Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

Archives for 2009

The Most Important Second

Crashing waves Pt Pleasant“Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.”—Spanish Proverb

Much has been written about time and procrastination. We often forget how precious time is until we are faced with a crisis, usually a health or mortality issue. We spend obscene amounts of time watching mindless movies and TV shows, reviewing our past mistakes, and worrying about future problems that will never come to pass. Many of us read books and attend presentations on time management and productivity.

The Clock

And here we are preparing for New Year’s Eve when everyone is keenly aware of the time. We  think back on how our year was. We look ahead to our goals and dreams for the next 12 months. We stay up until midnight, count down the seconds, and watch festivities on TV. We kiss our loved ones. That one second seems so important. Then it’s gone. In that split second of the clock striking 12, the calendar page turns and…here we are.

What’s really changed? Most of us go back to the same patterns and habits that frustrated us last year. We fail to take on new challenges and opportunities to learn, grow, and change. We’re stuck in a comfort zone of living and communicating mediocrity.

You don’t need a clock or resolution to become a better person and discover your gifts and talents. you simply need to decide that it’s time.  You can decide in February, July or September. Don’t procrastinate on living your life and reaching your potential.

Here’s the bottom line:  The most important second is not on New Year’s Eve. It’s right now. Enjoy, and plan to kick some serious butt!!!

25 annoying communication quirks of other people

Winter treeThe communication habits and styles of other people can be awfully irritating. It’s never you and I. It’s always someone else.

That’s the consensus in my workshops and seminars when I ask people about communication hang-ups, quirks, and pet peeves. Okay, I admit I am certainly guilty of a few (not saying which ones!) How about you?

Complete this sentence: I get annoyed with other people and their communication habits when they:

1. Interrupt me

2. Finish my sentences

3. Fail to look at me

4. Chew gum loudly

5. Type on the computer while we’re on the phone

6. Mumble on a voicemail message

7. Lack clarity in project directions

8. Write their “out of office” auto reply with spelling errors

9. Complain, criticize, complain, criticize….

10. Say their phone number so fast on a voicemail that I can’t get it after replaying it seven times

11. Ask me how I am and their facial expression clearly reveals they aren’t listening and don’t truly care

12. Keep repeating information and making conversations and correspondence painfully long

13. Inject nervous giggles or laughter into conversations that simply aren’t funny

14. Forget to say their name in a voicemail message

15. Try to impress me by “topping” whatever I say

16. Get distracted with their gadgets and technology in meetings, conversations, and networking events

17. Talk too fast or too slow

18. Give wimpy handshakes

19. Send a 3-page email when a paragraph would suffice

20. Plan lengthy meetings with no agenda, and then order food

21. Talk louder to people with accents

22.  Deliver presentations in a monotone voice

23. Eat while on the phone

24. Call people out (in social media) in public instead of sending a private message

25. Forget to update their voicemail to let people know they are on vacation for 2 weeks

The red flags are up my friend. What can you do to improve your communication?

PS: If you’ve enjoyed this post, I invite you to check out my new Kindle book,  The Badass Book of Social Media and Business Communication. It offers tip-sheets and articles on interpersonal communication, online etiquette, branding, PR, blogging, content development, and more. 

(Photo Credit: Vietor)

Your 20-Point Communication Success Checklist

DSC054372009 was a rough year for many of us. It was also an exciting time for people who are embracing new opportunities to communicate, use Social Media, build new business strategies and kick-start their organizations.

Marketing and business guru Tom Peters says, “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.”

Technology and the changing economic landscape demand that we approach our missions,  creativity, communication and business development strategies with a fine balance of care, patience, vision and long-term growth.

Consider what you have accomplished and learned in the last year or two. Think about how you deliver your message in our “crazy busy” world. Whether it’s Public Relations, websites, Twitter or sales calls, your communication must be top-notch. It must be distinctive and compelling. You must rise above the noise and clutter in the marketplace to truly excel and shine.

Be brutally honest when answering these questions.

Are you:

1. Communicating a message to the public  (website, Social Media profiles, brochures, interviews and blogs) that is cohesive, congruent and compelling?

