Sunday, November 29, 2015

True Underdogs

Acclaimed work-life balance expert Berkeley contributed today's post. He is the author of two national bestsellers, The 4-Minute Work Week and Who Moved My Bowl?

While journalists are riveted on news stories of micro-agression by yoga instructors, law professors and standup comics, little coverage has been given to a trend that—by any measure—is vastly more disturbing.

I refer to the ever-growing number of state laws that permit restaurants to open their dining areas to dogs.

While health laws expressly exclude felines from public dining areas (even in cat cafés!), these so-called "Dining with Dogs" laws allow canines to go anywhere they damn well please.

Nothing gets my back up like species-based discrimination.

The new laws, moreover, add insult to injury, when you consider cats receive no compensation for their appearances on YouTube.

Speaking for my kind, we understand victimization by cultural oppressors full well.

Every time big guy doesn't feed me on time, I know it's not merely neglect.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Bye, Bye, Millennials

Marketers now target Millennials by hobbies, not age, according to Hotwire's Communications Trends Report 2016.

No longer youth-obsessed, brands strive to engage customers through "age-agnostic content" that emphasizes the "hobbies we do for fun and the causes that pique our emotional interest."

Marketers should "forget about age," the report says. 

"Let’s focus our marketing on what really motivates our audience—their passions and the life they choose to live."

The PR firm's report is based on data from 400 communicators in 22 countries.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Face Facts

In a controlled experiment, the UK's Behavioural Insights Team studied the effect stock shots of faces had on the responses of 1 million visitors to the website of a charitable organization.

The researchers found the use of stock photos of people's faces significantly reduced conversions.

They concluded that, because marketers over-expose web users to these kind of photos, users simply tune them out—and ignore any content that accompanies them.

"The use of a stock photo discouraged individuals, who saw it as a marketing gimmick," the researchers said.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Swallow Your Pride

Why do we ask someone to eat "humble pie" when he overreaches?

The expression is a corruption of "umble pie," a tasty 13th century dish filled with spiced bits of animals' hearts, livers, kidneys and lungs. "Umble" derives from nomble, French for "deer innards."

The words "umble" and "humble" are in fact unrelated (the latter derives from the Latin word for "lowly"). But by the 19th century, "umble" had been dropped from the language and, because many Brits omit the spoken "h" at the beginning of words, the expression "umble pie" was mistakenly spelled "humble pie."  People assumed the mysterious dish had something to do with humility.

Chew on that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Tweet Dead People

To paraphrase Faulkner, the past isn't dead; in fact, it isn't even offline.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, devoted decades of his life to spiritualism, the art of communing with the dead.

He wrote 20 books on the subject; lectured about spiritualism throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and North America; and was an active member of the Society for Psychical Research for 37 years.

My medium for communing with the dead is Twitter.

Presently, I receive regular Tweets from Sir Arthur, Thomas Jefferson, the Ancient Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, and the Victorian lawyer and diarist George Templeton Strong.

Tweets from the dead entertain and uplift me while I traverse the underworld (on Metro, not a raft) during my commute.

Indeed, communing with the dead is one of the very best uses of Twitter, which is otherwise largely wasteland. 

I recommend it wholeheartedly, and enjoy the fact the dead can Tweet and pay nothing for their mobile phones.

Woody Allen once wrote, “If man were immortal, do you realize what his meat bills would be?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fancy Pants

The term fancy pants first appeared in 1843 in an ad in The Bangor Daily Whig & Courier. 

In a time when most pants were coarse, the soft twill trousers advertised for sale by auction house Williams & Prince were, indeed, fancy.

Style manuals discourage writers from putting on fancy pants. Never use a fancy word, when a plain one will do.

But, as pscyho-linguist Steven Pinker says in The Sense of Style, the rule is overstated: 

"It's certainly true that a lot of turgid prose is stuffed with polysyllabic Latinisms and flabby adjectives. And showing off with fancy words you barely understand can make you look pompous and occasionally ridiculous. 

