The power of persuasion

By JD Bruewer

I’m a pretty good communicator and storyteller, but I’m not always a great persuader.

JD Bruewer is a PR specialist at Hamilton County Job & Family Services.

JD Bruewer is a PR specialist at Hamilton County Job & Family Services.

One reason we need persuasion in public relations is to get the internal audience to understand that they are not our target audience. Their impression of the plan is different from the public's. In health care, the challenge often is getting physicians to buy into campaigns that work, instead of campaigns they like. In adoption and foster care, it’s getting caseworkers to understand that prospective parents will view information about a child differently than people who know the child.

My first career, as a journalist, helped me refine skills in gathering and translating information for public consumption, as well as the ability to boil a story down to its key elements.

But the volume of work against daily deadlines didn’t lend itself to respectful building of consensus before taking action. There were usually about 20 minutes to decide how to handle an issue for the next day’s paper. Quite often, when reporters and editors disagreed on the approach we should take, the door to the conference room was closed and yelling ensued.

Each party expressed their position clearly and forcefully, no pleasantries. When all sides had spoken, a decision was made, by seniority or majority rule and we moved on. That approach didn’t fly too well when reporting to the C-suite and I assume it wouldn’t work with clients if I were in an agency.

How do we persuade our bosses and clients to trust our expertise? I wanted to find out more, so I did a bit of research.

I found this advice, specifically tailored to health care, from health care brand consultancy Franklin Street.

Author Stephen Moegling recommends bringing the clients in early and educating them on the metrics used to measure success. Teach them to evaluate the campaign on metrics that matter. Doing so not only brings clients into your thought process, it allows them to feel a part of the process before decisions are made.

A couple of years back, I had coffee with James McKenna, a long-time copywriter in the Cincinnati area. I sought his advice on persuasion. His advice was to slow down, get input from the clients, then offer a plan that echoes their input.

Even if their input doesn’t have an impact on the plan, you can explain how the plan addresses their concerns.

McKenna emphasized the slowing down part. “Listen, listen and listen,” he said. “Don’t offer your plan until they ask for it. If you can get them to ask for it, they are going to be more receptive.”

Another bit of wisdom I found was from PR software provider Cision.

Author Allen Mireles believes persuasion is often the biggest difference between success and failure.

He offers six key principles to persuading client to buy in to a plan.

Likability: Find similarities and offer praise to the clients.

Reciprocity: Give what you want to receive -- trust, cooperation, a smile.

Social proof: Show that the idea has been well received by peers.

Consistency: Show up regularly, communicate clearly and honor commitments.

Authority: Express your expertise in blogs, white papers and social media.

Scarcity: Highlight the unique benefits or exclusive information you or your plan provide.