Hypnotic Writing is a Persuasive Mixed Bag
A SpeakStrong Review of Joe Vitale’s Marketing Book

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Reader beware
Joe Vitale is hot these days. His involvement with the film The Secret put him in the limelight, but truthfully, he can name an impressive list of clients from a long and distinguished career as a marketer.

My initial reaction to Vitale was to reject him as all “hype.” But two things kept me open. First, his techniques clearly work. The man has built quite an empire. Second, people I trust like him. I figured it was time for a closer look.

A closer look did not erase my initial impressions of Vitale, but it did reveal the nature of his particular genius. Vitale is the master of compelling techniques that he applies in ways that usually intrigue me, sometimes offend me, and occasionally violate my personal communication standards. Think “I’ve never told these secrets to anyone before” and you get the picture. Study Hypnotic Writing with your critical thinking skills on full alert. That way you can understand how persuasive communication works without being hypnotized into adopting techniques that more closely resemble manipulation.

This coin has two sides
I hit my first critical thinking alarm when I read the Hypnotic Writing subtitle: How to Seduce and Persuade Customers with Only Your Words. Seduce??? The word “seduce” means to lead astray. What ethical marketer would want to lead their customer astray? You might say I’m being too literal in my evaluation of Vitale’s use of the word seduce. I don’t think so. Masters of Vitale’s level pick their words with clear intent. I believe Vitale knew exactly what he was selling. That doesn’t make him unethical, but it does suggest that he applies a different standard than I recommend.

Vitale addresses ethics in his “author’s warning,” where he implores the reader to use the information “for good.” Okay, I wonder, it’s acceptable to seduce someone as long as you do it for good?

Joe clearly lives and breathes marketing. Every chapter contains a pitch or reference that both demonstrates his techniques and drives business to himself or his associates. The examples are illustrative and add value to the reader, yet at points I found it excessive, self-serving, and alienating. I would not apply this technique as aggressively as Vitale does – but I can see value to both writer and readers to implement this technique in moderation.

According to Vitale, “hypnotic writing is intentionally using words to guide people into a focused mental state where they are inclined to buy your product.” Okay, that’s innocent enough. I don’t even mind that the techniques are designed to target the unconscious mind – as long as the intent is not to put critical faculties to sleep so the reader can be “led astray.” However, when someone is as compelling as Joe Vitale, it’s easy to forget to stay aware. It does appear to me that some of Vitale’s fans have set their critical faculties aside.

Effective features
The book is full of examples of bad copy rewritten into good. Vitale challenges the reader to apply the techniques on the examples before reading his revisions. The examples are very helpful and Vitale is interesting and compelling as he describes them. Yet many of the examples are of the “get rich quick” genre that I believe sell hope to the gullible who are likely being set up to fail.

His chapters are short, which makes for an easy read. He provides formulas such as the classic feel-felt-found formula, a shocking story-problem-solution-benefits formula, and a chapter on “hypnotic openings.” He implements his formulas as he writes and shows you how he hooked you in what you just read. That’s a very effective – and hypnotic – teaching tool.

You can learn a lot about persuasion in Vitale’s writing. I recommend you do. Just be certain you decide how you want to apply it. If you use your skills to lead your readers on course rather than leading them astray – if you use them to Speak Strong – it will have served you and your readers well.


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Meryl Runion and Speak Strong (SpeakStrong) provides Power Phrases (PowerPhrases) and other tools to help you improve communication skills at work and at home. You can read more about her at www.speakstrong.com.

Meryl is the author of six books on communication that have sold over a quarter million copies worldwide, including Speak Strong, PowerPhrases!, How to Use PowerPhrases, Perfect Phrases for Managers and Supervisors, and How to Say It: Performance Reviews. You can reach her at 719-684-2633, or by email:

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