• Persuasion: Pervasive in Our Lives

    • Richard Perloff says, “Persuasion is an activity or process in which a communicator attempts to induce a change in the belief, attitude, or behavior of another person or group of persons through the transmission of a message in a context in which the persuadee has some degree of free choice. ”

    • Professor Robert Heath of the University of Houston says:
      • “... public relations professionals are influential rhetors. They design, place and repeat messages on behalf of sponsors on an array of topics that shape views of government, charitable organizations, institutions of public education, products and consumerism, capitalism, labor, health and leisure. These professionals speak, write and use visual images to discuss topics and take stances on public policies at the local, state and federal levels.
    • The Dominant View of Public Relations
      • The dominant view of PR is one of persuasive communication actions performed on behalf of clients , according to Professors Dean Kruckberg at the University of Northern Iowa and Ken Starck at the University of Iowa.
      • Oscar Gandy, Jr states, “…the primary role of public relations is one of purposeful, self-interested communications. ”
      • Edward Bernays calls PR the “engineering” of consent to create “a favorable and positive climate of opinion toward the individual, product, institution or idea which is represented.”
      • Persuasion should be a dialog between points of view.
      • Persuasion is the freedom of speech used by every individual and organization to influence opinion, understanding, judgment and action.
    • Uses of Persuasion
      • Persuasion is used to…
        • Change or neutralize hostile opinions
        • Crystallize latent opinions and positive attitudes
        • Conserve favorable opinions
      • The most difficult persuasive task is to turn hostile opinions into favorable ones.
        • People tend to ignore or disbelieve contradictory information once they’ve formed their opinion.
        • People tend to generalize from personal experience and what peers tell them.
      • Persuasion is easier when the message is compatible with a person’s general disposition toward a subject.
      • A good reputation translates to sales and donations.
      • The easiest form of persuasion is communication that reinforces favorable opinions.
        • By providing a steady stream of reinforcing messages, PR people keep the reservoir of goodwill in sound condition.
        • These continual efforts to maintain the reservoir of goodwill is called preventive public relations.
          • This is the most effective type of PR

  • Factors in Persuasive Communication

    • Factors involved in persuasive communication:

      • Audience Analysis
      • Source Credibility
      • Appeal to Self-Interest
      • Clarity of Message
      • Timing and Context
      • Audience Participation
      • Suggestions for Action
      • Persuasive Speaking
    • Audience Analysis
      • Knowledge of audience characteristics (beliefs, attitudes, lifestyles, etc.) is an essential part of persuasion.
      • Persuasive messages are more effective when they take into account the audience’s lifestyles, beliefs and concerns.
      • Basic demographic information is readily available through census data and can help determine an audience’s gender, income level, education, ethnic background and age groupings.
      • Other data can give information on a group’s buying habits, disposable income and ways of spending leisure time.
      • Psychographics attempts to classify people by lifestyle, attitudes and beliefs.
      • The Values and Lifestyle Program (VALS) is routinely used in PR to help communicators structure persuasive messages to different elements of the population.
      • This use of audience analysis and tailored messages in the appropriate media outlets is called channeling .
    • Source Credibility
      • A message is more believable when the source has credibility.
      • Source credibility is based on three factors:
        • Expertise: Does the audience perceive the person as an expert?
        • Sincerity: Does the person come across as believing what they’re saying?
        • Charisma: Is the individual attractive, self-assured and articulate?
          • Ideally, a source will exhibit all three attributes.
          • Various spokespersons can be used and quoted for better credibility.
          • Expertise is less important if celebrities are used as spokespersons.
            • Their primary purpose is to cause attention to the product or service.
        • There are problems with celebrity spokespeople.
          • Sometimes the public can’t remember which celebrity endorses what, due to the high number of celebrity endorsements .
          • Overexposure of a celebrity.

            • A celebrity’s actions might undercut the product or service.
              • Britney Spears was photographed drinking Coke while under contract to promote Pepsi.
              • The German unit of America Online portrayed tennis legend Boris Becker as a “family man” in ads; he divorced his wife shortly thereafter.
            • Summary: The use of various sources for credibility depends on the type of audience being reached. That is why audience analysis is the first step in formulating persuasive messages.

Appeal to Self Interest

*Publics become involved in issues or pay attention to messages that appeal to their psychological or economical needs.