"But a skilled writer can enliven and sometimes electrify her prose with the judicious insertion of a surprising word. According to studies of writing quality, a varied vocabulary and the use of unusual words are two of the features that distinguish sprightly prose from mush."

In a 1739 letter, Voltaire offered similar advice to the 24-year old writer Helvétius:

"Beware, lest in attempting the grand, you overshoot the mark and fall into the grandiose: only employ true similes: and be sure always to use exactly the right word."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What Do Women Want?

What do female executives—or male ones, for that matter—want from B2B salespeople?

Personalized content.

Channeling Freud, Harris recently asked, When it comes to sales pitches, what do you want?

Harris learned executives want pitches that are personalized:
  • 89% want pitches personalized to their company’s industry
  • 83% want pitches personalized to their specific problem
  • 70% want pitches personalized to their role in the company
Harris also asked, When it comes to sales emails, what do you want?

The pollsters learned executives want sales emails with content:
  • 84% want case studies
  • 81% want articles
  • 78% want white papers
  • 72% want brochures
  • 72% want videos
We live in an on-demand world; we want what we want, when we want it. Do your salespeople provide it?

NOTE: Today's post is yet another milestone for Copy PointsNo. 500. Coming soon: Post No. 501.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Code Eats Content for Breakfast

Lamenting developers' complicity in content piracy, marketing guru Mark Schaefer recently wrote, "Coding is cheap and fast and plentiful and we seem to be in a media world dominated by cleaning up unintended consequences."

Developers know they're killing creatives, the geese that lay the golden eggs. But, wantonly, they continue to pump out code that rewards content pirates.

There's no real news here, alas. Just old-fashioned avarice.

While encouraged by investors to "disrupt" moribund industries, developers continue to fleece creatives, as they have since the days of Napster.

The injustices they perpetuate make literal the economist's term creative destruction.

Market-oriented, Schaefer recommends a return to patronage, the "Renaissance monetization model," to support content creators.

Raised by parents who worshipped FDR, I recommend revival of the WPA (funded by taxing companies like Facebook.)

What's your idea?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Effecting Change on a National Level: 3 Lessons I've Learned

Youth leader and activist Susan Rosenstock contributed today's post. She is a cofounder of umttr, a nonprofit that champions the caring support and mental well-being of teens.

My 16-year old son Evan, a high school sophomore, took his life on May 20, 2013, leaving a community shocked and saddened. 

Evan had never suffered from any mental illness prior to a basketball injury. That injury led to a back surgery, which then led him to feeling as though he'd lost his identity as a varsity athlete.

Four of Evan's friends came to me and said, “We have to do something to raise awareness about depression and teen suicide because, if this could happen to a kid like Evan, it could happen to anyone.” Their concern became the foundation of our non-profit umttr (you matter).

umttr has grown more than I would have believed possible only two years ago. With that growth, I have learned what it takes to create positive change in a community and on a national scale.

How do you do it? Here are the three most important lessons I can pass on to anyone hoping to effect change:

1. One size does not fit all.

To reach a large audience effectively, you need to understand what motivates that audience. What may work for adults may not work for teenage students. Be sure to tailor your promotional activities to the audience you want to reach by asking that audience what would work. Don’t guess! 

We work with teens and often find ourselves in situations where the adults and teens disagree about how to market to the “teen” audience. We always go with the teens.

2. Ask, ask ask.

Ask a sample of your audience about your promotional plans. Ask sponsors about the best way you can work with them for mutual benefit. Ask other activists if you can help to advance their goals. When in doubt, ask

Here's an example. When the Campaign to Change Direction, a White House Initiative launched by Michelle Obama in March 2015, asked umttr to become a founding member, we made a pledge to educate 70,000 students about the five signs of emotional distress over five years. In just six months we have already reached 50,000. All the campaign had to do was ask.

