Mayor Ed Koch, the pratfall effect and the power of admitting your flaws

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On a 10-day visit to China in 1980, New York's mayor Ed Koch saw thousands of Chinese using bicycles in big cities.

Koch visited Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou, and Shangai, and he was super impressed. 

He saw bicycles everywhere. So he thought, "Isn't this marvelous? All these people are bikes. I gotta do something about that in New York City."

When he got back to New York, Koch approved a $300,000 Plan to build bike lanes in Manhattan. 

But his plan turned out to be a nightmare. 

Bikers complained that cars were driving in the bike lanes. 

Pedestrians complained that bikers ignored traffic laws.

Local businesses said that the lanes made deliveries difficult. 

And car drivers said the new bike lanes slowed traffic. 

No one was happy.

New York was in the middle of a financial crisis. And Koch was coming up for re-election. So a local news program invites him for a 30-minute interview. 

A handful of journalists were waiting to attack him like hyenas after a wounded gazelle. Here’s what happened next:

It was beautiful. And refreshing. A politician admitting a mistake. It was also classic persuasion.

Koch ended up becoming a three-term mayor who rescued the city from financial ruin.

In copywriting, one of the most persuasive ways to get into people's minds is to be open and admit your flaws. Psychologists call this the Pratfall effect, and it applies to people and brands.

When you admit your flaws people tend to like you more. Because it makes you more human.

Just look at these glorious examples:

Your pal,

Miguel Ferreira
Founder & Chief Copywriter, Teardwn + Nishi + Jack Had A Groove FM


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