they’re addressing an audience, because over the years, their audience has grown increasingly mistrustful of them.
With that in mind, rhetoric is more important than ever—for politicians and bloggers. After all, it’s a pretty fundamental concept in online writing and all other forms of communication that it’s important to know your audience. They will dictate how technical, humorous, or smarmy you can be without alienating, losing, or offending them.
So is there something practical to take from Obama’s inauguration speech? I believe he’d respond with a rousing, “Yes, there is!”