The most powerful way to persuade people is to tell them a story they will remember and tell again. Here is how to do it:
* Passion: Start by asking “what do I really care most about?” If you are passionate about your new idea, product or service chances are the audience will catch your passion the same way they catch the flu. Passion is a contagion and it spreads quickly. Your passion needs to authentic. If the audience thinks your acting solely out of self interest-you’re done. * Hero: You are the hero. The hero’s job is to make the audience see what you see. Pull the audience into your world. Make them see your message from the inside out. Help them see it through your eyes and as if they were standing in your shoes. * Obstacle: Define clearly the obstacle or problem facing your audience? How does your new idea help them overcome it? You and your new idea are the hero, mounted on a great white steed. , You have a lance in your hand and you’re charging ahead to slay the dragon. Before you charge make sure that you and your audience share the same dragon. Ask yourself “what is the dragon that keep me up at night?” does it keep my audience up as well? If you can slay that dragon you’re on your way to success. * Awareness: Does your idea bring something new to solving the audience’s problem? What insights are imbedded in your message? What lessons can the audience take away and use again? Does your audience nod in agreement as you discuss your solutions or do they remain stone silent? * Transformation: How will your idea change the audience for the better? How will they be different by using your idea? What is transformational about your message?
The more you can turn your message into a story the more likely your message will succeed. Successful stories make an audience feel as well as think. This is crucial because as neuroscience has discovered; stories are easier to recall than facts alone because they implant themselves in our memory.
As we kick start this blog back to life after a six-week
hiatus it seems a good time to answer a question Bob and I are often asked -
where does the five-element story model come from?
Well, the story part comes from Bob and I and our experience
as corporate communications consultants. But the five-element part – the
understanding of how the original Greek elements of fire, earth, water, air and
space relate to specific psychological processes – comes from our study of the
work of contemporary philosopher Oscar Ichazo. That is why our book “The
Elements of Persuasion” is dedicated to him.
Ichazo is probably best known for his development of what
are now called the “Enneagrams of Personality.” This work has created a cottage
industry in the self-help field known as the “Enneagram Movement”. Ichazo himself rejects this “movement” as
pop-psychology and coffee-table mysticism, which includes only the barest tip
of the iceberg of his theory of the nature of the human psyche and the Mind as
The clearest explanation of
Ichazo’s work on the five elements (only a very small part of his overall
presentation) is in the Autumn 1992 issue of “The Arican” the journal of the
Arica Institute and is available for sale on their website at www.arica.org. Be warned, that article is pretty thick going (Icahzo is a
serious philosopher after all). If you aren’t going for your Ph.D, but are
interested in studying Ichazo’s theories (and believe us, you really should be) we suggest that you
start by reading his book "Between Metaphysics and Protoanalysis" available on the same site.
Ichazo is a bit of a recluse and is currently closeted
working on his magnum opus. As his loyal students Bob and I wish him well. THKR
Over at Salon, Gordy Slack has a very nice piece on Mirror Neurons – the physical hardwiring that allows humans to learn by imitation and to accurately anticipate the actions of others. According to Slack, on November 4, a scientist announced that they had finally located an actual mirror neuron. In the cognitive world (and in marketing) this is major. Until now, all we know about these mysterious neurons we know through inference and from studying their effects using MRI brain scans. Ongoing studies are looking at how mirror neurons effect everything from Autism to which commercials work best during the Superbowl. If we can now see how these slippery little buggers actually tick at a neuro-chemical level, it’s a very big deal indeed.
In Elements of Persuasion, we spend a lot of Chapter 5 “Finding Common Ground” discussing how organizations from the Marine Corps to Starbucks to Harley Davidson harness mirror neurons to build team cohesion and ultimately, to make brands. If you haven’t read our book, you should check out this article to get an overview on what Mirror Neurons are. It gets a little tree-huggy, (ascribing all of empathy to the existence of these neurons is probably going to far), but it is a good quick read. One bone to pick with Mr. Slack – exactly where was this announcement made? Science? The Journal of Neurobiology? A UCLA press conference? If anyone knows, please post. I’d run it down right now myself but I have to go do picket duty with the Writers Guild. Where, not so coincidentally I will be using my own mirror neurons as I march together in close proximity with my fellow writers building the WGA brand.
We have written before, both in Elements of Persuasion and in past blogs, about the very real business advantages working for the common good can bring – particularly when you are trying to build a brand or unify your creative team. Finding the right not for profit cause and linking up to it can be major career booster.
But we haven’t talked much about how storytelling relates to the unique problems of the not for profit world. Well, we haven’t talked about it much here yet. You can find two guest blogs we did over at Getting to the Point, a blog connected to the Network for Good that deals with those issues.
Once you are there spend some time checking out the archives and the rest of the site. As with our friend D. K Holland’s site on Branding and Nonprofits this site run by Katya Andresen has great marketing advice that applies to all businesses. There is something about dumping all the “market share” “return on investment” “maximize profit” buzzwords that brings things back to basics and makes even difficult concepts easy to understand and apply, at least the way she does it. And it doesn’t get much more basic than deciding to do the right thing. Check it out.
Matt Yglesias over at Atlantic comments on the me-too-ism of the current Repubs:
“There’s really something bizarre about the growing number of constituencies to which your modern-day Republicans must pander in order to succeed in primary politics.”
Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly feels this is a function of the times. With the fortunes of the Dems running strong they seem more cohesive for the same reason a winning baseball team seems happier in the dug out.
The problem Repubs face is more systemic – and of course we think it is linked to story.
