Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Persuasive writing techniques

There are several persuasive techniques that a journalist can use in an article in order to convince, and influence the reader. Among others these might include: rhetorical questions, exaggeration, facts and statistics, personal pronouns, or emotive language. The article ‘How Zara took over the high-street’ (Cartner-Morley, 2013) published in the Guardian is a classic example of persuasive writing.

From the very beginning, the article uses a cleverly thought out persuasive strategy. The journalist refers to the reader by using personal pronouns ‘you’ and ‘we’. By doing this, she shortens the distance between herself, and the readers, and she associates herself with them. Moreover, the author uses informal, direct language, which creates a friendly-like, engaging and personable conversation about fashion.

Moreover, the reader is encouraged to use imagination, which is a very effective tactic. The journalist asks the readers to think of the London fashion week catwalk show, and use their imagination to ‘undress’ people attending the event, and guess which high street brand would be mostly represented. Research shows that visual imagery is one of the most effective techniques in advertisement, and on television. Imagining a fashion show is a synesthetic experience, because various senses overlap. In addition, visual imagery improves mood, enhances memory, increases confidence, and decreases stress level (Branthwaite, 2002).

Furthermore, the journalist makes several good points in her argument to convince the reader that Zara is one the best high street fashion companies. For example Cartner-Morley (2013) claims that Zara is successful because it produces unique, chic, and affordable fashion. The company follows ‘the spirit of the ‘time’ and gets inspiration from designers. Quoting reliable persons from the fashion industry only adds weight to her argument. The author clearly presents herself as a person who knows the world of fashion.

Research shows that people think carefully about the content of a persuasive message, if the argument is presented by a reliable person. Tobin and Raymundo (2009) carried out an experiment in which participants received either strong or weak arguments from a high expertise, or low expertise person. The result showed that people were persuaded by a strong argument presented by a high expertise person. This is due to systematic processing via the central route, which requires cognitive effort, and in consequence it strengthens attitude, lasts longer, and predicts behaviour (Petty, Cacioppo, & Schumann, 1983).


Branthwaite, A. (2002). Investigating the power of imagery in marketing communication: Evidence-based techniques. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 5, 164-171.

Cartner-Morley, J. (2013). How Zara took over the high street. The Guardian [online]. Available at [Accessed 15 March 2013].

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T., Schumann, D. (1983). Central and peripheral routes to advertising effectiveness: The moderating role of involvement. Journal of Consumer Research, 10, 135-146.

Tobin, S. J, & Raymundo, M. M (2009). Persuasion by causal arguments: The motivating role of perceived causal expertise. Social Cognition, 27, 105–127.

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