Harnessing the Superpower of Rhetoric for Persuasive Business Writing

Blog Post #19 v.2

What makes a successful online business owner special? The power to persuade.

In fact, persuasion is so important, that it’s probably better to call it a superpower.

That’s because it’s what makes blogs, PowerPoints, vlogs or podcasts work.

So what can you do to enhance your persuasive superpowers?

It’s as easy as reviewing a few rhetorical concepts. And understanding what makes those concepts as formidable as Superman himself.

So let’s do it.

Concept #1: AUDIENCE

Audience refers to who is on the receiving end of your communication.

Don’t fall into the trap of generalizing your audience. Create at least one ideal prospect to represent your audience and communicate to him/her.

What does that ideal prospect struggle with in businesses and/or life?

As you imagine who this ideal prospect is, think of a current client who represents the demographic you are targeting.

Or a prospect from a demographic you want to target.

If you still can’t quite put a face on a your ideal prospect, it’s time to sharpen your superhero eyes and ears.

Research prospect/the demographic he/she is part of on Google. Then observe and engage that person — or people like him/her — on social media.

If that person has a blog and/or vlog, read/watch closely. Join any social media groups your prospect might be part of on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

The more you know, the more you can make your message recipients real and specific. And the better you can visualize your prospect, the easier it will be to craft a piece of communication.

Concept #2: ETHOS

Superman is arguably the greatest of all superheroes. But he didn’t have a teacher to help him along his superhero path.

You do. His name? Aristotle.

He’s the man who identified what makes for persuasive communication in a fourth century B.C. treatise called Rhetoric.

Ethos is the one of three elements that Aristotle identified as crucial to a persuasion. It’s the root word for “ethics” but also refers to a communicator’s credentials.

Someone who has credentials had to earn them. And earning something implies integrity and character.

Ethos asks one important question: why should your audience trust you?

One way is by demonstrating you have expertise and have the “goods” — education and/or experience — to prove it.

Another is by linking to/referencing credentialed and/or well-researched sources.

For example: I’ve taught freshman composition and written for businesses. And I’m referencing Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who laid the foundations for rhetorical theory and practice. Both comprise the ethos behind this post.

Trust is earned, not given. So give your audience reasons to believe (in) you.

Concept #3: LOGOS

Logos is the second persuasive element Aristotle identifies. The term refers to the logical, factual components of writing/speaking and refers to how you reason your way to a conclusion.

So for example, let’s say that you want to communicate that your business produces a certain kind of results.

Logos asks: can those results — say, customer satisfaction — be discussed in measurable ways? And what kind of reputable statistics/metrics/studies can you use to demonstrate those results?

Remember: facts alone do not make for persuasive superpowers. You can have all the facts in the world at your fingertips.

But if organization (or lack thereof) is your kryptonite, you’ll lose your audience.

And your credibility/ethos. Would you trust a source that wasn’t clear or logical?

Concept #4: PATHOS

Pathos is the final persuasive element in Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle. It refers the emotional component of communication.

Here’s where knowing your audience — and imagining yourself as being part of it — becomes especially useful.

And where you can show that you’re a bona fide superhero who’s guided by facts and heart.

Speak directly to what your audience likes, loves, desires. Or to what worries them. Or what gets under their skin.

And make them laugh. Everyone loves a good sense of humor…but be careful.

What might be a hit with twenty-somethings might flop miserably with middle-aged business owners or corporate executives. Again, know your audience.

While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to show who you are as a person. What do you like (love, desire etc.) that your audience might like (love, desire etc.) too?

Audiences always appreciate a personal connection. It shows empathy, especially if you’ve dealt with the same problems they have.

The best communication will have a mix of ethos, logos and pathos. How much of each element is present, though, will depend on your audience.

And what you know about representative members of that audience.

And how much time you’re willing to invest learning about them.

But for the online business superhero dedicated to saving clients from their problems, it’s all in a day’s work.





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