Persuasive Communications tips from the KSU Foundation’s Susan Berhow

As part of KSU’s brand day, Susan Wolf Berhow, Assistant Director of Communications for the KSU Foundation, gave a presentation on Persuasive Communications for Alumni/Donors.

The most interesting part of Berhow’s presentation to me was her idea of the “purple bubble.”

The “purple bubble” is what we are all in. For many of us it is hard to separate ourselves from this area, because we are around it all the time. Most of us have positive experiences here in Manhattan and when we talk to others about our college experiences we describe them with a certain level of subjectivity.

Anyone who has gotten in arguments about sports with friends from other universities knows this feeling. We are invested in our lives here and find it hard to relate to others who don’t have those same views as us.

Berhow gave some statistics about K-State alumni. They are all over the place, and for many, it has been awhile since they lived in Manhattan. They may go weeks/days/months at a time without even thinking about their time at K-State, she said.

These people need a reason to care about K-State. She said this is how all persuasive communicators need to think. No matter how you feel about a topic, you have to think no one else out there cares. Give them a reason to care.

Her quick tips for when we are writing for an audience are:

1) Paint a picture for your target. The tiniest details can make the audience feel something. Berhow said to picture yourself as a creative writer not just a reporter. We are responsible for helping the audience feel the room/hear the voices/see the setting.

I feel that, at times, we are taught to simplify things too often. In some scenarios it is appropriate to push ourselves as writers/persuasive communicators and build the story up.

2) Berhow says to find the hidden soap opera plot. People care about drama. Why else would reality television be so popular? As persuasive communicators we have to find that emotional button in our targets to influence behavior.

3) Her last tip deals specifically with what she does for the KSU Foundation. Everything that comes out of her office is about the students. No matter how close or how far removed the alum is from his/her time at  K-State they can remember being a student. The alumni want to see how their donation will affect the university. If they know it is all about the students they can attach memories/faces/emotions to their donations.

I really enjoyed Berhow’s presentation and found what she was talking about to be relatable to anything in Public Relations. We have all learned that we have to make people care, and it was interesting to see how someone in a fairly niche market influences behavior from her audience.




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