Political Pollster Spills the Beans: How to Find Those Hidden Desires

Republican pollster and strategic researcher Frank Luntz advises politicians on the language they should use to win elections and promote their policies.

Here’s how you can use his secrets to work with more clients…sell more houses…and grow your business.

His Work Proves One Very Important Point

Although he works on one side of the aisle, he says that what he does is essentially nonpartisan, seeking clarity and simplicity in language.

His critics disagree…and have accused him of using language that misrepresents policies to “sell” them to the public. Frank Luntz is the author of Words That Work.

But whatever you think about Luntz, what he does proves one very important point: it’s not about what you say…it’s about what they hear.

That is, potent persuasion is built around finding and using words that hit people at the gut level.

It’s interesting that one little word can have such a influential impact on an entire population…

But it can.

The Most Controversial Word

Take the term “estate tax” for instance.

Before Luntz, this tax was relatively non controversial. Luntz said that only 50% of Americans thought such a tax should be abolished.

What he discovered in his word lab, where he used focus groups and polls, was that when he replaced the word “estate” with the term “inheritance” 60% of Americans thought such a tax should be abolished.

However, with further research he discovered that 70% of Americans wanted the tax abolished when it was referred to as a “death tax.” [via PBS video “Give Us What We Want”

“Death” takes it to a whole new, deeper level…

When people think of “estate” or “inheritance,” Luntz explains that they think of people like Warren Buffet and his billions of net worth…they think of JR and the 70’s television show Dallas.

They think of people who deserve to be taxed…

However, “estate” or “inheritance” puts an emotional distance between people and the real issue. They are cold, unemotional words that obscure the fact that this tax does not occur until you die.

And that is justifiably hard to defend.

But what does this have to do with real estate? Good question.

Heed This One, Simple Piece of Advice

Bottom line, be the person in your real estate market who has their finger on the pulse on what people are saying, feeling and thinking.

And keep this rule in mind: cab drivers and antique dealers know more about the world and what is going on than anybody else. And when the cab driver feels a certain way, you need to listen.

In smaller towns where there aren’t cab drivers, it’s probably owners of the coffee shop or corner deli who know the pulse of your market. Hang out with these people…visit their spaces…and interview people in these places.

And if you want to get real technical, poll people in your community. Or hold informal focus groups.

This rule is built upon a simple idea: It doesn’t matter what you want to tell the public, it’s about what they want to hear.

And you have to find that out.

Discover the Hot-Buttons That Compel Us to Act

Luntz, when talking to clients, gives them one consistent piece of advice: Heed the public will.

And there’s one technique that’s more important than anything else: listening. That’s exactly what you have to do.

You have to listen to what people are saying, how they are saying it, their body language when saying it, where they are saying it and figure out why they are saying it.

I know most of the public is down on real estate agents…so what are the words, the facts, the data that would get people to say, “You know, my real estate agent, he’s okay”?

You have to find those words when working with the public, clients or prospects.

A few, carefully chosen words can make all the difference. These are words that grab our guts and get us to move on an emotional level.

It matters what you talk about. And it matters what you name things. For example:

  • Don’t talk about “energy efficiency.” Talk about “lower bills.”
  • Don’t talk about “square feet.” Talk about “breathing room.”
  • Don’t talk about a “long commute.” Talk about a “rolling university.”
  • Don’t talk about “house.” Talk about a “home.”

How to Get Those Words

When you are with people [and make sure you are hanging out with people from all walks of life, not just a certain strain]…

…talk about a wide range of community subjects…broach controversial topics…and watch people nod there heads and look at each other.

When they all do that at the same time…at that point you’ll know that you’ve struck an emotionally charged issue that people are willing to fight for.

At that moment…that is your Eureka moment. Those are the words that you want to use, those issues. Those are the words that resonate with those particular people.

And don’t forget, just like fire, use those words for good and not destruction or ill gain.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Joshua Ferris

Great article! Any plans to offer more examples of right and wrong words in the future?

Gary Elwood

Hey, thanks Joshua. That’s a good idea…I’ll put it in the hopper for a future post. Might work well with the new copywriting series I’m working on…so might be sooner than later.


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