Influencing Your Audience: Making Your Persuasive Message Stick

Capturing interest at the start of a message is important, but in persuasive writing, you also need to sustain the audience’s attention throughout the message. That’s how you influence people’s thinking and motivate them to accept your ideas. Here are a couple of ideas:

Tailor your appeal to something the audience wants, needs or values.

      For a manager, that means you must know what motivates your employees. There are various wants, needs, and values that move people: a bonus, a promotion, time off, self-esteem, a challenge, an appeal to their leadership potential. Others value inclusion: They appreciate the opportunity to be part of a group.


      In a different situation, maybe you are trying to persuade people to support or oppose a developer’s project in your community. If you are persuading people to approve it, you might focus on jobs, tax revenue, or shopping convenience. If you want to persuade people to oppose the project, perhaps on environmental grounds, consider what is important to the audience. Will the public lose access to open space? Will wetlands be sacrificed? Will pollution be an issue?

Present your persuasive appeal in a context familiar to the audience. News stories about a foreign country often will refer to the country as being “about the size of Iowa” or some other state. Such a comparison gives people context, which is important in making a message persuasive, because you need to present your argument within the realm of the audience’s experience. You need to make it real for people.
If you are appealing for a contribution to help the poor, and the audience doesn’t know what it means to be in poverty, compare what the audience takes for granted every day to what poor people never have. That helps the audience to “see,” and your appeal is more likely to move them.