Think about how many times you have been persuaded in some form or another today alone. 50? 100? 250? Try 400 to even 500 times. According to a group of psychologists in the Journal of Experimental Applied Social Psychology 163 (1995), the average person is persuaded 300 to 400 times a day by the mass media alone. At first this figure might seem staggering, but think about the number of commercials we see when we turn on the morning news, then the inundation of radio ads on our daily commutes, not to mention the glaring billboards and advertisements slapped onto the sides of buses. Continuing the workday, our likes and dislikes are strategically turned into pop-up and banner ads cluttering our computer screens. Taking a break from work, in efforts to keep up with the world around us we look to our phones, which have periodically been lighting up with notifications from Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, to scroll past paid-for ads often disguised as posts. The theoretical day isn’t nearly done and you get the point: the opportunities to persuade and be persuaded in this media-run day and age are endless. But while we are subjected daily to hundreds of moments of persuasion, which ones actually break through and successfully change our minds and dictate our actions? What are the key elements of persuasion?
Whether it’s a crybaby or a happy camper, everyone has emotions. Whether it be a laughing child, a crying puppy, or a zealous speaker, these triggers arouse our emotions, pulling in an audience, creating common ground and connection, and predisposing the audience for decisions to be made based on an emotional response before a logical one.
Whether you’re persuading your audience which soda they should buy or which presidential candidate they should vote for, presenting proof of credibility is imperative to breaking through and successfully persuading someone. Ways to prove credibility can vary with the platform and the product or idea. Forms of credibility range from stating a title of authority or invoking celebrity status, to the way speakers or spokespersons present themselves, to awards or commentary from outside validators. By establishing credibility, we develop the audience’s sense of trust.
If we really are bombarded with as many as 500 forms of persuasion a day, it only makes sense that to break away from the hundreds of other advertisements and campaigns, successful persuaders repeat their message over . . . and over . . . and over again. This is why almost every single social media campaign, for example, has its own hashtag, which can not only be retweeted and used by hundreds on the campaign’s Twitter page, but also can be posted on Instagram and shared on Facebook. Repetition forces a product or idea on the attention of an audience, creates “buzz,” and can even establish a level of importance for the message.
With the media cycle constantly changing in the pursuit of news and drama, the last thing a persuader wants is for his or her message to be misconstrued by the public. In efforts to avoid this and to publish the correct message, the best persuaders assert as much control over their content as possible. By maintaining control over exactly what content is posted, when it posts, and to what social media platform it goes, a persuader is able to control some of the variables that can affect the message. With technologies like Social Press Kit available today, having control over our messages on social media is easier than ever.
The first question you undoubtedly have when reading this last element of persuasion is about the parentheses. Well, they’re included to remind the persuader that while risk is unavoidable, it needs to be moderated, strategically anticipated and thought out, and managed. By thinking outside the traditional social media box, dancing with controversial topics, and stepping out of your comfort zone, (risk) can earn you free media coverage, start conversations, and impress your audience.
While using all 5 of these elements isn’t always applicable, the combination is sure to break through to your audience, catching their attention, establishing a connection, and persuading them of your agenda.
Peyton is an intern at LA-based creative agency Brand Knew. She is a public relations major at Boston University.
The 5 Elements of Persuasion is used with permission of Larry Carpman, president of Carpman Communications (www.CarpmanCommunications.com), and the creator of The 5 Persuasion Elements.