To influence them, frame them

Paul presenting to Business Chicks

‘Writing to Influence’ workshops: What they loved

I’ve just finished running ‘Writing to Influence’ workshops in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne for Business Chicks. Great to see such interest in persuasive writing (500+ attendees!).

One aspect they loved was the concept of using ‘frames’ in your influence attempts.

What’s a frame?
Put simply, what you say first changes how a reader or listener perceives what you say second.

A key way you make sense of the world is through comparisons. If I tell you my widget is $5,000, you’ll immediately compare that to what you know about other widgets. You’ll think it’s either affordable or expensive based on your current knowledge; that is, compared to your frame.

But if I first frame it up by telling you we give you far more than the average widget (and I give you the specifics), you may think $5k is good value, and want to find out more.

The point is this: If you don’t apply a frame yourself, your readers will. So in your persuasive writing, do it purposefully to make it work for you. Here are four frames to consider:

Four ‘influence’ frames

1. Name frame

  • Warren Buffet doesn’t call his investors investors or clients; he calls them partners, generating a sense of equality and collegiality.
  • Instead of calling your new initiative at work an efficiency drive, calling it the XYZ Team Efficiency Drive may win it more support, especially from the XYZ Team.
  • Job titles: Is it taking it too far to call a receptionist the Director of First Impressions, or a nightclub bouncer an Eviction Technician? Have your say in the comments below!

2. Loaded words

Words have power. Choose them carefully.

    • NO: We can’t get it to you until Friday.
    • YES: We can get it to you as early as Friday.
    • NO: The price is $490.
    • YES: Your investment will be $490.
  • NO: What are your objections?
  • YES: What are your areas of concern?

3. Metaphors

Some of the world’s most influential leaders have used metaphors to persuade, e.g. Martin Luther King in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech:
‘Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.’

But you don’t have to be giving a speech to frame with metaphors:

    • NO: It’s a high-quality system.
    • YES: It’s the BMW of systems.
  • NO: The needle will only sting a bit.
  • YES: The needle will only sting like an ant bite.

4. ‘Time’ frames

Research shows that people think about their future selves differently to their present selves. For example, they’re much more likely to agree to future pain than present pain. Ever signed up to run a marathon six months in advance, then, as the date approached, wondered ‘What was I thinking?!’

Consider this when influencing others. It’s easier to get people to commit to something well in advance rather than now. ‘Buy now, pay later’ works!

It’s even better if you can get them to commit publicly and in writing, invoking Cialdini‘s Commitment and Consistency).

Want some frame fame?

Would you like your team or company to be more influential? Would your conference benefit from a session on persuasion? Ask for my availability to present ‘Write to Influence’ for you. It’s a practical, interactive, high-energy session (2.5 hours). And Chicks dig it!

What frames do you use? Tell us in the comments below.

Now go frame someone!




‘Influence’ workshop sold out in Brisbane, Sydney — some seats left in Melbourne

Paul’s ‘Writing with Influence’ workshop for Business Chicks has sold out in Brisbane and Sydney, but some seats are still available in Melbourne this Friday, 21.3.14.

Run, don’t walk! Details here.

Get free VIP access to our 2014 webinars

Excited dog

STOP PRESS: Too exciting! Our webinars were booked out, but we’ve now released more seats. Apologies if you couldn’t book before. You can now, so jump to it!

If you believe you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, you’ll love this.

In a departure from sanity, we’re giving our blog readers (that’s you!) free VIP access to our new, drool-worthy 2014 webinar series. Check them out! But you’ll need this discount code to attend as our guest: 2014Subscriber

Please tell a friend if you think they’ll be interested.

See webinars and book seats.

Persuasive business writing: Commitment and consistency

Get 'em committed: Commitment and Consistency

One of Cialdini’s six principles of influence

To influence, get ‘em committed.

How are your New-Year resolutions going? Today’s ‘influence’ tip holds the key to you achieving them, and to changing your readers’ minds.

It’s the final in our six-part series on persuasion, loosely based on Dr Robert Cialdini’s work.

Cialdini tells of a researcher who surveyed residents, asking them to predict their response if they were asked to spend three hours collecting money for cancer research.

Many said they would. But they didn’t know that a few days later the Cancer Society would knock, asking for their help. The result was a 700 per cent increase in volunteers, compared to control groups.

