Persuasive Communication: Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

What is the most important part of a persuasive essay or speech?

The call to action, of course.

There is no better proven step to a successful call to action process than Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. Developed in the mid-1930s by Alan Monroe at Purdue University, this communication sequence, or checklist if you will, is the most used and method for persuasive presentational organization.

By arranging the components of your message to fit Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, you present the maximum chance of your message making an impact and more importantly, creating a successful call to action.

1. The Attention Step: While there is a level of sophistication you must approach this step with, this is also the step in which you can be most creative. You’re well aware of an attention getter; sometimes it’s a question, a statistic, or an outburst. In the Public Relations world, that is childs play.

The best attention getter is a form of interaction: physical, metaphorical, or simply just an interaction you begin to describe. Getting someone’s attention isn’t about getting their eyes to be set on you, it’s about connecting with them.

2. The Need Step: “Everybody needs somebody.” But why do they need you communicating to them? Because you wouldn’t be communicating them if there wasn’t a problem. Step two is about making your audience feel uncomfortable with the fact that there is a problem. You have to create a desire, a need for them that will not go away by itself.

3. The Satisfaction Step: The problem most have with the satisfaction step is that they provide three to three hundred different solutions. Stick with one. Just one solution that your audience can perform to satisfy their need.

An aside: While researching this, I came across an article on Pro Blogger by Sean Davis which uses monetizing a blog as a vehicle for explaining Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. The vitally important part of the article is his explanation of advocating your audience to take one action, not any more than. You can view the post here.

4. The Visualization Step: What encourages a person to take action more than anything? If they know it benefits them. This is the step in which you show them they can profit from your idea. The common trap is that people focus so much on how the world will benefit, how this industry will benefit, or how the economy will benefit. No. While that can all be added as support, be direct and show how your specific audience can benefit.

While my personal preference is to always create positive visualizations. You can also use negative and contrast methods of visualization. These angles are representative of how you describe the situation if your ideas are adopted, rejected, or both.

5. The Action Step: This is two-fold if you are looking to truly make an impact. First, your audience – if they don’t already – need to be told what you are doing to solve the problem. This plays on so many strings of human psychology. Secondly, this step is when you tell the audience what they can do. Simple as that.

Careful about repetition in your points, but some thing are meant to be repeated to add emphasis. Build the need. Use the 7 C’s of communication. Make sure your proposal is workable. Can they afford it, do they have time, are they able to do it, and most importantly (and why I added the part in the action step about you telling what you are already doing about the problem), are you credible?

The more questions you answer for yourself, the more action you create in others.

Garth Beyer

Garth Beyer is a Madison-based writer and Public Relations Strategist focused on telling stories, running through trend-making PR strategies and trying new things in life.

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