If you’re going to use mass media (as you should) don’t rely on whichever announcer is up next in rotation, or assume a neutral voice in print media. You need a spokesperson. And there’s no better spokesperson than YOU.
– Chuck McKay
Live From the Acropolis
The year is 351 B.C.
Greek people living in Macedon, probably because of their proximity to Thrace and the frontier, speak Greek with a barbaric accent. To the citizens of other Greek cities such as Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Corinth, or Argos, the people of Macedon could never pass as cultured or cosmopolitan.
Macedonian? Why, a snort of derision accompanies the speaking of the name.
Greece’s cultured citizens have never taken Phillip II, King of Macedon, seriously. But, he has developed an infantry formation called the phalanx, and one by one the northern Greek cities fall to Phillip’s armies as he systematically marches them south from Macedon.
No Greek city appears safe in his path. Citizens of Athens begin to express some concern. In fact, the Athenian Assembly meets to discuss actions to take.
Greek statesman Aeschines speaks first.
A trained orator, Aeschines lists all of the reasons Athens should prepare for war with Macedon.
And then, Aeschines balances his presentation with the reasons that Athens should consider negotiating a peace with Phillip. After all, Phillip is very successful at waging war against other cities as he expands his empire.
Aeschines finishes speaking. The Athenian people applaud, turn to each other and acknowledge, “He is good, isn’t he? Aeschines is truly a wonderful speaker. He’s certainly given us much to think about.”
Now, the younger Demosthenes rises to address the crowd.
He reminds them of the schooling they, like he, received as children. He recounts the tales of Odysseus who returns home to revenge those who have wronged him. He recalls the story of Theseus, the Athenian hero who killed the Minotaur. He retells the story of Agamemnon, who wins the freedom of the Greek prisoner, Helen, held for ten years in the Persian city, Troy.
Demosthenes stories build in intensity as he reminds those listening of their heritage, and reaches an emotional pinnacle as he paints powerful verbal pictures of the brave Athenian people who “would rather die a thousand times than pay court to Philip.”
The listening Athenian people turn to each other and shout, “Get your swords. We’re going to war!”
Mr. Contractor, you need to take a lesson from Demosthenes and speak with the conviction of a true believer.
Author’s Note: The English language is limited in that there is no neutral third person gender. And since “his or her” is rather awkward, I’ve chosen to simply say “his,” and hope that all of the very capable women who operate home services contracting companies won’t assume that I am either misogynistic or am ignoring their existence. OK? Thank you.
The Owner Must Be the Company Spokesperson
No one else will speak with the same conviction. No one else completely understands his company, his customers, his competitors.
Many contractors are already recoiling from this idea, and saying, “Oh, I’m not good on camera. I’m awkward in front of a microphone. I get embarrassed easily. Let’s find someone less awkward. Someone better looking. Someone who makes this look easy.”
None of these excuses (and, seriously, they are excuses) hold up. People don’t expect you, the company owner to be a polished professional. People don’t care what you look like. And there’s some evidence that less attractive people are more believable.
They do expect you to be honest, and sincere, and to tell them the truth as you see it.
Remember Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s? No one ever claimed Dave was glamorous. They did, however, believe him when he talked about why his food was exceptional. Dave was known as friendly, down home, and true-to-life. The guy you saw on TV was the guy you met in person. (I had the privilege of meeting and speaking briefly with Dave Thomas in 1989. He came across in real life exactly as he did on television. )
He was rumored to take half a day to get two or three lines right for his Wendy’s TV ads. He just kept doing them, and doing them again, until the director said, “Yeah, that one will work.” No one ever saw the 20 or 30 previous takes. They only saw the ones that satisfied Dave and his ad agency.
(For what it’s worth, the Beatles, at the peak of their career, often recorded 20-30 “takes” of a song before choosing one to be included on the album.) This is a common practice among top performers.
Truthfully, the idea of representing their own company appeals to most owners. If that’s you, stop here and skip ahead to Part 12 – The Perils of Celebrity.
The content for this series of posts was taken from Chuck McKay’s The Personality Prescription for Contractors, available on Amazon.
Links to previous posts in this series: