Have you been stuck with a nickname you hate? Do people stop listening before you stop talking? Would you like your version of the story to be the most widely repeated?
Label Yourself and Your Stuff Before Someone Else Does
The binders meme is still stuck to Mitt Romney more than any other phrase, good or bad, has stuck to either candidate, despite the millions already spent on this high-stakes reality show that is gripping the country.
Wrote Ari Melver of The Nation, “Since the social media binder obsession bubbled up to the traditional press — a staggering 15,000 articles cite the ‘binders full of women’ line, according to Google News.” Even the Republican National Committee’s swift, adept creation of a binder of blank pages labeled “Obama’s Second-Term Agenda” has not caught up with the strength of the first label.
Then there’s Hillary Clinton, quickly clarifying her statement about women whining. Oh no she was not referring to Anne-Marie Slaughter who wrote “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” an article that generated the most reaction that Atlantic Magazine has ever received. Both viral stories show that negative messages often travel faster and farther and are harder to eclipse than positive.
Let that be a lesson for the rest of us. Label yourself, your idea or your organization before someone else does. Like insurance, it’s better to have it in place before you need it. Here are seven tips that may help.
1. Compared to What?
Considering whom you wish to persuade, make a credibility-building connection between something or someone they like or admire and your business or idea.
• “The Mini Cooper of office furniture,” is an apt tag line for Turnstone, a seller of “the little things” that make a difference in an office.
• Musician Jon Hendricks is the father of vocalese, the art of setting lyrics to jazz instrumental standards and then having voices sing the instruments’ parts. That’s why Time Magazine dubbed him the “James Joyce of Jive.”
Stress Your Strongest Benefit by Comparison
• “Mimicking spider silk properties has been the holy grail of materials science for a long time,” says Jeffrey Turner, president of Nexia Biotechnologies, a company that produces spider silk on a commercial scale with goats that have been genetically engineered to secrete silk proteins in their milk. Here are two benefit-based comparisons:
- The silk fibers have diverse uses, from sutures for microsurgery to bullet-proof body armor that’s as tough as Kevlar.
- Spider silk is a flexible and lightweight fiber, that, by weight, is five times stronger than steel.
Evoke Humor by Comparison
• “Criticizing a political satirist for being unfair is like criticizing a nose guard for being physical,” wrote political cartoonist, Garry Trudeau.
2. Piggyback on the Power of a Familiar Slogan
Redwood Hospital in Northern California used this variation of the popular milk slogan to ask for blood donations: “Got blood?”
3. Sometimes it’s Not What You Say But How You Say it
Get a positive response by:
• choosing the best sequence in what you ask or say something:
When moved to a conservative new parish a priest asked, in his first meeting with his superior, “May I smoke while praying?” He might have received a slightly more positive reaction if he made a simple reverse, “May I pray while I’m smoking?”
• responding to just one part of what someone says to you:
In Split-Second Persuasion, Kevin Dutton recalls a story in a London newspaper of “an elderly Afro-Caribbean man traveling home from work on a bus. At one of the stops a drunk guy got on and couldn’t find a seat. ‘Get up, you fat black nigger bastard!’ he shouted at the man. ‘You calling me fat?’ said the man. The bus erupted with laughter, and the drunk guy got off. Disaster averted in just four amazing words.”
See the rest of the column over at Forbes.