Helping People Persuade Themselves

Seth Godin made a post recently suggesting that the most effective persuasion occurs when we persuade ourselves.

The purpose of the memo or the table or the graph or the presentation is to create the conditions for someone to make up their own minds. Because it’s almost impossible to make up their mind for them.

This post seems to dovetail pretty well with the “Jobs to Be Done” theory Ruth Hartt espouses for arts marketing. This is the idea that people purchase things that they feel will solve problems they face. These needs are more complicated than just food, shelter, clothes, etc. The statement the food, shelter, clothes, etc., make about you and make you feel about yourself may factor in. So in that regard it may not be a product or service people purchase, but time spent with others, spent recharging, spent improving knowledge and expertise, etc.

As Godin says, the approach and tools you use to communicate with people has to facilitate them convincing themselves that what you offer will meet a need, solve a problem, complete a job to be done.

Ruth made a mock up video along those lines a couple years ago.  Some of the things Godin identifies as being barriers to self-persuasion are similar to issues Ruth has identified in arts marketing. They all have to do with mistakes people make when telling their story.

Godin writes:

Sometimes, we are entranced by our own insight, or impressed with our communication tools. We let facts, formatting and filigree get in the way of a good story.

And sometimes, we’re afraid of our power, so we bury the lede too far, letting ourselves off the hook by not influencing someone else.

Once in a while, we do the opposite. We say what we mean so clearly and so directly that the story disappears and the facts bounce off the inertia and self esteem of the person encountering them.


About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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