Can a dash of authority make your communications more persuasive?
In our third article on the principles of persuasion, we’re looking at how authority can lend your communications more weight and give your message more force.
The essence of this principle is that people are conditioned to respect authority. We obey laws, take direction from managers and listen to police officers. From a young age we are taught to look for symbols of authority, such as badges, uniforms and titles, and to respect what these symbols represent. We use these indicators as a short hand so we can quickly determine who to listen to – and who to ignore.
Of course, the authority equation isn’t that simple. Some people are naturally sceptical of authority figures, and are more likely to second-guess claims made by supposed authorities. So instead of being a short-cut to acceptance, acting as an authority can make some customers more doubtful.
Experts aren’t perfect
Weirdly, people are more likely to trust experts who admit to some kind of weakness or imperfection. Authorities who appear to be unrealistically perfect may arouse our suspicions. An admission of a flaw shows that we’re a typical human – which is much easier to believe. If an expert uses this approach, it’s important that they demonstrate their knowledge and expertise after admitting the weakness so that the customer’s lasting impression is connected to authority and expertise – rather than the failing.
Adding authority to customer communications
While customers could be easily put off by heavy-handed attempts to leverage authority, there are subtle ways that organisations can use this principle to make communications feel more convincing.
For example, mentioning or displaying your organisation’s accreditations or memberships of professional associations can add credibility to a letter – especially if they have familiar logos that you can include.
Alternatively, if you need to convince a sceptical audience, consider involving an expert, especially if they are connected to a third-party organisation (rather than a member of your team). If you take this approach, try to include a picture of the expert and include details of their own qualifications and accreditations.
If you want people to take your messages seriously, give them plenty of reasons to believe, and as much evidence as you can muster.
Read our other articles on the principles of persuasion:
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At DocCentrics, we help organisations send millions of customer communications each year. And while our omni-channel customer communications management (CCM) platform is at the heart of what we do, we know that the technology only works when your people have solid processes to follow.