What do you know about Persuasion? Explain its components, principles and techniques in detail.
Persuasion refers to the process by which a person’s attitudes or behaviour are, without duress, influenced by communication. Persuasion pervades over almost all human activities and it is geared to information transmission in such a way as to get people to revise old pictures (Predisposition) in their minds, or form new ones, and thus change their behaviour. To some others persuasion is seen as “Communication to influence choices”. Still to others it is “a process that changes attitude, belief, opinion or behaviour”.
Actually, we try to sell ideas, concepts, products etc. through the art of persuasion. Persuasion may be carried out in offices, workplaces, homes, etc. by fellow workers or neighbours.
Persuasion has been treated as an art, a craft and a science since ancient times and classical thinkers like Aristotle and Cicero devoted whole treatises.to the topic. In the middle ages, it was one of the basic liberal arts which was mastered practically by all the educated men. Even the religious preachers used the spoken word to move the men to virtue. In the form of advertising, persuasion is supporting a major industry these days.
Components and Steps in Persuasion:
The components or factors involved in the communication process are source, message, channel, receiver and destination. Source factors include the perceived sender of the communication. The “message” refers to what he says and includes style, content and organization, while “Channel” designates the medium (e.g. press, radio, television) through which the message is communicated. As regards the “receiver” factors, it refers to the persons (e.g. age, sex, etc.) to whom the communication is directed and the “destination” indicates the behaviour (e.g. voting) the communication is designed to influence.
The process of persuasion involves a series of successive steps: The communication is presented; the person pays attention to it; he comprehends the contents of the message and also the basic conclusion being urged. However, for persuasion to be effected the individual must agree with or yield to the point being urged and then finally act on it or in other words carry out the behaviour implied due to the new change in his attitude. For example, he enlists in the army, starts contributing to a charity etc.
Functions and Uses of Persuasion
The Public Relations practitioner uses the techniques of persuasion to:
i) Change hostile opinions/attitudes;
ii) Neutralize hostile opinions and indifferent attitudes;
iii) Crystalize “unformed” or latent opinions and positive and negative attitudes; and
iv) Conserve or reinforce positive or favourable opinions.
Altering unfavourable or hostile opinions into favourable opinions is a difficult job, however, if the message is compatible with a person’s general disposition About a subject, the task of persuasion becomes easier.
To neutralize unfavourable opinions is also not an easy task. If complete change of opinion or attitude is not achievable the second most desired goal would be to render the hostile opinion harmless or indifferent. It is also imperative for an organization to know where the silent group stands.
The easiest job of a persuader is to conserve favourable opinions through their reinforcement. The public relations practioners, however, should be very cautious and should not commit the mistake of neglecting people already in his fold. He should keep in mind that people rarely like to be taken for granted.
Principles and Techniques of Persuasion:
1. Audience Analysis
For a successful persuasive communication the knowledge of audience—their social, economic, religious and political structures and values, is of paramount importance. The process of determining the attitudes of groups and then suggesting a specific mode of behavior or appropriate communication medium is called “Channelling”. Evoking concen for quality of life, I need for deflating price spiral and patriotism are some of the Channelling tactics that are commonly used in persuasion.
Equipped with such basic knowledge about the target group or audience of persuasion, the message can be tailored more appropriately and effectively.
2. Source Credibility or Principle of Familiarity and Trust
Persuasion is more complete and successful if the source of persuasive communication is credible and trustworthy. We buy ideas, beliefs, opinions or point of views of those persons whom we believe to be more knowledgeable or expert in the concerned fields, sincere towards our interest and cause and who have impressive and charismatic qualities.
Sometimes visual symbols surrounding the person engaged in persuasive communication may profoundly enhance his credibility. A man without beard would seldom be able to impress the audience if he talks as a religious expert, while an appropriately dressed ” maulana”, wearing beard and a cap, speaking in favour of family planning would easily be accepted as a credible source and his utterances would have more persuasive impact.
The attractiveness of the source to the audience generally adds to the persuasive impact. For example, if the source is a greatly admired person, people tend to pursue gratification from identifying with him or from gaining social esteem by appearing to be like him. The similarity of the source to the receiver also enhances his attractiveness and in turn the persuasive impact.
3. Appeal to Self-interest or Identification Principle
The message must be stated in terms of the interest of the audience. If your message does not address to the psychic or economic needs of your audience it would hardly attract their attention.
