Vote for the We Party!

My fellow Americans, I am honored to run for president of these United States as the candidate of the We Party! This is HUUUGE! We are going to Make America Intoxicated Again! Intoxicated with Freedom! Intoxicated with Security! And Just Plain Intoxicated! We can all agree on that, can’t we?

intoxicated-red-hatWhen I am your president—and I will be your president—you can bet on that—we are going to fill our highways with driverless cars. We already have a lot of them on the road now. Anybody drive here today? Did you look at the other cars around you? With texters, makeup artists, and breakfast eaters, we already have driverless cars! But we’re going to make every car a safe, reliable, driverless car. Oh, I know the wimp Obama issued driverless car “recommendations” last week. More red tape. Red lights really. But we’re going to put government money on the road and create jobs. Lots of jobs. So many jobs you won’t believe it. And, with driverless cars navigating the highways and byways for us, we can get rid of those pesky open container laws—because We Party!

As your president, I will solve the Aleppo problem. No one knows Aleppo better than me. No one. Full of despicables and deplorables. Aleppo is an acronym, you know. It stands for: Alleged Libertarian Education Perfectly Preserves Obtuseness. Sad, very sad. We must bring knowledge to the third parties again. Particularly the Libertarians, because they want to legalize pot, which we support—because We Party!

Speaking of acronyms, I will ban them from the federal government. Ban them. No one hates acronyms more than I do. No one. They’re confusing and the antithesis of transparency. Did you know there are 10 different meanings for the acronym AA, including Any Agency? I. Kid. You. Not. Having 10 AA acronyms could drive someone to Alcoholics Anonymous in a driverless car. As your president, I will defund Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s a wasted program. Completely wasted. But I will increase funding for Planned Parenthood because of its obvious consequence of We Party!

I will outlaw gyms so no one ever has to exercise again! Gyms are an anti-American, socialist conspiracy. America doesn’t have an obesity epidemic! We have a success epidemic. America is the fattest nation in the world because we’re the richest. We have lots of food to eat, and we do, because Americans don’t want to waste it. Skinny people are losers. Losers! True Americans show their pride in our country by pigging out when We Party!

Speaking of American pride, NATO needs to be strengthened to protect western civilization’s right to We Party! Puny Putin is trying to exert his influence in the world. But he has tiny hands. Very tiny hands. And China continues to exert its military might. But while protecting American interests, we must be careful not to block vodka or egg rolls. Both are key ingredients when We Party!

But we will build a wall—and make Canada pay for it. Because as the great American Lewis Black said, Canada is where the cold comes from. Cold is important to beer. That’s why God invented refrigerators—to keep the cold contained. But we don’t want the cold to drift in and put a big damper on our backyard barbecues. (As your president, I will ensure you receive a tax credit for every new barbecue you buy. You can thank me later.) Now I can see some confusion in your faces. You thought we were going to build a wall along our southern border. Certainly not! That’s where tequila comes from. Building a southern wall would be the antithesis to We Party!

My fellow Americans, we live in sobering times. But we can Make America Intoxicated Again and eat, drink, and be merry. So vote for the We Party! I guarantee a new high for America!


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

Be Stylin’ and Communicate Consistently

I love the English language. It’s got rules, man! It also has so many exceptions to the rules to make the rules virtually useless.

canstockphoto23031403That’s one of the reasons you need a stylebook if you communicate as a company, organization, or personal brand.

Merriam-Webster defines a stylebook as “a book explaining, describing, or illustrating a prevailing, accepted, or authorized style.”

That’s a verbose way of saying a stylebook provides consistency to your messaging. Without one, you’re at the whim of the moment.

For example, do you use the Oxford comma—also known as the serial comma—before a conjunction in lists of three or more? Is it the Washington Post with a lower-case, unitalicized “the” or The Washington Post?  Should The Washington Post be italicized? Is it acceptable to use CVC in first reference to Consistent Voice Communications? Why is The Washington Post italicized and Consistent Voice Communications isn’t?

