Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

It’s no secret that gov. Sarah Palin is a controversial pick as a Vice Presidential running mate for Senator John McCain. A Google on her name will lead you to pages of conflicting analysis.

What we’re interested in here is the communications strategy the sides deploy. And Ms. Palin’s pre-nomination throws into relief the failure of the democrat’s charge of “inexperience” against her at least in the context of on-air debates.

The reason the inexperience charge fails is that it invites rebuttal and the rebuttal is too easy and too obvious. Larry King Live last night, for example, hosted James Carville, CNN Political Contributor and Obama support and Nancy Pfotenhauer, advisor to the McCain campaign. Here’s an excerpt of the debate

James Carville

James Carville, CNN Commentator, Obama Supporter

CARVILLE: “I am completely floored by this choice.”

Nancy Pfotenhauer, McCain Strategist

Nancy Pfotenhauer, McCain Strategist

KING: “Honestly put, Nancy — and it’s a fair question — of all the Republicans, is she the most qualified to be next commander-in- chief?”

PFOTENHAUER: “Well, I think that she is eminently qualified to be vice president.

In fact, Senator McCain’s picking Governor Palin, she has more experienced as the V.P. nominee than Senator Obama has as a presidential nominee.”

My issue is not whether Sarah Palin has the experience to be Vice President. It’s that James Carville is a communications strategist and he lost a point on national television that he should have anticipated he would. And, in fact, I saw him and Paul Begala, another democratic strategist lose this point again and again all night. And I’ve been watching democratic strategists lose this point again this morning in the same way.

I see this dynamic frequently when I’m training people to be persuasive in their organizations. We are so persuaded by our own claims that we think they will stand alone, that those we are trying to influence must surely accept them. We forget that we rarely accept someones else’s claims on their face. In fact, every statement we hear triggers a rejoinder from us whether spoken or silent. And it’s the same for our audience.

Tim’s Takeaway

Communications is always at least a 2-part process. If we’re going to be influential, it’s not enough for us to come up with claims that we find powerful. The question you should be asking yourself isn’t, what’s the biggest claim I can make, but what kind of response will this draw from my audience, and how can I draw the response that moves the action forward the way I want.

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Filed under: Influence and PersuasionLeadershipMediaPresentation Skills

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