Big Picture Use The Matrix Of Persuasion

We've focused on you and your needs (your objective) and your readers and their needs (those benefits that are likely to motivate them). We've considered the proper level of formality—a time-saver if you consider it early on in the writing process. Now it's time to pull your thinking together by pausing for a moment and considering the big picture. The Matrix of Persuasion allows you to analyze your overall writing assignment.

In the Matrix of Persuasion, two variables are contrasted: Is your target audience on your side or not on your side; and do your readers have the requisite resources or are they constrained? (See Exhibit 1.1.)

On Your Side Not on Your Side

LL ra

• short copy okay

Persuade or Educate

• benefits matter

• longer copy needed

o o Z u

Problem-solve

Hard

• longer copy needed

• rarely worthwhile

o U

Exhibit 1.1 Matrix of Persuasion

By identifying which of the four quadrants your writing task fits into, you'll be better able to identify your readers' needs, and thus write more focused first drafts in less time.

As you review the matrix in Exhibit 1.1, note that you're first asked to determine if your target readers are "on your side" or "not on your side." Think about the people you're trying to reach. Do they know you? Do they like you? Are they predisposed in your favor? Or are they not?

Next, consider whether they're capable of doing what you ask or are constrained. Do they have the requisite time, authority, interest, motivation, money, or whatever resources are needed to do what you're hoping they will do? Or are there constraints that you'll need to help them overcome?

Let's say, for example, that your boss asks you to investigate venues for the company's annual Christmas party. You're given a budget of $1,000 and told to make a recommendation. You find the perfect place. It's close to work, it's got a diverse menu, and the price quoted is less than your $1,000 budget.

Wouldn't you agree that your boss is "on your side"? And there are no constraints. In other words, this is an Easy writing assignment. As the matrix indicates, this means you can send a one- or two-line message simply stating the facts.

But what if you find a venue that's perfect except it costs $1,200? Your boss is still "on your side." But there's a constraint. You don't have the money in your budget. Therefore, in order to achieve your objective, it's important that you Problem-solve. You might E-mail your boss, for

Let's say, for example, that your boss asks you to investigate venues for the company's annual Christmas party. You're given a budget of $1,000 and told to make a recommendation. You find the perfect place. It's close to work, it's gor a diverse menu, and the price quoted is less than your $1,000 budget.

Wouldn't you agree that your boss is "on your side"? And there are no constraints. In other words, this is an Easy writing assignment. As the matrix indicates, this means you can send a one-or two-line message simply stating the facts.

But what if you find a venue that's perfect except it costs $1,200? Your boss is still "on your side." But there's a constraint. You don't have the money in your budget. Therefore, in order to achieve your objective, it's important that you Problem-solve. You might E-mail your boss, for example, and tell her that you'll commit to planning a summer picnic that's $200 under budget if you can go $200 over budget now.

Now let's say you decide that rather than a conventional Christmas party you want to recommend something different: that the company pay for all employees to go to a Christmas concert sponsored by a local chamber music group. The price of the tickets would be within your budget. Doesn't it make sense that you need to Persuade or Educate your boss? There are no constraints in terms of money or time, but there is some question as to whether your boss will think attending a concert is a good idea. As the matrix indicates, you need to focus on benefits, and more than one communication may be required for you to succeed.

You might also consider using a Q&A format. A Q&A format allows you to anticipate your readers' questions and answer them. Because you pose the questions, you can be certain to word them in a positive way (by talking about benefits or how to avoid negative outcomes), and you're able to control the flow of information.

Now let's say that the concert tickets will total $5,000, but you love the idea, so you decide to proceed with recommending the concert. Your boss is "not on your side," and you are constrained—you're way over budget. This is Hard. To succeed, you need to both persuade your boss and problem-solve.

Sometimes you go forward with Hard communications, even though you think your chances of success are slim, for legal reasons, or because you feel strongly about an issue.

For example, suppose your insurance company refuses to settle on a property damage claim after a hurricane, citing the fact that you didn't have hurricane insurance. You feel that it's an issue of poor construction, not weather—specifically, you believe that if the building wall had been built properly, it wouldn't have fallen in the rain. You therefore decide to write a letter of protest to the president of the insurance company. They have precedent, policy, and the law on their side; your indignation, however, transcends mere law, and it makes you feel better to write a good, stiff letter of protest.

EXERCISE 4: Put the Matrix of Persuasion to Work

Use the matrix to evaluate the project that has you writing to Mr. Smith about your favorite boss. Which quadrant do you think the project is in? Is Mr. Smith "on your side" or "not on your side"? Is Mr. Smith constrained against doing what you support?

If you decided that you need to Persuade and Educate, that gives you important information. (About 80 percent of all written business communications are in the Persuade and Educate quadrant. Those goals—to persuade and educate—are common business activities.) As you continue developing the letter, doesn't it make sense that you're going to want to include several benefit statements? Given that you'll need to prove each benefit's value to Mr. Smith's company, isn't it likely that the letter will be long rather than short, and that you may ask Mr. Smith to contact you for additional information?

Perhaps you consider the letter to Mr. Smith Easy. If Mr. Smith is predisposed to hire an excellent candidate—in your view, your favorite boss—and if there's a job available, you may be right. If you are, you may want to keep your letter short and factual.

If your favorite boss is trying for a career change, perhaps this is a Problem-solving communication, and you should organize your message to demonstrate how your boss's experience translates into the new job's requirements.

Almost by definition, you wouldn't be writing a reference letter that's Hard—but, of course, it's possible. (If your favorite boss is trying for a job for which he or she is in no way qualified, then it would certainly be a Hard letter.)

The Matrix of Persuasion is a "big picture" tool. It helps you get your thoughts in order. It allows you to take what you know—your objective, your target readers, and the proper level of formality—and consider how best to use this information to reach your target readers.

In the next chapter, we're going to review nine organizational structures and begin to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard—and write.

Chapter Two

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