Why? Because those ‘surveyed’ made a personal commitment – something we’re driven to remain consistent with. Also, in the gap between visits, their self-image changed – they started seeing themselves as more community-minded.

Apply this to your persuasive business writing:

  • Offer something small for a low price to get them thinking of themselves as your customer instead of your prospect. A bigger sale may be easier later.
  • Before sending a report or (internal) proposal, explain your key points to audience members verbally, and try to get them agreeing in principle in advance.
  • Affirm behaviour you want. For example, if you want someone to keep sending you reports on time, write, ‘Thanks for sending the KPI report on time last week. We need more people like you around here! Do you think you could also have the sales figures to me by COB Friday?’
  • Ask for a testimonial. This is a powerful mind-changer, forcing people to think of your positive attributes, then commit to them in writing. It’s also public, which greatly enhances the effect.
  • Try to generate positive customer comments on your blog. Don’t be afraid of negative comments — responding well to them can win you fans.
  • Survey people as in the Cancer Society example above. (Third-party surveyors may be best!)
  • Remind them what great customers they are and how much business they’ve done with you. At the very least, write to thank them.

Nail your New-Year resolutions
So how can this principle help you achieve your New Year resolutions? The trick is to make your resolutions public to those who know you, and who’ll know if you don’t follow through (Facebook-only friends probably won’t cut it).

Having made that commitment, you’ll be driven to remain consistent with it, and be more likely to achieve it. (That is, of course, if you really want to achieve it. Don’t say you’ll do it, then not do it, and ‘should’ all over yourself!)

Ready to commit to your resolutions? I’ve written mine in the comments below already. Add yours for the world to see!

Have a cracking start to 2014.



P.S. To see the previous five ‘influence’ principles, search for ‘Cialdini’ in the search box at top right.

Dreaming of a WRITE Christmas

Pencil-shaving Christmas tree

If you’re still at work, we thought you’d like a little levity (hey, that’s not plain English!). I dare you to sing the Writer’s Christmas Carol aloud:

I’m dreaming of a write Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know;
Where typos are forgiven,
and leaders listen
To my advice in board memos.

I’m dreaming of a write Christmas,
With every email that I write,
May your appraisals be bright!
And may all your Christmases be write.

Got time to rhyme? It’s fun and is great for your ‘writing’ muscles. Have a go in the comments below (I’m sure you can beat my effort above!). What’s your best Christmas rhyme?

Next year will be big
Thanks for letting us help you on your journey to being an incredible communicator this year.

We have lots more in store for 2014, including a powerful new writing-coach app we’re developing for you. It’ll launch around March.

Like any birth, we’re incredibly excited about it. Unlike any birth, this one’s keeping us up late even before she’s born! But it’ll be worth it when we see her face, and yours when you use it.

Have a wonderful, safe break. See you in 2014.

Paul & the Magneto team

P.S. Want some ideas for writing a ‘keeper’ Christmas card? Take a peek under the wrapper of our 2012 Xmas blog post.

The power of give & take: Cialdini’s ‘Reciprocity’

Reciprocity: The power of give & take

This is the fifth in a six-part series on influence and persuasion, loosely based on Dr Robert Cialdini’s work.

This rule is one of the most important, and applies to every culture.

It’s a quirk of human nature that if someone does you a favour, you feel obliged to return that favour — even if you don’t like them. The Favour Bank has strict policies and procedures.

In fact, you can often get a ‘yes’ to requests that, except for them feeling they ‘owe’ you, would almost certainly have been refused. And you can harness these conditioned feelings of fairness when writing to people.

Make it win-win
But check your attitude — this shouldn’t be about 
manipulation, but a demonstration of your desire to help your clients. As famous motivational speaker and sales trainer, Zig Ziglar, said, ‘You can get everything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.’

You can invoke reciprocity through gifts and/or concessions:

1. GIFTS: Give, and it shall be given unto you
So what can you give your readers to increase your ‘favour-bank’ balance? Here are some ideas:

  • Free samples of your product/service (but be generous – it must seem more a gift, not a cheap commercial sample)
  • Articles, facts or websites you think will interest them (you could set up some Google Alerts for relevant topics)
  • Quality promotional items with your branding. (Sometimes these assume a life of their own, e.g. the Pirelli Tyres limited-edition celebrity calendars)
  • Greeting cards or handwritten notes, e.g. congratulating them on a win, End-of-Financial-Year, birthdays, Christmas, etc. Here’s a great way to send funky personalised notes.
  • Tickets to movies or sporting events

2. CONCESSIONS: To get ahead, step back
Perhaps surprisingly, making a concession to someone is perceived as a favour.

In one experiment, people were asked if they’d take juvenile-detention centre inmates to the zoo for a day. Only 17 per cent said yes.

