Devious Plans for World Domination

How’s 2012 going for you so far? I hope your plans are big ones! Big visions are what leads to big breakthroughs. Why settle for small progress?

What if your goal was to rule entire planet? What would it take to pull that off?

While world domination is not in my schedule for this year, ask your favorite conspiracy theorist and he’ll be more than happy to describe who is plotting a global takeover and exactly how they plan to do it with minute detail.

Conspiracy theorists are usually written off as paranoid nutcases with too much time on their hands. But have you ever noticed not fiery adherents of any particular theory get when expressing their ideas? How loyal they are to their chosen “whistleblowers?” Could you stand to have some of these kinds of followers?

I don’t have a figure for how much money is floating around in the conspiracy theory space, but some people build full-blown careers out of it, Alex Jones possibly being the most notable example.

As business people and communicators, there are numerous lessons we can learn from how the “good” theorists operate. Let’s look at two major takeaways today.

(Note: For the record, I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I’m not saying real conspiracies never take place…)

Dramatic Characters

No one can deny that the people who concoct these vast conspiracy theories are dramatic personas. They tend to have intriguing pasts; they used to perform experiments in Area 51, or they worked in a secret office at the Federal Reserve. Because of their experience, they’ve become privy to information that is being concealed from the rest of us regular citizens.

There’s a good chance that there have been attempts to kidnap or even assassinate them to silence their voices.

These whistleblowers take a passionate stand against the bad guys (whoever they might be) and against secrecy. They stand passionately for truth and for the good of the population at large (or at least those who will listen).

Are you or your business passionate advocates for your customers and clients? Do people in the market for what you offer see you taking a strong stand for their good? Are you boldly standing against their enemies and anything that might endanger their well-being?

Are you revealing information clients need, but can’t get anywhere else? Are you telling them the truth when no one else has the guts to?

This sort of pathos is uncommon. It will anger a lot of people. But you will also attract more committed followers than you could ever get otherwise. You’ll definitely be harder to ignore.

Intense, Comprehensive Stories

It’s nearly impossible to find stories with more intricate detail than good conspiracy theories. They dive deep into the shadows of events and organizations we don’t fully understand, uncovering clues of hidden agendas. They paint pictures illustrating the reality behind the mysterious. They answer unsolvable questions, point out inconsistencies and point fingers at people we know (but don’t really know). Breaking news meets secret history.

Controversy is appealing. Mystery is magnetic. These narratives take our curiosity and run. You almost have to question everything you thought you knew.

And they cover all their bases. Claiming George Washington was a Martian invader won’t cut it. They provide extensive “documentation” to prove it! Then they explain all the implications of those facts.

Are you making big statements that call into question harmful myths that are hurting your audience? Are you appropriately controversial?

Do you add proof elements and “documentation” to back up the claims you make about your business? Do you offer complete solutions and have answers for any questions your customers might want to know?

Do you have a well-thought out, customer-centric company narrative, culture and/or value system?

Conspiracy theories also create a scary bad guy, or at least define exactly who the bad guy is. They channel paranoia, distrust and anger toward this source of evil. Having an enemy is a powerful motivator. Assembling a group around a common enemy creates an incredible bond. Think of the Cold War. Every American knew who the enemy of world peace and progress was: communism, most clearly expressed in the Soviet Union. The culture and many of the policies of the entire nation were shaped by the fear and hatred of the enemy.

Americans also knew the threat posed by this enemy: nuclear war. That’s what was at stake.

Who or what is the “bad guy” your audience is up against? It could be something like a lack of respect they face in the marketplace or a difficulty getting clients. It could be a governmental policy that’s bleeding them dry.

What is the threat this enemy poses? What’s at stake for them? Bankruptcy? Heart attack? Embarrassment when speaking in public? Don’t be afraid to attack the bad guy! You can be the knight in shining armor, helping your customers fight off their foes and protect them from their version of nuclear war.