Ex: Publicity for a Personal Computer

-Consumers are interested in how the computer can make life easier for them.

* How do charitable organizations gather volunteers and donations?

Although people who volunteer are not paid for their time they do get something in return.

· Self-esteem

· Contribution to Society

· Recognition from peers and the community

· A sense of belonging

· Ego Gratification

· Tax Deduction

Public Relations people understand psychological needs and rewards.


Gary Condit Flunks Persuasion 101
Gary Condit was a married, politician accused of having an affair with a student intern. The media went crazy when Chandra Levy, the student intern involved in the affair went missing. Condit went stonewall with the media and decided to avoid all questions. When Condit finally decided to address the issue, by doing an interview, he ended up losing all credibility. New York firm executives suggest that Condit should have taken a more empathetic pose. Rather than just admitting to adultery, Condit ended up raising everyone’s level of suspicion.

  • Clarity of Message
    • The most persuasive messages are direct
    • The most persuasive messages are simply expressed
    • The most persuasive messages contain only primary ideas
      • Public relations personnel should always ask two questions:
        • What do I want the audience to do with the message?
        • Will the audience understand the message?
      • An explicit request for action should be part of the message so the audience knows what is expected of them.
  • Timing and Context
    • Public relations professionals disseminate information at the time it is most highly valued.
      • A message is more persuasive if environmental factors support the message
        • Example: A citizens' group lobbying for a stoplight gets more attention if a major accident has just occured at the intersection.
      • A message is more persuasive if the message is received within the context of other familiar messages and situations.
        • Example: A manufacturer of a locking device for computer files got expensive media coverage about its product simply because its release followed a rash of news stories about thieves gaining access to bank accounts through computers.
  • Audience Participation
    • Getting the audience involved activates a form of self-persuasion and commitment.
      • Involving people, such as employees, in problem-solving allows them to be invested and therefore commited to making a solution work.
      • Distributing product samples allows a consumer to make their own judgement about its quality, making them more likely to purchase it.
      • Organizing group events, such as rallies and demonstrations, gives an audience a sense of belonging and reinforces their beliefs.
  • Suggestions for Action
    • A principle of persuasion is that people endorse ideas only if they are accompanied by a proposed action from the sponsor.
      • Recommendations for action must be clear.
      • Detailed data and ideas on how to take action on recommendations should also be provided.
  • Content and Structure of Messages
  • A number of techniques can make a message more persuasive.

    • Drama- Because everyone likes a good story, the first task of a communicator is to get the audience's attention. This is often accomplished by graphically illustrating an event or situation.
    • Statistics- Use of numbers can convey objectivity, size, and importance in credible way that can influence public opinion. Caterplillar, got considerable media publicity for its new 797 mining dump truck by combining statistics and some humor.
    • Surveys and Polls- The most credible surveys are those conducted by independent research organizations
    • Examples- A statement of opinion can be more persuasive if some examples are given.
    • Testimonials- A source of credibility, testimonials can be either explict or implied. i.e. spokesperson for campaigns.
    • Endorsements- Paid endorsements by celebrities, products and services benefit from favorable statements by experts in what is called a third-party endorsement. Media endorsements , usually unpaid, can come through editorials, reviews, surveys, and new stories.
    • Emotional Appeals- Fund-raising letters from nonprofit groups, in particular, use this persuasive device.
  • Persuasive Speaking

  • Psychologists have found that successful speakers (and salespeople) use several persuasion techniques:

    • Yes-Yes: Start with points with which the audience agrees to develop a pattern of "yes" answers. Getting agreement to a basic premise often means that the receiver will agree to the logically developed conclusions.
    • Offer structured choice: Give choices that force the audience to choose between A and B.
    • Seek partial commitment: Get a commitment for some action on the part of the receiver. This leaves the door open for commitment to other parts of the proposal at a later date.
    • Ask for more, settle for less: Submit a complete public relations program to management, but be prepared to comporomise by dropping certain parts of the program.
  • Insights

    Motivation-Ability-Opportunity Model for Enhancing Message Processing

    The following chart summarizes the various communication strategies that can be used to reach publics who have little knowledge or interest in a particular, or service. The object, of course, is to structure persuasive messages that attract their attention.

