Archive for August, 2012

Good quotes are conversational, not canned

I was reading an article about the late Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the Moon, and was taken by the last paragraph of a statement issued by his family:

“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

I love this statement. It’s simple, heart-warming, and reflects Armstrong’s passion and humble personality. It acknowledges the loss of a true hero and simultaneously brings a smile to your face.

The statement also jumped out because it offers a stark contrast to the highfalutin, jargon-filled language so common in today’s business and political world. You know the ones I mean. Those that speak of dedication and commitment to the mission, valuable assets, or strategic plans.

Quotes should be, above all, human. The reader/listener should feel that the statement is spoken to them, from one person to another. Just like the Armstrong statement.

Just for kicks, let’s look at some memorable lines from literature, film, and advertising that are rewritten in this over-the-top, corporate speak:

Rather than spending considerable time in the planning and analysis phases, we recommend you simply begin your chosen activity.

The Terminator
Upon successful completion of my assignment, I shall return to continue our one-on-one interaction.

Based on some newly-acquired data, it’s highly likely that this task will require a larger, more substantial vessel.

Moby Dick
It would be most appropriate to reference me by my generally accepted moniker, Ismail.

Wizard of Oz
Toto, my canine associate, it appears that after a thorough investigation and analysis of the current situation, the only logical conclusion we can arrive at is that we are no longer in our domicile of Kansas.

Three Musketeers
We together combined to form a single, cohesive unit, which in-turn benefits each contributor individually.

I bet you can add some, too. Let’s hear them …


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Looking for brand ambassadors? Try your employees

Company executives spend countless hours and dollars looking for a competitive edge, from launching a new marketing campaign to sprucing up the lobby with customer-friendly amenities. Unfortunately, in these efforts, many organizations often overlook a potentially potent weapon: employees.

Sure, ad campaigns can certainly drive sales, consultants bring great ideas, and tactics like Mommy Bloggers can boost your credibility with third-party endorsements, but focusing on employees — your human resources —gives you a remarkable edge.

First, your employees are generally the point of contact with customers; the face of your organization. Think back to a time where you received terrific service, and how you felt about the company. Good employees can leave a great impression, while unhappy employees reflect poorly on your company.

Secondly, employees frequently field questions from family and friends at everything from neighborhood barbeques to Little League games. Happy, well-informed employees will present your organization in a much better light. Unhappy employees likely use the opportunity to bad-mouth you.

So, what’s the best way to engage staff? For starters, speak with them. Ask them how they’re doing, what they’re seeing on the front lines, and for suggestions to improve your business. You’re still the boss, and nothing says you have to implement every idea, but those closest to the work know it best, and that’s valuable in this difficult economy.

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7 things to know before speaking with a reporter

Speaking with a news reporter is a great way to share your story with the public. While many find the task stressful, following a few simple tips will help place your best foot forward.

Nothing is off the record
This is the golden rule, and far too frequently broken. In a nutshell, anything you say is fair game. This includes everything that comes between hello and good-bye, regardless of whether the camera is rolling. The reporter is there to relay what he or she sees or hears, and that right is protected by the First Amendment.

And please, don’t ask the reporter “cut out” something you said, which simply calls attention to the comment and elevates its importance.

The best way to keep something off the 6 o’clock news is to leave it out of your remarks.

Prepare and practice
Make a list of 3-5 key messages you want to share with the reporter and try to weave them into the conversation whenever possible. Many reporters will end an interview by asking if you’d like to add anything else. This is a good time to round out your message with any lagging points, or to reiterate the one or two most crucial.

A good practice exercise is to develop a list of anticipated questions, and respond with one or more of your key messages.

Don’t give them another story
Years ago, I gave a local reporter an exclusive with our CEO, the top executive at a Fortune 500 financial institution. During the conversation, the CEO mentioned that online banking — still in its infancy — was “sticky,” meaning that once people set up an account, they were less likely to jump to a competitor. The story that ran was about on-line banking, and we were mentioned in just two sentences.

Focus on your audience
A friend gave me this terrific piece of advice. Although you’re speaking with a reporter, remember your true audience — the readers, viewers, or listeners — if things become heated. The public doesn’t see the entire interview, only the clip of you snapping at the camera.

Keep it simple
Reporters, especially those in television or radio, generally work on a short deadline. Giving them too much information to sort through makes their job more difficult — and increases the risk that they’ll omit your key messages. So, be brief, and don’t try to force too much into the conversation. If the story works out well, you can always pitch the idea of a follow-up story.

Play ‘Show and Tell’
Because television is a visual medium, reporters will need some sort of video to support the story.  For example, a former client was leading the effort to plant thousands of trees in town, so we created a kick-off event that featured the city arborist and a group of children planting trees at a local park. Without this visual to support our message — we’re raising money to plant more trees — television would have likely passed up the story.

Be yourself
Speak as if you would to a friend: conversational, relaxed, and confident. Avoid industry terms, acronyms, and 50-cent words. It’s okay to say you don’t have an answer, and that you’ll call the reporter with the information prior to deadline.

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