I suspect Joe Wurzelbacher was ready to fall out of his chair Wednesday night when John McCain used him as an example of why he disagreed with Sen. Barack Obama's tax plan.

Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber," has become an instant celebrity after he asked Obama a question about how the candidate's tax plan would effect him.

But my point here is not to discuss politics, but how putting a face to your ideas and issues can propel them far beyond mere facts or figures can. What McCain did was nothing more complicated than to tell the Ohio plumber's story as a way of getting his political message across.

All of us have messages we want to convey. In business, one of the most compelling stories any company can tell is about quality.

  • Why do your building materials save energy costs?
  • Why do your burgers taste so great?
  • Why do your clients gain so much more than your competitors' clients?

Another persuasive story form is the success story.

Success stories are small vignettes about real people your products or services have helped. They focus on how these people were able to solve their problems because of a business relationship with your company.

Success stories are extremely powerful for the same reason Joe the Plumber's story is a better way to illustrate tax plans. Few of us understand the inner workings of economic policy (although lately it could be argued that we are all becoming experts), but we do understand about people.

When I read about a client who overcame a serious legal problem because of the hard work of his lawyer, I understand (and more importantly, I believe). When I read about a good marriage counselor that was able to help a couple work through their problems and save their marriage, I cheer them on and I form a bond with the people this story was about.

Stories sell because they communicate on a gut level. They let us experience the emotional joy of witnessing a problem being solved and a stressful situation overcome.

So the lesson here is to go out and find your own "Joe the Plumber" story that you can use to help communicate your message. Illustrate your facts and figures with real life examples using real people. Put faces to your communications and they will resonate.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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