In 1944, as he oversaw global operations of the United States Army, General George C. Marshall received a letter from a handful of grade school students in Virginia. He was intrigued by their question about the selection of generals: “What are they like that makes you know they will be good ones?”
The Beatles are frustrated. After several takes of their new song, “The Long and Winding Road,” they remain unsatisfied with the sound, the feel, the coherence of the takes they’ve put down. George Martin, their legendary producer, can’t convince them an earlier take was spot on.
“If you don’t have a headline, you don’t have a story.” I’m not sure when I first heard that bit of coaching advice, but it sure stuck. Twenty-plus years into this line of work, I find myself quoting it to colleagues, clients and myself on a routine basis.
As communicators, we can learn a lot from car dealers. Today’s lesson: when you walk onto the lot, the salesman doesn’t talk about his commission or the bonus he stands to earn if he sells you the car you are considering. Instead, he points to what matters to you: the high safety rating, the low interest rate, the immediate cash back, or maybe the admiring looks you’re sure to get as you drive through town.
There are a lot of thanks getting handed out today. Thank you for your service. Thanks for being a “hero.” Thanks for our freedom. They are nice words and no doubt heartfelt.