I stumbled on an article in Salon.com that tells the story of a man known as Context 958. I realize that his name sounds totally impersonal. It’s true, until you learn that his name is a reason to make it personal.
Context 958 lived in the 1200’s, which doesn’t even seem real when I type that, because it’s so long ago. Should we call him Context or Mr. 958?
Based on Scientific clues, an educated guess is that he was part of the poor, working class. Scientists tells us that he had periods of malnutrition. He broke a rib at one point, and survived a concussion. He suffered from gout and a mouthful of dental diseases. He died in a charity hospital and was ultimately buried face down in a pauper’s grave and forgotten. Until…
Sometime between 2010 and 2012, a team of researchers was excavating an area in Cambridge, England, and found his bones. It told the story of his physical condition.
The reality is that I wasn’t interested in the story. I even stopped reading, until I glanced down in the article. There, I saw these pictures:
Scientists from the University of Cambridge had put together a 3D imaging of Context 958, based on clues from his bones. They had put a face with a name.
Now I was interested in their findings. I kept looking back at the pictures. I couldn’t help myself. I imagined all the details that the Scientists described. Why? Because Context 958 was now a person from the forensic investigation.
Lobbyists and politicians learned a long time ago that persuasion must include making it personal. Every year, when our president gives the state of the union address, they place specific people in the audience to recognize them in story, and then make a point with that story.
During the NCAA Basketball tournament, each team has a mascot. It’s marketing for their schools. And in the Finals tonight, we will see the North Carolina Tar Heel mascot named Rameses. Meanwhile, Gonzaga’s mascot is Spike the Bulldog. And if you order some Little Caesar’s Pizza during the game, you might even think of the little toga-wearing character who would remind us of “Pizza! Pizza!”.
Communication specialists call it the art of personalized persuasion. People tune out when they are not connected.
In the world of jury trials, the same principle is in effect. If the case is about medical bills and medical terms… not so good. Getting involved with the reality of the injury is the means of persuasion.
One final note on that. Long ago, I was introduced to the concept of “Day in the Life” videos. On serious injury cases, have the client’s day shown to the jury. To show the difficulties clients face including just getting ready or just living day-to-day because of injury. It is much more persuasive than just having someone describe difficulties.
“The mind is no match with the heart, in persuasion; constitutionality is no match with compassion”. Everett Dirksen.
Dirksen was a U.S. Senator who knew a great deal about persuasion. He was known as the Senator who break up deadlocked debate on some serious topic, by regularly introducing an amendment or legislation to name the Marigold the National Flower. It never passed, but it always lightened a tense atmosphere. Perhaps he would have been more successful if it had been the White Lily!