language insights

Our take on the most, and least, effective communication.

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September 08, 2015

Lee Carter discusses reactions to Hillary Clinton's press conference on Clinton's email investigation. What are the potential effects of her recent interactions with the media?

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Carly FIorina

Since many critics of the current administration have derided President Obama for his limited experience before entering the White House, a strong political record has become an important selling point in the primaries. 

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Since announcing his candidacy on May 26, Sanders hasn’t been afraid to embody the ‘grumpy old man’ persona. But, while other candidates have floundered with a negative tone, Sanders is polling better than ever. So, is Sanders really negative, or is his demeanor masking positive calls for change?

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Having launched his presidential campaign on the basis that “the world is falling apart,” Lindsey Graham has threaded doomsday rhetoric into his entire campaign. 

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July 10, 2015

Image by Gage Skidmore.

In the late 90’s, I briefly fell under the spell of New York real estate impresario and not yet-presidential candidate Donald Trump. At the time, I was part of the newsroom leadership team at business channel CNBC, and “The Donald” had recently purchased the 1930’s era Bank of Manhattan (soon to become Chase) skyscraper at 40 Wall Street. Led by the phenomenal success of NBC’s Today Show, street-level live TV studios were all the rage, and Trump had the inspired idea to use this building’s former bank lobby as a TV studio for reporting stock market news in the heart of Wall Street. My boss Jack Reilly and I were invited down to scout the art deco building as a potential CNBC location.

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June 18, 2015
Whole Foods Corrects its Brand Mistak
It’s hard to be a big brand these days, especially when you’re trying to communicate with millennials. With so many recommendations flying around, it’s easy to lose sight of your brand’s values in hopes of winning over a sought after audience.
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Winning an election is about gainfully defining the choice being presented. It is about successfully creating such a stark contrast between you and your opponents that when voters walk into a booth, picking which lever to pull is the easiest choice of the day.  

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You're walking into the office after an off-site meeting. Do you say hello to your team as you walk in, or head straight to your desk to get to work?

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In 1980, Americans voted for a new day. 
In 1992, Americans voted for a new direction.
In 2008, Americans voted for hope and change.

In two generations, these are the only 3 times a non-incumbent captured the popular vote.  Once America elected the voice of conservatism, once the voice of moderate pragmatism and once the voice of progressivism.  Their ideologies were wildly different but they all shared one unique trait. 

Despite the fact that they all ran in the midst of Washington dysfunction, economic weakness and challenges overseas, none of their candidacies were defined by these problems.  Instead, each chose to rise above them.    

Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all campaigned in the language of dreamers.  They painted us a picture of what America could become.  No campaign can ignore our problems, but powerful campaigns don’t make them the centerpiece, either.  From tone to imagery to language, these campaigns made America’s problems a preamble to optimism about the future. 

It’s the one American story that wins most easily in November.  No matter how bad our politics or our economy or our foreign policy seems, Americans choose leaders who see the future as an opportunity and who make us believe that we can be better tomorrow than we ever have been before.  Optimism is king.

Obvious right? 

Enter the GOP primary candidates in 2016.  In analyzing the words and framing used by 7 candidates likely to be stumping in Iowa soon, it wasn't obvious to them.  While all have moments where they try to portray optimism and vision, 6 of the 7 frame their mission in language that has more to do with restoring past greatness than looking forward. 

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May 11, 2015

As Hillary Clinton embraces the support of Super PACs, Lee Carter joins The Strategy Room to talk about what this means for the candidate's image.

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