Blog 8 min read 03 May 2021

Shopping Trolleys vs Parasites: The War Over Metaphor

Our regular Impact Insights series takes an informal look at four people in the public eye, and what business leaders can learn from the way they communicate.

The lesson for leaders: Pick metaphors wisely. The right one can make an impact that saves a thousand words.

Making software human

How to create an emotional connection

  • Leaders are often told to appeal to their audience’s emotions. Easy if you’re leading a pet welfare charity, but less easy if you lead a B2B software company.
  • But watch Melissa Di Donato. She’s the CEO of tech company SUSE, which recently managed to successfully IPO in the midst of intense market volatility.
  • She uses a question about global tech businesses first to speak personally (“You can probably hear from my accent that I’m American born”) and then gives her business a body and a heart (“We were born in Germany, close to Frankfurt, and our heart remains in Germany”). All with a smile on her face.
  • She used language, her personal story and her performance to create a link with the audience.

The lesson for leaders: Project the emotion you want the audience to feel. How they feel about you is as important as the facts.

Changing minds in minutes

The power of a smart approach to video performance

  • Leadership communication increasingly involves recording videos. Showing passion, communicating content, and holding the audience in this format is a challenge.
  • Evan Mawarire is a master of the medium. This video from the Zimbabwean activist went viral and started a large-scale protest movement in 2016. There’s much leaders can learn.
  • He anchors his ideas to something tangible: the flag. He uses the flag’s colours both to bring to life both his criticisms and to set out his alternative vision. The flag metaphor gives his speech structure, too.

The lesson for leaders: An object, a story, or a picture will embed an idea more firmly than a list of thoughts.

Hair, hair!

The interview hijacked by lockdown locks

And finally… do you remember what former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was talking about in his recent interview with ITN? Nor can anyone else. The media conversation was all about one thing: his surprisingly long hair.

The lesson for leaders: Your appearance should match the moment. Don’t let it become the story.