Writing copy using the heart rate method

Are you dead?” he yelled. 

“If you don’t have a pulse, you’re dead!” 

I was over on the shore laughing as Andrew, the rowing coach. He was berating a crew member for being unable to find his pulse.

The rowing crew had just done a hard piece, and he wanted to know how hard they were working. This was long before heart rate monitors were a thing. 

And one unlucky crew member had to admit that he didn’t know he could get his pulse on his wrist or neck with two fingers. 

Not good for first-year university, but that’s how it goes. 

These days you don’t need your two fingers. There are lots of devices that help you do that with ease. 

And heart rate is a powerful way to think about your marketing.

Now, if you have an Apple watch or some other HRM, open up the heart rate, and I’ll show you what I mean in a second. 

Blow up that blood pressure with words

“Is your blood pressure always this high,” asked the oncology resident. 

I was surprised by the question. What did he think would happen? 

A few years back, I was in for my checkup. A friend of mine who has also been through treatment called it the five-year program. This is where you have five years of monitoring after your treatment is complete. The first year is quarterly, then semi-annually for a couple of years, and annually for the last couple of years. 

I was on one of the quarterly sessions this time, and the resident noticed a slight bulge in my neck. It was right above where the cancerous lymph node had been removed. 

He was looking intensely. 

Pushing on it. 

He was asking questions about all sorts of symptoms. 

And one thing I can tell you for sure is that it takes a long time to move beyond the trauma of this sort of life event. 

The diagnosis is traumatizing. 

The treatment is punishing.  

And he seemed almost oblivious to how I might receive these questions as he asked me about my blood pressure. 

I responded, “what did you think would happen after closely examining my neck for the last ten minutes?” 

This is how powerful emotional responses to simple words can be. 

Move that heart rate around during low and slow

If you train, you are probably familiar with Zone 1 and 2 training, otherwise known as low and slow. I do a lot of this training to enhance my aerobic fitness for mountain bike season. 

Zone 1 or 2 involves longish sessions at a relaxed but steady state pace. The objective is to help train your mitochondria to become more efficient and, in doing so, teach your body how to fully develop different fuel systems. 

The training can also be pretty boring sometimes. 

On the rowing ergometer, an hour can be an eternity without music. And your mind will drift.

During these sessions, I’ve noticed how even though I’m doing steady state, my heart rate will move around based on what I’m thinking about.  

For example, if I imagine I’m doing a one minute all-out piece, my heart rate will go up a few beats. 

If my 2-year-old son is running around, my heart rate can drop a few beats while I’m watching him. 

I wrote this entire article mentally as I rowed, and my heart rate bounced around as I envisioned these various parts. 

So I can move my heart rate around just by what I’m thinking about or imagining. 

Once again demonstrating the impact of imagination and emotion on your physical state. 

And this is a powerful thing to understand when writing copy and developing marketing assets. 

Emotion is the key

As you know, great copy has several components to it. But specifically, there have to be elements that talk to the emotions and elements that talk to the rational mind. 

One or the other alone isn’t sufficient in most cases. Both must be present. 

Generally speaking, the headline and early part of the copy is geared toward the emotional side. 

Later on, you have to activate the rational mind to get the acquisition, purchase or opt-in. 

These two work synergistically. 

And they can vary too. 

For B2C, you want to emphasize emotion which is the driver of early engagement in your content, asset or marketing piece. 

For B2B, the emotion must be there too. You are, after all, talking to a person, not a soulless company. But the emotional tenor has to be dialed back here. You want to keep the emotional pendulum as close to neutral as possible to get a decision. Depending on the circumstances, this may require you to move the reader from a state of intense emotion, either positive or negative, back to neutral so that they can make a decision. 

And as you write, you can take into account how what you are writing may be shaping their heart rate or blood pressure. 

Got your heart rate watch on? 

Let’s try something. 

Oh, this is gonna be fun

First, take a look at your heart rate. It might be moving around a bit. Let it settle. 

Can’t find your heart rate? What are you, dead? 😉

Now, imagine a small child. If you have a son or daughter, think about them sleeping. Or maybe a niece or nephew, doing something peaceful. 

How do you feel? 

What happened to your heart rate? 

For me, mine drops a bit.

Now, let’s try something a little different. 

You ready? 

Donald Trump!

Ok, what happened to your heart rate there? 

Did it go up?

Did you feel your blood pressure rise a bit? 

And the reaction might depend on how you feel about the man. 

But there is a powerful marketing lesson here. 

Look at how I created a direct response in you with just eleven letters. 

I was able to change your heart rate with words. 

Shape the experience of your audience through their heart

We live in a world flooded with stimuli. Most of the time, we have to turn a lot of it off. That’s why when you’re in a forest, you feel alive. You suddenly feel yourself sort of reconnected with various instincts and senses. They are turned back on when all the other stimulus is gone. 

In the digital world, the place where we open ourselves up a bit is on our personal devices. This is a private personal place. It’s a place where you can have some control if you want it. 

Everything that comes into your device is your choice. You are accepting it into your private space. 

And because of that, we allow ourselves to be a little more vulnerable here. 

Which is why the message coming into the device is so important to you as a marketer. 

It has to be delivered for the benefit of the reader. 

It has to talk directly to one person. 

It has to move your reader through a process to an outcome. 

And every word you write that touches their emotions can move their heart rate and blood pressure. That’s what great copy can do. 

You can shape that experience based on what you say and how you say it all with simple words. 

But remember, with great power comes great responsibility. 


Being able to persuade your audience requires more than just words. You have to know what words to use, when, and why. 

If copy is an important part of your business, you should get in touch with me at tristram@wordsunfold.com to explore how we can get the response you’re looking for.