Persuasive communication: the secret to successful business change
Ensuring your employees embrace the change that is happening in your organisation is crucial to the success of any change programme.
As, in most cases, the 'change' is outside the employees’ control (because it’s decided by senior management); employees need to be persuaded to come on the journey. And so from one point of view, it could be argued that the people aspect of change is the art of persuasion.
The art of persuasion
We’ve recently come across a punchy little book called To Be Clear: A Style Guide for Business Writing, by Philip Collins. Not only is it a clarion call for clarity and brevity, but it also emphasises the importance of persuasion.
In it, Collins argues that it’s impossible to be persuasive if you obscure your message in jargon and long-winded paragraphs that actually mean nothing.
As Collins puts it:
Jargon is the deliberate translation of ordinary ideas into complicated word patterns in order to exclude the uninitiated.
Ethos, pathos, logos
Aristotle’s thoughts on oratory, which he wrote about in the 4th century BC in The Art of Rhetoric, could today be renamed The Art of Business Strategy – or, alternatively, the art of persuasion.
Aristotle defined three pillars of persuasive appeal: ethos, pathos and logos. We can think of these as character, emotion and argument.
The trick is to get the right balance of these three:
Character, to create trust
Emotion, to include stories that involve real people
Argument, to put forward a rational case.
In other words, you have to provide a sound business case for change, and real evidence of results to provide credibility.
The art of business change
The art of business change is all about persuasion, which, to be effective, relies on being clear and concise.
A great deal of current business communication around change – in fact, a great deal of all company communications in general – is full of business-speak and it’s hard to distinguish the message from the verbiage.
Muddled writing comes from muddled thinking; clear writing comes from clear thinking. It’s impossible to write clearly if you yourself don’t understand what you are trying to say.
How can you take people along with you on the change journey if you don’t know what you are saying yourself?
Tell it like it is
At As it is, we identify with all the messages in Collins’ book. It’s what we are and what we do as a company.
We say it how it is; we help clients to become clear in their thinking, so that they can encourage their people to come along with them on the company’s change journey. And it’s all achieved through the medium of persuasion, by communicating clearly, and as briefly as possible.
‘It has never been more necessary to write persuasively,’ says Collins. And we echo that.
Business and all its communications need to be clear, which is why we help you tell it as it is.