Module 13: Composing Persuasive Messages
February 22 2012
What are Persuasive Appeals?
- People are persuaded by their perceptions of:
the trustworthiness of the messenger
the emotional and logical resonances of the message.
- People are more easily persuaded by what they perceive as familiar.
- They have several purposes:
o Primary Purposes
To have the reader act
To provide enough information so that the reader knows exactly what to do
To overcome any objections that might prevent/delay action
o Secondary Purposes
To establish a good impression of the writer.
To build a good image of the writer’s organization
To build a good relationship between the writer and reader.
To reduce or eliminate future correspondence on the same subject
- Persuasive messages include the following:
o Orders and requests
o Proposals and recommendations
o Sales and fundraising letters
o Job application letters
o Reports, if they recommend action.
o Efforts to change people’s behaviour, such as collection letters, criticisms or performance appraisals,
and public service ads.
What is the best Persuasive Strategy?
- It depends on how much and what kinds of resistance you expect.
- 4 different persuasive strategies:
Reward and punishment
- Reward and punishment have limited use, in part because they don’t produce permanent change and because
they produce psychological reactance.
- Making a positive first impression is the most important persuasive technique of all.
- First impressions establish credibility.
- When you write, your audience’s first impression comes from your choice of medium, document layout,
organizational pattern, and readability (clarity, conciseness, correctness). - Use the direct(deductive or good news) request pattern in these situations:
o The audience will do as you ask without any resistance.
o You need a response only from the people who are willing to act.
o The audience is busy and may not read all the messages received.
o Your organization’s culture prefers direct requests.
- Use the indirect(problem solving, inductive, bad news) pattern in the following:
o The audience is likely to object to doing as you ask.
o You need action from everyone.
o You trust the audience to read the entire message.
- The most persuasive argument is the one that best meets your audience’s needs.
- Observe the style of powerful people in your organization.
- Different ethnic and national cultures also have different preferences for gaining compliance.
How should I organize persuasive messages?
- In direct requests, start with the request.
- In problem-solving message, start with the problem you share.
Writing Direct Requests
- When you expect quick agreement, save the reader’s time by presenting the request directly.
o Consider asking immediately for the information or service you want.
o Give readers all the information and details they will need to act on your request.
In a claim, explain the circumstances so the reader knows what happened.
Number your questions or set them off with bullets so the reader can check.
In a more complicated request, anticipate possible responses.
o Ask for the action you want.
- Direct requests should be direct. Don’t make the reader guess what you want.
o Indirect request: is there a newer version of the 2009 Accounting reference manual?
o Direct request: if there is a newer version of the 2009 Accounting Reference manual, please send it to
Organizing Problem Solving Messages
- Use an indirect (Inductive or bad news) approach and the problem-solving pattern or organization when you
expect resistance from the reader, but you can show that doing what you suggest will solve the problem.
o Mention the problem you share(Which your request will solve).
Mention the problem objectively
o Detail the results of the problem as they affect your reader.
Be specific about the cost in money, time, lost goodwill, inconvenience and so on.
Persuade your readers that something has to be done before you convince them that your
solution is the best one.
o Explain the solution to the problem. Present your solution, focusing on practicality, workability and desirability without using the
words I or my.
o Prove that any negative elements (cost, time, concerns, and disruptions) are outweighed by the
o Summarize any additional benefits of the solution.
You can present the main benefit – solving the problem – briefly since you have described the
problem in detail.
o Ask for the action you want.
Give your reader a reason to act promptly perhaps offering a new reader benefit.
How do I identify and Overcome Objections?
- Know your audience. Talk to your audience. Then try these strategies.
- Use open questions and phrase your questions neutrally, so that people feel encouraged to express their
- Ask follow-up questions to be sure you understand.
- We have a vested interest in something when we benefit directly from keeping things as they are.
- The best way to deal with an objection is to eliminate it.
- If an objection is false, based on misinformation, give the response to the objection without naming the
- When objections have already been voiced, you might want to name the objection so your audience realizes you
are responding to that specific objection.
- If real objections remain, try one or more of the following strategies to counter objections:
Specify how much time or money is required—it may not be as much as the reader fears.
Distributing flyers to each house or apartment in your neighbourhood will probably take two afternoons.
Put the time or money in the context of the benefits they bring.
The additional $152 500 will (1) allow the Open Shelter to remain open 24 rather than 16 hours a day, (2) pay for
three social workers to help men find work and homes, and (3) keep the neighbourhood bank open, so that men
don't have to cash welfare cheques in bars, and so that they can save the $800 they need to have up front to rent
Show that money spent now will save money in the long run.
By replacing the boiler now, we'll no longer have to release steam that the overflow tank can't hold. Depending on
how severe the winter is, we will save $100 to $750 a year in energy costs. If energy costs rise, we'll save even
Show that doing as you ask will benefit a group or a cause the reader supports, although the action may not help
the reader directly.
By being a Big Brother or a Big Sister, you'll give a child the attention