Ethos is a Greek word meaning ‘Character’. And not just the character you see in a film, it is more encompassing than that. It is the character of a person, their beliefs, WHO THEY ARE. You are attracted to people who have a similar ethos as yourself.
In the art of persuasion, and in the business of getting yourself more clients, you need to establish ethos. You need to establish that you are of a good character, or not, depending on the story you want to portray. If you want to show a bad or wicked side as the ethos, it does need to be backed up by logos, but I will touch on that later.
You set yourself up as the expert, a theory of selling which has been around for some time. People need to trust you before they want to business with you. Just look at LinkedIn, people are tending not to Connect with you if you send the generic connection request, nor if you don’t have a good looking and professional profile picture.
So, you set yourself up as an expert, through educating people, showing that you have knowledge, and you do it in such a way that is not arrogant, or talking down to people. If you are a domineering I AM RIGHT kind of person when speaking to someone, you are failing to persuade them of your good character, unless, again, that is the character you are consciously trying to create.
If someone listens to you, or reads what you have to say, and through your words you establish yourself as a good character, someone with experience and knowledge, then they will be more open to persuasion.
Show how you have helped someone overcome a challenge. Show how you have improved yourself, based on feedback from clients and critics. Give advice, for free, to people, without expecting anything back in return. These are traits of people with good character. Helping others, helping the community, giving of themselves for others.
So, how do you establish character? Firstly, let look at one of my personal favourite ad campaigns which used these elements to hook me. The Trivago ad series, which is into its third iteration, of which the third ad is the weakest in my opinion.
The first ad in the series shows an attractive woman, tall, elegant, swanning around at a supposedly expensive hotel. She is set up against a man, with long hair and beard. The archetypes in my head are already thinking- it is the man who is affording this hotel on the cheap, just look at him, with his hair and beard and scruffy looking appearance. And look at her, swim suit, tall, beautiful, she must be the one who can afford the premium rooms.
And then they both meet up in an elevator at the end. He is dressed in a suit, she is chewing gum, wearing a jacket with a punk style haircut. TWIST! And as the elevator doors close, they share a secret smile.
This first ad did not hook me. I appreciated the twist and the idea that a bearded, long haired man can be seen as classy. To help you understand why I appreciate that, check out my profile picture sometime.
The moment this ad campaign hooked me, was with the second ad. A female voice over saying where in the world she would like to visit, while using the Trivago website, is accompanied by the very same couple, being romantic, and adorable. The hook from the end of the last commercial, with the secret smile, has now continued through to the next commercial. The character of these two people is built upon that romantic ideal of strangers meeting and falling in love. They are smiling, looking happy. He is carrying her back to their hotel room when she is tired; they are brushing their teeth together in bathrobes; they are both in soccer tops watching the game on the TV and her team scores!
The character of a loving couple, travelling the world and being happy, has been established. There is no bad news, no drama, just joy and travel and seeing the world. It made me smile. It has established that this gentleman of means, has taken this lady of not-so-well-off means, began a romance, and whisked her away on an adventure.
The third ad, now, involves a different actress, and only her. He is no longer in the frame, supposedly the man behind the camera. But, the couple-character has now been broken, so the third ad is no longer as powerful for me.
So, how do you establish ethos in what you produce? It can be through the quality of your content, the voice you use when speaking, and yes, writing is a form of speaking. It can be through how easy your content is to read and understand, and by how much you are willing to give someone, for free, before asking payment.
How often have you attended a webinar, or a free seminar, where someone tells you about all the great stuff you can learn if only you pay $47 for their next seminar, or pay just $7 to understand the secrets? Unless they have given me something for free, and I don’t mean a lot, but some information, something I can take away with me and use, then I have difficulty in finding ethos with the person.
The quality of your content. If there is a good back-catalogue of your content, and it is consistent with who you are, or who you are trying to be, this helps establish your character. If, in that content you are giving real value to the reader, so they take away something each time which they can use themselves, this helps establish your character as someone who wants to give, and help.
If the voice you use is authoritative, but gentle, like grandpa showing me how to hammer a nail in the wood without banging my damn nail, this help. If your voice is casual, like I just used, and how above I used the word sucks; then you can connect with people on a more even playing ground, and again, this can help. Keeping in mind your arena, of course- if a lawyer was writing about legal advice and used casual words like ‘damn’ and ‘suck’ then their character will seem flawed and distrustful. So you must maintain authenticity, logos, with who you are. This relates back to wanting to create a nasty character, and again, will be something discussed later.
Personal experience is also a strong way to establish character. If it has happened to you, and you have survived, have learned from this experience, grown as a person, then this helps establish you are a person of trust, with social proof. People can begin to emulate you, do what you do.
Be willing to give to people. Not all the diamonds you have, but a jewel here and there, and they will see you as a person willing to help them more. Do it in such a way that is genuine with who you are. Share your stories of success, and failure, to build social proof
And also, be willing to talk to your audience, your tribe. Be open to communication, answer questions, and take feedback and criticism. You are human, not super human, and this really helps cement this idea of you as a character to trust and follow.