Move readers to act
I’ve been nagging my husband, Phil, to get regular massages — at least every other week — for 23 years. You’ll feel better, I say. Reduce stress. Get some blood flowing into your creaky knees. Be more flexible at the gym.
Nah, he’s said for 23 years. Don’t need ’em.
Last week, Phil had his once-every-five-years rubdown at Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe.
“You should get regular massages,” his massage therapist, Karma, said. “At least every other week.”
“I should get regular massages,” Phil reported to me later. “At least every other week.”
Use the persuasive principle of authority.
While I’m grateful for Phil’s good Karma for setting him on the path to enlightenment, I also found it a little irritating that my husband bought the massage therapist’s advice, but not mine.
But then, social science explains that. Turns out Phil was just responding to the persuasive principle of authority: We look to experts to show us the way.
Authority recently got a boost, according to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual study of global opinion leaders. While people are less likely to trust their peers (a consequence of having 762 “friends” on Facebook?), they place the most trust in expert spokespeople and information sources.
Academics, experts and analysts are now the top three voices of credible information — outweighing peers, CEOs and company employees, according to the barometer. And analysts’ reports and articles in business magazines and newspapers now out-influence conversations with company employees and advice on social networking sites, according to the study.
Five ways to increase your authority
So how can you tap the persuasive power of authority?
- Quote experts and authority figures in your persuasive copy.
- Don’t drop traditional PR efforts. Journalists remain important authority figures, according to the Edelman study. Let them help you tell your story.
- Cite your credentials. When an executive published the credentials of people brought in to turn around a London bureau, the government monitoring and advisory panel was more accepting of the rate and type of change the team made, reports Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.
- Arrange for someone else to cite your credentials. In a study, researcher Jeffrey Pfeffer and his team asked one group to read passages about an author’s credentials from the author’s agent and a second group to read the same comments made by the author himself, according to Yes! Participants rated the author more highly on nearly every measure when the author’s agent sang his praises than when the author tooted his own horn. Testimonials, third-party introductions and displays of your diplomas and trophies shine a light for you without making you look arrogant.
- Look the part. Use design to increase your authority in social media, suggests viral marketing scientist Dan Zarella. Off-the-shelf themes and default templates are for rookies. Invest in a custom design that’s unique to your site, blog or page and that presents you as an expert. While you’re at it, make sure your design is sophisticated and professional. Avoid a MySpace-y look.
And if all else fails? Maybe you can get Karma to intervene.
Sources: Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert B. Cialdini, Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, Free Press, 2008; 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer, Edelman, 2010