Those are the questions stylebooks and style guides answer. For the purposes of this blog, a stylebook is a commercial publication, such as The Associated Press Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style. A style guide is an organization’s in-house publication. A style guide usually builds on and provides exceptions to a stylebook.  It also provides style information particular to that organization. For consistency, every business and organization should have one.

A quick quiz: Is the correct spelling “adviser” or “advisor”?

According to Merriam-Webster, both are acceptable. So you can use “advisor” all through your copy or “adviser” all through your copy. You can even interchange them throughout your copy and still be technically correct. If you do, you’ll make Mark Twain happy. He supposedly once quipped, “I don’t give a damn for a man who can only spell a word one way.” But most of us aren’t Mark Twain and most of us will mark you as sloppy instead.

Because the dictionary advises both adviser and advisor are correct, a style guide would spell out one or the other as the “authorized” spelling for your organization. (Some dictionaries note “adviser” is the preferred spelling. If your style guide designates a dictionary that makes that distinction as your base dictionary, you don’t need to list it in your style guide.)

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. By basing your style guide on stylebooks, you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel. Three of the most popular stylebooks are the aforementioned The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style, along with the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. In addition, many organizations have their own stylebooks publically available, such as the American Psychological Association.

The Chicago Manual of Style is your generalist stylebook. But if your target audience is the media, choose The AP Stylebook as your baseline. If your target audience is the world of scholars, choose the MLA Style Manual.

Then build on it. If “The” is part of your name, as it is for The Washington Post and The Associated Press, your stylebook would reflect that. If CVC is acceptable to use in a second reference for Consistent Voice Communications and in media release headlines, your stylebook would reflect that.

Mark Twain notwithstanding, most of us strive for consistency. A stylebook provides that consistency by laying down rules in a largely lawless language.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

Licensed to Semicolon

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

― Kurt Vonnegut

computer spring semicolon Can Stock Photo Inc. yandscreatorsWith all due respect to transvestite hermaphrodites, I like semicolons. How else is a writer to wink at his friends? ; )

But I realize I’m in the minority. Some of you detest emoticons. Others simply detest semicolons. Here’s what a friend—who not only has been to college but now teaches university-level journalistic writing—has to say about the eyes in a winky emoticon:

“Semicolons have got to be the most misused piece of punctuation. I like to joke there ought to be a semicolon license. People would only get a license if they could pass a test to prove they know how and when to properly use them.  Of course, semicolons don’t kill people, but people who misuse semicolons kill their writing.”

There is no doubt most would fail the professor’s test and either be ticketed for punctuating without a license or arrested for murdering the English language.

I took to Twitter to see what the masses are saying about the semicolon. High-schooler @nicolekiluk is more mature than she knows:

“maturity to me, is admitting to myself that I will never be able to use a semicolon with confidence,” she tweeted.

Although one hopes @nicolekiluk will capitalize and use commas with confidence someday, her teen attitude on semicolons could put her on the verge of collecting Social Security. I base that on what @boothair tweeted:

“I’m almost 60, and I still; don’t know where a damn semicolon goes in a sentence.”

So, for @nicolekiluk, @boothair, and everyone in-between, let’s review semicolon etiquette. There are basically three uses:

  1. To link two independent and related clauses. Independent is key here. If each clause cannot stand on its own as a sentence, use a comma, not a semicolon. Related is also key. The second independent clause continues the thought of the first clause. An example from the Chicago Manual of Style: “Though a gifted writer, Miqueas has never bothered to master the semicolon; he insists that half a colon is no colon at all.”
  2. To separate items in a complex list. Here’s an example from Grammar Monster: “I have been to Newcastle, Carlisle, and York in the North; Bristol, Exeter, and Portsmouth in the South; and Cromer, Norwich, and Lincoln in the East.”
  3. In a winky emoticon.

