Week 3 – Jones’s Views on Rhetoric and Psychology: Her Approach to Audience Analysis

Jones, Colleen. “Psychology: The Science of Influence.” In Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content, 81-104. Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2011.

———. “Rhetoric: The Art of Influence.” In Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content, 43-80. Berkley, CA: New Riders, 2011.

Understanding the power of rhetoric is a tremendous tool in developing skills as a technical communicator.  Colleen Jones breaks down her analysis of rhetoric into the four main principles of appeals, identification, repetition, and time.  The classical rhetorical strategies appeal to a person’s credibility, logic, and emotion.  Developing a neat framework of organizing these appeals in an easily searchable manner is at the heart of successful web design.  Jones highlights the importance of this skill by commenting that one of the best ways to build a reputation as a trusted resource is to “become known for a particular approach to content . . . if you publish consistently good content over time” (45).  The way in which someone selects the type, location, and purpose of a particular content type is defined as content strategy.  Jones highlights examples of content types throughout her “Rhetoric” chapter; these include blog posts, media articles/editorials, expert review, white papers, data visualizations, and testimonials.  After reading this chapter, I feel that maintaining credibility online is potentially one of the most difficult and most crucial points of interest for any company.  While maintaining credibility has always been important, the idea now carries more weight simply because a web presence must be maintained with more frequency than print information.  For example, user-generated content must be monitored in order to “facilitate discussion so it stays true to your brand your users” (60).  If well maintained, social networking from customers can be positive in terms of identifying with the target audience;  however, negligence on the part of such monitoring could prove detrimental to a company.

In Jones’s chapter, “Psychology,” she narrows her focus from the four main principles of rhetoric to the four principles important to web content.  These include framing, metaphor, social proof (referrals), and reciprocity.  Establishing a frame, or “set of expectations, values, and assumptions that acts like a filtering lens” directly reflects the audience at hand (82).  How someone chooses to deliver a message is largely influenced by the audience, and the type of audience will largely influence the types of appeals the speaker or writer employs; therefore, framing is closely tied to choices a technical writer makes in terms of word choice, tone, and timing.  Applying metaphors to content helps to expand on thought and language in a way that “resonates deeply” with the audience (90).  Metaphors are most often successful when they are able to connect directly with the company’s purpose or services they provide.  With metaphors, “less is more” to ensure that people don’t follow the metaphor too far and therefore succumb to believing a slippery-slope fallacy (91).  Social proof, such as case studies, quotes, testimonials, and reviews establish credibility by gathering support from both customers and experts (95).  Additionally, reciprocity helps a company become liked and trusted by delivering on promises and promising positive outcomes to customers.

How will the increased use of social media in the future change the focus of the three types of classical appeals?  Do you think that shifting from an emphasis on mass media to new media will create the need for greater attention to be placed on one of these three appeals over the rest?


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