3. You're only as good as your words.

Language matters. Check with other activists, educators, nonprofits and companies in your field, to make sure the language you’re using promotes effective change.

We try, for example, never to say an individual “committed suicide.” That language still carries the stigma of suicide as a crime. Saying someone “died by suicide” or “ended his life” is preferred. This may seem like a small difference, but changing word-choice alone represents a big step toward recognizing that every suicide can be prevented.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

14 Trust-Busting Ways to Destroy Your Credibility with the Media

Media and presentation skills coach Edward Segal contributed today's post. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, and is author of Profit by Publicity. His post describes 14 ways publicists, spokespersons and executives destroy the media's trust.

Credibility is essential when trying to generate publicity. 

If you are in the public spotlight (or want to be), your ability to instill trust among the media will determine your reputation with reporters, editors, columnists and bloggers.

Trust is about establishing (and maintaining) successful working relationships with those on whom you depend for publicity.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways to get on a reporter’s bad side. Here are some of the major ones, followed by the excuses you might use to justify violating the media's trust.

But then, why would you?

  1. Don’t return e-mails, texts, or phone calls from the media. (Excuse: “Don’t they know I’m busy?”)

  2. Refuse to provide the source of facts, figures, research, or other information that you include in your news releases or answers to questions from the media. (Excuse: “They should believe me, and not question where I got the information.”)

  3. Don’t spell check, proof, or fact check news releases and other press materials. (Excuse: “There’s no such thing as perfection. Beside, who cares if it’s not 100% accurate?”)

  4. If you don’t know the answer to a question posed by a journalist, just make it up. (Excuse: “Politicians do it all the time, so why shouldn’t I?”) 

  5. Don’t post the latest news releases and other information on your Web site. (Excuse: “They could Google it if they want to.”) 

  6. Plagiarize information, research, or quotes. (Excuse: “I have too much on my plate to write it myself. Besides, no one will ever find out!”)

  7. Miss deadlines important to reporters. (Excuse: “I’ve have my own problems!”)

  8. Agree to do media interviews on topics in which you have no knowledge or expertise. (Excuse: “Why should I pass up an opportunity to be quoted by the media?”)

  9. Cite outdated or questionable facts, figures or other information in your press materials or conversations with reporters. (Excuse: “I just don’t have time to update all of that stuff myself!”)

  10. Do or say something that will make the reporter look bad in the eyes of her editor, colleagues or audience. (Excuse: “Now she knows how it feels!”) 

  11. Ignore time limits that reporters may impose on their interviews with you. (Excuse: “I have a lot to say!”)

  12. Deny you gave the reporter information that proved to be false or wrong, even though you did. (Excuse: “What difference does it make? Reporters get things wrong all the time.” 

  13. Show up or phone in late for media interviews; better yet, don’t show up or call in at all. (Excuse: “I was having a really bad day and had much more important things to do.”)

  14. Forget to send information to a journalist that was important for their story. (Excuse: “What’s the big deal? If it was that important, she could have gotten it from someone else.”)
  • Why is trust more important than ever?

  • Find out by reading Path of Persuasion.
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2015

    The Death of Social Media Marketing

    In a recent survey by Hubspot, marketers claim social media is the third "most overrated" marketing tactic (only traditional and digital advertising are more so).

    Hubspot blogger Lindsay Kolowich attributes marketers' weariness to four causes:
    • Marketers struggle with the choice of the best social media tools
    • They find social marketing wasteful and inefficient
    • They lack a social media strategy
    • They can't distinguish idle chatter from meaningful conversation
    Before sealing the lid on social marketing's coffin, I'll repeat the most famous statement ever made by a marketer, Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker:

    "Half my advertising is wasted, I just don't know which half."

    A career in marketing has convinced me the activity is inherently inefficient; that there's no magic bullet; and that, above all else, clarity, frequency and consistency matter.

    Who told you it would be easy?

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    Government Communicators: Turn Citizens into Fans

    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.  

