Influence people

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Abe Lincoln, Storyteller

"Humor is both a shield and a sword in politics," Ari Fleischer, press secretary to George W. Bush, recently told CNN.

"Humor is a shield because if people like you they will tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. It is a sword because one of the most effective ways to make fun of your opposition is humor as opposed to direct, frontal, mean-spirited attacks."

Among the presidents who wielded humor—including Teddy Roosevelt, Coolidge, FDR, Kennedy and Reagan—none did it more skillfully than Lincoln.

Lincoln considered himself a "retailer" of other people's puns, wisecracks, japes and yarns. He had a photographic memory for funny material, and spent hours studying humorists' books and essays.

Although quaint by 21st century standards, some of Lincoln's gags can still raise a chuckle.

Lincoln told a story of a man in the theatre who put his top hat on the seat next to him. A plus-size woman sat on it. ""Madam," he said, "I could have told you the hat wouldn't fit before you tried it on."

He told another story of a professional speaker's arrival in Springfield, Illinois. “What are your lectures about?” a city official asked the speaker. “They’re about the second coming,” the speaker said. “Don’t waste your time," the official said. "If the Lord’s seen Springfield once, He ain’t coming back."

He told yet another story of a drunk named Bill, who was so wasted, he passed out in the mud. When Bill came to, he went looking for a way to wash off the mud, and mistook another drunk leaning over a hitching post for a pump. When he pumped the man's arm up and down, the man puked. Believing all was right, Bill washed himself, then found a saloon. A friend inside said, "Bill, what happened?" Bill said, "You should have seen me before I washed."

After one grueling speech, Lincoln said of the speaker, “He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met." He called the arguments of his opponent for president “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”

Once after being called "two-faced," Lincoln said, “If I had two faces, why would I be wearing this one?”

When Nebraska's governor told Lincoln there was a river in his state named "Weeping Water." Lincoln said, "I suppose the Indians out there call it 'Minneboohoo,' since 'Laughing Water' is 'Minnahaha' in their language."

His contemporaries said Lincoln's real success as a comedian was due to a talent for mimicry. He could mimic voices, accents, gestures, postures and facial expressions perfectly.

Fellow attorney Henry Whitney said, "His stories may be literally retold, every word, period and comma, but the real humor perished with Lincoln."

Watch Daniel Day-Lewis perform as Abe Lincoln, Storyteller.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Conference Producers: Have Faith in Fun

No friends to controversy, conference producers like safe.

Safe speakers. Safe subjects. Safe surroundings.

But safe's also stodgy.

Safe doesn't leave room for fun.

Education researcher Dorothy Lucardie interviewed 50 adult students and teachers and discovered fun boosts leaners' motivation, concentration and engagement.

By injecting fun into classrooms, "more adults are encouraged and motivated to participate in learning with enthusiasm for the journey and optimism for the outcomes," Lucardie says.

If your only goals as a conference producer are to herd attendees between sessions and ensure the pastries are peanut free, your goals are obsolete.

As app designers know, fun is the new professional. Just as the lines between "business" and "casual" have blurred, so have those between "serious" and "fun."

Updating the way you design conferences may send chills up your spine.

But, as fun theorist
Bernie DeKoven says, "Have faith in fun."

Friday, February 5, 2016

Marketers Deserve an F in Metaphysics

Marketers deserve to flunk Metaphysics. 

Most, anyway.

They don't get that to be human is to be a world, to wrestle with an all-consuming self.

So their storytelling winds up worlds apart from audiences, as David Meerman Scott observes.

Instead of starting with what audiences think, they start with what audiences should think.

John Steinbeck said it espcially well:

"Of course, people are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule—a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting—only the deeply personal and familiar."

Thursday, February 4, 2016

When is Advertising a Waste?

Marketing maestro Edward Segal contributed today's post. Edward helps REALTOR® associations generate publicity about their activities and shows their leaders, staff and members how to deliver effective presentations.

John Wanamaker, a merchandising pioneer in the 19th and early 20th centuries, said, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Many people still regard advertising as the best way to help position, promote, and sell their products, services, or expertise. After all, if you have enough money, you can say whatever you want, wherever you want, and for as long as you want, to anybody you want. And in today’s competitive marketplace, there are advertising opportunities that simply did not exist a few years ago, such as Facebook.

