This is Your Brain on Creative Copy
By: Ann Wylie, President, Wylie Communications
March 9, 2020
“When should you use humor in a speech?” a young speaker asks an experienced orator.
“Only when you want to get paid,” the veteran answers.
When should you use creative material in your social media messaging?
Only when you want your readers to pay attention.
- Grabs attention.
Meet your Broca’s area—a small part of your brain located in the frontal lobe of your left cerebral hemisphere. It’s your body’s language control center.
You can thank your Broca’s area for helping you sort through the equivalent of 174 newspapers, ads included, that you and everybody else gets bombarded with each day—without having to process every word.
Remember that old Far Side cartoon?
Your Broca’s area is Ginger: not paying much attention to most messages—until something really interesting comes along.
Well-worn phrases like “a rough day” are so familiar they don’t activate your Broca’s area. Plain old ‘splainin’ doesn’t do anything for it either.
Want to cut through the clutter of competing messages? Activate readers’ Broca’s area with wordplay and other creative techniques.
- Keeps that attention longer.
Here’s a finding that will surprise absolutely nobody: Creative sentences encourage reading more than boring ones, according to research by Suzanne Hidi and William Baird.
Hidi and Baird studied creative sentences like these:
- Adult wolves carry food home in their stomachs and bring it up again or regurgitate it for the young cubs to eat—the wolf version of canned baby food.
- Thomas Edison became the most famous inventor of all time even though he left school when he was only 6 years old.
- A canary can also bluff by playing dead. A frightened canary may go limp in someone’s hand.
Here, in contrast, is the first sentence in a recent news release on BusinessWire:
“A leading, clinical-stage natural killer cell-based therapeutics company today announced that the company will be presenting and conducting one-on-one meetings at a number of investment and healthcare conferences in the month of March and April.”
Did you read to the end? Of course not.
And that’s the deal. Creative material keeps attention longer, throughout the passage or article and over time. Indeed:
- Ads with metaphors in the headline get read more completely than those with literal headlines, according to an archival study of 854 ads.
- Newspaper articles using a storytelling structure are more likely to pull readers across the jump than those using the inverted pyramid, according to research by the American Society of News Editors.
- A blog post with a creative lead drew 300% more readers and 520% more reading than one with an abstract lead, according to an A/B test by Groove HQ.
So, want readers to pay attention to your message? Be sure to use creative elements.
Ann Wylie is president of Wylie Communications. She works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. Read more from Ann about making your message more creative here, and get all of Ann’s tips when you subscribe to her email newsletter,
Copyright © 2020 Ann Wylie. All rights reserved.