How to Use Pathos to Maximize Your Reach 

Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for more prompts every Thursday!

We’ve talked about ethos, pathos, and logos a lot in school. In my college philosophy course, there was an entire unit devoted to them. What I’ve learned since then is that these three concepts are HUGE in the marketing world. To get people hooked, to draw them in, you have to give them something they want–to appeal to something inside them that incites that index finger to smash that clicky mouse button.

For most of my posts, pathos tends to be the most effective of the three tools. I toss this up to content creation and writing being very emotionally driven activities, so my most successful posts tend to make the audience feel something (whether it’s great, good, bad, awful, or a little bit of everything instead of just the typical pathos concepts of pity or sorrow).

Now, a lot of my personal blog traffic comes from Pinterest and other image-heavy social media outlets. That said, I have to not only tailor my content to be verbally interesting, but my images as well (which I discuss in Why You Need Featured Images For Your Blog Posts).

Sometimes, I use a photo that corresponds with the prompt or article’s concept (like the one attached to this article that likely led you here), but other times a solid black or white background with the text is just as effective. In that regard, I’d encourage you to play around with design and typography to see what works, while keeping in mind that if something wouldn’t catch your attention, it probably won’t catch anyone else’s.

But I digress.

While you’re experimenting, take note of how different images succeed or fail, and try to identify themes. I do this with my content by monitoring individual blog post traffic (which ones get the most like/comments/views) and by monitoring my Pinterest pins (which ones get the most likes/repins/tries and how quickly they grow over time).

This kind of research tells me exactly what my audience likes, so I can focus on making applicable content for them. This process also helps me stay engaged with that audience, which is crucial to success. If something absolutely does not work for someone, I want to know why and–more importantly–how I can fix it in the future. If something is the most amazing thing someone has ever seen, I want to know that, too, so I can continue to produce interesting and useful content.

By keeping up with each post and pin, I am able to assume five things:

  1. Images with photos are not very successful on their own,
  2. Images with plain backgrounds and contrasting text are highly effective,
  3. Thrilling/suspenseful prompts are more successful than abstract concepts,
  4. Shorter prompts are better received,
  5. Fantasy prompts are a clear favorite.

These exact points might not translate to everyone, but they’re the kind of insights I have gained and encourage you to try to gain. It’s clear from these points that the people in my audience are drawn to more jarring, emotionally-laden prompts, so that is what I have been trying to deliver via pathos-inspiring prompts.

Perhaps your audience wants great money-saving tips like in Making Cents of Sense, or perhaps they want fashion advice à la Writes Like A Girl. These ladies have figured out what attracts their audience, and mastered delivering that kind of content.

And you can, too.

Start with an idea. Does it stir up something in you? Call you to action? Make you want to grab your notebook/sketchbook/etc.?

If it doesn’t, move on until you find something that does.

If it does, use it. Push its boundaries. Flesh it out into something you’re satisfied with.

Creative types are generally driven by our desires. If you make something that creates a longing in you, chances are it will create a similar longing in someone else. This is true for blog posts, stories, poems, artwork, and so much more. Share it, but if it falls flat, try to figure out why. Then, use that knowledge to try something a little different, and keep the cycle going until you hit your goal.

Have some writing tips & tricks you’d like to share or see discussed in future posts? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out our other Tips & Tricks articles:

Find Your Tribe 1

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Hello & welcome! I'm Gretchen and I love to write. I'm a self-published author, longtime blogger, electrician's wife, and mom of two from Central Texas. I've been writing since I could hold a pencil & now I want to inspire YOU! So grab a cup of coffee, cozy up with your notebook, and START YOUR STORY!

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