The trouble with advertising, however, is that unless you are careful, some or all the money you spend on it can be wasted. 

But how can you guarantee every penny of your advertising budget is well spent?

Check your ego

Think you can do it yourself? 

Do not let your ego get in the way of your advertising success. 

The reality is that there is a lot involved in successful advertising, ranging from strategy and creativity to messaging and placement, and you need to know what you are doing every step of the way. Put another way, would you ask a lawyer to perform brain survey on you? Of course not. So why would you believe that you can do your own advertising if you’ve never done it before, or well?

No one cares about your product

You think everyone in the world will want to buy whatever you are selling. Face it: just because you may be in love with what you are promoting does not mean that anyone else will be, or will even care about it. A marketing professional can help ensure that you are reaching the right audience for the right reasons and in right way.

Money pits abound

Here are other major potential budget-wasting mistakes to avoid. You:

  • Do not have a clear marketing message or effective marketing strategy.
  • Do not know your niche in the marketplace, or who your target market is. 
  • Have not weighed the pros and cons of the different advertising outlets. 
  • Don’t know whether a particular advertising medium is the best one to use in order to communicate your message, or if that medium will even reach your target audience.
  • Do not know how often you will have to advertise in order to have an impact.
  • Do not know much money will you have to spend in order to be effective.
  • Do not experiment or test market your messages or strategy before launching your campaign.
  • Pull your advertising before you have given it enough time to work.
Until you have taken steps to avoid these fundamental mistakes, it might make sense to place your advertising plans on hold, and consult a competent marketing professional.

Perhaps if John Wannamker had followed the advice above, half of what he spent on advertising would not have been wasted.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Compartmentalized Thinking

In the 1980s, when mapmaking kingpin Rand McNally first saw the signs of coming industry disruption, what did it do?

It unleashed an all-out PR campaign to persuade carmakers and consumers to call the "glove compartment" the "map compartment."


While thinking like that might have worked in the 1950s, by the 1980s it was nothing other than magical thinking.

Magical thinking, psychologists say, is a product of Darwin's "struggle for existence." When faced with an existential threat, we look for saviors everywhere, as Rand McNally did.

Sometimes those saviors are efficiency experts; more often, salespeople; most often, marketers.

But when your industry's fragile, none of those folks can save you.

To borrow a thought from the 1990s, you have to think different.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Government Communicators: Send Outreach into Orbit

Award-winning video producer Ann Ramsey contributed today's post. She is a senior producer at the US Department of Health & Human Services in Washington, DC.

Although traditionally a favorite of corporate communicators, the Satellite Media Tour (SMT) should be part of every government communicator's toolkit. 

SMTs make efficient use of time-starved spokespeople who want to reach multiple media markets. This winter, for example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services held weekly SMTs throughout the Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment period. The benefit? Without leaving Washington, busy officials reached broadcast journalists all over the country with continuing updates about healthcare enrollment.

Not every government communicator knows the ins and outs of the SMT, so here’s a rundown. While some agencies use PR firms for their SMTs, I will assume your agency has its own broadcast studio, or at least access to one. 

What is an SMT? An SMT is a series of video interviews featuring a spokesperson responding in front of a camera to the audio of each remote interviewer’s questions. The broadcaster remotely receives the sound and picture of the spokesperson, usually via satellite, for play-out in a live news program, or as a recorded media file for editing into a package for later broadcast. SMTs generally take one to four hours of the spokesperson’s time, and interviews are typically scheduled in 10-minute windows. If radio broadcasters are included, the interview series is referred to as an SMT/RMT.

Advantages. An SMT is an opportunity to tap broadcasters in order to introduce, or respond to, a newsworthy or time-sensitive topic. It allows for targeting of media markets, for direct interaction between the spokesperson and reporters, and for the opportunity to tailor the desired message to each market.

Must-haves. At minimum, you need an available spokesperson; a satellite-capable broadcast studio (look up: is there a dish on your building’s roof?); the manpower to pitch to the networks; and a modest budget to rent a block of satellite time.

