The ability of a persuader to influence someone is determined by specific characteristics that he or she has to possess. Credibility is one of these characteristics, it is therefore important for a persuader to make the audience trust him initially based on the information available about him (Shell & Moussa, 2007). This implies the persuader has to be trustworthy to ensure the particular issue at hand is effectively delivered to the target audience. Credibility is an important component of influence and is dependent on both trust and expertise.
Physical attractiveness or likability is also an important trait in persuasion. According to Cialdini (2007), likable people will always easily persuade others. Therefore, credible and physically attractive people are likely to have fewer troubles persuading people. Usually such people are also informed and have the credentials that qualify them to handle specific issues.
On the other hand, unattractive, conflicting, and lacking credibility people cannot easily persuade any audience. This is because the audience becomes resistant, and, hence, the intended message is not delivered effectively. Credibility of the information source is therefore a key component of the persuasion process. A credible source will always influence the beliefs of the audience. The persuader has to also be able to use his or her voice effectively to reach the audience. Vocal quality and effective use of body language are key components of persuasion.
A persuasive message has the unique attributes that make it more effective in accomplishing its intended purpose (Brinol & Petty, 2006). Persuasive messages have to be delivered face-to-face in order to get attention of the audience. Personal communication enables the speaker to deliver a message more effectively in comparison to non-personal communication forms. According to Gass and Seiter (2010), a persuasive message should get the audience’s attention through listening. Therefore, to attract the audience’s attention, novelty, surprise, aesthetic qualities, and duration of the message should be put into consideration. It is also important, to repeat a message because the more it is repeated, the higher are the chances of audience believing in it. In addition, emotions, framing, narratives, and rational appeals are important ingredients of a persuasive message that the speaker has to put into consideration. These elements attract the audience’s attention making them focus on the issue.
The sleeper effect is what happens if a persuasive message achieves a great initial impact. It is therefore significant for highly persuasive messages that are paired with a discounting cue to keep a person more persuaded by a message over a longer duration. Therefore, the sleeper effect increases the effectiveness of the message when the message is discounted later (Areni & Sparks, 2006).
There also are audience characteristics that determine the effectiveness of persuasive messages. Self-esteem is one of these characteristics. It happens that people of moderate self-esteem are more easily persuaded compared to people of high and low self-esteem (Sublet & Lum, 2008).
Intelligence also plays a significant role in susceptibility to persuasion. Individuals who are more intelligent tend to be less easily persuaded by messages that are one-sided.
The culture of the audience influences the extent to which a persuasive message can be affective, because different cultures have different beliefs that cannot be easily changed. What one culture perceives to be a norm may be offensive to another.
Gender also plays an important role in determining the effectiveness of a persuasive message. Females are more likely to be persuaded compared to males, depending on the message topic and preference.
Persuasive communication is likely to be effective if the audience understands, likes, and respects the persuader. The elaboration likelihood model indicates that attitudes are important because they guide our decisions and behavior (Hamilton, 2007). However, persuasion remains the primary source of our attitudes. Therefore, elaboration is highest when individuals are motivated and willing to think about what points and evidence the message contains. Therefore, the model makes a link between the persuader, the message, and the audience.
The excerpt from “Social Psychology in Depth” clearly illustrates the use of persuasive messages through the use of word of mouth in marketing and advertisement. The use of word of mouth online, especially through product reviews, demonstrates how source credibility is important in persuasion, as evidenced by its positive effects on popularity and sales of a particular product. The excerpt also reveals how persuasive messages can determine individual’s behaviour, especially in deciding what to purchase. Therefore, a persuader has to make sure the message is presented logically and supported with evidence of its effectiveness. Understanding the needs of the audience is important in order to clearly focus on those needs. For example, different online shoppers evaluate products differently. Therefore, understanding these various needs is important in persuasion. The expertise of reviewers is more influential than their quantity, implying that a persuader must be knowledgeable about the issue at hand.
To conclude, persuasive communication is used to influence an individual as well as groups to believe or accept a specific opinion or perspective. Therefore, a persuader must clearly understand the audience and focus on a careful listener. He or she should be knowledgeable, credible, and likable. On the other hand, the message should meet the needs of the audience through a logical presentation of facts to make the message appealing.