Refining Rhetoric

“Getting your ideas across means knowing what to say and how to say it.” That was the lure of of a recent presentation given by Greta Perel at a Greater Kansas City Public Relations Society of America event. Her mission was to answer the question: “How do we create strong, persuasive messaging?”

As a former public speaking teacher, Perel shared Aristotle’s 5 Canons of Rhetoric. Defining rhetoric proves helpful in this instance, as it is what marketers are trying to do each day. Rhetoric as defined by Merriam-Webster is the ability of a person to persuade or influence through writing or speaking. Content, Order, Style, Memory & Delivery help speakers and communicators alike extend messaging from to comprehension.

  • Content can be boiled down to once singular question according to Perel. That question is “What is the most important thing?” While we often want to communicate a whole host of ideas or objectives, using that question to boil down what really matters can focus our energy and messaging.
  • Order is only noticeable when it is done badly says Perel. If the message is hard to read or someone gets lost in what is being said, there is no way for the content of the message to be effective. Planning out a template for delivery and understanding how people want to receive the message is important. If writing blog posts, Perel suggests some basic templates such as: 3 Simple Facts, Problem/Cause/Solution, Before/After, Problem/Solution/Call to action. With these templates, the struggle becomes less about format, and more about the message.
  • Style can be hard, but is the most important. It is where the content of the message meets the context. Understanding who is being communicated with and how understanding happens is imperative. Perel gave the example of talking with a police officer versus a toddler. The tone, phrasing and general approach are all different. Another tip from Perel is to write at a grade level a general audience can comprehend. For most applications in the marketing field, this means from a 4-6 grade level. Checking your writing grade level on sites like this one. A good question to ask when considering style is “How much time/energy/attention are you asking of your audience?”
  • Memory comes mostly into play when delivering messaging in person, but consider the fact that most people 10 years ago knew a multitude of phone numbers by heart. These days, a person knows only a few. We’re not asked to use our memories as much, so creating memorable messaging is even more complicated.
  • Delivery is the packaging in which someone will receive the message. Perel challenged the room to put messaging into boxes people will want to open.

Creating powerful and effective messaging is a skill learned over time, yet with the guidelines presented by Perel in mind, the framework for creating those messages can be considered in a whole new light.

Why do I work at AWG? “I value the opportunity to work with family businesses. My dad owned his own business for 35 years, so it is what I know and cherish. Plus, I love food, so thinking about it everyday is a huge plus.” -Kate