Everyone wants to influence and persuade. Worthy causes want to attract donors and volunteers. Marketers want you to buy their products. Teachers must persuade students to put their time and attention into the subject.
People who believe in their cause (be it a product, idea, or subject matter) often get frustrated when others don’t immediately respond with enthusiasm. The frustration is understandable. But the reality is we have a million different agendas coming at us every single day. If you want to persuade people to care about your agenda or cause you have to be creative. Effective engagement requires two things:
1. Think like your audience
Coca-Cola has the funds to purchase any advertising imaginable. They can buy Super Bowl ads. They can take about a full page in the New York Times, every day if they want to. They could make a movie. They could probably hire the entire cast of “Modern Family” to be their spokespeople. But who would watch any of those? People like you and I. But that’s not who Coke needs the most.
Coca-Cola wants to reach teenagers. So they think like their audience. For example, Coke hired Vine star, 20-year-old Cameron Dallas who tweeted a picture of himself sharing some Cokes with friends. That single image was which was retweeted over 67,000 times and favorited more than 17,000 times.
If you don’t know Vine, it’s a short form video sharing service where users can share six-second long looping video clips. My 17-year-old considers it a social necessity, and honestly, after she introduced me to it, I love it myself. If I want to reach 17-year-olds, I would ask her what she finds interesting and important. If I want to connect with wealthy donors, or CEO’s or anyone else, I would ask the audience what is interesting to them, rather than trying to get them to pay attention on my terms.
2. Be authentic
It’s a duality, you want to think like your audience, and you also want to be true to yourself. For example, a friend of mine is a middle school math teacher. She’s not going to hire stars or do a dance video to promote trig. But she could authentically connect her love of math to the rhythm and pattern of popular music.
Leaders often dress up their language in corporate speak. Teachers use educational terms. Non-profits have their own their language. But people are more likely to respond positively when you use plain language, and speak from the heart about why the subject matters to you.
For example, when my middle school teacher tells her students about her 15 year–old self who found the logic of math a stable haven amidst the angst and uncertainly of high school. Her students are going to remember the lesson more because their teacher has shared a bit of herself with it.
Persuading people doesn’t mean manipulating them. It means bringing your most creative self into the conversation. If you care about your cause, your message, or your product, think about your audience. Think about how many things they have coming at them everyday. Meet them where they already are. Jump into the conversations they’re already having, and bring forth the most authentic heartfelt compassionate version of yourself you can.
True persuasion isn’t about tricking people; it’s about inviting people into your world. People can’t care about everything; if you want them to care about your cause, bring your best skills to the table.