    Government communicators spend their time educating citizens about what their departments do.

    Video, distributed through broadcast media and public-facing government Web sites, has long played a starring role in those efforts.

    But citizens today, as they consume video at unprecedented rates, expect it to be served on social media platforms such as YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter.

    With forethought and creativity, government communicators can use video to join the social media conversation—without breaking the bank or running roughshod over internal guidelines. Here's how:

    Learn from peers. Organizations such as Federal Communicators Network, the National Association of Government Communicators, and the National Press Club will help you plan video strategies. Scanning the YouTube channels of agencies with goals similar to yours will also help. Government channels are listed in the GSA Social Media Registry.

    Look around you. Government communicators can develop video content by cultivating in-house officials who come across well on camera (often, presence is better than pedigree). If an agency hosts an important forum, it’s a good idea to videotape it and amplify the link. At almost any event, an area can be set up for interviewing participants. If videotaping isn’t possible, audio-taping and photography are good alternatives.

    Use inside help. Government communicators are smart to consider in-house video production, before hiring a PR firm. Many government departments already have TV studios with plenty of capacity. If your agency doesn't have one, take a look at sister agencies. In-house producers can save taxpayers' money.

    Channel your videos. YouTube goes out of its way to help government agencies. For example, if asked, YouTube won't run ads on their channels. Government communicators should get in touch with Google to learn more.

    Tailor the length. Video content on FaceBook and Twitter needs to be "snackable"
    10-20 seconds long. Longer content belongs on dedicated video platforms, such as YouTube or iTunes.

    Stay current. Keeping abreast of production trends helps government communicators create successful videos. Hot video trends are motion graphics, film-like shooting styles, and true-to-life testimonials. Audio and video podcasting are also surging in popularity.

    Do it right. It behooves government communicators to preserve standards of quality and integrity on social media. When inviting public response, introduce only substantive topics, rather than “name this dog” sorts of trivia.

    Mind the store. Comments, shares, and average length-per-view will give you an idea of audience engagement and are useful to track. Curating incoming comments allows urgent questions to be re-directed, and inappropriate comments to be deleted. Dated video material is best removed and archived.

    Get found. The public turns to government for many urgent matters. Bizarre hashtags or “click-bait” naming strategies only stand in its way. Many highly viewed government YouTube videos sport transparent titles, such as “What are the Symptoms of the Flu?” Clear tags and titles take full advantage of how the public actually uses search engines.

    Reach your viewers. YouTube’s built-in analytics reveal viewer demographics you can use to guide future outreach. 
    Viewers should always be encouraged to subscribe to an agency’s channel, so new content will reach them. Stakeholders and partners can help you amplify a message to specific audiences.

    Let it grow. Steady addition of new video episodes builds viewership. It often takes variations on a theme before results emerge. Experimenting with different versions, styles and platforms is well worthwhile.

    Monday, November 16, 2015

    Short Shorts

    Who likes short shorts?
    Short-form content has three advantages over long-form, says journalist and teacher Roy Peter Clark.

    Power, wit and polish.

    Short-form's brevity gives it power, as Seth Godin proves every day.

    Brevity also lets writers be witty, as David Meerman Scott often proves.

    And brevity lets writers polish words and expose their luster, as Dan Bailes does.

    Among short-form gems, Clark includes the arresting (but oft-forgotten) photo caption.

    Photo captions force readers to hit the brakes, says blogger Sean D'Souza, preventing them from "zooming madly from the start to the end" of your content.

    Curiosity—our compulsion to "be right" and "be in the know"—compels us to slow down and read captions, D'Souza says.

    We can't help ourselves.

    Harvest Time

    Salesman Ray Kroc was 52 when he asked the McDonald brothers to let him franchise their drive-in.

    Composer Ludwig van Beethoven was 54 when he wrote Symphony No. 9.

    Pharmacist John Pemberton was 55 when he started to sell his invention, Coca-Cola.

