The PR BlogMedia & PsychologyPersuasion & InfluenceEthos, Pathos, and Logos in Public Relations

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Public Relations

Recognised since ancient Greece, they play an essential role in PR.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Ethos, pathos, and logos play an import­ant role in PR.

Some people need right­eous argu­ments to be per­suaded. Some need emo­tion­al ones. Others need logic­al argu­ments to come around.

But for most of us, a com­bin­a­tion of the three is needed.

Ethos, pathos, and logos are three power­ful modes of per­sua­sion in pub­lic relations. 

Here goes:

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Public Relations

Ethos Pathos Logos - Persuasion - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Classical per­sua­sion.

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos: Three Classical Modes of Persuasion

Aristotle’s three modes of rhet­or­ic­al per­sua­sion are eth­os, pathos, and logos, which are based on mor­al com­pet­ence, emo­tion­al appeal, and reas­on.”
Source: Sino-US English Teaching 1Lin, W. (2019). Three Modes of Rhetorical Persuasion. Sino-US English Teaching. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​7​2​6​5​/​1​539 – 80722019.03.003

Ethos, pathos, and logos are three modes of per­sua­sion recog­nised since ancient Greece, and they play an essen­tial role in pub­lic relations. 

  • Ethos. This mode of per­sua­sion refers to the cred­ib­il­ity or eth­ic­al appeal of the com­mu­nic­at­or, which can be estab­lished through demon­strat­ing expert­ise, integ­rity, and goodwill.
  • Pathos. This mode of per­sua­sion per­tains to emo­tion­al appeal, which involves stir­ring the audience’s feel­ings to sway their opin­ions or actions.
  • Logos. This mode of per­sua­sion is the logic­al appeal, which relies on present­ing sound argu­ments and evid­ence to con­vince the audi­ence.

In PR, these three modes of per­sua­sion are often com­bined to cre­ate com­pel­ling mes­sages that res­on­ate with the audi­ence on mul­tiple levels. 2Modes of per­sua­sion. (2023, September 27). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​M​o​d​e​s​_​o​f​_​p​e​r​s​u​a​s​ion

Learn more: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Public Relations

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Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Amplification Hypothesis

The Amplification Hypothesis

It’s com­mon to find that coun­ter­ar­gu­ments strengthen exist­ing beliefs instead of weak­en­ing them. 

  • The harder you attack someone verbally, the more you con­vince them of their belief, not yours.

The phe­nomen­on is known as the amp­li­fic­a­tion hypo­thes­is, where dis­play­ing cer­tainty about an atti­tude when talk­ing with anoth­er per­son increases and hardens that attitude.

Across exper­i­ments, it is demon­strated that increas­ing atti­tude cer­tainty strengthens atti­tudes (e.g., increases their res­ist­ance to per­sua­sion) when atti­tudes are uni­valent but weak­ens atti­tudes (e.g., decreases their res­ist­ance to per­sua­sion) when atti­tudes are ambi­val­ent. These res­ults are con­sist­ent with the amp­li­fic­a­tion hypo­thes­is.“
Source: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 3Clarkson, J. J., Tormala, Z. L., & Rucker, D. D. (2008). A new look at the con­sequences of atti­tude cer­tainty: The amp­li­fic­a­tion hypo­thes­is. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, … Continue read­ing

How does the amp­li­fic­a­tion hypo­thes­is work? 

In a threat­en­ing situ­ation or emer­gency, we resort to the prim­al (fast­est) part of the brain and sur­viv­al instincts (fight, flight and freeze). 4Surviving the Storm: Understanding the Nature of Attacks held at Animal Care Expo, 2011 in Orlando, FL.

  • Dichotomous think­ing. This think­ing style is at the heart of rad­ic­al move­ments and fun­da­ment­al­ism. Even people who exer­cise abstract think­ing, logic, reas­on, and the abil­ity to recog­nize com­plex issues can resort to this think­ing style when threatened. 5Silfwer, J. (2017, June 13). Conversion Theory — Disproportionate Minority Influence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​-​t​h​e​o​ry/
  • Egocentric think­ing. People who demon­strate non-ego­centric think­ing in many areas can also use this think­ing style under stress. When a tar­get is labelled an enemy, cog­nit­ive steps jus­ti­fy viol­ent beha­viour and pre­vent altru­ism and empathy. 6Beck (1999): Homogenization, Dehumanization and Demonization.
  • Distorted think­ing. We tend to ignore details in our envir­on­ments that do not sup­port our think­ing and beliefs. 7Cognitive dis­son­ance. (2023, November 20). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​C​o​g​n​i​t​i​v​e​_​d​i​s​s​o​n​a​nce

Establishing com­mon ground and exhib­it­ing empathy demon­strates a genu­ine under­stand­ing of their per­spect­ive, fos­ter­ing trust and open­ness to your ideas. Conversely, a stra­tegic mis­match of atti­tudes can serve as a power­ful coun­ter­meas­ure if your object­ive is to deflect per­suas­ive attempts.

