Robert Cialdini, author and speaker, may remind you of one of PBS's ubiquitous programs about motivation (think of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer) or a television evangelist such as Robert Schuller, but that doesn't mean that he isn't spot on.
Cialdini combines the common sense of a Norman Vincent Peale with modern social psychology to distill the "six principles of persuasion" that pretty much exemplify the tenets of advertising, public relations, and fundraising in the world today.
I suggest that if you are not familiar with Cialdini's work, you visit the website and take the Influence Quotient Test. You'll see how badly, or not, you need to review the basics of persuasion.
Those six tenets, according to Cialdini, are as follows:
- Reciprocation. People want to return favors. Giving small unsolicited gifts will often result in the recipient feeling an outsized obligation to return the favor.
- Scarcity. We want what we can't have. Perceived scarcity generates more demand.
- Authority. It must be true if an expert says it is. We all tend to revere authority figures, or even just those with the trappings of authority.
- Consistency. If a person publicly takes a stand on a particular idea or goal, he or she is more likely to keep that commitment, putting into action the stated belief/goal.
- Consensus. People look for "social proof." They want to know that other people took the same action they are contemplating and under similar circumstances.
- Liking. We are more easily persuaded by people we like and are attracted to.
Naturally, there are a jillion permutations of these principles, and Tim Ash, in his Website Magazine article, points out a few, ala Robert Cialdini.
For example, in regard to authority, Ash asks, how do you establish authority, credibility, and knowledge when you have just a short time to do it? The answer is to accentuate the negative first. Confess to the weaknesses and drawbacks of your product, service, or argument before presenting the compelling part of your pitch. This shows knowledge of the pros and cons and establishes trust because you are willing to reveal the negative.
As for consensus and social proof, we need to consider the Many others who agree and the Comparable others who do so. The Many implies that something is a "hit" in your community. This creates momentum that makes it hard for people to resist.
Comparability is about how similar someone else is to you. I will not be terribly influenced by actions of people with whom I do not identify. The closer your appeal is aligned with the customer's (or donor's) particular circumstances, the better. This is especially crucial for testimonials. They should not just come from experts, but also from peers.
In fundraising circles, these principles are very popular, as well they should be. They are simple and yet subtle, allowing for many ways of persuading volunteers to show up, donors to give, and supporters to act.
Photo by Andrew Ward/Life File/Getty Images