    Pamphleteer Daniel Defoe was 58 when he penned Robinson Crusoe.

    Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock was 59 when he directed Vertigo.

    Gas station operator Harland Sanders was 65 when he opened his first fried chicken restaurant.

    Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was 70 when he designed Fallingwater.

    Even though I've worn out two dozen erasers in my Saturday afternoon drawing classes, I feel a thrill every time the marks resemble the thing in front of me.

    Any gardener will tell you, patience and blind faith are the keys to an autumn harvest.

    "Here's to the late bloomers, holding on 'til our time arrives," says songwriter and storyteller Korby Lenker.

    Learn more about later bloomers from Dan Pink and Malcolm Gladwell.

    Thursday, November 12, 2015

    The Positive Side of Rejection

    Washington, DC-based freelance writer Dan Bailes contributed today's post. His clients include the MacArthur Foundation, National Geographic, the Smithsonian and the State Department. Between assignments, Dan explores storytelling through his blog, The Vision Thing.

    Whenever I present a creative project to a client, there's always the possibility they'll have problems, will want to change it, or just won't like it. No one wants to have their work rejected or sent back for fixes. Still, there's a positive side to rejection. 
    After creating and presenting hundreds of projects for clients, here's what I've discovered:

    1. Not everyone will "get it" or like it, whatever "it" is. You should expect that.

    2. When you present your project for review or comment, people rarely say, "It's great!" It's more likely they'll say something needs to be changed or fixed. If you expect that, it won't upset you when it happens.

    3. It's not personal. Learn to keep a professional distance between you and your work. Stay objective and keep an open mind.

    4. Everyone has an opinion. Just because they have one doesn't mean they're "right." Even so, listen to the comments and try to understand what they are telling you.

    5. Ultimately, you have to decide if the criticism is useful. That's why keeping an open mind is important. A comment may ultimately help you think about a problem in a new light.

    6. When someone criticizes your work, listen to what they tell you, then repeat back what you hear so you both know you're on the same page.

    7. Don't be afraid of criticism—it can help you improve the work. You should be focused on improving the work too.

    8. Instead of trying to defend your work, ask questions until you are clear about what underlies the comments and criticism. Then you have an opportunity to find a solution that will work for everyone.

    9. Stay positive and don't be discouraged. Follow these guidelines and you can turn rejection into an opportunity.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2015

    How to Turn Your News Releases into News Stories

    Media and presentation skills coach Edward Segal contributed today's post. He has placed stories in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, and is author of Profit by Publicity.

    The news release is one of the most important and effective ways to tell the media and the world about you or your organization, what you are doing, why you are doing it, when you are doing it, and how you are doing it. These one- to two-page documents should:
    • Answer the all-important question of “who cares and why?” 
    • Include the who, what, when, where, why and how of your story (whether it’s an announcement about the hiring of new employees, the opening of a new office, or an important award or recognition your company has received).
    The best news releases are self-fulfilling prophecies: the more they are written as real news stories and sent to reporters who will be interested in them, the more likely it is that they will become news stories. 

    Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all, fill-in-the-blanks news release. Rather, you should think of your news release as a custom-made dress or suit that must be carefully tailored to tell your own story in the most effective and attention-getting way possible. Here are 11 steps for preparing your own tailor-made news release: 

    1. Include your name, phone numbers and e-mail, social media and Web site information at the top of the first page. This will make it as easy as possible for reporters to contact you if have questions about the release or want to interview you.
    2. If appropriate, place your announcement in the context of relevant trends or developments.
    3. Organize the information as if it were a pyramid, with the most critical information at the top and the least important at the bottom.
    4. Summarize the announcement with an attention-getting headline.

    5. Write a succinct opening paragraph that summarizes your story or announcement.
    6. Explain the impact your story or announcement will have on audiences of the news organizations that receive the release.
    7. Insert a short quote (no more than 35-50 words) by from company official about the announcement. 

