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Monday, Sep. 29, 2008 at 7:47 am

Why Henry Paulson Needs to Attend Our Copywriting Course

By Holly Buchanan
September 29th, 2008

One of the key things we teach in our Persuasive Online Copywriting course is how to speak to your customers, in their language, about what they care about.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson should have attended our course.   According to many analysts, he’s doing a terrible job of selling the bailout package to the American people.

MSN Money blogger Charley Blaine talks about the problem, and how he thinks, of all people, Jim Cramer has it right on how to put the bailout plan into plain English and terms people actually care about and can relate to.

[Jim Cramer says] The Bush administration — especially Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke — are doing a terrible job selling the plan, he says. And he’s right. They’re explaining it in terms only Wall Street bankers, analysts and economists can understand.

How would Cramer do it?

The plan, he said Wednesday, “is about keeping people in their homes. It’s about making sure banks have money to lend “so your kid can go to college.”

Indeed, he said, Paulson should be selling the plan as “Invest in America.”

Paulson talks about “unfreezing the mortgage market,” Cramer said. As an explanation, it’s out of touch with the reality that most of us deal with.

“The next time you hear Hank Paulson or any of the plan’s defenders talking about the plan freeing up commercial paper,” Cramer said, “just insert ‘Being able to buy a new car with a loan.’”

The administration should stop talking about “making banks whole from their own mortgage mistakes.” Rather, he said, “they should start talking about making sure there will be cash in the ATM when you need money next week.”

I say ” touché ” Mr. Cramer (even though you do yell too much for my taste).   Whether you’re a website copywriter or the Treasury Secretary of the United States – if you want to persuade people, you have to avoid the techno-jargon and speak to your customers in their language about what they care about.

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Comments (11)

  1. You hit the nail on the head. The entire Bush administration has been totally unable to sell its agenda to the public. Cramer has good reason to yell – he understands what’s going on in the economy about six months before anyone in government does. He must be rather frustrated.

  2. Maybe we should just be glad the Bush administration didn’t attend your copyrighting course ; )

  3. I spent two years in the investment banking realm and I always gave Cramer credit for exactly what you speak of – communicating complex ideas clearly.

    People in the industry are frequently very negative about him. But the question is: Who is sitting in their office at 8pm trying to convince businesses to participate in transactions and make investments and trades and who cruises through making millions with a TV show and some books (not to mention his successful hedge funds in the past)?

    His books are great for laymen to understand investing principles – but I’m not sure anything will help people much in this environment.

    Good for him for connecting with America – even if it’s too loud.

  4. Maybe the administration needs to have your site bookmarked so they can see what’s really going on or someone should send Cramers words to them anyway. Thanks for the post.

    KeeKee

  5. Holly, I loved your last line: ” — if you want to persuade people, you have to avoid the techno-jargon and speak to your customers in their language about what they care about.”

    Especially the last part. As copywriters, we MUST talk about the things potential buyers care about — not what we or our clients want to sell them.

  6. ol’ Hank Paulsen didn’t know who his audience was and was unprepared to speak to who was listening… just the rest of the world. He approached the camera’s like he was speaking to a Goldman Sachs board meeting.
    I’d call one of the worst PR/marketing disasters in the last 25 years!
    Cramer’s re-wrapping was a great improvement. How quickly might the proposal have moved forward if words like “bailout” were replaced with “investment”, “support your country”, “backstop our economy”, etc.
    Sometimes we need a hard shot on the jaw to get our attention.
    We Canucks are watching with great interest.

  7. Whether it is Cramer or Paulson, when you are standing there holding a giant steaming bag of poop most people don’t want to buy it. I have heard of people that could sell ice cubes to Eskimos but good luck selling this crap.

  8. The reason people didn’t buy it (the bailout) was because they DID understand it. It was wrong – immoral – and bad for the Country. Problem is people rely too much on debt and we’re learning that. I shouldn’t have to take out a loan to buy a car. I shouldn’t have to take out a loan to go to school. Those things are the weight that is dragging us down and making bankers rich. Your home value is not supposed to go up 20% a year. That’s abnormal. The whole past 10 or 15 years were a financial lie. Now everybody who bought into it and at the same time bought into the idea that I can have anything I want on credit – they don’t want to deal with the mess they got themselves in. No responsibility.

  9. It was completely immoral – I consider the actions to be reprehensible.

  10. That is a fabulous idea and it’s a shame we didn’t see it ourselves. They could have networked this a lot better via social networks no? 2009 they should certainly have their 1 million if they do it right!

  11. Those things are the weight that is dragging us down and making bankers rich.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at http://marketingtowomenonline.typepad.com She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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