But when people were FIRST asked if they’d volunteer to be a counsellor at a juvenile-detention centre for two hours a week for two years – to which ALL said ‘no’ – and THEN were asked the ‘zoo-for-a-day’ question, those who said ‘yes’ to the zoo trip rocketed to 50 per cent, three times better than before.

To apply this, when you’re asking for something big, have a ‘fallback’ question ready. For example, if your ‘big’ request for a face-to-face meeting is rejected, immediately ask for something small, like a phone call.

Don’t thank me
Cialdini also talks about ‘moments of power’: situations in which you momentarily have elevated influence. One of those is when someone thanks you. If you help someone, it’s tempting to dismiss their thanks with, ‘No problem.’

But Cialdini says you can build your favour bank by replying with something like, ‘You’re welcome; I’m sure if the tables were turned, you’d do the same for me’ — thereby gently reminding them of their ‘debt’ to you. Naturally, be authentic and sincere (see ‘Make it win-win’ above!).

What do you think? Does this work for you, or does it sound too manipulative? Air your thoughts below!

Write Like a Boss: Cialdini’s ‘Authority’



This is the fourth in our six-part series on influence and persuasion, loosely based on Dr Robert Cialdini’s work.


Here’s how you can use ‘Authority’ to win your readers over.


To Cialdini, ‘Authority’ is a powerful persuasive principle that leverages our ‘deep-seated sense of duty.’ (For shocking proof – literally – see the Milgram Experiment).


To build ‘authority’ in your writing, consider:


    • Your tone: You’re a professional recommending a solution, so don’t beg your reader to take it; politely assume they will. How does a doctor make requests? (a) ‘Would you like to take your clothes off?’ or (b) ‘I need to examine you – please undress.’

      So instead of writing, ‘Would you like to learn more about what we offer?’ try: ‘Usually the next step clients like to take is to meet so I can learn more about your needs. Are you free at 3pm next Tuesday?’


    • Your experience: Been in business for a long time? Say so. Can you cite research (e.g., survey results) your company has conducted? Have you achieved a noteworthy result on an industry project? Do you belong to a key industry body? Are you in a related role of influence in or outside of work? All these can position you as an authority in your field.


    • Your title: If you have relevant qualifications and/or association memberships, consider adding the letters after your name to build credibility – but keep them small and understated (no one likes a braggart). ‘John Smith, MBA, CPA’ trumps ‘John Smith.’


    • Your branding: Skimping on a professionally designed logo and quality collateral is like wearing a cheap suit. Make your logo, website, email signature, stationery and business cards exceptional. (By the way, here’s what REALLY happens when you give someone your business card!)


Got a good example of Authority in action? You WILL let us know in the comments (was that authoritative enough for you?)…


An influence lesson from the Potato King

Hot on the heels of my recent post on influencing with ‘scarcity’ comes this post from Cialdini expert, Anthony McLean, of Social Influence Consulting Group: 

It’s a great historical example of the clever use of ‘scarcity’ to change the masses’ behaviour.



1 in 3 write poorly at work. Do you?

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Early Xmas gift for you & a friend

If it’s time to make sure you’re not in that ’1-in-3′ statistic, this is for you.

Between now and 30 November 2013, register and pay for ANY upcoming event (even in 2014) and bring a friend for free!

Just choose your event, register, and then email us for your secret-squirrel buddy code.

Persuasive-Writing Webinar – Science of Influence

Dice with YES, NO, MAYBE

Some of the most important things you write are persuasive: Trying to convince your boss to accept your proposal, or a prospect to do business with you, or your staff to adopt a new system.

The more ‘yeses’ you get, the more effective and successful you’ll be.

So it’s good to know persuasion isn’t just an art. It’s a science, too. Learn the science, apply the principles, and you’ll be more influential. Period.

If you want more kick from your keyboard, don’t miss this persuasive-writing webinar next week (13 November 2013)!


STOP PRESS: Almost full! If you can’t register, we’ll add you to our waitlist for the next one – you’ll be first in line then. (We keep webinars small to optimise interaction and engagement.)