Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
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Metaphor Minute: Lessons from Media’s Mincemeat of Obamacare

The METAPHOR MINUTE Newsletter by Anne Miller

November 12, 2013

Lessons from Media’s Mincemeat of Obamacare

By now, everyone knows the Obamacare roll-out has been a disaster, but what’s interesting from The Metaphor Minute’s point of view is not the politics but how many different metaphorical worlds the media sourced to describe the concept of its failure. That diversity of vivid descriptions is instructive for all of us whose success depends on selling, influencing, or persuading others. These examples show that you have many sources for your metaphors and analogies and are limited only by your imagination. Here are a few examples:

Medicine (USA Today)
Obamacare is starting to resemble a patient bleeding from self-inflicted wounds.

Sailing (The Wall Street Journal)
ObamaCare is Taking on Water: It’s not just a buggy website, it’s a disaster of Titanic proportions.

Space (The Washington Post)
There’s an astronaut joke that an astronaut is a guy sitting on top of a rocket assembled by the lowest bidders. Obamacare is a bit like the astronaut on top of the rocket. As I understand it, some of these were no-bid contracts, like CGI. So I think some of the problem is the Obama administration never brought in heavyweight IT people to oversee this.”

Weather & Torture (The Christian Science Monitor)
Controversy over the Affordable Care Act continues to rain on President Obama’s personal parade … or drip, drip, drip like political water torture

Boxing (The Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Obamacare wallops Nevadans

Broadway (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Now the president looks like Professor Harold Hill, the flim-flam artist from "The Music Man" who promised River City a boys’ band with no intention of ever delivering. That may seem overly harsh -- no one suggests Obama wanted his marquis domestic program to stumble.

More Than One Way to Make Your Point
There isn’t only one perfect metaphor available for a given situation. As you see from the examples above, whatever point you are trying to make can likely lend itself to high impact comparisons from a number of worlds. Experiment with a few, before deciding which works best for the particular point you want to make. Your final choice will depend on your audience and what will resonate most with them and the tone appropriate to the situation. Running through several possible metaphors and analogies will likely make you more original, more effective and more successful in getting your desired outcome.

Start Now
Begin now to work that metaphor muscle. What additional metaphors or analogies can you create that describe the concept of failure from the following worlds: trains, science, theater, toys, education, cooking, zoos, the Olympics, cars, the ocean, the Internet?

Anne Miller
Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.

P.S. Bloomberg Businessweek’s How the iPod President Crashed took issue with the President himself not really understanding his original plan which was expressed metaphorically as to become an “iPod government.” “It sounded good…but the iPod was a disruptive innovation... It destroyed companies that made manufactured parts… for CD players… accelerated a change… that put music stores across the country out of business.”

The article goes on to explain that creating a true iPod government would require being equally disruptive, radically overhauling systems, and creating all kinds of internal resistance among other changes. Sadly, Obama seems not to have understood this or, if he did, not to have been willing or able to really turn the government into an iPod institution.

The Metaphor Minute takeaway? Whenever you select a metaphor, be sure you understand its implication before you use it.

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 "The Metaphor Minute" is a brief monthly note with examples from business, media, or politics that illustrate the power of metaphors and analogies to make a point, solve a problem, and get results. Use these stories to stimulate high pay-off metaphoric thinking in your business. © 2013. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2013, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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