And that’s it. So use them sparingly, but do use them. For, as @BigDaveSmith tweeted, “There’s something generally arousing about the proper use of a semicolon.”

; )


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

To Compete with Cats, Become an Author

funny-cat-watching-a-movie-on-television-in-3d-glassesAre you among the 81% of Americans the Internet says want to be an author?

If you want to successfully compete with your competitor cats, you should be.

Because, as print author and electronic communication aficionado Brian Solis noted at a recent PR Measurement Conference, “We all compete with cats.”

For the uninitiated, video-tracking company Reelseo (now Tubular) counted 2 million cat videos on YouTube in 2014, which had been viewed a staggering 24.6 billion times. Solis was making the case that online marketers compete with cat videos—and many other distractions—for attention from our potential consumers. Therefore, to distract people from watching cat videos long enough to watch your video or to take action on your message, you have to stand out.

What does that have to do with becoming an author? It’s that way in the non-virtual world too. As small business people, you also compete with cats. Your cats are the furry and smooth-skinned competitors who do the same thing you do. To stand out, to distract your potential clients from your competitors, you need to do something very different.

Being an author is a very good way to stand out. Even Solis, who lives in the virtual communications world, has published print books to stand out.

Authors are rare. I was at a networking event in April right after I published my first book. Friends Colleen and Tad attended to kick off their celebratory birthday weekend because our event host was a local craft beer brewery. Colleen’s daughter Erin had come up from Richmond to partake in the festivities. Erin made the comment, “I don’t believe I’ve ever known an author before.” To which I rather stupidly and flippantly replied: “Now you have.”

I said that because I was surprised by her statement. I live in a circle of fellow writers, several of whom are published authors. But that’s my circle. I hadn’t realized how small a circle it was. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports only 136,500 writers and authors were employed in 2014 out of a population of about 320 million. That’s not a lot—.0004%—and I would say most of them are writers but not authors.

I say that because even though I know many authors, most of the writers I know are not authors. In fact, when I published my book, several of my writer friends congratulated me with something to the effect of: “Congratulations. Many of us talk about writing a book, but few of us do.”

If you actually write one, those 81% who are thinking about writing a book are going to think you’re pretty cool because you’ve accomplished something they have only talked about.

Think about it. People talk about being part of the 1%. How about being part of the .0004%? Publishing a book puts you in very, very exclusive territory. It makes you stand out among the cat videos. And it makes you pretty cool in the eyes of just about everyone around you. Even after you say something dorky to Erin.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

Book cover for Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They'll Applaud!In three chapters, Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! gives you the tools you need to produce a more effective, powerful, and memorable speech. Chapter 1 discusses the rules and good practices of all effective writing. With that foundation set, Chapter 2 sets out the ways in which speech writing differs from other forms of writing, and how spoken language allows you to make your words come alive. Chapter 3 provides you with techniques to write more powerful and memorable speeches through storytelling, timing, and rhetorical devices.
Tom Pfeifer has been a professional communicator for more than 30 years. In Write It, Speak It, he uses research and personal stories to show how you can write speeches they’ll applaud.

I Fear for My Country. This is My Now.

I fear for my country.

Crying eye with American Flag iris Can Stock Photo Inc.  bennymartyI’m old enough to say that now. I remember when my mother used to say it. I would turn to her and say, “The world has always been a mess.”

“Yes,” she would say. “But not like now.”

This is my now.

It’s not like I didn’t have my then. I was born in the 1950s and became aware of the world around me just as John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Then Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Soldiers returning from Vietnam were spit on by male civilians with long hair and female citizens without bras. National Guardsmen gunned down unarmed students at Kent State.

That was the news. But I didn’t need the news to tell me times were bad. A few miles from my home, race riots flared in the black neighborhood. Less than a mile away some crackers burned down a medical doctor’s home just because he had the audacity to think a black family would be welcome in our white neighborhood. The tracks are thataway, buddy, and you belong on the other side.

