Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Most of us engage in some form of persuasion multiple times every day. Relationships require persuasion, as do politics, Santa letters, and of course advertising and marketing.

Ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. The ability to persuade, to change hearts and minds, is perhaps the single greatest skill required to be competitive in the knowledge economy.

Economists have stated that persuasion is responsible for generating 25% or more of the United States’ total national income. Successful people in nearly every profession have become those adept at convincing others to take action on their ideas.

“Advertising, is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be an art, and not science,” according to William Bernbach, the original Don Draper of the Advertising world.  I agree, but would add that all communication is an art.

More than 2,000 years ago Aristotle described a formula concerning how to master the art of persuasion in his work Rhetoric. Many influential communicators have used it throughout the ages to deliver some of the most significant speeches, presentations, and ideas the world has ever seen. To become a master of persuasion yourself and successfully sell your own ideas, products or services, try using the rhetorical devices that Aristotle identified.

Ethos or “Character” represents the part of a speech or presentation when your audience gains some insight into your own credibility. If a speaker’s actions don’t back their words, they lose credibility, and ultimately, weaken their argument. To speak with authority, you must establish your position with confidence.

Logos or “Reason” – Once ethos is established, it’s time to make a logical appeal to reason. Why should your audience care about your idea? If it will save your audience money, for example, they’ll want to know how much it will save them and how the savings will be accomplished. The same reasoning applies to making money. How will your idea help your listeners earn a profit? What steps do they have to take next?  These are all logical appeals that will help you gain support. Use data, evidence, and facts to form a rational arguments.

Pathos or “Emotion” comes into play as persuasion cannot take place in the absence of emotion. People are moved to action by how a speaker makes them feel. The best way to transfer emotion from one person to another is through the rhetorical device of storytelling. An analysis of 500 of the most popular TED Talks of all time found that stories made up 65% of the average speaker’s talk, whereas 25% went to reason and 10% went to character. This illustrates that the winning formula for popular TED talks is to wrap the big idea in a story. Tales of failure, awkwardness, misfortune, danger or disaster, told authentically, hastens deep engagement. The most personal content is the most relatable.

Metaphor gives language its verbal beauty according to Aristotle. When you use a metaphor or analogy to compare a new idea to something that is familiar to your audience, it clarifies your idea by turning the abstract into something concrete. Those who master the metaphor have the ability to turn words into images that help others gain a clearer understanding of  their ideas. But even more importantly to remember and share them. It is a powerful tool to have.

Brevity is a crucial element in making a persuasive argument. An idea, Aristotle said, should be expressed “as compactly and in as few words as possible.” He also observed that the opening of a person’s speech is the most important since, “attention slackens everywhere else rather than at the beginning.”

Hope you get the idea!

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.  She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

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