You may remember, if you’re of a certain vintage, the promotional slogan “Never Let Them See You Sweat.” It was an incredibly effective marketing earworm for Dry Idea anti-perspirant from the mid-’80s to mid-’90s, popularized in part by a string of commercials featuring celebrities of the era in high-stress job (like NFL coach Dan Reeves or comedienne Elayne Boosler). Dry Idea’s still around today; the slogan’s not, but it should be.
And not just for selling deodorant.
“Never let them see you sweat” is also pitch-perfect PR advice … so much so that I’m mad I didn’t put it in my best-selling book Bite the Dog: Build a PR Strategy to Make News That Matters, especially now that I just read online the makers of Dry Idea let the trademark on the phrase expire decades ago. I wrote a great deal about the importance of framing your individual and/or organizational distinctives by putting your best rhetorical foot forward, devoted an entire chapter to strategically surviving crises of internal or external creation and doled out ample advice about knowing the goal you’re aiming for when you step in front of a microphone or notebook and not deviating a degree from that destination. But I never did come right out and say, “Never let them see you sweat.”
I should have.
Here’s why: Key to your credibility as an author, expert, speaker, coach, consultant, entrepreneur or anybody else the media would want to talk to is being unrattlable (which I’m not sure is a word but should be). Maybe sales figures are down for the quarter; maybe your team is mired in a 7-game losing streak; maybe your movie didn’t make the money the industry expected, or your event didn’t attract the crowds you hoped, or your book didn’t fly off the shelves as fast as those scary monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. You’re probably bummed. Just don’t project bummedness (another made-up word, I think). Don’t let the interviewer, and his or her audience by more important extension, see you sweat.
I’m not talking about lying or ignoring the truth. I’m talking about framing the truth in a way that accentuates the positives you can. And they’re always there, if you look diligently enough, even if they’re scintillas alongside slabs. Yes, sales are down, but customer satisfaction is higher than it’s been in six months. Sure, we were sixth at the weekend box-office, but we’re the highest-rated independent new release on Rotten Tomatoes. OK, we would have liked to see fuller stands, but the folks who attended had the time of their lives and the performers did, too. Wanna see the pictures? Project optimism, not pessimism, because your attitude will attach itself like a barnacle to your brand. Let the audience see you smile. hope, persevere; be grateful for what’s going well, not grieved for what isn’t.
Anything else, anything less, and you’re letting them see you sweat.