My classmates and I practiced crouching under our wooden desks on knees and elbows with our fingers firmly clasped behind our heads. This was to protect us if the Russkies were to launch a nuclear attack.

A Jewish schoolmate confided in me that she felt discriminated against in our Christian-dominated high school. My Columbian friends came to visit and my grandfather called them a derogatory term for someone on the other side of Trump’s wall.

Things seemingly got better.  A series of 1960s Supreme Court cases cleared the way for better race relations. In 1967, the court decided state laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage were unconstitutional. And, in 1968, it held that federal law bars all racial discrimination in the public or private sale or rental of property. A majority of both political parties in the House and Senate voted to approve the Civil Rights Act and it was signed by a Southern Democrat president.

The military draft ended the year my number was drawn. I didn’t look to see how close I had come. The Vietnam War ended a year later. We had relative peace and prosperity for many years. More people of color attended college and offices throughout the country became integrated in both race and gender.

Eight years ago we elected our first black president. Love him or hate him, it was a historic moment. We had moved beyond color. Or so it seemed.

More recently, we also seemingly had moved beyond the politics of obstruction with the selection of Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House. Again, love him or hate him, but he is willing and able to stand up to the fringes of his party.

Unfortunately, we have two presidential candidates who represent the worst of America. My friends on the right are correct when they call Hillary Clinton incompetent and a compulsive liar who is in bed with Wall Street while pretending to side with the little people.  My friends on the left are correct when they call Donald Trump unstable, a bigot, and a sociopathic liar. It wouldn’t be the first time I held my nose and voted for the lesser of two evils, but I can’t tell who that is in this race. They both are completely wrong for my country.

Black people are dying at the hands of police officers at a greater rate than their share of the population. Police officers are killed for the simple reason that they wear the badge. We might as well burn down the black doctor’s house and spit on our soldiers.

And, there is no leader on the horizon with the credibility and capacity to bring back the sanity. Neither evil is less.

So I find myself in my mother’s place. I fear for my country. This is my now. I do have faith my now will be my then again. But I question how many lives will be destroyed before we get there.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.



wes rocki TW


Market to Your Imaginary Friend

Group of people pointing at an imaginary object - isolated over a white background Can Stock Photo Inc.  AndresDo you remember your childhood imaginary friend? Chances are you had one. A 2004 study by University of Washington and University of Oregon psychologists found that by age seven, 65 percent of children have had an imaginary friend. It could have been a teddy bear you rather uncreatively named Teddy and carried on conversations with, or an invisible playmate called Theodore who understood you completely and always wanted to play the games you wanted to play. Weren’t those highly successful playdates?

They were real to us, too. Oh, we weren’t so psychologically damaged to actually believe they existed temporally. But they were real in our minds. We had sword fights together. Roped cows. Hosted a tea party in our finest gowns. They were our best friends.

We are no longer children, but we adults still need our imaginary friends. As business people, our mature imaginary friends need to be more structured then when we were children. Then, we didn’t have to create imaginary friends. They just came to us. Our minds were wild and free. As adults, we must tap into that wildness and freedom with a purpose. That purpose is to focus your message.

Call them Ideal Clients. Call them Customer Avatars. Call them Buyer Personas. What they really are are imaginary friends for adults. If you talk to them, they will help you to succeed in whatever business you’re in, just as they helped us to succeed in play during our youth.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling shoes, decks, or graphic design, you must start with knowing your audience’s wants and needs before you can create the message that brings you business. Your imaginary friend is that one person whose wants and needs you know so well you can discuss it with them. Who you can bounce ideas off of to see if they like it or not. Like you did as a child, but this time with a structured purpose.

It’s not only for entrepreneurs. Anyone who is reaching out to others on a mass level needs to create an Ideal Client. Associations would create an Ideal Member. Writers would create an Ideal Reader. Politicians would create an Ideal Constituent.

