January 24, 2022

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail (a response to criticism by eight clergymen in an open statement published in a local paper) is often hailed as the model for taking responsibility while continuing to pursue the cause of justice for all. Despite criticism for its length (which Dr. King acknowledges in his final remarks), the letter also serves as an extraordinary example of fine business writing:

  • Dr. King is speaking to clergymen; he resonates with his audience by using Biblical and other faith-based references to make his case.
  • He is reasoned and analytical, but also humble and personal, creating empathy and trust.
  • He addresses his detractors by speaking directly to their points of view with both support and challenge.
  • His message is real, clearly from the heart, having been on the frontlines of the nonviolent protests.

In his letter, Dr. King demonstrates several of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s (author and speaker known globally as the foundational expert in the science of influence and how to apply it ethically in business) well-researched elements of persuasion: authority, liking, consistency, and consensus.

Thanks, again, Dr. King.

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