Persuade

To per­suade, align your atti­tude with the tar­get. Otherwise, you will only act to cre­ate resistance.

Provoke

To put off a per­suader, mis­match their atti­tudes. When they are logic­al, be emo­tion­al, and vice versa. 

Learn more: The Amplification Hypothesis: How To Counter Extreme Positions

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PR Resource: Perception Management

Walter Lippmann: Public Opinion and Perception Management

No one is basing their atti­tudes and beha­viours on real­ity; we’re basing them on our per­cep­tions of real­ity.

Walter Lippmann (1889 – 1974) pro­posed that our per­cep­tions of real­ity dif­fer from the actu­al real­ity. The real­ity is too vast and too com­plex for any­one to pro­cess. 8Lippmann, Walter. 1960. Public Opinion (1922). New York: Macmillan.

  • One who effect­ively man­ages the per­cep­tions of pub­lics acts as a mor­al legis­lat­or, cap­able of shap­ing atti­tudes and beha­viours accord­ing to the cat­egor­ic­al imperative.

The research on per­cep­tion man­age­ment is focused on how organ­isa­tions can cre­ate a desired repu­ta­tion:

The OPM [Organizational Perception Management] field focuses on the range of activ­it­ies that help organ­isa­tions estab­lish and/​or main­tain a desired repu­ta­tion (Staw et al., 1983). More spe­cific­ally, OPM research has primar­ily focused on two inter­re­lated factors: (1) the tim­ing and goals of per­cep­tion man­age­ment activ­it­ies and (2) spe­cif­ic per­cep­tion man­age­ment tac­tics (Elsbach, 2006).”
Source: Organization Development Journal 9Hargis, M. & Watt, John. (2010). Organizational per­cep­tion man­age­ment: A frame­work to over­come crisis events. Organization Development Journal. 28. 73 – 87. … Continue read­ing

Today, our per­cep­tions are heav­ily influ­enced by news media and influ­en­cers, algorithms, and social graphs. Therefore, per­cep­tion man­age­ment is more crit­ic­al than ever before.

We are all cap­tives of the pic­ture in our head — our belief that the world we have exper­i­enced is the world that really exists.”
— Walter Lippmann (1889 – 1974)

Learn more: Walter Lippmann: Public Opinion and Perception Management

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Lin, W. (2019). Three Modes of Rhetorical Persuasion. Sino-US English Teaching. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​7​2​6​5​/​1​539 – 80722019.03.003
2 Modes of per­sua­sion. (2023, September 27). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​M​o​d​e​s​_​o​f​_​p​e​r​s​u​a​s​ion
3 Clarkson, J. J., Tormala, Z. L., & Rucker, D. D. (2008). A new look at the con­sequences of atti­tude cer­tainty: The amp­li­fic­a­tion hypo­thes­is. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(4), 810 – 825. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​3​7​/​a​0​0​1​3​192
4 Surviving the Storm: Understanding the Nature of Attacks held at Animal Care Expo, 2011 in Orlando, FL.
5 Silfwer, J. (2017, June 13). Conversion Theory — Disproportionate Minority Influence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​-​t​h​e​o​ry/
6 Beck (1999): Homogenization, Dehumanization and Demonization.
7 Cognitive dis­son­ance. (2023, November 20). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​C​o​g​n​i​t​i​v​e​_​d​i​s​s​o​n​a​nce
8 Lippmann, Walter. 1960. Public Opinion (1922). New York: Macmillan.
9 Hargis, M. & Watt, John. (2010). Organizational per­cep­tion man­age­ment: A frame­work to over­come crisis events. Organization Development Journal. 28. 73 – 87. https://​www​.researchg​ate​.net/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​/​2​8​8​2​9​2​5​9​6​_​O​r​g​a​n​i​z​a​t​i​o​n​a​l​_​p​e​r​c​e​p​t​i​o​n​_​m​a​n​a​g​e​m​e​n​t​_​A​_​f​r​a​m​e​w​o​r​k​_​t​o​_​o​v​e​r​c​o​m​e​_​c​r​i​s​i​s​_​e​v​e​nts
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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