The Death of a Message: Parsing and Politics


There is nothing like watching a presidential run to see the best — and worst — of messaging. Let’s examine the brouhaha over presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s gaffe around saying how he “likes to fire” people. What he actually said to the Nashua, N.H. Chamber of Commerce audience that fateful morning was this:

“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say, ‘You know, I’m going to get someone else to provide this service to me.’”

But, naturally the news (not to mention his opponents) jumped all over the “I like to” part. Anyone who likes to fire a person from a job doesn’t sound like someone we want to know, right?

But, if you see his full message, it makes sense. After all he was talking to an audience of people who have likely had to fire someone in their business.

But, here is the thing about messages. They can be parsed. A presidential candidate should know better. A business leader should also know this little fact. If it can be taken out of context, it probably will be.

Be careful when sharing an exciting soundbite that requires two or three more sentences to explain. The odds of your scintillating statement being taken out of context is high – even inside a small organization. People talk. And, they like to repeat things that are exciting. Make sure your electrifying message – especially one that is supposed to show off your character or how you might do something in the future — makes sense to not only who are speaking to immediately, but to anyone else who might hear it.


Note: Four Leaf PR is non partisan. We are not formally backing a presidential candidate.

How About A New Year’s Resolution Related To Word Choices?

Happy New Year! ‘Tis the season to make new resolutions to bring about positive change in our lives, right? How about a language overhaul for starters? There are three words that I use fairly often but which I going to try to strike from my vocabulary in 2012. They are:

Busy. How often do you answer the question, how are you? with the word “busy?” Aren’t we all? This answer basically says you have more to do than you believe you have time to do it. But, I believe it causes a self fulfilling prophecy. What would life be like if you didn’t think you had too little time? Besides, the word “busy” isn’t very interesting. And, therein lies the second word I am going to attempt to abandon in the new year.

Interesting. What does this word say, really? I believe we use it when we have nothing else to say. So, why use it at all? Searching for a suitable substitute is not only good for the mind, but also will make our speech more precise. And, it might make you more interesting in reality.

“Like” (the valley girl version). I am ashamed to admit (as any adult should be) that this word has crept into my speech far too often. Like, I have such an interesting and busy life that I am just so, like, amazed, right? I am astounded at how many adults — even in corporate boardrooms – say this in the middle of their sentences. It doesn’t add anything of substance. I say adding “like” is the mark of someone who is not paying enough attention to how they speak.

What words are you committed to eliminating from your everyday conversations?