This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.

A lesson in how to get others’ attention from an unexpected sourcer

Last week’s tip on the importance of knowing who you are (and aren’t) had me thinking about a striking example that we can all learn from, thanks to … the state of Nebraska? Yes, the state of Nebraska.

Apparently, Nebraska has had a tourism problem. For four years in a row, it ranked last on the list of states that Americans wanted to visit.

The solution offered by tourism officials late last year (with help from a Colorado ad agency) was a distinctive—and brutally candid—state slogan:

“Nebraska. Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

Along with the slogan came self-deprecating ads with headlines like, “Famous for our flat, boring landscape,” as well as more positively-oriented ads asserting, “It’s not for everyone … but it is for the sandhill cranes”—referencing the half a million or so who land there every March on their migration path.

Nebraska has gotten all kinds of attention as a result, including features on popular US TV shows like Good Morning America and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, apparently culminating in at least $3.5M in free publicity. Plus a dramatic spike in web traffic, t-shirt and mug sales, and more.

I’m increasingly interested these days in communications that rise above the din because we are all so inundated with so much noise. I’m also fascinated by the phenomenon that suggests the best way to win over a skeptical audience is to lead with your weaknesses.

Whether you’re devising an ad, formulating an email, crafting a presentation, or simply trying to stand apart in a conversation, there’s something to be said for just the right blend of candor, cleverness, and self-deprecation.

Getting real. Honestly, it’s not for everyone.

Make It Real

This week, look for opportunities to be (genuinely) self-deprecating in your communications. Take a break from the tendency to be overly positive and confident. What do you learn?

Learn More


Speaking of getting attention, listen to tips on how to reengage unresponsive sales leads, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or brush up on how to revive stalled relationships in Chapter 19 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.


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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).