The Genius of Manhattan

I have always been susceptible to hero worship but by the time I heard of Tony Schwartz, he had already been canonized by many of the American political professionals I had come to know and admire through Campaigns and Elections Seminars in Washington, DC – seminars that included “How to Knife your Opposition in the Back”, “Running a Woman Candidate:  A How-to”, “Damage Control:  Once it’s too late, now what?” and “Interviewing with Authority:  Practical Tips on Controlling the Situation”. 
Schwartz changed political communications and advertising forever when he created what is still considered to be the most effective political ad in history, the daisy ad” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExjDzDsgbww&feature=fvst) produced for Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 Johnson/Goldwater presidential race.  He was the first adman to use the voices of real children instead of adult actors mimicking children.  He went on to create dozens of ads for politicians including Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and created thousands more for commercial clients. 
Schwartz’s 1972 book, The Responsive Chord broke new ground in media. His idea was that effective communications doesn’t ‘drive home’ a message, but through words, images or especially sounds, it arouses something already existing in the recipient – a thought, an emotion, a memory.  (Schwartz spent a lifetime recording the sounds of Manhattan.)
This, Gentle Reader, was an idea I found so nuanced, so lovely and so powerful, it has affected everything I have done since.
At Interval House, I learned that to be a successful counselor, you must begin ‘where the woman is at’.  As a direct mail fundraiser, I learned to write to the reader in a personal way:  to speak to her about what matters to her. As a communications specialist, I learned from Tony Schwartz that you must awaken something in the person you are trying to reach not try to drive it home or get it across. 
And that feels so much better now doesn’t it, Gentle Reader? 
Another remembrance
I heard Tony Schwartz speak in 2001 when he was receiving an award from Campaigns and Elections.  Five hundred political professionals representing organizations as diverse as the NRA, the Miami Dade Police Union, NOW and AARP sat in a Washington, D.C. ballroom in rapt attention, their eyes misty with reverence as Schwartz accepted his award – by telephone from Manhattan.  His life-long agoraphobia rendered him house-bound.  His physical distance from us in no way diminished his delivery.  Schwartz passed away in June, 2008.  He was 84.  
Learn to strike your own responsive chord at  www.tonyschwartz.org. 

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