How Frank Can We Be?

One of the more fascinating aspects of Frontline’s “The Persuaders,” which aired last night on PBS was the close up look at Republican pollster, Frank Luntz. If you watch the news at all, you’ve seen this guy’s spin, I mean work.
Luntz advised his political cronies, I mean clients, to say “climate change” not “global warming” and “death tax” not “estate tax.” He helped Newt define his “Contract With America” and Dubya with his “healthy forest initiative.”
Here’s what he has to offer corporate America:
“I am amazed at how eager the CEOs of the biggest companies are today to communicate as effectively as possible. They want to know that they can talk to a shareholder one-on-one, not just through their head but also through their heart. They want to know that they can reach their consumer not just on an intellectual basis, but on an emotional basis. In fact, I’d argue that CEOs, with all the corporate scandals that have taken place, are more interested in effective communication than even political people, because corporate people are interested in the bottom line, and so for them good words, good phrases, good presentation matter more than anything.
If we’re getting information from 200 cable channels, if we’re talking to 200 people a day, there are so many different messages that are cluttering our heads. It’s the same way in corporate America. If a CEO speaks and no one hears it, it doesn’t matter. And so they’re looking for people like me to help them cut through the clutter, to help them explain and educate why their product or their service or their company is better. And the challenge for CEOs is that they generally came up through the ranks by being good numbers people. And I have seen 99 out of 100 cases, if you’re a good numbers person, you’re a bad language person.”



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.