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Positive Anticipation

Posted on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 10:15 AM

Tips on how to include the emotion of anticipation in your publication.

By Pat Friesen

Do you anticipate receiving birthday cards, leaving on vacation, or heading out the door on Friday afternoon? Of course you do.

Anticipation is a wonderful emotion. It literally has us looking forward, not backward, focusing on the possibility of good things to come.

Creating anticipation is a worthwhile job for all writers, designers, and editors whether they're creating content for traditional print or for digital media. Here's why this emotion is so important: anticipation leads to reader engagement.

What are you doing to build anticipation with your readers? My own work is in direct response copywriting. I'd like to share with you some of the techniques I've used. They may suggest some ideas for things you could do in your own publication.

Tips to Try

Helpful hints. These are what made Heloise famous and her column highly successful. So take this tip and create a regular column in your publication that offers helpful hints. Readers will look forward to each successive column. You'll delight readers with this and they'll await future issues with positive anticipation.

Looking for resolution. When you do an Internet search, and land on a website, what are you anticipating? Nine times out of ten, you're looking for the answer to a question or solution to a problem. Can your publication offer readers solutions to problems that they face? Let them anticipate finding resolutions regularly in your pages. Give them content that will quickly provide what they are looking for or will point them in the right direction.

Familiarity feeds expectation. It makes my day to see the familiar words Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letter in the from line of my email inbox. I always look forward to reading what artist Genn has to say. Likewise, your readers will look forward to receiving issues with content from people they know and trust.

Pre-announcements. In marketing, tests show that advance announcement messages significantly increase response, as much as 30 to 40 percent. Try this technique with your publication. You can use a prior issue, your website, or email. See for yourself how pre-announcement will leave your readers watching for that upcoming feature.

Create that special feeling. Use words and phrases like "exclusive," and "just for readers of... " to make your reader feel extra-special. They create anticipation by suggesting your reader is about to have a unique experience unavailable to the general public.

Hook 'em on a series. My last tip is to use a highly interesting article series to build anticipation. Here's an example of the underlying concept. Every week, I drive though the Flint Hills of Kansas. Just outside Lehigh, there's a sign at a farm that changes daily. The copy is always short -- just two words. Early in the season it changes from Just Planted to Now Sprouting, then Not Yet. After that, it shifts to one of these: None Today, Ready Now, Darn Rabbits, or Bumper Crop. I suspect that your article series will be more wordy, but you get the idea.

I only stopped once to buy that farmer's sweet corn. Just as I did, they changed the sign. It read Sold Out. Oh, well. But, you can see that the series concept worked!

Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter and creative strategist, writing for online and traditional media. She can be reached at 913-341-1211, pat@patfriesen.com, or at www.patfriesen.com.

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