    Enhance Motivation

    Attract and encourage audiences to commence, continue processing
    -Create attractive, likable messages (create affect)
    -Appeal to hedonistic needs (sex, appetite, safety)
    -Use novel stimuli:
    • Photos
    • Typography
    • Oversized formats
    • Large number of scenes, elements
    • Changes in voice, silence, movement
  • Make the most of format features:
    • Format size
    • Music
    • Color
    • Include key point in headlines
  • Enhance Ability

    Make it easier to process the message by tapping cognitive resources

    -Include background, definitions, explanations
    -Be simple, clear
    -Use advance organizers (e.g. headlines)
    -Include synopses
    -Combine graphics, text, and narration
    -Use congruent memory cues
    -Use specific concrete images
    -Make comparison with analogies
    -Include marks (logos, logotypes, trademarks)
    -Frame stories using culturally resonating themes, catchphrases

    Enhance Opportunity

    -Expend sufficient effort to provide information
    -Repeat messages frequently
    -Repeat key points within text--in headlines, text, caption, illustrations, etc
    -Use longer messages
    -Feature "interactive" illustrations, photos
    -Avoid distractions:
  • Annoying music
  • Excessively attractive spokespersons
  • Complex arguments
  • Disorganized layouts
  • -Allow audiences to control pace of processing
    -Provide sufficient time
    -Keep pace lively and avoid audience boredom
  • Propaganda

  • Social Scientist believe that the word propaganda should be only to denote activity that sells a belief system or constitutes political or ideological dogmaAdvertising and public relations messages for commercial purposes, however, do use several techniques commonly associated with propaganda. The most common are the following: Plain folk. An approach often used by individual to show humble beginnings and empathy with the average citizen.Testimonial. A well-known expert, popular celebrity, or average citizen gives testimony about the value of a product or the wisdom of a decision. Bandwagon. The implication or direct statement that everyone wants the product or that the idea has overwhelming support.Card stacking. The selection of facts and data to build an overwhelming case on one side. Transfer- The technique of associating the person, product or organization with something that has high status, visiblity, or credibility.Glittering Generalities- The Technique of associating a cause, product, or idea with favorable abstractions such as freedom, justice, democracy and the american way.A student of public relations should be aware of these techniques to make certain that he or she doesn't intentionally use them to deceive and mislead the public.

  • Persuasion and Manipulation

  • The ability to use these techniques often leads to charges that public relations practitioners have great power to influence and manipulate people. The limitations on effective persuasive messages can be listed as
          1. lack of message penetration
          2. competing message
          3. self- selection
          4. self perception
Lack of Message Penetration
Communicators message don't always reach target audience. Message can be distorted and the context of the message can change.
Competing Message
Messages are filtered through a receiver's entire soical structure and belief system. variables that filter and dilute persuasive messages.
Self- Selection
The people most wanteed in an audience are often the least likely to be there. This is why social scientist say that the media are more effective in reinforcing existing attitudes than in changing them.
Self-perception is he channel through which message are interpreted. If they believe something to be true and see a story challenging that belief, they assume the story is biased or just plain wrong.
The Ethics of Persuasion.
Public relations people, by defintion, are advocate of clients and employers.
Ethic criteria for using persuasive devices that should be kept in mind by every public relations professional:
    • Do not use false, , fabricated, misrepresented, distorted, irrelevant evidence to support arguments or claims.
    • Do not intentionally use specious unsupported, or illogical reasoning.
    • Do not represent yourself as informed or as an "expert" on a subject when you are not.
    • DO not use irrelevant or scrutiny from the issue at hand, Among appeals that commonly serve such a purpose are smear attacks on an opponents character, appeals to hatred and bigotry, innuendo, and "God" or "devil" terms that cause intense but unreflective positive or negative reactions.
    • Do not ask your audience to link your idea or proposal to emotion-laden values, motives, or goals to which it actually is not related.
    • Do not deceive your audience by concealing your real purpose, your self interest, the group you represent, or your purpose as a advocate of a viewpoint.
    • Do not distort, hide, or misrepresent the number, scope, intensity, or undesirable feature of consequences.
    • Do not use emotional appeals that lack a supporting basis of evidence or reasoning or that would not be accepted with the audience at time, an opportunity to examine the subject itself.
    • Do not over simplify complex situations into simplistic, two value, either/or, polar view or choices.
    • Do not pretend certainty when tentativeness and degrees of probability would be more accurate.
    • Do not advocate something in which you do not believe yourself.