Practical Applications

Companies can use multimodal persuasive messages in a variety of media and for various audiences—internal and external. Shaw, Brown, and Bromiley (1998) acknowledge 3M’s use of narrative in business planning, using it to present “strategic stories” behind items in bullet-point listings. Fleming (2001) acknowledges the importance of organizational leaders being able to assimilate with employees and encourage reform through narratives. He explains sense-making and sense-giving, two important functions of leadership, as “providing the insights and raw materials necessary to reform mindsets and practices essential to the newly emerging opportunities” (paragraph 5). He goes on to explain that, “few tools are as powerful and readily available to the leader as the use of personal and organizational narrative. Learning to listen to, tell and interpret stories within the organization helps leaders to maximize their sensemaking/sensegiving role” (paragraph 7). Such narratives trying to persuade employees toward organizational change can be delivered in writing or video or through live presentations.

One needs only to look at commercials and advertisements on television and the Web to find examples of multimodal persuasive rhetoric for external audiences. I provide three examples to illustrate the neuroscience associated with persuasion. The first example comes from the marketing materials of a particular law firm. The law firm addresses several kinds of legal cases, including personal injury. One of the main purposes of advertisements, of course, is to persuade the viewer/reader to buy or use the advertiser’s product or service. However, there is a unique dynamic within the advertisements of this law firm that is very uncommon among such advertising. These attributes and the neuroscience behind them contribute to creating a certain perception of the law firm’s ability to represent clients in personal injury cases especially.

The second example is a public service announcement featuring a narrative of a patient whose cancer was caused by smoking cigarettes and who now receives a particularly painful-looking treatment for her cancer. The images of the treatment invoke both mirror and reward neurons in a negative way, eliciting fear. The third example is of a candidate running for a local elected office. His narrative elicits mirror neural activity as he connects with the local population in several ways.

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