    8. If appropriate, include a call for action.
    9. Include relevant facts, figures and background information. 

    10. If necessary, include a picture that illustrates the announcement, accompanied by a descriptive brief caption (also called a cut line).
    11. To signify the end of the release, insert -30- or ### at the bottom on the last page of the release and center it on the page.
    In addition to writing your releases as if they were newspaper stories, be sure to abide by the same rules for grammar and punctuation that reporters follow when they write their articles. Refer to the Associated Press Stylebook for guidance.

    While it is certainly not standard practice, if the release is well-written and meets the criteria of a legitimate news story, sometimes a news organization will simply run the release, or use major excerpts from it, exactly as you gave it to them.

    Lost in a Daydream

    One hundred years ago this month, Einstein stood before the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin and read his paper describing the General Theory of Relativity, "the most beautiful theory in the history of science," according to biographer Walter Isaacson.

    Isaacson wants to use the centennial to celebrate daydreaming, as he says in a recent op-ed in The New York Times.

    Einstein concocted the theory not by recasting formulas, but by daydreaming about light beams and billiard balls.

    Isaacson argues we should goad kids to accomplish more than memory-work. "We should stimulate their minds’ eyes as well."

    "Everything of value in our world started at some point with an idle daydream," writes marketer Mark Schaefer in Born to Blog"Dreaming helps us connect the dots. Dreaming is mandatory for seeing the world as it should be, rather than how it is."

    Take a few minutes today, grab a coffee or chocolate bar, and celebrate Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

    But, please, don't interrupt your daydream.

    Monday, November 9, 2015


    Before the annual blizzard of baloney blinds you to Christmas' raison d'être, watch a wonderful spot from across the pond.

    "Man on the Moon," from retailer John Lewis, cost at least £1 million, according to The Telegraph, and "though formulaic, has the hankie factor."

    According to Rachel Swift, head of marketing for John Lewis, the commercial displays all the hallmarks of the company's 150-year old brand.

    "The strategy behind our campaigns is always about thoughtful gifting.”

    Photo courtesy of Ann Ramsey; shot November 1 in the National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC.

    Sunday, November 8, 2015

    Furnish Your Brain with Care

    Research by neurologists reveals multitasking clobbers the short-term memories of people over 60.

    For a 2010 study, four doctors at the University of California, San Francisco divided adult subjects into two groups.

    The individuals in one group were asked to examine a nature scene and, after a 15-second pause, answer a series of questions about it. These subjects had no trouble with the task.

    The individuals in the second group were asked to perform the same task, but were interrupted. While answering the questions about the nature scene, they were shown a human face, and asked to identify the person’s gender and age. The doctors then resumed asking their questions about the nature scene.

    The subjects in the second group who were under 60 had no trouble answering all the doctors' questions. But the subjects over 60 struggled to answer the questions posed after the interruption.

    During the experiment, MRI scans of the subjects' brains revealed big differences in the brains of younger and older people, after the interruption.

    Among the younger people, the brain-areas engaged when processing the picture of the human face shown switched off immediately after that interruption. But, among the people over 60, those brain-areas remained engaged after the interruption. The over-60 brains brains couldn't instantly switch back to the original task.

    Besides concluding that multitasking erases the short-term memories of people over 60, the doctors also believe multitasking impairs the formation of long-term memories, because, to take shape at all, long-term memories require short-term ones.

    Interruptions are inevitable. So how can people over 60 stay sharp, minimizing "senior moments" and maximizing long-term memories?

    My prescription: Furnish your brain with care.

    Leaf through any lifestyle magazine and you'll find an article that insists a serene mind requires a clutter-free bedroom (or living room, sitting room, den or home office).

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle thought a sharp mind did, too.

    In A Study in Scarlet, Dr. Doyle's detective Sherlock Holmes tells his sidekick Watson the brain is like a "little empty attic."

    The wise worker furnishes the attic with care.

    "A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things," Holmes says.

