When you work in PR, not a day goes by that you don’t have to write something; although the medium is not always the same (email, pitch, press release, etc.), one things for sure – we’re constantly clacking away at the keyboard.
Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, developed a philosophy called “rhetoric” – based on the idea that you can win someone over using words. Aristotle said that rhetoric is “an ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion.” The three main means of persuasion are:
- Ethos (Credibility) – persuasion by the character of the author. Typically we believe people who we respect. An audience is much more likely to listen to your argument if you’re someone who is likeable and if you appear to be an authority of whatever subject you’re speaking on behalf of.
- Pathos (Emotional) – persuasion by appealing to the readers emotions. Emotional appeal can take on many forms whether it’s in the delivery of the message, or by using metaphors and similes. This approach is very powerful; especially when used to appeal to the reader/listeners fears.
- Logos (Logical) – persuasion by the use of reasoning. Typically this is when facts and figures are used to support claims. This also reinforces ethos because the logic and information provided through this approach confirms the authors/speakers credibility. It’s very important to avoid common fallacies in your reasoning.
Now that we know how persuasion was born and gifted to us, we can delve further in understanding just how to do it effectively.
Step 1: Display Credibility
Debatably the most important step – this is the initial hook that you send out to editors. It is likely that by simply having your PR firm listed in your email signature, you will have caught them. However, it doesn’t hurt to set yourself apart from others. Establish your authority and credible knowledge upfront – there is nothing people respect more than an honest and transparent person.
Step 2: Use Repetition
People aren’t going to get it the first time around. You may claim that your client is relevant to an editor’s publication for X, Y and Z reasons but sometimes it takes a bit more than that. It’s a crucial but fragile step. You want to make your point without actually coming off as repetitive. In order to achieve this when sending out a pitch, you can make your point in several different forms; directly, in quote form, in a story, in an example, and once more in the conclusion.
Step 3: Provide Reasoning
When attempting to make a point, you always need credible and logical reasoning. Without it, it’s likely your audience will not comply. No one likes being told what to do without a reasonable explanation. Simply stating that an editor should do something without any sort of support is a sure fire way to get ignored. Understand that editors are subject to constant emails, so you’re going to have to put in the extra effort in order to convince them of anything. All you really need are reasons why and the belief that there’s power in the word “because”.
Step 4: Address Objections
It’s not an argument of persuasion unless there’s an opposing side or view; and you need to address that. A lot of people are fearful of admitting the opposing view, but it’s there whether you chose to acknowledge it or not. If you need to see this in action, all you have to do is scroll down to the comments section of an article about a client. The consumer will always come up with opposing sides, saying things like “yeah, but…”, but if you know your subject well enough, you can stop these kinds of comments from even happening.
There’s no way to avoid writing as a PR professional but with some practice you can become an expert at it. It starts with understanding the power and impact of our words – if done correctly. Persuasion can take on many forms in PR, as our audience is ever changing. Sometimes we are addressing the public, other times the client, and most often editors. Whoever the audience or medium may be, the art of persuasion is always our best silent tool.