Jul 24, 2023 | Hiring & Retention

How can I convince the execs to approve a service day?

Q. Dear Zenagos,
I’ve been trying to get the executive team at my company to let the company take a day off to do Habitat for Humanity. It aligns with the company’s mission, and it would build morale. But, they say it’s too expensive to take everyone offline for a day. How can I convince them?
–Jacqui
If your argument isn’t working, you need to try a new approach. The way to persuade an audience – whether you are trying to sell them a product or convince them to try a new idea – is to help them see the value that you are offering.

Make Sure You Are Addressing the Right Audience
New York Times journalist Emily Anthes (2023) tells the story of a group of molecular epidemiology researchers from Ohio State University who discovered that dangerous strains of swine flu were circulating around county fairs. They debated how to reduce the risks in order to protect the public from a new pandemic. First, the researchers tried to convince the officials in charge of the fairs to make changes (such as installing hand sanitizer stations near the livestock pens), but they discovered that not all officials were receptive to their recommendations. In a stroke of creativity, the researchers decided to address a new audience – the children who went to see the livestock. The Ohio State group named themselves the Swientists (an amalgam of “swine” and “scientists”) and set up fun learning stations for children at the fairs. For example, they had the children rub a clear gel into their hands and then wash their hands. The scientists would then hold a black light over the children’s hands and show them where they had missed some spots, where there were still “germs.” The children found the activities fun and looked forward to them at each fair, and this led to changes in the children’s hygiene practices around the animals. The researchers even documented the children’s taking those practices home to their farms and transferring them to their parents! So, by changing the audience and adding some creative fun, the scientists effected real change. If your initial audience isn’t receptive, see if there’s another audience that might be.

Target What Your Audience Values
If you need to convince an audience, it is most effective to communicate in terms they understand. How can you get into your executives’ mindset? Try making a customer persona (or “buyer persona”) for your audience. This is a technique that marketers use to understand their audience, and there are several free templates available. As you make your persona, ask yourself what the executive team that you are trying to persuade really needs in order to succeed at their jobs. What are their pressures and stresses? What do they really value? See if you can put your idea in terms that they understand and value.

For example, would a video of your team doing work at Habitat for Humanity give the marketing team the new PR opportunity that they have been seeking? This could have tremendous value to the executive team. Would a day at Habitat for Humanity galvanize the team to hit a critical deadline that’s coming up later in the year? You could sell this as an opportunity to motivate the team.

Remember that you are not your target audience. A common mistake that people make when trying to persuade others is to assume that arguments that convince you will be compelling to them. You need to really put yourself in their shoes and think like they do. If you can assume your executive team’s mindset, it will increase your chances of being persuasive.

References

Anthes, E. (2023, July 25). Could the next pandemic start at the county fair? New York Times. Retrieved on July 25, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/25/health/swine-flu-pigs-agriculture.html

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