10 Quick Tips of Persuasive Messaging

Sometimes it can be hard to convince others of the benefits of sustainability. However, there are ways that you can make your argument more convincing. Here are 10 quick tips that will help your message be more persuasive.

1. First, you must attract attention. Effective methods include surprising people by breaking schemas, or using images to help them visualize impacts.
2. Using stories to invoke emotion can be very effective at getting attention. These can uplift and motivate people but be careful to rely too much on fear, which could elicit denial or apathetic behavior.
3. A persuasive message is specific and has a core idea. Emphasize your core and tell people how to do things.
4. Use concrete language! Avoid jargon words, ambiguous terms, and abstract language, as people may not understand. (e.g. what is sustainable food in real-life terms?)
5. Make sure your argument has credibility by using details, statistics, and examples. Claim a testable credential, or something your audience can prove themselves.
6. Make your message personal and focused on individuals. Appeal to their identity by talking about what kind of person they are, such as a generous or caring individual.
7. Appeal to a person’s self-interest by talking about ‘what’s in it for them’, keeping in mind that highlighting potential losses is more effective than highlighting potential gains. (e.g. ‘If you don’t insulate your house, you could spend up to $100 more on heating every year’, rather than ‘You could save $20 a year if you insulate your house’)
8. Social norms have powerful effects! Don’t highlight what most people do bad; point out what most people do good to promote that behavior. (e.g. ‘75% of people think recycling is commendable’, rather than ‘75% of people don’t recycle regularly’)
9. Create a vision. Don’t talk about a terrible future filled with pollution; instead discuss the possibility of a sustainable and eco-friendly future.
10. Know your audience. Be smart about your methodology and implementation. Don’t forget to be nice and try to work in person as much as possible, as it increases effectiveness.

By following these 10 easy tips, you can be more persuasive when explaining the benefits of sustainability to others.

*This post is based on the report “Promoting Sustainable Behavior,” by Rachel James, compiled as part of the IARU Sustainability Fellowships program. To read the full report, go to: http://sustainability.berkeley.edu/os/pages/talkinglouder/docs/Promoting...