Give Your Readers Their Lines

By Jessica Albon

Writing newsletter articles the bossy way
Image by jynmeyer.

This is a mildly embarrassing story. But, it fits so well with today’s topic, that I’m going to share it with you anyway.

I was a very, very bossy kid. And I have a younger brother who was very easy to boss around.

He’s two years younger than I am and didn’t talk all that much (he didn’t have to…)

When we would play role playing games (school, for instance), I would *give him his lines*. As in, “Joey, you say, ‘Teacher, how do I do this math problem?’”

(I told you it was embarrassing.)

Your readers have a lot in common with Joey. Generally, they’re not going to talk a lot. They’re just not comfortable jumping right in.

That’s why you want to give them their lines.

I’m not saying you should write in your WordPress website articles, “Reader, you say, ‘I love every issue of this newsletter! When’s the next one going to be in my email box?’”

Rather, when you’re first trying to start a conversation, lead the conversation. Take charge. Make it really, really clear what the “right” answer is for readers so they feel comfortable responding.

So, how do you give readers their lines?

By asking a question that:

  1. Speaks to only a portion of your readers. You certainly can’t keep a conversation going with every reader on your newsletter list at once!
  2. Asks for an opinion or experience. Don’t put readers on the spot or ask a question that they might get “wrong.”
  3. Requires about a paragraph-length response. You don’t want to ask yes or no questions. Nor do you want to ask something that’ll require a lengthy answer.

For instance, you might ask readers, “What’s your favorite way to start a conversation at a networking event?”

This question limits your answering audience to those who attend networking events. It asks for a personal opinion–what’s your favorite. And, it can be answered in two or three sentences.

Your challenge: Brainstorm questions you could ask your readers on your WordPresss website that fit the three criteria above. Post the questions you can think of here in the comments.