Campaigning Part Three – Persuasion

Columbia, MO  July 29, 2010  –

Test time. Do you know the difference between good persuasion and bad persuasion?

Bad persuasion does not work.

This is not a question of positive or negative advertising. That is not persuasion. That is propaganda. I know, I teach this stuff.

Good persuasion differs from an informational discussion by two elements. So let’s take a look at the elements both share before we get to those that change the face of the conversation. So, a short lesson on persuasion.

Persuasion provides information (facts), passion and commitment that enable a person or group to convince the audience to act on the speaker’s request for action. This is accomplished by changing or reinforcing the listener’s attitude, opinion or belief.

Rosman Persuasion Rule (RPR) #2 – Wishy-washy is not an option.

All political communication must start with a good, and exciting opening. In Communication theory, this is the “hook.” This must be solid, direct and provide the reader or listener a reason for reading or listening. Your target audience must know what that the communication is about and what direction they will be led. Be strong and assertive.

RPR #3 – Why you?

What is your authority, why should the audience take you for your word? What are your credentials? How did you gain your expertise? Education, experience and practical knowledge are important. In case of an organization, the name and mission. The key here is to know your audience. Personally, I do not care if a person lived in the district for three years or three generations. To others, that is important.

RPR #4 – What’s the problem?

If there is no problem, why are you running for office or campaigning for this issue? Describe it. Show it. Show your emotions about it. It is okay to say, “If this problem continues, life, as we know it, will no longer exist after election day.” (Yes, a bit harsh, but it works – sometimes.) Let your passion loose.

RPR # 5 – What are the solutions?

If the problem is the economy, what is your plan of attack? If it is the medical needs of your constituents, what is the fix? Are there alternatives that meet your political criteria? Tell the audience. Be detailed, but not overwhelmingly so. Too much information is as bad as no information at all.

RPR #6 – Rosman’s Rule of the Ridiculous©

Numbers don’t lie, but numbers can be manipulated. The Rule of the Ridiculous is simple – Use a number so big or so small so that your position looks best. If you do not understand, watch an infomercial. The newest and greatest exercise machine is not $1200, but twelve easy payments of $99.99. Good. “Less than one-hundred dollars a month!” Better. “Less than a cup of cappuccino a day.” Best.

If you are emphasizing a large number, use the zeros. All the zeros. Which looks bigger:

One-billion dollars


$1 billion


But wait. There’s more. What else is the audience getting for their support, vote or donation? Value added is a great persuasion tool.

RPR #7 the “This is what I want you to do – NOW!” Rule

This is the first ingredient that makes persuasion, well, persuasion. Ask for the action.

Remember RPR #2? Be specific – very specific – as to what you want your audience to do or to say (in the case of a letter or email campaign), and when it has to be done. Do not ask the audience to do something, tell them. “I want your vote.” “I want your donation.” “I want you to sign-up to volunteer this evening.” “I want you to write Senator Ischcabible.”

This is not a “when you think about it,” or “tell them what you think” proposition. This is an assertive demand for immediate action. Now, today, tomorrow, within 72 hours. No longer. If an event is two weeks hence, have people sign-up NOW with e-mail addresses so you can send them a reminder of the call to arms.

I just received a mailing concerning a statewide ballot issue. It says, “If you think this issue is wrong, vote Yes. If you think that this issue is right, vote No. On election day, it’s your call on Proposition X.”

Are you confused? The problem here, among others, is that of a wishy-washy action. What does the campaign want me to do? Are they pro- or anti-Proposition X?

Do not leave to the audience to determine their own direction. Tell them what to say or do.

The action statement will only be successful if it meets two Rosman Sub-Rules; The Dead Man Rule and The Fly on the Wall Rule. If a dead person can accomplish the action, the end will never be achieved. First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign, “Just Say No,” unfortunately met this criterion. A dead person will never start drugs.

To resolve this problem, one must look to the “Fly on the Wall” rule. The fly on the wall must see an action take place. The change of habit, the writing of a letter, the donation of money, or support for a candidate or campaign.

RPR #8 “There is no such thing as a free lunch” rule

You go to the local golf shop. The owner tells you about the newest golf clubs by Zing. He lets you handle them, hit a few golf balls in the cage and, through negotiation and his fine persuasion skills, convinces you to be fitted for a new set of irons, sign a contract and give him a deposit of a few hundred dollars. Now don’t you think you should get something in return like, maybe, a new set of Zing irons?

The members of the audience liked you, liked what you had to say and are willing to support your campaign through endorsements or donations. What are they getting in return? This is not an easy question to answer while staying inside the law.

Most want you to put up a hard and fair fight for the cause and to stick to your principles when (not if) you are elected.

I managed a U.S. congressional race a few years back. My candidate was virtually unknown. The three-term incumbent was known as a really nice guy and a supporter of the agricultural community which represented most of his district. We knew from the start our candidate could not beat the incumbent.

However, the candidate fought as if she would win. She stuck it out to the very end, kept to her principles, talked to everyone she met as if she knew them for decades and never showed signs of defeatism. She raised 12 percent more money than expected and received 46 percent of the vote when the expectation was 40 percent. Her supporters got what they wanted; a strong and honest fight by a candidate who stood by her guns.

As you make your final stands for the primary and general elections, remember, it is not persuasion unless you make a strong, assertive and direct call to action.

Oh, yes, RPR #1? It is Rosman Rule #1, the overriding rule for everything: Nothing is as hard as it looks and everything is harder than it seems.

And the Rosman Primary Directive: Cheating and lying are not options.

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communication, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at and New York Journal of

Return to © 2010 David Rosman Columbia, MO


About David Rosman

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at, and
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