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Bailout or Rescue?

Words matter.

What if the $700 billion bail-out had been presented as a "heroic rescue" – with regular citizens stepping up to save our nation and their neighbors from a horrible recession? 

No one is asking their friends to join the bailout — but they would have proudly asked them to help rescue our neighbor’s house. We don’t want to bail out Wall Street fat cats, but do we want the government to save our neighbor’s house so the bankers don’t get it.

Ideas need to be sold. You may have the greatest vision, cause, charity, or business in the world.  But it’s going nowhere if your supporters aren’t proud to step up and tell their friends about it.

You need to get good at word of mouth marketing.

(Inspired by this article.)

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  1. Geoff Livingston October 7, 2008 at 8:35 am #

    This seems to trivialize the seriousness of the situation. Selling a $700 billion bail out through WOMM is not really accurate commentary when the world is sinking into a financial recession triggered by systematic debting.

  2. Justin October 7, 2008 at 9:02 am #

    I agree that ideas (even good ones) need to be marketed, but I don’t think what you’re suggesting would have worked.
    For most people it’s *not* their neighbor’s house. The housing crisis is not evenly spread across states and/or Congressional districts; it’s focused in certain markets. So most people do not directly come into contact with that side of it.
    If anything, the phrasing you suggest would lead to regional tensions/resentment (i.e. people in Iowa end up asking themselves “why should we ‘rescue’ numskulls in California who took out irresponsible loans to buy overpriced houses?”).
    I agree that “bailout” is a lousy term, but IMHO the “good neighbor/rescue” concept you’re floating here wouldn’t resonate with enough people across the country.

  3. Bill Hanekamp October 7, 2008 at 9:09 am #

    I don’t think talking about the use of language — especially semantics and syntax — in politics trivializes the issues at all. In fact, I think just the opposite. How issues are wrapped in language often times dictates how they are accepted by the American people. The battle of ideas is often fought over which labels become generally accepted and part of our lexicon. Some great studies have been published about how the Republican party has hijacked certain phrases and skewed their meanings to advance their agenda, and only recently has the Democratic party tried to catch up really. Yes, the world economy falling into an abyss is a serious manner. The framework and language we use to discuss it will be how we come to grips with the problem.

  4. Andy Sernovitz October 7, 2008 at 9:26 am #

    Word of mouth marketing is about a simple idea: Earning the respect and recommendation of the people that you need to spread your message. If you can’t build trust around a messenger and an idea, it’s going to fail.
    This isn’t trivial at all. We have a serious situation that required immediate response and wide-spread support. But the government failed to build that support, they failed to earn that trust, which prevented timely action.
    I used one sample example here, but the specific wording isn’t the point.
    If it’s important, you need to get support. That process is called word of mouth marketing, grassroots organizing, coalition-building, etc. It’s about the skills of rallying people to a cause that matters.
    Get good at it – the stakes are getting higher every day.

  5. Pat October 7, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    The problem is that this *is * a bailout of Wall Street Fat Cats. This is does not “trickle down” to Main Street.
    A rescue package would help these people, not Lehman Brothers. Your sample WOMM is simply Orwellian.
    WOMM doesn’t put lipstick on a pig — but is all about community and society. Bailing out a bunch of rich b*st*rds (who for years have been telling everyone else how superior they are), is not a good example of WOMM.
    I am sure you will do better with your next example!

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