Monday, June 15, 2015

Is Showing Both Sides Persuasive?

A friend of mine who got a master's degree in public relations at an East Coast university shared a link to a blog post written by one of his professors in that program, an adjunct who works at a major PR firm's office near the university. In this post, the author was discussing the wisdom of including an opposing point of view when writing an op-ed or position paper on behalf of a client.

The gist of this man's argument was that doing so was not his job. After all, he was hired by the client to present the client's point of view. He did note that mentioning alternative views in order to point out their flaws may be necessary on occasion. But generally, he opined, it was a waste of time and space to devote attention to the other side.

I have an....alternative view.

In the blog post, my friend's former professor puts forth a position based on a preference for efficiency and fiduciary responsibility. He also notes his years of experience. I would suggest that a concern for the effectiveness of actually persuading an intended audience should be a consideration as well. Indeed, if you can be more likely to persuade, you are hardly wasting space. Also, if a concern is doing what the client wants, do they want someone merely to write or do they want it to have the benefit of persuasion?

So the question really is not about how someone has written op-eds throughout their career, or the preference for loyalty to the client's point of view. It should be about the outcome in the minds of readers. And for that, we need to consider broader evidence from empirical research that informs persuasion theory.

In the just-published third edition of the book "Persuasion: Theory and Research" by Daniel O'Keefe," a required text in my Corporate Communications Writing class in the future, there is a helpful chapter on message factors. On the subject of one-sided vs two-sided (including alternative points of view) messages, the research results are more nuanced than a simply include or don't include the opposing point of view.

Basically, including alternative points of view--and then refuting them--(called "refutational two-sided messages") are dependably more persuasive than one-sided messages. However, two-sided messages in which the opposing points of view are merely acknowledged and not refuted are slightly less persuasive than one-sided messages.

In other words, raise the opponents' points of view, but be sure to knock them down. Readers don't take messages in a vacuum. They may be playing devil's advocate or wondering about other perspectives in their mind. If you address is head on and can argue against it, you have a better chance of winning them to your side. Or, if they had not considered alternatives, but you raise them, you look more credible, competent and therefore persuasive. Raising and refuting alternatives also has what's called an inoculation effect, meaning that later when someone else raises the opposing opinion, readers have been prepped with foreknowledge of the argument and why it is not sufficient and can be "immune" to its persuasive appeal.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

TV Ads Still Rule

Something happened the other day that made me hit the pause button. Literally.

I was watching TV, a show my wife and I had recorded on the DVR, and we were doing what everyone does--fast-forwarding through the ads. But something caught my eye, and I hit pause, rewind, and then viewed the ad.

And it hit me--people have always skipped ads, unless they haven't. When shows were aired live, people would go to the bathroom, get more to eat or drink, or talk to each other during ads. Today, they just use the technology that allows skipping or fast-forwarding through ads.

However, if an ads have certain merits, wait for it.....people....will....watch.

This is common sense, confirmed by several communication theories and concepts (media uses and gratifications, information utility, salience, etc.) and recently confirmed in a study reported in Advertising Age. The study, commissioned by Turner Broadcasting and Horizon Media, showed that TV ads outperform other media, including digital, when it comes to driving consumer sales. A natural assumption would be that TV ads do well for awareness, reputation, and other objectives as well.

So what might make people "take pause" and view an ad even in this multi-mediated, frenetic media world we live in? As the theoretical concepts mentioned above suggest, there are several:

  • visual appeal
  • relevant content
  • useful information
The take-away is that now more than ever advertisers can't live in the era of assumed audience. You have to lure them before a hook can be set. Also, as the study authors suggest, no once can live on TV alone. It has to be part of a strategic media mix that supplements radio, print, outdoor, and digital ads as well as earned media. 

Like anything else in media, TV advertising is not dead. It's just constantly changing. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

LEA Wins Small Business of Year, Promotional Video Awards

The Grand Rapids public relations community is well-represented by top notch and award-winning talent. In addition to the record crop of winners at this year's PRoof Awards, Lambert, Edwards & Associates recently received some recognition for its PR prowess.

LE&A, with offices in Lansing and Detroit as well as Grand Rapids, was named small business of the year at the recent EPIC Awards, a program of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. The EPIC awards are so named because they celebrate businesses that demonstrate "entrepreneurial, progressive, innovative, and collaborative" traits in the community.

Meanwhile, LE&A was recognized at the Horizon Interactive Awards for a promotional video about the firm. You can view the video on LE&A's YouTube channel I would recommend taking a look at the video if you are interested in not just what LE&A does, but to see how a PR firm promotes itself. Check out other videos to get ideas for a firm YouTube channel. They have a variety of videos sharing news about the firm, its clients, and some simply fun and engaging content, such as firm president Jeff Lambert sliding into the YMCA pool in a suit.

Kudos to LE&A for the awards, which help the firm but also make PR look good.