How to Grab Attention and Win Readers Over with a Trick You Learned in Second Grade

A stack of notebook with an apple on top and pen holder with pencils inside and blue backpack

brand marketing with a trick you learned in Second GradeWhat’s worse than having an important message to share, spending hours writing it and polishing it up, and then having your audience ignore it? Not much.

It’s frustrating. You devote time and effort to crafting a masterful written message. You share it with the world. You watch as no one even glances at it.

How can you make them look?

A couple of weeks ago I talked about how design adds a layer of performance to your message.

Today I want to talk about a specific task you should incorporate into your written communication.

As the headline infers, you already know how to do this. That doesn’t make it easy. It means extra work and time spent on your writing projects. But the effort will be worth it.

When done right, this extra effort makes the difference between words that lay there on the page, ignored and forgotten, and a message that makes an impact.

Show and tell

Remember Show and Tell? If you went to grade school in the US, you probably do.

Students are invited to stand in front of their classmates and tell a story. They bring some kind of prop to illustrate their story — an object that adds meaning to their words. It’s storytelling and public speaking experience rolled into one.

To double the impact of your message, use the Show and Tell method. Find an image that enhances your words and adds a layer of meaning to them. Tell your viewers what you want to say with words, and show them the feeling behind your words with images.

Provoke a response

Images — whether they’re photos or illustrations — add a layer of meaning. They provoke emotions that complement your verbal communication. They can make the viewer feel:

  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Entertained
  • Moved to action
  • Joyful
  • Informed
  • Peaceful
  • Inspired

What to look For

When searching for that perfect image, look for interesting angles, well-lit subjects and natural poses.

Avoid cheesy stock photography that is so posed and perfect it becomes generic.

Use online photo manipulation software like (that’s my affiliate link, btw) to crop, re-size and retouch your images.

Think about what emotion or reaction you’d like to provoke, and look for an image that communicates that.

How about you? Do you enjoy adding images to your writing? Any tips you’d like to share? Tell me in the comments.

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson coaches people to build profitable online businesses. She's an online educator, author, and keynote speaker. Read reviews of the tools used to run this site and business. Have you taken the free Focus Finder quiz yet?

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18 thoughts on “How to Grab Attention and Win Readers Over with a Trick You Learned in Second Grade”

  1. Let me turn that around a bit. I enjoy adding writing to my images. That’s how I do my show-and-tell.

    Writing has always been a challenge for me. I find it so much easier to take photos. To make things easier for myself I select a few images that have a theme or technical problem and then I write about them. There’s usually some photo lesson in there somewhere.

  2. Hi Pamela
    I so enjoy getting your emails! Your advice is always on target, conscise and achievable:)) I forget now how I discovered you, but so glad I did!

    I’m a painter, so the words complete the picture, so to speak. I find one is always stronger with the other. I love doing both. I think my audience has grown to love the way the stories unfold in both painting and words:))

    Image has extreme impact, no doubt about it!
    Excellent post.


  3. Thanks for this Pamela. Adds more fuel to my fire with some of my local clients. Recently, a client told me that he wanted to take his own pictures for his site. What I got back made me almost cry … too many shadows, not enough angles – yuck. I went back out with my camera and retook the shots at the perfect time of day.
    Thinking of making it a mandate with my local clients that I will take their photos for their websites. I know that photos are important. Who wants to read great copy 🙂 next to a dark, shadowy, blah image.
    Not sure how to word this in my quotes, any suggestions?

    • You might try making it a line item in the estimate, Debra. If this client will allow you, you can use the project as a “before and after” example. (“These are the client’s photos, and here are the ones I took.”) Let the pictures do the talking!

  4. I’m putting together a free ebook (possibly an ezine). I’ve been using Flickr photos under the Creative Commons license. I find a lot of spontaneous and engaging images there…on almost any topic or theme.

    • Benjamin, I’m glad you brought this up. Creative Commons images on Flickr are a gold mine. You do have to sort through lots of rocks to find that gold, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

  5. I absolutely loved show and tell and was so disappointed when I didn’t get a turn! So I guess now is my time.
    You’re right, those stock photos look unnatural and overly intentional, but finding good pics on flickr I also find quite time consuming and not always rewarding! I spent hours looking around there for one of my recent projects. Also, it is still very difficult to quickly glance through and navigate.

    The classroom image is well chosen, makes me curious!

    • Thanks, Juliette. I loved Show and Tell as a kid, too. I remember my heart pounding when it was time to stand up and speak! It was a great classroom activity.

  6. Very interesting & helpful post Pamela.
    I especially like the Show & Tell analogy.
    As a jewellery designer, writing about what I design & create doesn’t come naturally but I’ve realised that because people can’t touch & feel my work online, it’s absolutely essential to convey the essence of what you’ve created through engaging product descriptions & great photography.
    My product descriptions & photography are still a work in progress but now when I get stuck, I’ll remind myself of your Show & Tell analogy. Thanks.

    • There are so many ways you can show your work more effectively online, too. You can add short video, or photos taken from several angles for each piece. That’s a luxury you don’t have in print!

  7. I love using photos or graphics to make my point for the visual thinkers! I starting using a wordpress plugin called Insights last year and really love it.

    Speaking of visual. I’m finding the text here not so easy to read. I don’t remember it being bothersome before……

  8. I just started adding images in my posts. I never did before because it took way too long to find the free ones. But, since I now have a little list that a friend shared with me, it makes it so much easier. I will have to check out the creative commons at Flickr. I used to use them in the past and then lost the info and couldn’t find it again – so thank you Benjamin 😉

    Oh and I found your blog on Eddie’s Top 10 Female Bloggers.

    Have a wonderful day!

    • It’s great to have you here, Linda. 🙂

      You’re right: it takes a while to find good images, but it’s worth it. Blog posts, websites and print materials all look more inviting when there’s a compelling image used in conjunction with copy.

  9. Thanks for the idea. Makes perfect sense.

    I love how you not only find a picture to convey your message & the emotions but you seem to find pics with the same hues as your theme colors. Not so easy to do.

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