In Elements of Persuasion, we show why having the right Antagonist is crucial to motivating your troops. Antagonists release emotions that link to memory and lead to actions like getting off the couch and going to the polls. But there is a progression to stories. FIRST build Passion, THEN define your Hero, AND ONLY THEN is your Hero ready to tackle the problems represented by the Antagonist. You can’t really define a Hero in the negative – that is, you can’t define your hero solely by what they are against. The enemy of my enemy is rarely a trusted friend. Ronald Reagan was a catalyst for change not because he stood against big government but because he stood for a new “Morning in America.” Hence, the Reagan Democrats.
Over the last election cycles Karl Rove masterminded a strategy of wedge issues. Each became a litmus test of what it means to be a real Republican. Eventually he sliced the pie so thin there is no room for the current candidates to breath. They quite literally lack inspiration. Whoever successfully breaks out of this losing pattern will end up being a true Republican Hero.
Senator John McCain, is no longer getting the ink he deserves as the MSM anoints Giuliani, Romney and Thompson the Repub top tier. This is probably a mistake. Maybe not as big a mistake as McCain’s decision to visit fundamentalist Bob Jones University, (see Chapter 9, Elements of Persuasion for details of why) but still short sighted. As McCain’s enforced stay in the Hanoi Hilton proves, he is at his heroic best when in a tight place. With only $2M in the bank (Romney has $12M, Giuliani $15M) and media buys fast approaching, McCain has come out swinging.
"One of the other Republican candidates made an extraordinary statement yesterday. Former Gov. Romney yesterday proclaimed himself the only real Republican in this race… In fact, when he ran against Ted Kennedy, he said he didn’t want to return to the days of Reagan-Bush. I always thought Ronald Reagan was a real Republican. When he refused to endorse the Contract With America, I don’t think he was speaking for Republicans. And when he was embracing the Democratic position on many major issues of the day, I don’t think he was speaking for Republicans…"
“You might not always agree with me on every issue, but I hope you know I’m not going to con you. The most important thing we have in this life is our self-respect. And I’m not going to trade mine for anyone’s vote or for any office."
Straight Talk is McCain’s signature style. He may just be getting his second wind.
Every once in a while you get an unsolicited email that makes the time spent deleting Nigerian bank scams, male enhancement ads and tips on penny stocks worth it. We just got a great post from Michael Liebman, Michael is President of the consulting firm Promaneo and teaches at Loyola College in Baltimore. We’ll let him tell the story. It is quite a coincidence.
“Well, I’m hooked on The Elements. My copy from Amazon just arrived and by the time I made it halfway through I was analyzing every story I heard and rewriting all of my training and college classroom scripts. Your book just went on the required reading list for my Loyola College class on “Power and Influence.”
“This afternoon three independent consultants and I each delivered brief introductions on a series of leadership classes that we will independently teach to 25 college administrators. The participants already had outlines for each class…
“You’ll love this. I started by telling the group that I wasn’t going to talk about the outline, but about something much more important. “Great leaders tell great stories!” When 5 heads started to bob I knew they were instantly hooked. …I told them by the end of the class they world create a vision. But not some meaningless superficial statement… their vision would be a great and passionate story that everyone would remember… I know this may seem selfishly competitive but the best part was the other consultants were stunned and didn’t know how to describe their parts of the program. You better tell your publisher to start another run. Your book made my day and I am only at page 107”
Your email made ours, Mike. So what is the coincidence? We have an announcement along these same lines coming up, but for now we’ll shamelessly leave it as a teaser.
Why read my opinions about the candidates when there are plenty of people with more inside knowledge pushing their own points of view? Well, the unique five-element story model explained in Elements of Persuasion for one thing. And not being actively engaged in the game gives us at FirstVoice the breathing room for fresh insights (Awareness=Air in our model). My charming prose is just icing on the cake. But if you are handicapping a horse race it makes sense to listen to the guys who spend their lives hanging around the track. Many White House Operatives are now hitting the public sector. Few are being very free about their views on the current Repub candidates. An exception is Dan Bartlett, Mr. Bush’s former counselor and one of GW’s closest aids.
Jim Rutenberg over at the NYT gives a synopsis of a talk Mr. Barlett gave to the U. S Chamber of Commerce that quickly cuts to the chase. But if you are a real political junkie why not see it for yourself here. It is well worth a long careful listen.
A while back, we mentioned that health care might be “just what the doctor ordered” for Dems to smoke out the Republicans. Now, against all odds (and much political advise) President Bush has vetoed the bipartisan SCHIP bill that would have extended health care for 3.8 million children. In doing so he has given the Dems a major issue to run on in ’08 AND played to the stereotype of the heartless, money grubbing Republican. Even a committed conservative like the Washington Times’ Editorial Page Editor Tony Blanky called Bush’s move “political malpractice.” Bush may or may not be a skilled statesman, but he clearly is a highly gifted street-smart politician, (don’t believe us, just ask Bill Clinton) so what made Bush do it?
We blame the power of story to hold a moment in memory. As we say in Elements of Persuasion, it is the emotions released in the struggle between hero and antagonist that locks a story in memory. When Hillary was just First Lady, the Republican Congress rallied and drove back her first attempt at universal health care branding it “socialized medicine.” It was widely credited with allowing the 1994 Repub take over of Congress. Now, “Hillary Care” resurfaces, and sensing an easy victory W draws a line in the sand. But times have changed and the story polarity has reversed (as often happens). Trying to repeat a heroic role from the past, Bush ends up playing the villain instead. Now you know why Hillary was laughing.