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20 Jan 2011

People Follow Leaders Not Facts

Intuitive approaches rely upon relationships. They work because relationships are more powerful than any other force when it comes to influencing, including facts and even reality itself. Public relations is a pragmatic, business example of this power’s application.

Consider this quote from the article Rise of the Image Men, (The Economist, December 18, 2010 edition) which talks about “The Father of Public Relations,” Edward Bernays, and his studies of mass psychology:

…that the public’s first impulse is usually to follow a trusted leader rather than consider the facts for itself.

When we apply this principle to influencing others, we will find that a trusted, authoritarian figure will be more influential than the facts. This will likely hold true even if what the authority says isn’t true. In other words, we believe it’s true because an authority said it.

Of course, part of this is convenience. The word “consider” means work in the form of sorting through the facts. We also might not have the ability. Thus, leaders become a form of convenience thought (as opposed to convenience food) for us. They prepackage facts into thoughts and ideas so we don’t have to.

Still, much of an authority’s influence is because it’s easier to have a relationship with a person than a group of facts. That is why many products and services try to identify themselves with a celebrity, a trusted person, to present their stories. It’s easier and more effective for consumers to make a connection to a person than a list of benefits. So, when you combine convenience with relationships, you get a very powerful influencing approach.

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