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Fighting Fire with Fire: 'More' & 'Pop Speak' 11/23/05

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Dear MP Network,

Below are three links (with my comments) to two valuable new resources for speaking American about our issues, just in time for T-Day dinner!

Susan C. Strong, Ph.D.


The Metaphor Project

1. Reframing the great American 'more':

In the November 2005 issue of 'free-range thinking,' Andy Goodman's lively communications newsletter, there is a story about what 're-branding' has done for The Center for A New American Dream, an organization devoted to helping move the public toward sustainable consumption. Interesting enough, the key thing they did was shift into calling for 'more of what matters.' By doing this they got themselves into sync with the American Story in a way that has worked very well for them too. He says,'If talk of branding still makes you queasy, it's worth considering the recent experience of New American Dream, a nonprofit whose re-branding has led to measurable improvements in performance.' See Goodman's November 2005 Revisiting the B-Word [pdf format> at: http://www.agoodmanonline.com

2. Pop Speak 'Rules': Kill Or Cure—It's Up To Us.

In case you missed it, Leslie Savan's must-read new book, Slam Dunks and No Brainers, was the subject of two recent Alternet articles, an author interview and a meaty book excerpt (links below). The book is a lively study of the pop language phenomenon—words that can launch war (Tenet's 'slam dunk' or Cheney's 'Saddam is toast') or alternatively, 'cut through Orwellian bullshit in the realm of politics.'

Although Savan recognizes that people have been creating what we used to call 'slang' forever, she also points to what the modern media echo chamber does to us with all the new expressions. Most interesting may be what Savan describes as the collective American personality pop speak reflects today: 'very mainstream, upbeat, ironic here and there when necessary, but also sentimental and heartfelt at other times.' The 'regular guy' thing, safe in the crowd is big, despite the fact that everyone also wants to be edgy, cutting edge, an outsider, and a rebel. Sounds like classic American Story stuff to me and also the mainstream audience we are trying to reach.

Savan has carefully chosen to study only those pop phrases that have become mainstream and stayed that way. Her argument that pop is the language of persuasion today is based on research by sociolinguists and other scholars. It also points to the importance of oral rhythm, beat, and inflection in all kinds of messaging now. That's why I always ask MP coaching contacts or workshop participants this question: 'Does it (your draft soundbite or title) ‘jingle'?'


Talking the Talk: http://www.alternet.org/story/27954

Excerpt: Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: http://www.alternet.org/story/27759