How a single phrase can define your year

If you have ever doubted the power of a single word or phrase on you and your business, Mitt Romney’s travails over the last week will have pointed you in the right direction.

Last week, here in The US, his campaign’s senior adviser, Communications Director Eric Fehrnstrom said “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.”.

It was the deployment of one of the most powerful rhetorical devices used in Political Speechmaking and positioning statements – The Analogy.

The power of an analogy

When you use an analogy to reinforce a point, you instantly create color and imagery which sticks far more firmly in the human mind than say a statistic or a jargon-laden fact.

The problem here was that Mr. Fehrnstrom used a particularly negative analogy. He compared the policy opinion and standpoints of Mr. Romney to the temporary, flittish and fluffy nature of an Etch a Sketch. We all remember that sandy feeling as we shook our laptop-weighted Etch-A-Sketch to remove whatever straight lined drawing we had created. It was a full-on reset. Nothing was as easy to erase and forget as something we had created on the Etch-A-Sketch.

Was that really the image that a political adviser wanted to create to describe and define his boss’s ideas and policies?

As it happens, Mr. Fehrnstrom is exactly right. The language of the Primaries is fully different to the language of the campaign which, in turn, is fundamentally different from the language of the Presidency.

The problem is … there are some things you just don’t say!

In business the same rules apply to us – run a permanent self-check on what you are about to say – the analogies you are about to use to describe your own plans, ideas or concepts. People will latch onto a single phrase and will make significant conclusions based on it.

Make your analogy positive and professional and most importantly something that will resonate with the majority of your ‘audience’.

Take some time to re-think how you ‘sell’ your ideas in meetings and in front of the team. There will be moments this week when you can deploy a powerful image that will sway how people see you….just make sure your clients or colleagues can’t shake it up and make it disappear!


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