Sam Horn - Intrigue

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


A book was reviewed in the Washington Post on Sunday, May 28 that had a perfect POP! title and sub-title.

First, the back story. A woman named Annabelle Gurwitch was rather spectacularly booted off a movie set by director Woody Allen. He told her, "What you're doing is terrible, none of it good, and all of it bad."

Instead of licking her wounds and spiraling into depression, she told friends what happened, many of whom then shared their "You think that's bad, wait 'til I tell you how I got canned from my job" story.

She started collecting these tales of workplace rejection and thought,"This would make an interesting book." Voila. She solicited first-person accounts from dozens of people and turned what could have been a traumatic incident into a money-making career and cottage industry with a documentary in the works.

Now, what to call her book? Think of all the synonyms for being "let go" and let the word play begin. That resulted in FIRED! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed.

What's the point? If you're trying to come up with a name for your book, project, or presentation, write down all the words you use when describing your topic. Then write down synonyms for the words you've already listed. See if there is ONE word that captures the essence of your subject. When it comes to titles, less is more. A one word title is more likely to POP! off the page.

Then, play with the words in your sub-title until they're alliterative. Alliteration (words that start with the same sound) makes your language lyrical and gives people's mind a hook on which to hang a mmemory.

Want more tips on how to create titles and taglines that help your project break out instead of blend in? Sam will be conducting workshops in 15 cities across the country from September-October as part of the media tour for her new book POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd. Check for a complete public seminar/media schedule to see if Sam will be coming to your area.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What POP'd Out at Book Expo?

What a way to start out a day -- sharing breakfast with Senator Barack Obama, funny lady Amy Sedaris, and noted novelist John Updike. Well, me and 1000 other Book Expo attendees.

BEA is the annual publishing extravaganza held every May that draws tens of thousands of agents, editors, publishers, and authors from around the world. Walk down the halls and, at any given moment, you could encounter Pulitzer Prize winning humorist Dave Barry or Dr. Ruth Westheimer (all 4’10” of her) pitching their Fall books.

What really stood out for me were the stirring words of John Updike who rose to the defense of good old-fashioned books you can hold in your hands . . . vs. the “electronic anteater” also known as the internet. He praised booksellers for continuing to operate brick and mortar stores that are “citadels of literacy in the neighborhoods in which they live.”

He said memorably, “Books have edges. Sometimes hard edges, sometimes soft edges, and it up to authors and booksellers everywhere to defend those edges.” I had an opportunity to talk briefly with Updike afterwards and he said that phrase and image had come to him the night before as he was searching for a way to wrap up his speech.

Which brings me to my two points.

1. Whenever we take the stage, whether it is for 3 minutes or 30, it is our obligation to say something thought-provoking that adds value to the people in the audience. Too many speakers, when giving a platform, run through a laundry list of thanks (think the Oscars) or invest little time in thinking what they could say that is intriguing and insightful. Updike honored his audience by spending time composing a message that was relevant and timely to everyone in the room. Kudos.

2. Saul Bellow said, “I never had to change a word of what I got up in the middle of the night to write.” Updike knew, as soon as those words “came to him,” that they were a gift. He immediately wrote them down and planned where and how he could include them for maximum impact.

When are you speaking before a group next? Whether it is to employees and colleagues at your weekly staff meeting or to a group of professional peers at a Chamber of Commerce function; take the time to construct a message that will pleasantly surprise your audience with its originality and topicality. Keep your antenna up for that strike of creative lightning that "occurs" to you. If it stops you in your mental tracks, it will probably stop others in their mental tracks.

Promise yourself you will not get up to speak until you have at least one thing to say that is fresh, useful, or potentially profound. Your audience will thank you for it and your reputation will benefit from it. Sam Horn

Monday, May 08, 2006

Increase Your LIKE-Ability

I saw an ad in USA Today this morning for The TRADE Show (Travel Retailing and Destination Expo) to be held in Orlando September 10-12, 2006.

You may ask, “What’s that?”

Good question. When introduced to things new, we often don’t have a clue as to what they do.

The TRADE Show ad solved that problem by featuring a headline surrounded by white space that said, “IT’S LIKE a giant supermarket for vacation ideas.”

Aahh! I went from confusion to clarity in a second because the ad linked its unknown offering to something with which I was familiar and fond.

Are you marketing a new product or service? Are you pitching a new idea or championing a cause? If you’re worried that people won’t understand what you’re saying or selling, ask yourself “What is it LIKE?” and compare it to something your target audience regularly uses.

I came up with this Increase Your LIKE-Ability Technique while on a speaking tour in Denver, Colorado with my teen-aged sons. We had a night free so I asked our hotel concierge to suggest a fun outing. He took one look at Tom and Andrew and said, “You’ve got to go to D & B’s.”

We were from Maui at the time and had no idea what he was talking about. I asked, “What’s D & B’s?”

Instead of explaining it stood for “Dave and Buster’s” which wouldn’t have cleared up our confusion, he grinned and said, “IT’S LIKE . . . a Chuckie Cheese for adults.”

Perfect! Seven words and we understood what it was and wanted to go there. By linking something we didn’t know with something we knew and liked, he “told and sold” that place in one succinct sound-bite. They should have put him on commission.

Barbara Walters said, “There are few times in your life when it isn’t too melodramatic to say your destiny hangs on the impression you make.”

When people first hear or read about your offering, what type of impression does it make? If they don’t instantly “get” it, they won’t want it.

Ask yourself, “What is my idea or invention LIKE? How is it similar to something people frequently use?" For more ideas on how to compellingly describe your offering so people like it and are motivated to try it and buy it, visit