Political fund raising and the art of persuasion

I received a form letter asking for money to support a judicial candidate. It’s typical of many such letters we get in the mail. This one is a good illustration of a poor approach to persuasionn. It began with a statement in large capital letters "Harry needs your help." It followed that with"Judge Harry Smith’s future on the court depends upon the support…of friends." It went on to say "We want to make certain that Harry receives the financial support he needs…"

We know that the most basic rule of persuasion is to appeal to what the other person wants and not to what we desire. What does the person you wish to persuade want? That’s always the first question. In trial, it means applying that question to the jury or judge. You start with something that attracts attention and then focus on what the other person wants. You never start with with what you want or your client wants. For example, in a jury case, we know the jurors want to be part of something important. They want the their jury service to mean something. They want to do the right thing. We don’t start with what we want or our client wants. We start with the premise that if they agree to the verdict you suggest it will fulfill these needs of the jurors.

This mailing was entirely focused on what Judge Smith wants and needs – our money. The reasons given for our taking money out of our pocket to give to him werehis future on the court is at stake. The letters wants to make sure he gets the financial support he needs and he deserves in order to keep his job. Instead, the letter should be focused upon what we want and we need. Why? Well, what’s the question the jurors sub consciously are asking themselves at jury selection? Answer: "What’s in for me?" The could care less what the plaintiff lawyer wants and care even less what the plaintiff wants. The question for the juror is: what will this do for me. So, we are trained to talk to the jury from their standpoint. How this impacts them. How a verdict for the plaintiff will benefit them. For example, rules mean safety for you and the community. Broken rules means danger for you and the community. A verdict for plaintiff means enforcement of rules that protect the jurors, their families and the community and therefore meet the needs of the jurors.

This letter should have talked about the needs of the people from whom the money is being asked and not about the needs of the judge to keep a job. This letter should have started out talking about the voters needs and not the fact the judge is worried about not having a future on the bench. What the voters need are good, well balanced judges who enforce the law. They need fair minded judges to conduct the trials involving themselves and their clients. They need a judge who will listen and will conduct trials in a fair and honest manner. That’s what important to the people who are being asked to contribute their money and that’s what the letter should have talked about from the begining to the end. At the end of the letter the point should be made that the voters will not have their needs met by having this kind of judge on the bench unless Harry gets the financial support needed to maintain his record of honesty, fairness and quality work as a judge.

Let’s remember the principles of good marketing when he plan our trials and how we will go about trying to persuade jurors.

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