Kathryn Denton

Thinking about persuasion

Sorry that it’s been almost a month since my last post. Winter quarter ended, I finished my internship at Carol Fox & Associates, then I got a new PAID internship/temp-job in the marketing department at the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA). I also just started spring quarter taking Advertising Copywriting and Account Planning. While the IHDA thing is definitely not about the arts, they’re still a non-profit and they have a lot of assistance programs for people struggling with their mortgages that they need to market.I’m going to try to keep posting as regularly as I can but I make no promises. I also will be posting a lot of my homework assignments because they’re easy content. I am not ashamed!

The Art of Persuasion:

DePaul Housing Services is having a lot of problems with electricity violations in student housing. Students aren’t using surge protectors and instead are using splitters and extension cords. The University is concerned about safety and fire issues and so this quarter my class is focusing on helping them create a campaign around this issue. The first assignment is a practice in persuasion. I had to talk in person with three people, trying to get them to change their behaviors regarding their usage of these items and see what was effective and what was a flop. The following is my write-up.

Background & Objectives

The Art of Persuasion assignment required me to attempt to convince three people I know to eliminate non-surge protected power sources, extension cords and splitters from their homes. The goal of this persuasion project was to convince friends and family members to change their behaviors as a result of my presentation. The objective of this assignment is to determine what presentation style and what timing tactics are most effective when working to change behaviors.Improper use of electrical cords

Research Methodology & Location

For this assignment I used only one-on-one interviews. Since I was attempting to persuade my subjects to change their behavior, I felt that a direct, face-to-face conversation would be most effective. I interviewed my fiancé Dustin at home right after class met on Thursday, March 29th. I spoke to my friend Allison Mack when she met with Dustin and I for dinner on Sunday, April 1st at the Cheesecake Factory in the Hancock Building. I spoke to my sister in her room on Monday April 2nd in the evening.

Sample Size

My sample was three people: my fiancé Dustin, friend Allison, and sister Beth. I chose Dustin, who is in the military and visiting for the week, because he had to wait around for me while I was at class and so when I came home he was interested in how the class went. I talked to Allison because I know she shares an apartment in an older building with a roommate and I would not be surprised if they have splitters and extension cords since many older buildings don’t have enough outlets for all the modern gadgets people have. My sister was in her room where she has her computer and her Cricut cutting machine and a lamp all plugged into the same outlet. Since we were sitting in the room and could see the outlet, it seemed like a good opportunity to bring up electrical safety. I chose three people because that was part of the assignment and I felt confident that by choosing a friend, family member, and significant other I had covered the spectrum of acquaintance levels of influence.

Key Findings

I learned from this exercise that a person’s predisposition to the topic makes a big difference in how they react to the message. Dustin was risk manager for his fraternity in college and now as an Army Officer frequently attends all sorts of safety training sessions. This made him more open and agreeable to what I was saying, but at the same time it didn’t help too much to talk to him because he doesn’t use splitters or extension cords. Because he already agreed with me about the issue I don’t think any of his behaviors will change, but maybe he’ll do a little advocating of his own when he goes back to Ft. Jackson.

Atmosphere seemed to be a big factor in the success of my discussions. Talking to my sister in her room right at the point of contention was more powerful than talking to Allison while she was eating dinner. Even though Allison listened politely to me, when I was done she said something to the effect of “I’m that girl who went to Europe twice and both times I fried things in my room by using the wrong converter. You’d think after the first time I’d have learned, but I didn’t, so I don’t think you telling me to check my outlets and get new surge protectors will stick with me once we leave tonight”.  Even if Allison was open to my information and had wanted to go home and make some changes, by the time we finished dinner, had desert, hung out for a while, she went home, and thought about all the things she had going on in the upcoming week, it was very unlikely that she’d remember she had wanted to make those changes. When Allison mentioned her story about frying electronics in Europe, I decided to refocus the theme of my discussion when I talked to my sister later. Talking about fire danger is a little bit abstract to most people. They don’t believe it will happen to them. Having your computer fried in a surge is a little more believable and to some people would be a bigger tragedy. When I said something to my sister about potential fire hazards she wasn’t really involved but when I mentioned that it sure would cost a lot to replace all the items she had plugged in if they got fried, she started paying more attention to me.

Recommendations –

I recommend a focus on connection planning when trying to change the behavior of electrical violations. While I may have been more successful if I’d had statistics and horror stories about apartment fires to share, I still would not have much success without my information being relevant at the time I was giving it. I think it also would have been easier to convince someone like Allison if I had a handout with prices and locations where she could buy surge protectors. I think she would have felt more empowered if I had given her a specific task to do, such as “Go to Target and buy a surge protector” than when I just told her “don’t use an extension cord.” I also think there’s a reason that people are participating in these bad habits, they need more outlets and they’re going with the easiest and cheapest option to solve the problem. If we give them proper tools and direction instead of just saying, “don’t do this”, it will be more effective.

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