    "Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

    Unless you're Watson—IBM's, not Doyle's Watson—letting trivia clutter the attic diminishes your ability to focus.

    Literary man Dr. Samuel Johnson believed something similar.

    "The true art of memory is the art of attention," Johnson said, referring to our ability to retain what we read.

    "No man will read with much advantage, who is not able, at pleasure, to evacuate his mind, or who brings not to his author an intellect defecated and pure, neither turbid with care, nor agitated by pleasure. If the repositories of thought are already full, what can they receive? If the mind is employed on the past or future, the book will be held before the eyes in vain."

    Saturday, November 7, 2015

    Your Speech Insurance Policy

    Media and presentation skills coach Edward Segal contributed today's post. Edward has helped hundreds of executives deliver memorable presentations. His advice is based on his experience as a journalist, public speaker, PR consultant, press secretary, and association CEO.

    Opportunities to speak in public can be golden opportunities to discuss or demonstrate your expertise, accomplishments, activities or opinions. 

    Here’s my checklist of items to keep in mind before you accept any speaking invitation, and suggestions on how to prepare for and get the most out of your presentation. 

    Consider it, if you will, your speech insurance policy.

    • Don’t accept speaking invitations for which you are unqualified or unprepared (don’t let your ego get in the way).
    • Ask the organization if there is anything special you should know about the audience or the group (forewarned is forearmed).
    • Know the basics of the speaking situation (format, length, time, location, etc.). 
    • Dress appropriately (usually one level above the audience). 
    • Remove any distracting jewelry, name tags or badges before you start (it’s all about you). 
    • Stand out from your backdrop (dress in contrasting colors so you don’t disappear).
    • Check yourself in a mirror before you go on (lipstick, food in teeth, straighten tie, check zippers and buttons, etc.). 
    • Test out the mike beforehand to know how far to hold it from your mouth. 
    • Adjust the mike so it does not hide your face.
    • Do not assume that just because you may a have a loud voice people will be able to hear you without a mike. 
    • Assume nothing will work the way it should and plan accordingly (Murphy’s Law). 
    • Prioritize and limit your messages (limit them to 3 or 4).
    • Customize your presentation to meet the needs of the audience or organization. 
    • Answer the two key questions every audience has for every speaker and topic: Who cares? and Why should I care? 
    • Make sure they understand you (refrain from using jargon, buzzwords, and technical terms and phrases your audience may not understand).
    • Practice your presentation, but not to the point where it sounds memorized.
    Don’t Talk to Strangers
    • Greet people as they arrive (this will guarantee that you will not be speaking to strangers, but to people you’ve just met). 
    Waiting to Go on
    • Take one last bathroom break (better safe than sorry).
    • While waiting to be introduced or, if on a panel, do not look bored or distracted while others are speaking (pay attention!). 
    • Know your stuff (your material, arguments, facts and figures).
    • Know what you will say to open and conclude your remarks, and eliminate any unnecessary information in between. 
    • Be sure to thank them for inviting you. 
    • Tell them why you are there (don’t assume they know).
    • Show your story, don’t just tell it (find and use charts, slides, props, etc.).
    • Keep the audience awake (don’t bore them).
    • Don’t get rattled if you forget some of your points; the audience will not know what you forgot to say. 
    • Arrange for someone to give you a two-minute warning (don’t speak longer than scheduled). 
    • Do not thank them for listening (it’s demeaning to you and to them).
    • Give the audience the gift of time (end early).

    Friday, November 6, 2015

    You Must Remember This

    In a prized scene in Casablanca, the crooked cop Louis orders the patrons to leave Rick's Café Américain.

    "How can you close me up? On what grounds?" Rick demands.

    "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" Louis replies, and pockets his winnings without missing a beat.

