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Lessons From Aristotle: How to Write Persuasively and Build Your Personal Brand

From Jay Harrington writing for Attorney at Work…Here’s how to use Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals — ethos, pathos and logos — to be truly persuasive in your writing.

In my work as a marketing consultant for law firms, few questions are posed more frequently than this: How can we write more persuasive, effective content for our website?

This is an age-old question in legal marketing, and the answer is even older. Persuasive writing follows a path laid thousands of years ago by Aristotle, the original master of persuasion.

Aristotle’s insight, which has as much relevance today as it did for the ancient Greeks, was that content that connects is structured according to the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos and logos.

Ethos relates to one’s credibility and expertise. To persuade through content, it’s important to establish that you’re credible. Ethos builds trust by demonstrating one’s integrity and competency.

Why it’s important. Today, consumers of legal services — from individuals to large corporate entities — are online, in control, with access to more information than ever. They’re not accepting claims at face value or blindly heeding someone else’s referral. They’re searching, reading and validating, in the process of attempting to identify a particular type of expertise to help solve the particular problem they’re facing.

They’re not buying hyperbolic and unsubstantiated claims and, as a result, not buying from those who make them. They’re merely one click away from a better solution.

Putting ethos into action. When writing a bio, blog post or practice area description, replace bald assertions about your expertise and credibility (“trustworthy,” “skilled,” “experienced”) and instead provide examples that allow your readers to draw these conclusions about you on their own. Testimonials, case studies and other objective examples of prior experience help accomplish that objective.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen, 92% of consumers are more likely to trust nonpaid recommendations than any other form of marketing and advertising. Just as in the courtroom, for every claim you make in your content, back it up with some persuasive evidence (preferably testimony from others who know, like and trust you).

The jury (your reader) is watching closely.  For the rest, click here.

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