The Persuasion Formula: Take A Lesson From The Pols

When you’re trying to persuade people to take action, identify a simple, powerful message and return to it as many times, and as emotionally, as you possibly can.

If the campaign ads and stump speeches of the present
election cycle teach us anything about communication, they teach us this: When
you’re trying to persuade people to take action, identify a simple, powerful
message and return to it as many times, and as emotionally, as you possibly


In the trade, of course, this is known as “staying on
message,” and it’s the first commandment of a successful campaign. Business
communicators, alas, often ignore this valuable rule from the world of

Let’s face it: Staying on message works! If the polls are
any reliable indication, the Republicans are leading and they are leading
because of a single, three-part, powerful, constantly repeated theme that
unites virtually all of their candidates: Government
is too big, spending is out of control
and taxes must be cut.
people would be hard pressed to remember a time when that theme was not
the Republican message. This decades-old message (to which most
Democratic candidates do not seem to have a similarly compelling reply or
competing message) resonates with voters.

Whether or not you agree with them, the persistence, passion
and the discipline with which GOP candidates have spread their winning message
are admirable–and enormously effective.


In the few races where Democrats appear to hold the
advantage, such as the California governor’s race, the pattern plays out in
essentially the same way. There, Democrat Jerry Brown has maintained a slim
lead over former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate. A former governor himself, Brown has
relentlessly hit a single message–a message that, up to this point, most
California voters seem to be buying into: Whitman is not qualified to be
Virtually every syllable of Brown’s recent campaign has been
strongly focused on this emotionally powerful appeal. (The only exception to
this has been some damage control around a gaffe committed by one of Brown’s
aides; even so, the Whitman-is-unqualified message has served as the point to
which the Brown campaign has always returned.)

The techniques described here are as old as advertising
itself. So if your job (like a politician’s) is to persuade people to take
action, you must find a simple, potent,
relevant message that your audience will respond to emotionally. Then, deliver it
with passion and repeat it constantly over a long period of time. Eventually,
people will buy your stuff (or your ideas)!

Ruth Sherman Associates LLC / High-Stakes Presentation Skills Coaching, Consulting & Media Training for CEOs, Celebrities & Politicians / Greenwich, CT


About the author

Ruth Sherman, M.A., is a strategic communications consultant focusing on preparing business leaders, politicians, celebrities, and small business entrepreneurs to leverage critical public communications including keynote speeches, webcasts, investor presentations, road shows, awards presentations, political campaigns and media contact. Her clients hail from the A-list of international business including General Electric, JP Morgan (NY, London, Frankfurt), Timex Group, Deloitte and Dubai World