I like the term Ideal Avatar because it encompasses all those concepts and puts your imaginary friend in a worshiped position, as your clients should be.

Merriam-Webster defines an avatar as the incarnation of a Hindu deity in human form, or the embodiment of a concept or philosophy, often in a person.

When you create your Ideal Avatar you are creating a deity, an incarnation of your perfect client in human form, the embodiment of a concept of who your Buyer Persona is in the philosophy of a person.

This is not a new concept. Software engineer Alan Cooper introduced personas to the world in his 1998 book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. But Cooper began unconsciously creating personas in 1983. He tells of taking a walk around a golf course during his lunch breaks, talking to an imaginary friend loosely based on a project manager who would be using the software he was developing.

“As I walked, I would engage myself in a dialogue, play-acting a project manager, loosely based on Kathy, requesting functions and behavior from my program,” Cooper wrote in a 2008 blog. “I often found myself deep in those dialogues, speaking aloud, and gesturing with my arms. Some of the golfers were taken aback by my unexpected presence and unusual behavior, but that didn’t bother me because I found that this play-acting technique was remarkably effective for cutting through complex design questions of functionality and interaction, allowing me to clearly see what was necessary and unnecessary and, more importantly, to differentiate between what was used frequently and what was needed only infrequently.”

Cooper’s first conscious personas came about when he became an entrepreneur. Unable to get engineers to tell him what they wanted created, he went to the customers and asked them what they needed. His interviews uncovered three distinct users, which Cooper decided to name Chuck, Cynthia, and Rob.

“These three were the first true, Goal-Directed, personas.”

The key phrase here is “Goal-Directed.” What do they need so you know how to provide it? That’s your goal.

And, your imaginary friend can tell you. You only have to ask.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.


From Tom Pfeifer’s upcoming book, How to Target Your Ideal Customer Avatar Like the God She Is. While you’re waiting for that to be published, check out Tom’s current book, Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD!

Same Old Tom Meets Tom the Author

I was at a chamber mixer last week. Erin, the daughter of one of my fellow entrepreneurs, was there too.

Cropped Coffee_Conversations 2-24-16

The author leading a Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Coffee & Conversation.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met an author before,” she said.

To which I rather stupidly and haughtily replied, “Now you have.”

I didn’t mean to sound haughty. I just was taken aback that Erin did not know any authors. I know lots of authors. In fact, in my circle I’m rather late to the game. No big deal, really. It’s been a lifelong dream to publish a book. Now I have, as many have before me. End of story.

But it’s not. Because, I’ve found, much of the world runs in Erin’s circles, not mine. They’ve never met an author before. To many people, I’m unique to their circle.

In the few short weeks since my book was published, I’m no longer introduced as Tom. I’m introduced as Tom the Author. At business networking meetings and at Toastmasters gatherings, Author is always appended to my name. As if I’m a new person. As if the old Tom doesn’t exist anymore, and in his place is this shiny new being.

I will be presenting an educational session at a Toastmasters International district conference next Saturday because I am a published author. Thirty years of writing for newspapers, politicians, associations, and businesses, years of writing a blog and years ago writing a book four times as thick didn’t gain me that privilege. The previous book hasn’t been published. It didn’t make me Tom the Author. Presenting the same workshop several times before the book was published may have gotten my foot in the door, but publishing a book threw the door wide open.

Presenting at the conference will be the same old Tom. I may say something stupid and be unintentionally haughty. I will intentionally crack some jokes. More importantly, I will share lessons learned from more than 30 years of being a professional writer that my audience can use to improve their communication skills. That’s my reason for being there.

Oh, and I’ll have some books to sell. Because while I am the same old Tom, I now have Author appended to my name. I need to take advantage before the novelty wears off. The old Tom approves.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.


Book cover for Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They'll Applaud!

Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! is available on Kindle or paperback.

 

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