Balanced Storytelling Helps Nonprofits Get Others to Change
By Shaun Adamec
This approach dates back to Aristotle and ever since has been practiced by some of historys most gifted orators. Aristotles ingredients for persuasion offers an essential outline for any organization whose mission involves convincing people to change their behavior whether that means donating to a cause, becoming more aware of an issue, or changing the way we interact with the planet.
Ethos is an appeal to your audiences character, or their ethics:
It establishes your credibility with the audience. Why is your organization positioned to be an authority on your issue, and why should the audience trust your public messaging versus those who may have another perspective?
It is the tug at the heartstrings that mission-driven organizations are often very good at. This appeal can take a variety of forms depending on your issue and your audience. You may want your audience to be angry about an issue, or feel empathy towards a certain audience. You may want them to laugh, or cry.
Embodied in logos are your facts, statistics, and logical arguments for your cause. Youll see this commonly in Facts vs. Myths publications, or in academic papers.
For example, if your organization relies heavily on pathos, without also establishing credibility with your audience and offering a well-reasoned argument for your point of view, you risk the audience walking away feeling manipulated or exploited emotionally. You also leave those common questions that are inherent to any audience unanswered: Who are these people and why do they matter? Why is this perspective better than others? Why should I trust this messaging?
If you find your public messaging relying too heavily on logos, you may be turning off your audience with condescension, and ignoring perhaps the most valuable and valid tool you have when it comes to persuasive messaging: emotion. While it is undoubtedly true that you can cite dozens of statistics to make the case for your issue, its also true that there is an emotional element to that argument that is just as valid. Yes, you heard me right. The emotional argument is just as valid as the logical, rational one. As communicators, and as humans, we cannot and should not ignore that reality.
Your public communication may rely too heavily on ethos if your materials, public messaging, or speeches spend an inordinate amount of time outlining your organizational history, or the biography of your founder. There is a place for this kind of messaging, but never in the absence of the real and emotional arguments that make the case for your point of view.
Balancing ethos, pathos and logos is an art as much as it is a science. As you develop your public communications, be sure to keep this delicate balance in mind.
Shaun Adamec, founder and president of Adamec Communications, which helps organizations of all sizes develop communications strategy, refine public messaging, and protect their reputation. Email him at shaun@AdamecCommunications.com or call 617-888-2213.