Aristotle’s 3 Pillars of Persuasive Messaging

Google+ versus Facebook and Twitter. The debate rages over which is better, which will prevail, which will eventually fade away as the latest, greatest social media phenomenon that boomed before it went bust.

While social media platforms continue to evolve and multiply at dizzying speed, one thing hasn’t changed in nearly 2,400 years:

How to craft a persuasive message.

It was Aristotle, the great fourth century BCE Greek philosopher, who articulated the three pillars of effective argument. Known as Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle, these pillars are ethos, pathos and logos—or, authority, emotional resonance and reason.

Ethos: Establish Your Authority in Your Field
To be believed, you need not only to know what you’re talking about, but be able to convince your listener that you’re a credible source. If you deliver a quality product or service, are honest and ethical in your dealings with customers, and offer valid and valuable information about your area of specialization that helps your customers solve problems, you’re well on the way to establishing yourself as a trusted authority worth following.

Pathos: Connect at a Personal Level, with Feeling
Empathize with your customer, understand the challenge she’s trying to overcome and how your product or service can help, and tell emotionally compelling stories about how people just like her felt better, stronger, smarter, sexier, braver—fill in the blank—as a result of using your product or service. This is not an argument for making false promises, but for thoroughly understanding your target customers’ feelings and needs, and sharing true examples of how you enabled people just like her to meet those needs.

Logos: Marshal Evidence in a Logical Structure that Leads to a Reasonable Conclusion
If you want potential customers to buy your product or service, you need to present your facts in a logical sequence that leads to your desired conclusion: purchase. For example (adapting Aristotle’s classical form of deductive reasoning—all A’s are B; all B’s are C; therefore all A’s are C):

  • All Martians want to know what we humans are jabbering about on the Internet.
  • Your widget is the only app that translates every human language into Martian.
  • All Martians (with smart phones) need your widget.

According to Aristotle, you need all three elements to persuade: be a trustworthy source, understand and connect to your audience, and make a solid, reasonable case for the true value of your product or service.

If that formula sounds familiar, it should. After all, it’s proved successful for more than two millennia.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply