The Why and How of Using Point of View
“Having a dedicated point of view is something that defines some of the world’s most iconic, successful brands. [It] helps to fill the gap between the products companies make and the emotional experience a brand idea can convey.”
-Eric Solomon, Brand Strategy Director at Google
We agree with Eric Solomon that point of view is one of the most effective ways for brands to connect with their customers. And he knows a thing or two about defining and using point of view, as the current strategy exec at Google and formerly the Global Director of Strategy at Spotify. But even if you aren’t working to craft a public image for one of the world’s most recognizable brands, your work still needs a strong POV. Using point of view in writing can boost the effectiveness of your blog posts and further define your brand identity.
Notice the use of the pronouns we, he, and you in the above paragraph. Each word denotes a different POV and affects the way you—the reader— interpret and relate to the message. We (or I) indicates the author’s opinion and establishes narrative authority on the topic. He signals a sharing of information with the reader. You grabs the reader’s attention in a personal, actionable way. Each POV uses a different approach and produces a different result. Mastering your use of point of view can help you get the most impact from each of your posts.
What is point of view?
Point of view is an important aspect of all writing, including novels, stories, blog posts, business collateral, etc. However, its purpose and application differ in literature and business copy.
For a fiction writer, point of view serves as the set of eyes through which the reader sees the story. In Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia, the story is told in first person by Karim, an aspiring actor and young man who witnesses his father’s love affair with another woman. Despite the expansive cast of characters in the book, the reader only knows what Karim thinks. However, in Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, Smith utilizes third person to reveal the thoughts and motives of several main characters at once.
POV is a strategy that uses many moving parts to build intrigue and excitement.
In blog writing, point of view is a deliberate way to humanize your brand and clarify the purpose of your blog. For example, beauty brand Glossier’s “Into The Gloss” blog often uses first-person POV. Whether the writers are sharing tricks for holding bouncy curls or fixing oily skin, the tips are shared with words like I, my, and mine. The posts are relatable and personable, reading as though a close friend is sharing their secrets with the reader. In this way, Glossier seeks to be a trusted source of advice through the first person.
There are three key points of view you might use in your writing:
First-person: With this POV, the writer speaks directly to the reader. First-person POV is often defined with the word I. Typically, first-person is most appropriate for relating personal stories.
Example: I believe point of view is the most important part of writing compelling blog posts.
Second-person: Second-person POV also relies on the personal voice of an individual narrator, but the writer uses you instead of I. This POV is designed to move the reader to action while still connecting author and reader on a personal level.
Example: You should practice using different points of view in your blog posts.
Third-person: Third-person POV is used to communicate information in an objective manner. This POV isn’t necessarily about personal stories or relatability. It’s about teaching and informing the reader with pronouns like he, she, and they.
Example: He knows that point of view is the key to writing compelling blog posts.
Why is point of view important?
Point of view gives your work a unique perspective and distinctive personality. It’s the differentiator between you and your competitors within the same business space.
Often, POV is tied directly to your brand voice. The viewpoint you use determines how your brand connects with your audience. If you want your brand to be personal and conversational, you could adopt first-person like Glossier. For a voice that’s more personal and inspirational, second-person is a strong fit. And, for powerful storytelling or informational posts, third-person is a go-to.
The point of view you choose ensures you connect with your reader in a way that will best connect them to your piece.
How do you use point of view?
Choose your POV. The point of view that you use should be an active decision based on the desired brand voice and content purpose. Think about the objective of your piece: how will the POV will help you achieve that goal?
Create your tone. Once you’ve selected your POV, you should decide on the tone. What are you trying to say? If you’re reporting on a case study, your tone should be serious. But, if you want to inspire the reader, perhaps you can use a mix of humor and motivational language.
The tone should work in tandem with your POV to communicate your point. For example, when reporting the case study, first-person POV makes your writing informal and could lead readers to question your authority. However, third-person POV immediately establishes your command of the study results.
Write with feeling. Choose an emotion you hope to evoke in your piece. Do you want your reader to be surprised, curious, angry, sad, happy? Certain emotions work better with certain points of view. For instance, if you want your reader to feel happy, third-person may be too emotionally detached. You would need a POV that the reader can connect to, like first- or second-person.
Don’t use all three viewpoints in the same section. We used all three points of view in the first paragraph of this post as an extreme example. Jumping between different POVs in a single section can confuse the reader, making it hard for them to understand the overall voice of the piece. In some cases, you can use different viewpoints in different paragraphs and sections, as long as the switch is intentional.
When to use first-person:
· To share a personal experience (related to the post’s topic)
· To introduce an unpopular or unique opinion
· To provide a “behind the scenes” look at your business
First-person gives your post a human element and encourages a high level of reader engagement.
Say you’re writing a piece about why everyone should delete their social media accounts. Readers may not respond to statistics and studies because they have such a deep connection to their accounts. But if you share a personal experience, you might change their minds or lead them to consider a different perspective. (i.e. When I deleted my Instagram account, I experienced this…)
When to use second-person:
Second-person can help bring value to current and potential customers. The “you” shows the reader how the information, advice, and ideas will directly impact their lifestyle. This further creates a personal, intimate relationship with your reader.
For example, instead of sharing a personal experience about deleting social media accounts, you could share a guide to deleting social media that outlines the benefits the reader will experience. (When you delete your digital clutter, your life will improve in these ways…) This type of post moves the reader to action.
When to use third-person:
Third-person is perfect when you want to create distance between your brand and the reader. It’s a more formal voice that helps objectively report events, tell stories, and discuss facts. For example, you can publish a review about the ways users were impacted when they deleted their social media accounts.
The reader will trust you as an authority on the subject and walk away from the piece with a newfound awareness and understanding regarding the topic. But third-person posts should do more than simply educate—it should always end with a strong call to action. After you’ve gained the reader’s trust, it’s important to share next steps and direct them to use this new information.
When to use multiple POVs:
You should never use multiple points of view in the same sentence, but you can occasionally use them in the same paragraph. This switching of POV can help you further illustrate the severity or importance of an issue. When your readers see a point discussed from multiple points of view, it helps them understand the impact beyond themselves.
For example: I use Facebook every day. You use Facebook every day. 100 million people around the world use Facebook every day. Jumping between POVs here helps establish the importance of Facebook use. An intentional mixture of POV can drive home a key point, especially when discussing a universal issue.
Pull up an old blog post and create three versions of it: one in first-person, one in second-person, and one in third-person.
How does each POV affect the reader? How does it affect the potency of your message?
Post each version for one month. The first month, post first-person POV; the second, post second-person POV; and the third month, post the version with third-person POV. Track the metrics.
Which one gets the most traction? Why?
What does this tell you about your audience?
How will this influence your posts moving forward?