The appeal to self-interest may involve a sense of self-esteem, contribution to society at large, and a sense of belonging and ego-gratification or a deduction in tax.
4 Clarity of Message
The message should be self-explanatory and clear. The audience should be able to comprehend what you want them to do, say or believe. If the message is meant for internalization and the audience are intelligent and rational, the drawing conclusion of the message is left to them. If there is any danger that the audience may draw a wrong conclusion then it should not be left to them.
5 Timings and Context
Selection of appropriate conditions, climate and timings is of vital importance for the acceptance and adoption of a message. Many charity drives occur during Ramazan in the Islamic world.
A good public relations practioner should sense the public’s mood and try to capitalize on it. He should keep himself abreast of what media gate-keepers consider newsworthy to achieve proper publicity for his organization in the news media.
6 Audience Participation or Involvement
Persuasion is enhanced by the active involvement or participation of the audience. For better quality and more production the suggestions should also emanate from the audience. Decisions or suggestions formulated after consulting the audience are adopted more readily and employees are also more committed to prove the efficacy of those solutions.
7 Action Principles or Hints for Action
Action-oriented ideas and suggestions hinting at practical guidelines have greater chances of acceptance than those devoid of action and merely relying on empty appeals.
8 Contents and Structure of Message
Content and structure of messages can also enhance considerably the rate of their acceptance and in turn attitudinal change. Both rational and emotional appeals, comprised of statistics, budget figures, civic pride of the audience, gratitude To their Alma Mater, drama, examples, testimonials and mass media endorsement are used in devouring persuasive messages. In some situations two-sided arguments, humour, the factors of Primacy (arguments presented first in the speech) and Recency (strong arguments presented near the end of a speech and conclusion—summarizing and reinforcing the speaker’s point of view—can produce greater persuasive effect.
9 Persuasive Speaking
Delivering persuasive messages through spoken words require a great deal of proficiency and professionalism. God Almighty exhorts His Prophet (peace be upon him) in Quran while engaged in persuasive dialogues, he should lay stress first on the points which are undisputable and common between him and his audience.
Psychologists suggest that persuasive impact can be enhanced through different devices like structured choice, partial commitment and asking for more but being content with less. In structured choice the audience are asked to make their choice from two alternatives , — usually positive and negative. In partial commitment device, the speaker gets commitment from the receivers of the message for some action, leaving the other parts of the proposal for some later stage. When personnel are doubtful about the willingness of the management to accept the actual financial plan, they ask for a larger amount than required.
10 Roadblocks to Persuasion
Persuasion in its real sense is not a science. None of the techniques and devices can claim to get sure-fire results of persuasion. It deals with complicated and unpredictable human nature. The failure to achieve the desired results of persuasion, some experts think, may be attributed to ineptness or false assumptions.
The writers of the book “Public Relations- Strategies and Tactics” have mentioned four factors, which may create roadblocks to a persuasive message. These are:
i) Lack of message penetration,
ii) Competing messages,
iii) Self-selection, and
Lack of message penetration results from the fact that the carrier of your persuasive message is not being attended by many of your audience. Moreover, the gate-keeping process may also damage the true spirit of your message. In the face of huge communication media and their constantly bombarding the audience with competing messages, the audience has been forced to sift messages suiting to their conditions.
Picking up or consumption of only those messages which suit to the taste, conviction or cause of the audience and ignoring information coming from other side, poses a big problem for a persuasive communicator. Potential audience of a Friday sermon are seldom found in the mosque. People perceive and interpret the messages in the light of their own predispositions. Because of this habit of self-perception the same message is differently understood by different people.
There also exist techniques to make people more resistant to persuasion. One effective way of making a person more resistant to subsequent persuasive attacks is to commit him in advance to his initial belief by encouraging him to make a public announcement about it; Commitment becomes even firmer when the person is led to make irreversible decision and to take action on the basis of his initial belief.
11 The Ethics of Persuasion
Like other professionals, the public relations practioners should also abide by certain norms and ethics of their profession. They should avoid the use of false, irrelevant land illogical arguments, gimmicks or half-truths to convince their audience. If they are not expert in the concerned field, they should not pose to be the one.
Such appeals which may arouse hatred and bigotry, should not find favour with a public relations practioner. The concealment of your real purpose of persuasion may also endanger the credibility and trust of your persuasive communication. The public relations practioners should be clear-minded and should never try to deceive their audience.