Speak to the Person in Front of You
April 15, 2013
Book excerpt from Ronn Torossian book “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations”:
Doesn’t it annoy you when you’re talking with someone at a party and he’s constantly looking around to see if there’s someone more important with whom he can talk? When you try to get your PR message across to everyone, that’s essentially what you’re doing. Try narrowing your message and audience. As Fox News contributor and our brilliant client Dr. Keith Ablow says, “If you’re trying to be for everybody, you’re for nobody. When you’ve made your message so innocuous and so vanilla, you’re actually saying nothing.”
You’re never going to talk equally to all people, and you can’t try to if you hope to be successful. Sure, some monster brands talk to masses of people but even those megagroups represent niches, at least to a certain extent. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad are huge sellers, and Apple’s brand speaks to many people. Still, there are those who will never be Apple customers and the company knows it and is likely fine with it. The company’s language is honed to address tech- and fashion-savvy creative people, and it works hard to differentiate itself from the average tech brand.
Hank Sheinkopf is a master communicator who helped President Bill Clinton through the Monica Lewinsky matter and aided New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey through his “I am a gay American” debacle. “Never presume that people don’t care about issues,” he says. “They do. The secret is in finding the ones that matter to your audience and making them part of your brand mission.” In doing so, you create personal connections and unbreakable relationships. Sheinkopf calls this kind of communication “eliminating subtitles” and getting to “a direct expression of emotions that matter to the people you’re trying to win over.” Similarly, political pollster and consultant Frank Luntz calls it “eliminating the fine print.”
When brands, businesses, and politicians fail to understand that, they lose. Luntz told me in a recent discussion there are certain phrases that resonate with people—and will for the foreseeable future—phrases that get right to the heart and soul of what we’re talking about.
1. I get it. “Three little words that, when communicated, can stop whoever from complaining or fussing,” Luntz says. “It’s a short, simple sentence that is shortcut for ‘I empathize with you,’ and everyone understands it.” 5WPR’s motto since day one has been, “We get it,” and we try very hard to live up to that every day. If you can convey “I get it” in your messaging, you win with the consumer. I have known Luntz for maybe 10 years. He always looks slightly disheveled on TV, and is in “real life,” too. I always used to think it was a coincidence, but I’m less convinced of that today and instead think it speaks to this rule of his: making yourself approachable through appearance is another way to empathize with an audience—and to demonstrate that “you get it.”
2. No regrets. “We’re introspective and not happy with life today,” says Luntz. This reflects a new mood, one people have been in since 2008, he says. “Sharing the idea that your product or service is helping a consumer make it through life in a positive way with no regrets about the past makes people feel better, less insecure, and more willing to move forward,” he says.
3. Respect. This is a big one. “No one feels they get any,” says Luntz. “If you say to someone, ‘I respect you and respect your work, your time, your opinion,’ whatever. That’s an instant way to connect and establish a relationship with a customer.” And amazingly, saying it enables you to do things people wouldn’t otherwise accept.
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
—Peter Drucker, writer and management consultant