The Next Time You’re ...


Regardless of your politics, no president has brought out the humanity of the Oval Office like President Obama.

How much comes from President Obama himself as opposed to his advisers?

The question misses the point.

He gets it or he wouldn’t sign off.

As exhibit A, take a look at the statement from President Obama on the passing of Harold Ramis.

Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Harold Ramis, one of America’s greatest satirists, and like so many other comedic geniuses, a proud product of Chicago’s Second City.  When we watched his movies – from “Animal House” and “Caddyshack” to “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day” – we didn’t just laugh until it hurt.  We questioned authority.  We identified with the outsider.  We rooted for the underdog.  And through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Harold’s wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren, and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness.

Speaking of Animal House, I periodically channel Otto in Animal House — “Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives.”

Back to President Obama’s narrative and why it works —

First, he sounds like a real human being, not a bunch of handlers haggling over an adjective.

The conversational tone continues with “a proud product of Chicago’s Second City.” Hey, even a president can take pride in his “hometown.”

The zinger comes in the third sentence when he shares that Ramis’ movies inspired them to “question authority.” (No wonder he has issues with Republicans.)

And he even channels Carl Spackler, the groundskeeper in “Caddyshack” in the close.

All in all, there’s a storytelling quality to the statement.

Unfortunately, the PR function continues to generate executive quotes with the stiffness of plywood. It’s such a waste in today’s media environment in which journalists are moving so quickly, they increasingly need a quick way to plug in fresh perspectives in quote form.

Done right, an executive quote should reveal something that doesn’t come across from the facts. Sharing an anecdote that takes the reader behind the curtain or offering a crisp viewpoint can be effective.

President Obama’s statement reflects these storytelling techniques and explains why publications ranging from USA Today to The Washington Post “borrowed” his words.

Storytelling techniques in quotes

storytelling techniques in executive quotes

Yes, I recognize that the man behind movies like  “Caddyshack” – “Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now …” – will garner more attention than a new tool for software programming.

Still, regardless of the space, a quote that actually says something extends its reach.


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