Idea development for persuasive messages is critical. Since your audience is resistant to the message, one of your key tasks is to establish credibility. Developing strong ideas in the interest of your audience helps you demonstrate your voice of competence. It involves gaining a deep understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of your ideas, products, and services. In addition, it involves gaining a thorough understanding of competing ideas, products, and services.
Thus, before attempting to persuade others, expert business communicators seek to understand products, services, and ideas in great depth so that they can speak from an authoritative and competent perspective. To address the issue of attracting younger credit union members, Christine and Haniz spend months learning about the strategies that other credit unions use. When Haniz works on a message that promotes her credit union over local banks, she carefully analyzes and compares the major products and services offered by her credit union and those of competing banks. When Haniz works on a message to persuade credit union members to join the Hope Walkathon, she learns all she can about participation in this event and how it helps in the fight against breast cancer.
Components of Persuasive Messages
- Gain attention.
- Raise a need.
- Deliver a solution.
- Provide a rationale.
- Show appreciation.
- Give counterpoints (optional).
- Call to action.
Most business writing is direct and explicit. It is direct in that you begin with a main idea or argument and then provide the supporting reasons. It is explicit in that nothing is implied; statements contain full and unambiguous meaning. When you write directly and explicitly, you help your readers understand your message and you show respect for their time.
Compared to other business messages, persuasive messages are somewhat more indirect and implicit. They are sometimes indirect in that they provide the rationale for a request before making the specific request. They are sometimes implicit in that the request or some of the rationale for the request may be implied. In other words, sometimes the reader needs to read between the lines to grasp the entire meaning. Implicit statements politely ask people to do or think differently. Also, explicitly stating some types of benefits is considered poor form—for example, matters of financial or career gain in internal persuasive requests.14
The first task of most persuasive messages is to gain the attention of your readers. You can do this in a variety of ways, including asking a rhetorical question, providing a compelling or interesting fact, revealing a compelling statistic, issuing a challenge, or posting a testimonial.15 For internal persuasive messages, the primary means of gaining attention is demonstrating a business need—a gap between what is and what could be.16 You generally have more flexibility in external persuasive messages as you choose your attention-getters. See Table 9.1 for examples of attention-getters Haniz might use for some of her communication tasks.
|Type of Attention-Getter||Example|
|Rhetorical question||Did you know that average credit union members save $400 per year compared to bank customers?|
|Intriguing statistic||In the past five years, we’ve lost over 200 members—over 10 percent of our membership.|
|Compelling and unusual fact/s||You’ve probably heard car dealers boast about their near-zero percent interest rates—but there’s a catch! By financing with car dealers, you give up your opportunity to receive manufacturer rebates and your power to negotiate on price.|
|Challenge||Please join our team in this year’s Hope Walkathon in the fight against breast cancer.|
|Testimonial||“I never knew I could have so much negotiating power with a preapproved loan. By getting my car loan through Better Horizons, I negotiated a great deal with the car dealer. This is the way to buy cars!”|
In the body of your message, your first task is to tie your product, service, or idea to the needs of your readers. The best way to reduce the resistance your reader may have is to show that your message meets your readers’ needs. Once you’ve stated the need, you may describe your solution, which is a recommended product, service, or idea. Many readers will remain skeptical unless you provide convincing support. So, you will need to provide a strong rationale, meaning solid reasons why your product, service, or idea really benefits them. After all, you are more than likely attempting to influence skeptics.17
As you structure your message, consider how direct you should be. If your audience members are strongly and emotionally resistant to your solution, consider a more indirect approach so they warm up to your ideas before you suggest a solution. To make your message less direct, provide the rationale before the solution.
At some point in the body of the message, you should validate your readers by showing appreciation for their views and preferences.Validation implies that you recognize and appreciate others’ needs, wants, ideas, and preferences as legitimate and reasonable. By validating your readers, you show respect for them and demonstrate a balanced perspective.18