My PR Time Capsule (10 Rules to Persuade By)
Recently, while searching for a file on my home computer, I stumbled upon a document entitled “Communicate on Purpose.” The title fascinated me, but I admit it rang no bells. Until I opened it.
Reading the document instantly brought me back to the second half of 2008, when I stood at a major crossroads in my career. Suddenly, I remembered sitting down and typing out 10 bullet points that captured my philosophy of effective persuasive communications. This was part of a vague notion to start a PR firm in the middle of the Great Recession.
I didn’t launch a firm back then; instead, and thankfully, I headed off to The Pew Charitable Trusts for a rewarding stint with that impressive organization. I discovered the document a week ago – coincidently just a few months after I launched my communications consultancy, 155 Strategies, with an additional decade of beneficial experience behind me.
What strikes me most about the 10 points are how well they still capture my operating system as a communicator. I am looking forward to hearing how it strikes others – Where did I get it right? What is missing? What needs a tweak or two? I am copying the document below, without a single edit. Please let me know what you think…
Communicating on Purpose: Pete’s Path to Persuasion
1) The audience is never wrong. They are rational and make decisions that make sense to them. Any time spent blaming the audience is time lost to your efforts to persuade them. Never lie to them.
2) See the world from your audience’s perspective. Learn their history (or histories), their values, their fears and their dreams. Keep these in mind at all times. At all times.
3) Find your audience’s trusted agents. Investigate who sells them cars (religion, candidates, whatever) and how do they do it. Mimic, or at least adopt, these methods.
4) Spare no effort to choose the right medium. While the right medium merely makes persuasion possible, the wrong one makes it impossible. And once you select a medium, keep checking that your audience hasn’t shifted away from it.
5) The world (and your audience) works on a normal curve. Praise the believers; cultivate the open-minded; educate the unconvinced; and inoculate against (do not waste time courting) the bitter-enders. Work out from the middle at all times. This is the land of useful feedback.
6) Count votes. Fifty percent plus one is what you need to win. Either win the votes or change the voters. Landslides are a luxury.
7) Rigorously evaluate all of your messages. Use the following factors: Comprehension, threat-benefit, immediacy, and power. Stress your high scoring areas and address your lows – or else you are sure to lose.
8) Believe in the power of three. Three points back up one message. Three facts buttress one point. Three sources lead to credibility. Having three points will help you avoid getting bored with your message.
9) If you don’t have a headline, you don’t have a story. The real work comes as you tighten your message into its purest form. This is where you earn your money.
10) Go ugly early. Admit, apologize, make amends, make substantive changes, and tell the story when you are done. Stop digging when you are in a hole. If you say it, expect to read it.