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June 2011

George Clooney, Paparazzi, and Genocide

Saturday, June 4th, 2011 5:37 pm by Brian

Okay, the words “Clooney” and “paparazzi” in this headline may seem to go together (c’mon…you totally look at the tabloids while at the grocery store). But…genocide? Yet if you read Newsweek’s recent cover story on George Clooney (“A 21st Century Statesman”) you will discover a staggeringly successful “Perfect Pitch” that makes this all make sense.

George Clooney and SatelliteFor those new to this blog, Perfect Pitch is my term for a phrase that can instantly go “Verbally Viral”. It is the ultimate in “pithy”…a positioning line that is brief, forceful and full of meaning.

Here’s the backstory. Since 2005, George has been investing his celebrity power in compelling public and political attention to the plight of Sudan. This is the same country that experienced the genocide of 400,000 people in Darfur. Warring rebels, militias and government forces continue to wreak human carnage along the North/South border of Sudan. But those same factions are wary of world scrutiny. Enter George Clooney. Or more specifically, George Clooney’s satellite.

The deal is this: privately funded and publicly accessible satellite imagery (visit is focused on the border to search for troop movements, bombed or razed villages, or any other visual evidence of impending violence to civilians. In essence, that’s the descriptive but rather clunky and unmemorable pitch you read on the SatSentinel website. In stark contrast…when talking about “his” satellite, George’s Perfect Pitch gets the job done in six memorable words.

“I’m like the anti-genocide paparazzi.”

That’s impressive…humor and genocide in the same sentence. This is an example of a communication format I teach my clients called “Surfer Dude”.  It’s like, you know, like….like using LIKE. It’s tapping the power of a unique simile. The SatSentinel isn’t just a technology solution. It is a strategy of focusing attention on those who absolutely do NOT want attention. There’s a bold emotional component to this message that is unable to be realized with terms like “satellite imagery.”

Contrast that with George’s simile. The magic appears with the use of the word paparazzi. It provides both the content and emotion of intrusive documentation. Just like in Lindsay Lohan’s life, the cameras are in the subject’s face…and the cameras are inescapable.

Yet the interesting twist in this case is that since we have no sympathy for the subject (the government forces and militias not Lindsay), we value the paparazzi. What is normally a negative instantly is transformed into a positive. Plus, since George is normally stalked by paparazzi, we also instantly appreciate the irony of it all.

I don’t yet have confirmation from Mr. Clooney that George he uses this line at every fundraising event he does for SatSentinel, but I am confident he does. (NOTE: I posted a message to his Wall on Facebook, but haven’t heard back).

No matter what other examples or stories George may say or share at fundraisers, THIS is the takeaway line that people will remember.  It meets the criteria for what I tell my clients is the ultimate interpersonal communication goal: your idea going Verbally Viral.

“What is George Clooney’s charitable project all about?”
“Being an anti-genocide paparazzi.”

That’s…a Perfect Pitch.

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