    Hey, Louis, would you be shocked to find that 96% of customers think marketers lack integrity? Only 4% think otherwise, according to the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

    It's little wonder, when every ad, email, brochure or news release—like Louis—wants to "round up the usual suspects:"

    Acme, the industry-leading provider of unique, customizable, feature-rich software, is proud to announce its dynamic new end-to-end solution designed for exceptional performance and total scalability for massive worldwide deployments with maximum flexibility in meeting today's most urgent business needs.

    Marketers, take note: When your claims are more enticing than the customer experience, you jeopardize your integrity.

    Why not stick with the facts?

    You must remember this: a kiss is just a kiss.

    Thursday, November 5, 2015

    To Gate or Not to Gate, That Is the B2B Content Marketing Question

    Customer acquisition and retention expert Ruth P. Stevens contributed today's post. Named one of the "100 Most Influential People in B2B Marketing" by B2B Magazine, Ruth consults to large and small businesses and teaches at business schools around the world. Her latest book, co-authored with Theresa Kushner, is B2B Data-Driven Marketing.

    There’s a spirited debate in B2B marketing about whether it’s best to give away information (aka “content,” like white papers and research reports) to all comers, versus requiring web visitors to provide some information in exchange for a content download. In other words, to gate your content or not to gate. The debate involves aspects of both ROI and philosophy. Myself, I lean toward the “gate it” camp, and here’s why.

    I know that plenty of very smart and well-respected Internet marketing experts argue that free—unimpeded—distribution of content encourages both trust and, perhaps more importantly, wide dispersal and sharing of information. You’ll get to a much bigger audience, who will be educated on the solutions to their business problems, will be grateful for the free info and, one hopes, will think of you when they’re ready to buy.

    The problem is that this model leaves marketers in a serious quandary. We don’t have any way of knowing who is reading our informative, educational and helpful content. We are left sitting on our thumbs, unable to take any proactive steps toward building relationships with these potential prospects. All we can do is wait for them to contact us and, we hope, ask us to participate in an RFP process, or, more likely, give them more info and more answers to their questions. Is that any way to sustain and grow a business relationship—not to mention meet a revenue target? In my view, it leaves too much to chance.

    Myself, I grew up as a marketer in the world of measurable direct and database marketing. So it’s no surprise that I favor the gating side of the fence. I like marketing campaigns that provide predictable results. Where I can stand up in court and show a history of my campaign response rates, conversion rates, and cost-per-lead numbers. And most important, where I can reasonably expect to deliver a steady stream of qualified leads to my sales counterparts, who are relying on me to help them meet their quotas.

    That’s my argument for gating content in B2B marketing. I understand the logic of the other side. And I see clearly situations where it makes sense to let the information run free—as a teaser, for example, to persuade prospects to come and get the richer information that is so useful that they’ll be falling all over themselves to give me their name, title, company name and email address. But what about you? Where do you sit in this debate? It’s a biggie.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2015


    Washington, DC-based freelance writer Dan Bailes contributed today's post. His clients include the MacArthur Foundation, National Geographic, the Smithsonian and the State Department. Between assignments, Dan explores storytelling through his blog, The Vision Thing.

    We make assumptions all the time.

    At a meeting we might say "yes" to an idea, a project or a goal, but what do we expect with that "yes?" We might assume we're all on the same page—but is that really true?

    On the road to success, the easiest way to stumble is to ignore expectations.

    We often run into unspoken expectations when we're asked to create something specific, like a report, a video or an event. Since expectations are rarely expressed, they don't come to the fore until you present your work. Then you might hear: "Oh, that's not what I had in mind at all."

    We can have a conversation, agree on goals, move a project forward, and still hit a brick wall because we haven't asked key questions.

    How do you tease out what your boss, client or colleague expects before you start on a project? You ask questions:
    • What do you want to accomplish?
    • Why are you launching this project in the first place?
    • Who is the project for?
    • How will the project meet unmet needs or solve a problem?
    • Once this project is out there, what do you envision happening—how will people respond?
    Asking the right questions up front will help you make better decisions down the road.

    What's the takeaway? Don't assume—ask!
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