News You Can Use

From the archives of The Influential Executive, 11/2008

How rhetoric moves money … how to get the AP to cover your speech … and an intensive new course for speechwriters

Could a book release be better timed than that of The Politics of Economic Leadership: The Causes and Consequences of Presidential Rhetoric?

Scholar Dan Wood examines “when, why, and how presidents talk about the economy,” and demonstrates the effect a president’s words have on the economy. One titillating fact: President Clinton made 12,798 public references to the economy during his two terms, while Harry Truman, during his two terms, talked about the economy only 2,124 times. The book is 222 pages, and it’s available from the Princeton University Press.

Scholar Dan Wood examines “when, why, and how presidents talk about the economy,” and demonstrates the effect a president’s words have on the economy. One titillating fact: President Clinton made 12,798 public references to the economy during his two terms, while Harry Truman, during his two terms, talked about the economy only 2,124 times. The book is 222 pages, and it’s available from the Princeton University Press.

CEO pay: The issue comes up less frequently than the sun, but almost as regularly.

The last time executive pay was widely discussed was during the Enron debacle, and it’s on everybody’s lips again thanks to the banking crisis that began in September. Papers are reporting statistics like this one, from United for a Fair Economy: In 2007, the average CEO earned $10.5 million annually—344 times that of the average worker. Veteran executive communication people might rightly take the attitude, “this too shall pass,” but they can help it pass more smoothly by having a discussion with the chief executive about his or her pay, and preparing an answer to the question, should it come up at an employee town hall or at the annual meeting.

How do you get your CEO’s speech picked up by the Associated Press? Write an interesting speech.

A rare AP story about an executive’s speech resulted from a Sept. 24 talk by Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter at the Economic Club of Indiana. How did he get the AP to spend 641 words on the speech and its implications for the drug industry? Quotes like this:

“We’re flat-out rejecting the conventional wisdom that says it must take 10 to 15 years, and a billion dollars-plus, to bring a single new molecule to patients.”
Lechleiter, who became CEO in April, concluded strongly too, telling the hometown audience, “We’re still a proud, Indiana-based company, but folks, this is not your grandfather’s Lilly. It can’t be anymore.”
Neither was this your father’s old-fashioned corporate speech.

Freelance speechwriter Pete Ryckman has created a serious class for a serious speechwriter—or someone who wants to become one.

The course is called “Speechwriting 101: Learning by Doing.” Here’s how Ryckman describes it:

“It’s an intensive, hands-on, 14-week course in the craft of speechwriting designed for busy, working professionals. Students work on weekly writing assignments in the foundation skills—writing for the ear; developing the audience analysis; shaping content so audiences can easily understand; and writing in the executive voice. I do a weekly phone call with each student for an extensive, detailed critique and tutorial. Each student is in a class of one—since all assignments are customized and individualized for their goals, skills and organization.”

The course costs $5,475, but students may quit at any time and have their tuition refunded.

Find out more about the course and about Ryckman at speechwriting101.typepad.com

And finally, Ernest Hemingway famously said any writer has to have a “built-in, shock-proof s— detector.”

Soon, you’ll be able to simply buy the software. According to a fascinating article in the September New Scientist, researchers are developing ways to detect spin, for instance through an algorithm that counts action verbs and negative words. (Sen. McCain’s speeches, criticized for being dull, are less spun than Obama’s, according to one researcher; but a voice analyst says his speech patterns look like those of “someone who is clinically depressed.”)

Read the whole piece at:
technology.newscientist.com/article/mg19926746.200-software-spots-the-spin-in-political-speeches.html

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