The ABC's of Persuasive Storytelling


He may have been born in 384 B.C, but it turns out Aristotle was a marketing genius was ahead of his time and quite literally wrote the book on effective storytelling.

In his book ‘Art of Rhetoric’, the Greek philosopher said all convincing speakers drew on three ‘modes of persuasion’ called Ethos, Pathos and Logos.

According to Aristotle, using these three approaches in a speech or story created an argument that was logical, emotional, trustworthy and altogether persuasive, regardless of the audience’s size or demographic.

So, what exactly is Ethos, Logos and Pathos?

And how can you use this simple structure to take your brand’s story to the next level?

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Ethos is all about trust and credibility. Think about it as the moment when a host introduces a speaker by listing their qualifications and awards or when someone puts their qualifications on a CV. Ethos is the mode that reassures an audience of the speaker’s integrity and trustworthiness. In the case of a business, it’s their branding or public image. Ethos is a key element to lead any story with because regardless of how brilliant an advertisement or speech is, it doesn’t matter unless people trust the source.

You can garner ethos by…

- Maintaining a positive public image through communication and PR

- Making you or your company’s credentials accessible to the public

- Speaking on topics you have accurate information or knowledge on

- Using language that is easy to understand (nothing too technical)

- Only using accurate and truthful information in your campaigns and stories – no ‘bending the truth’



Now that your audience feels comfortable with you or your business, it’s time to lay a firm foundation of Logos, otherwise known as logic. As you can probably guess, this part is all about the cold indisputable facts. So dig up those percentages, charts and statistics to prove two vital things;

1. There is an issue (such as lack of clean water in developing countries, gendered pay inequality etc)

2. And your organisation or idea can solve this (by building water wells, teaching teenage girls STEM etc)

Looking for some Logos? Start here:

- Statistics, facts, percentages, graphs – essentially anything with proven numbers

- Peer studies or polls

- Logical or scientific studies and reasoning

- Referencing academic or third-party unbiased sources who support your argument

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Finally, there’s Pathos, the part that most socially-conscious companies are naturals at. This is all about the emotional appeal – it’s the laughing, the crying and the pulling of heartstrings. And it’s an essential part of telling any story effectively. You may have the most trustworthy and statistically sound story in the world, but if people aren’t encouraged to identify with it in a meaningful way, it will be nothing more than a passing anecdote. Pathos is the element that stays with the audiences days or weeks after hearing the story, and the part of storytelling which can turn listeners into advocates and supporters into donors.

Here’s how you can give any story a little bit of that essential Pathos:

- Firstly, know your audience! Know what will resonate with them, what they care about or will empathise with

- Use emotive language and visuals, whether you're telling a story through speech, video, or even a social media post – make sure the delivery effectively evokes feelings

- Utilize analogies and metaphors to help your audience connect with complex or possibly unfamiliar ideas, or just to make them laugh and feel comfortable!

- Always try to pair aural content (podcasts/speeches) with something visual and arresting


So there you have it! Armed with the fail-safe combination Ethos, Logos and Pathos you’re ready to transform any idea into a dynamic story audiences can't ignore!

Madina Knight