A Writer’s Exploration: On Persuasion

This is the first of a new series of blog posts on my exploration and contemplation of the craft of writing. My focus is generally on the business side, though my short fiction self will undoubtedly make its presence known. Please excuse the bland title, I wanted to avoid clichés and lameness, so naturally, my mind has gone blank. So be it. 

So, I just finished reading the book Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda by Noam Chomsky, a book on the use of propaganda as a device to lead a nation into war, and it got me thinking about the topic of persuasion. Persuasion is a necessary requirement of the PR/Corporate Communication field I work in, and a challenging topic at that.

It brings up a question of ethics and morals I am sure many have heard countless times about PR thanks to the bad rep of propaganda – lying. I don’t like to lie about anything, I pride myself in being honest (blatantly honest) – to the point that I sometimes need to shut my mouth. Until now, I never studied this subject in school; rather, I obsessively learn from reading and watching the news and following current events. I have become a pro at spotting the liars on the pundit shows, not only those who avoid answering the question so they aren’t technically lying. It amazes me – why is honesty in the political world so rare?

The key to strong Corporate Communication writing, among simplicity, clarity, and conciseness, is the ability to win over the audience. Winning does not imply that the writer should fabricate information, or manipulate its meaning, though I have learned from past experience some people will try it. I find in my work that honesty and enthusiasm are successful, as well as humor when it applies, writing in my own voice, and avoiding jargon and other elitist mannerisms. If I begin to write in business speak I might as well fire myself.

I am about to read Propaganda by Edward Bernays, the father of PR and the propaganda machine. This topic is fascinating; I see it touching on the 2012 presidential campaign among many other recent and current events. I will revisit propaganda in the coming weeks on this blog as my exploration continues.

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3 thoughts on “A Writer’s Exploration: On Persuasion

  1. Well, seems persuasive writing has to be compelling to the reader…it must strike a chord in them. What kinds of techniques can do this? How would this apply to creative fiction? Can that sort of thing be implemented in fiction? Is it strictly non-fiction? Interesting. –jp

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  2. I'm inclined to vote for stories as one compelling way to persuade, especially since the persuasion in stories seems to be less about one person (the writer) instructing another as it is about the writer inviting me to see what he or she saw in the story. More an invitation to be persuaded than an active persuasion?

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  3. As I dig deeper into Edward Bernays territory, much of this topic is becoming more clear. Propaganda, or the art of persuasion as I see it, is a necessity for leaders to lead. But it must be authentic and honest, because accountability and integrity are at the root of successful leadership. In fiction, there is definitely a persuasion taking place: the author is asking a reader to suspend disbelief and step into a new world. The book must feel real, must feel authentic, in order to be successful.Hey John – why are you posting as Anonymous?

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