How to Write a Persuasive Memo

by Sabrina Ashley; Updated April 09, 2018
There can be many reasons to send out a persuasive business memo.

Important meeting? Upcoming blood drive? There can be many reasons to send out a persuasive business memo. Any memo distributed must be well written because it represents you and your department. And, of course, you want to persuade people to attend, sign up, give or whatever you're asking them to do. Following a few guidelines when drafting persuasive memos can help you get the results you want.

Identify Your Audience

Understand the reader or the target audience. A memo to your team is likely to be different in tone from a memo to the board of directors. While always professional in nature, some memos need to be more formal in speech. Other factors, such as age, gender and educational level, also may play a part in writing a persuasive memo.

State Your Theme

It may sound silly, because you're thinking of course you know what your memo will be about. But, writing a clear theme for your letter helps you focus on exactly what you want to happen. Stating it succinctly helps you get to the point without excessive additional comments. Stating the theme is just for your reference while writing. You don't announce your theme to the readers. For example, your theme could be "support the blood drive next Tuesday."

Outline the Memo

Ooh, it's that hated word from seventh grade on through high school, "outline." Relax. This is just an informal outline of who the reader is, what you want him to do and why he should do it. No one will see this but you; no grammarian will be hanging over your shoulder or taking a red pen to it because you didn't always have a point B to go with your point A. This outline just helps you order your thoughts. Your outline could be just bullet points in order:

  • Support the blood drive next Tuesday.
  • Blood drives save lives.
  • All blood types are needed.
  • Make an appointment.

Add notes to the outline where details make sense:

  • Support the blood drive next Tuesday, September 25, 8 am - noon
  • Blood drives save lives.
  • All blood types are needed.
  • Make an appointment so you don't have to wait. Call ____

Start Writing

Begin writing using your outline and notes. Remember that memos are short and focused.

Describe succinctly, but in detail, what you want the reader to do, why, how an when. List the benefits of taking action. Getting people to agree with what you are proposing and do as you requested is the ultimate goal of a persuasive memo. But to convince people that what you are suggesting is a good idea, you must give the readers reasons why they should comply. Tell people what will be gained and give the main advantages of doing what you ask.

Edit and Rewrite

Check for grammar and spelling errors. While the idea behind the memo is important, little things count as well. A memo will be more persuasive if it is well written and free of grammatical and typing mistakes. Business people have high expectations. If the memo is persuasive but has noticeable errors, these mistakes will reduce the memo’s impact and effectiveness.

After the first draft, set it aside and come back to it in a few minutes or a few hours, depending on how much time you have before you need to send it. Reread the memo and make any changes you think will improve it.

For example, if you think it could use more persuasion, do a little research for compelling facts:

  • Support the blood drive next Tuesday, September 25, from 8 a.m. to noon.
  • Blood drives save lives. Last year alone, ____ pints of blood were used at our local hospital due to emergencies and transfusions. All thanks to blood donors.
  • All blood types are needed. 
  • Call ____ to make an appointment so you don't have to wait.

Ask for Feedback First

Before you send the memo, get feedback from others. Ask a few people whose opinions you value to read it before sending it out. Ask if they would be persuaded to take action and if not, why. Listen to any suggestions and try to incorporate any useful ideas into the memo. A persuasive memo usually takes a few drafts before it is good enough to be distributed.

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