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Becoming a Persuasive Writer Chapter 2 Becoming a Persuasive Writer Chapter 2

Cutting Through the Clutter n n n Public relations writers spend much of their Cutting Through the Clutter n n n Public relations writers spend much of their working day crafting and disseminating information that will (hopefully) persuade and motivate people. PR messages are often designed to try to: get people to take action; change attitudes and opinions; reinforce existing predispositions; and/or influence people to buy a product, use a service, or support a worthy cause. In today’s age of information overload, PR writers must constantly analyze public attitudes and shape persuasive, credible messages that cut through the clutter.

Questions to Ask How do you appeal to self-interests? n What information is most Questions to Ask How do you appeal to self-interests? n What information is most salient to the target audience? n What is the most effective communication channel? n Which spokesperson has the most credibility? n What are my ethical responsibilities as a writer? n

Factors in Persuasive Writing (for the purpose of persuading your target audience) n n Factors in Persuasive Writing (for the purpose of persuading your target audience) n n n n n Audience Analysis Source Credibility Appeal to Self-Interest Clarity of the Message Timing and Context Symbols, Slogans and Acronyms Semantics Suggestions for Action Content and Structure Overall Goal: Persuade your target audience Also, persuasion should not be manipulative and misleading. It should be based on truthful information

Audience Analysis n n n The message must be compatible with group values and Audience Analysis n n n The message must be compatible with group values and beliefs Tapping a group’s attitudes and values in order to structure a meaningful message is called “channeling” Example: Car commuters become more interested in carpooling and mass transit when the messages point out the increasing cost of fuel and how gridlock increases every year More “passive audiences” have to be lured into accepting your message…often with catchy themes and slogans, and shorter messages Celebrities can help attract more passive audiences to a product, cause, or service- giving “glamour” to a product is known as “transfer”

Source Credibility n n A message is more believable to an audience if the Source Credibility n n A message is more believable to an audience if the source has credibility This is why it’s important for writers to attribute information and quotes to people who are perceived as experts PR writers should think about who is the most credible, expert and sincere spokesperson for the given message and audience It could be the company president/CEO, the chief financial officer, a PR staffer, a celebrity or hired expert (examples on page 44).

Appeal to Self-Interest PR writers should always consider what the audience wants to know Appeal to Self-Interest PR writers should always consider what the audience wants to know n Example: A news release to the food industry trade press might focus on how the product was developed and distributed to the public n But if the release is going to a daily newspaper, the focus should be on the food’s nutritional value, convenience, cost and quality n

Message Clarity n n n Communication will not be successful if the audience does Message Clarity n n n Communication will not be successful if the audience does not understand the message A way to ensure understanding is to copy test all PR materials on the target audience Can also apply readability and comprehension formulas to materials based on number of words per sentence and the number of one-syllable words per 100 words In general, standard writing should average about 140150 syllables per 100 words, and the average sentence length should be about 17 words Newspaper and magazines such as Time use this guide

Timing and Context n n n n Think about keying messages around events and Timing and Context n n n n Think about keying messages around events and related news stories to give your messages context, timeliness and newsworthiness Your message must also arrive at a time when it is most relevant to the audience If it’s too early, your audience might not be ready to think about it Example: A new software program for doing taxes is relevant in the weeks before the April 15 deadline but the news value drops after this date We think of hearts around Valentine’s Day, so maybe a PSA about heart disease awareness could be launched in the weeks leading up to and after Valentines Day in February Holiday and Special Day Listing: http: //webclipart. about. com/library/clip 6/blholidays 2. htm National Popcorn Day- January 19: http: //www. punchbowl. com/holidays/national-popcorn-day

Symbols, Slogans and Acronyms n n n Effective symbols can graphically convey reliability and Symbols, Slogans and Acronyms n n n Effective symbols can graphically convey reliability and quality to consumers– Smokey the Bear, the Red Cross, the Nike swoosh Slogans can be highly persuasive– Nike’s “Just Do It, ” “You Deserve a Break Today” at Mc. Donalds, Mastercard’s “Priceless” campaign Acronyms, good ones, are pronounceable and memorable– NOW and AIDS for example (p. 47) n Not all acronyms work! http: //vowe. net/archives/007437. html

Semantics and Suggestions for Action n n Be aware of how words and symbols Semantics and Suggestions for Action n n Be aware of how words and symbols have different meanings to different people around the world Examples: gay, shag, “Hook ‘em Horns”gesture Persuasive writing must also give people information on how to take action If you are wanting people to do something, to take some action then you must, in your message, include pertinent contact information (phone, email, websites, locations) to make it easier for people to, for example, write an official or attend a rally or order a product

Content and Structure Techniques to make a message more persuasive n n n n Content and Structure Techniques to make a message more persuasive n n n n Drama Statistics Surveys and Polls Examples Testimonials Endorsements Emotional Appeals n n People are motivated by theatrics and a good story. Try to go beyond the cold facts. Try to vividly describe what you are talking about Paint word pictures for a more persuasive message

Why Messages Fail to Persuade (page 50) n n n Emphasis on the company Why Messages Fail to Persuade (page 50) n n n Emphasis on the company instead of the customer All features, no benefits Copy that fails to say, “What’s in it for me? ” Too much jargon Redundancies– hate the radio CXs that repeat phone # over and over! n n n No call to action Copy not addressed to target audience Failure to nail down messaging Poor grammar Failure to edit or proofread

The TARES Test (p. 57) Ethics Test for PR Writers n Persuasive efforts require The TARES Test (p. 57) Ethics Test for PR Writers n Persuasive efforts require an ethical framework for decision making n PR writers should test their persuasive communication against five basic moral principles n Do not lie, fabricate, misrepresent, distort! TARES stands for: n Truthfulness n Authenticity n Respect n Equity n Social Responsibility