Prep. First, send out a pitch notification (media alert) that includes your desired topic or announcement, the planned date of the SMT, the spokesperson’s bio, and any pertinent facts that can be used to leverage an interview. Target your top media markets, stations and networks, and work up a schedule of time-slots to fill. Most SMTs are aimed at some combination of TV news shows (morning, noon, evening) and/or radio drive-time shows. Contact local and network news divisions to pitch your SMT. Once your agency’s broadcast studio has a block of satellite-time arranged, notify all participating stations of the satellite coordinates and signal format details.

Pitching tips. Local TV/radio news divisions are busy places. Nonetheless, a government agency can appeal to them by offering the twin advantages of authority and topicality. That a national authority, such as the Secretary of a cabinet-level department, is available to speak directly to a reporter about a hot topic is attractive to a network, particularly a small, local affiliate. Furthermore, offering a local angle can be helpful, if you can tailor your statistics and examples to each media market. Once a news producer is interested in the interview, the concept and timing normally need to be cleared with a news director at the station. That’s why each time-slot may take a couple of phone calls or emails to confirm.

Day-of. Your agency’s broadcast studio will likely handle booking and supervision of the makeup artist, production crew and satellite link-up, as well as delivery of any non-live interviews to the network producers. You will be assigned a studio SMT producer and floor director to oversee the production. You will need to provide the studio talking points to be loaded into the teleprompter, so your spokesperson can refer to them during each interview. It’s smart to confirm that the studio team has all the information for each interview, including time-slot, the station’s network control room telephone number, producer name and number, interviewer name and number, IFB (
“Interruptible Feed Back”) number (used by the studio to dial into each station), backup/engineer number, and delivery method (live or taped).

On-air tips. As a communications professional, you should coach and assist your spokesperson. Be aware that on-air time with the reporter will be short; perhaps just a few minutes. Often the final story is only 90 seconds long. So reporters need your spokesperson to make between one and three points concisely. You should be on site with the spokesperson during the SMT, and coordinate with the studio’s SMT producer and floor director. Let your spokesperson know the first name of each reporter (the reporter will be speaking directly into your spokesperson’s headset). For each interview, the IFB number for the remote station is phoned by the studio’s audio engineer to create a direct audio link between the interviewer and the spokesperson. If needed, this link can be interrupted by the studio SMT producer or floor director, in order to keep the spokesperson informed. (Think of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show listening to a fake mic in his ear and saying, “Wait… I’m being told…”). If any linkup is lost, or any station has to cancel or delay, the studio SMT producer will make on-the-fly changes to maximize the scheduled line-up.

Afterwards. Your agency broadcast studio will deliver any non-live media to stations that have requested taped versions for editing or later play-out. As desired, you may want to follow up with broadcasters for feedback and to confirm that post-delivery airing took place. You can also get a tape of your spokesperson’s on-air answers from your studio, for media training purposes or to keep as an archival record.

Trends. Downsizing in broadcast is having an impact. Today you may find the network news producer and interviewer are one and the same person. If something urgent takes place, the floor director or studio producer must use the IFB to reach the interviewer. Another new wrinkle is that the interviewer may want to do the interview remotely, and so, rather than dialing into a station’s IFB number, the studio dials directly to the interviewer’s own mobile phone. It can be tricky! Social media is also having an impact. You can research the Twitter handle of a given broadcast station, in order to follow and interact on social media before and during a given live interview. And it's now possible to create so-called “air-checks,” permanent internet links to selected news show segments that make them available in play-back to stakeholders after the fact.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Go Ahead, Back Up

As January's "Snowzilla" bore down on the Nation's Capital, the head of DC's Metro told The Washington Post it was wiser to shutter his incompetent agency during the storm than tread "a false floor that everybody knows is false.”

While candid, the exec's expression of foreboding " may not soothe the frustrations of stranded customers," The Post said.

It's easy for customers to blame failures of government on lack of drive (in fact, it's a hobby of mine).

But then you can't explain the shipwrecks of driven profiteers like Target, which last year lost $7 billion on its calamitous rollout of Target Canada.

Its also easy for customers to blame failures of government on "pointy-headed" government execs. 

But then you can't explain the blunders of smart CEOs like Carla Fiorina, who halved HP's stock value while she ran the company.

So what's to blame for systemic failures—both public and private?

As turnaround experts observe, it's leadership's refusal to abandon a strategy that simply doesn't work (like the one illustrated in this insightful video). 

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