Most of your peers promote their products and services like this: “We are Acme Co. We sell anvils and dynamite to coyotes like you.” But Wile E. doesn’t want anvils and explosives. He wants to finally catch that slippery Road Runner and have a tasty meal. How much more interesting would their message be if they talked about that?

Think about it.


Framing for Failure

If you’re anything like me, you find yourself “framing” quite a few of the statements you make in day to day conversation. This can be constructive or detrimental, depending on how you do it.

Framing is simply saying something to prepare your hearer or reader for what you’re about to say. For example, “Listen up! What I’m about to tell you is important.” That’s an example of positive framing.

You can do some harm to your cause by setting up your comments with something like “This is gonna sound really dumb, but…” (I’m really bad with that one.)

I had thought about this topic before, how negative framing such as the second example hurt your chances of being persuasive or sounding authoritative. Why do I talk like that? Why does anyone do it?

It all came to a head when I was looking at a letter my sister wrote yesterday. She used the other “bookend” to frame her argument after she had said what needed to be said. It was something like “This may not sound like the best idea, but I believe in it.”

So, why do we talk and write that damaging stuff? Here’s my thinking on the subject.

We lack confidence in our position. We think something is wrong with what we want to say. Or that the audience is going to shoot us down.

So we choose to soften our statements by framing them. It’s more for the us than for them.

Rejection will come easier because we have prepared everyone for it.

Imagine using these kinds of remarks in a sales pitch. “You may not like this product, but here it is anyway.” “Most people choose the competitor, anyway.” “You don’t really want this additional feature, do you?

See how much that hurts you?

Negative framing is something that I’m going to work on eliminating from my speech and writing immediately. I encourage you to join me. Let’s get some guts about ourselves to make strong, bold statements without feeling the need to cushion them. No more self-destructive talk.


5 Ways Twitter Improves Your Writing Skills

People keep telling me that the internet is making people dumber. To be honest, I don’t know whether or not that’s true. But did you know that Twitter can make you better writer?

If you are purposeful in your how you approach your use of any microblogging platform, there are 5 ways that you can they can skyrocket your writing ability.

1. You learn the value of every word — no, of every character. In writing, especially for marketing and sales, the tighter your message is, the better. When you have only 150 characters to work with, each letter has to earn it’s place. It has to pull it’s weight. This forces you to think carefully about your choice of words.

If you’ve ever gone over the character limit and had to edit your tweet, you know what I’m talking about. “How can I say what I need to say in the allotted space?” You have to be ruthless. If that comma isn’t serving a purpose, it’s gotta go!

2. You begin to break free from some of the “rule” forced on you by your English teachers.  The best writing is the plainest.  How many people do you know that speak with perfect grammar 100% of the time? In my neighborhood (Calumet City, IL, in south suburban Chicago), it’s probably less than 10%.

When you are communicating via the written word, sometimes there’s a desire to be super-formal.  Believe me, that’s not the best way to get your message across to the average audience. Unless you’re talking to English professors…

George Orwell’s sixth rule for good writing is to break any of  his other five rules before ”saying anything outright barbarous.”

Writers need to have the freedom to say what they mean, forsaking the rules when necessary.

3.  You have to learn to communicate in such a way that your reader will understand exactly what you mean. How many people do you know who don’t quite understand this principle? I see plenty of tweets that have no clear meaning, or that can be understood in multiple ways. Thoughtful writers will take the restricted amount of communication space to heighten their concentration. ”How can I eliminate any ambiguity and say what needs to be said so that the message is plainly understood?

This is great focus training for any writer.

4. You are forced to choose exactly what you want to say.  In an age where noisy chatter is constant, a Twitter message makes you strip your message down to the core. The way it should be. There’s no room to go off on tangents or talk about about non-essentials.

When brevity is required, you see who really knows how to communicate, and who’s just talkin’.

5. Twitter can give you extra writing practice. Tweeting is writing on a small scale. More practice is always a good thing. A high percentage of Twitter users access the social network with their cell phones. So even if you don’t have a pen and paper, you can practice crafting clear, compelling messages.