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Objectives for this session

These are some of the theories about how communications can be designed to be more persuasive. Well also be looking at some of the ideas about attitude formation and the limits of persuasive communications

Opinions, Attitudes and Beliefs


Long term and deeply held almost impossible to change Sets of Attitudes derived from Beliefs May only be changed over the medium to long term Derived & Received Opinions may be changed by Experience, Learning and Persuasion



What can be changed?

Opinions cab be changed by new experiences or evidence Clusters of opinions form an Attitude Clusters of Attitudes form a Belief Certain Attitudes and Beliefs are regarded by the individual as forming part of his/her personality The more committed the person is to that part of his/her personality, the more difficult it is to change those interconnected opinions, attitudes and beliefs

Attitude Formation:

Note: Communication is only one small input into the attitude formation process.

Historical Setting
Historical, economical, social and political factors affecting the issue, the social norms and the personality


Engaged Attitude

Social Environment Communication

The issue. Norms of social reference groups. Socially available information Life situation and experiences

Existing attitudes to the issue Cognitive, emotional, behavioural responses Stereotypes and other attitudes engaged

Adapted from A Map for the Analysis of Personality and Politics, by M Brewster Smith

The Communication Process

A source delivers a message using a medium to an audience in order to achieve an effect

Who says what to whom by what means and with what effect.

Six Steps of the Persuasion Process

1: Get your message in front of your audience
Right medium, right place, right time

4: They must be convinced and yield

Win over the audience, so that they adopt your point

2: They must pay attention to it

Relevant message, attractively presented

5: They must remember your message

Simple, memorable, catchy

6: They must act upon it

Tell the audience what to do next, which should be something simple and easy

3: They must understand it

Accessible format, understandable terms, logical construction

Five persuasion designs

1: Stimulus-Response
Repetition of one idea in association with another See one, automatically think of the other: E.g. Take a break Similar to Pavlovian conditioning
Otto Lerbinger: Designs for Persuasive Communication (Prentice Hall, 1972)

Five persuasion designs

2: Cognitive
Audience will use reason to reach a sensible conclusion Needs a logically reasoned argument Works best when audience has a low personality stake in the issue Suitable when audience has little engaged attitudes or preconceptions about the issue Suitable when you have a complicated story to tell Cognitive arguments can be used to support more emotionally based arguments

Five persuasion designs

3: Motivational
Attitudes may change in order to pursue the individuals self interest Also known as the Whats in it for me argument May also refer to theory of Maslows Hierarchy of Needs A purely rational (cognitive) approach without reference to the individuals needs are rarely persuasive If audience are struggling to fulfil basic needs, they are not open to appeals to their higher needs

Five persuasion designs

3: Social
Message should take into account the individuals social reference groups:
Ethnic, Social class, Cultural & sub-cultural norms Peer groups

Messages targeted at different groups may need to formulated differently

Five persuasion designs

5: Personality
Where possible messages may need to take into account the personality characteristics of the individual Optimistic, pessimistic, introverted, extroverted Especially important in face-to-face and personal selling

Message construction:

Introduction Inform the reader/listener about the issue at hand. State the facts that surround the situation.


State your case

Discuss why your way is the best way. Share evidence and expert opinions supporting your position.


Examine and refute the opposition

It is vital that you recognize and discredit opposing views. Look for flaws, loopholes, and reasons to reject other suggestions. If there are positive aspects of the opposing view, point them out, but compare them to the overall benefit of your case.


Reconfirm your position

Now it is time to review the main points of your arguments. Be sure to address any items that may have come while refuting the opposition.


Conclude that your position is superior

Be confident in your closing that your way, is indeed, the only way based upon all the information just provided.

Source: Newsom, D. & Carrell, B. 2001, Public Relations Writing Form and Style, Wadsworth