The next step is to specify what you are trying to do. For example, do you want to make your audience realise there is a problem by revising their beliefs? Or do you want to dissuade them from making a certain decision by introducing new data? Do you want to show them their fear is unfounded by showing overlooked facts? The key here is to be as specific and vivid as you can.
Once you’ve specified your writing strategy, you can begin to compose (or in the classic rhetoric, to attempt on invention and arrangement). I recommend following the structure that was originally meant for writing a one-page memo, from the multinational giant Procter & Gamble:
- Start with a sentence expressing your idea or thesis. What are you proposing? Be concise.
- Describe the background or the problem. What conditions have arisen that led you to this recommendation? What is the problem the audience needs solving? Only include information that everyone agrees upon. This is the basis for discussion, so it needs to be non-debatable.
- Explain how it works. Include details your audience needs to know about what happens, where, when, by who, or to whom. Consider using a diagram to help them understand quicker.
- Reinforce the key benefits. Why does the audience need to consider this recommendation? Be judicious on what to include. I recommend not exceeding three.
- Finish with next steps. Who has to do what and by when for this to happen?
By now you can see that facts are still useful, but you need to clear the path for them beforehand, to make sure your audience is ready to chew on them. You also need to be prudent in selecting the facts you want to share. Select only on a few of highly load-bearing proofs. Again, it’s not about what you know. It’s about what your audience needs to know.
What about confirmation bias and motivated reasoning? Yes, just like the flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, GMO naysayers, and every human being including you and me, business people suffer from them too. How can we overcome them?
Motivated reasoning happens because we want to show loyalty to tribes that matter to us. Scientists recently recommend identifying people’s underlying motivations, and to use this insight to craft messages that go together with them. They call this “the jiu jitsu persuasion model”².
In business communication, all along it has been known as good rhetoric.