2. Using a sales pitch or are you focused on building relationships? (The latter is the right response)

3. Developing new levels of self-confidence without being pompous or arrogant?

4. Creating a buzz from your elevator speech, networking and Social Media activities?

5. Learning communication and sales strategies from a mentor in your field?

6. Asking trusted colleagues or friends for honest feedback on your marketing materials, presentations, and communication skills?

7. Blogging, making video’s and watching online conversations to head off negative customer service mentions and problems?

8. Listening and learning from top-notch public speakers on how you can improve your presentations?

9. Reading trade publications and books to help you with the learning curve?

10. Effectively using traditional media (print, radio & TV) to publicize your company?

11. Taking advantage of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in your articles, press releases and posts?

12. Providing valuable content and authenticity in your blogs, articles and newsletters?

13. Asking quality questions and truly listening to people?

14. Approaching others with a positive attitude that communicates success, excellence and credibility?

15. Communicating results and value to prospects and clients?

16. Building bridges instead of walls in conflicts and disagreements?

17. Effectively using your body language and voice to build rapport and trust?

18. Energizing people you spend time with or dragging them down with negativity?

19. Offering your expertise to other professionals through their radio or video segments, blogs or newsletters?

20. Shifting your mindset and communication from “What’s In It For Me?” to “How Can I Be of Service?”

Above all, do you have the passion needed to have an amazing 2010?

It’s important to take stock and think about what has worked and what may have fallen short. All of this, and your willingness to learn, can produce huge results in the coming year.

How to Communicate with Charisma: A 7-Point Checklist

Joan of arcCharisma is defined as magnetism, allure, charm, and appeal. It’s a magical quality of communication that many leaders possess. Whether you agree with their philosophies or not, people like Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, Jack Welch, and Rachael Ray are among the charismatic faces and personalities of our world.

Charisma is not connected to money, fame, or power. There are plenty of wealthy and well-known people who are recluses. They lack that special sparkle in their personality.

People with this magnetism and allure look and act like winners. They tend to have big dreams and reach for them.

Charismatic people:

1. Show kindness and empathy towards others.

2. Enjoy engaging people and know how to build rapport.

3. Convey a genuine interest in the people they encounter — from the boss to the dry cleaner.

4. Have a good sense of humor, but never at the cost of embarrassing someone.

5. Show their strength of character.

6. Laugh, smile, and appear comfortable in their own skin.

7. Possess a special style that draws people to them — like a magnet.

Charisma is a quality that can be learned. Like many other communication styles and habits, charisma is empowering, uplifting, and important to success. It’s connected to self-confidence, leadership, and sales.

Do you fit the bill? Are people drawn to you, or is there room for improvement?

To learn more about critical business communication skills, sign up for my free, 21-day video series, “Speaking of Communication.” It covers social media, PR, news, Emotional Intelligence, and public speaking. 

(Photo Credit: DBKing)

10 More Things Clients Say That Scare PR Professionals

Well, my first blog titled “10 Things Clients Say That Scare PR Professionals” got lots of great feedback, re-tweets, comments and laughs…so I am sharing 10 more. Consider it a gift of levity this Holiday season.

problem customerRemember, I love my clients like you love yours…but we often need to educate them about the behind-the-scenes wranglings with news reporters. We are walking a fine line to balance client needs and desire for business growth while respecting what is newsworthy and how we can help reporters get their jobs done. All of this while striving to keep our reputations and credibility intact. Makes for interesting dinner conversation.

10 More Things Clients Say That Scare PR Professionals:

1. My wife did a little PR years ago before the kids were born. She’ll help with the editing.

2. Where will you be mailing the press release to? You may want to use my list, it’s only 3 years old.

3. Oh, I don’t like that Social Media stuff where everyone knows what you’re doing.

4. You can send out the release today but I’ll be away for two weeks.

5. I added two quotes to the bylined article you drafted.

6. Blah Blah Blah (for 10 minutes), but you’re the expert….(smile)

7. That’s a wonderful story idea! The Board meets next week so they can discuss if we should move forward. No you don’t have to be there, I’ll fill them in.

8. You don’t have to come to the event tonight. We can take the pictures and e-mail them to you.

9. Can I get a copy of the radio (or TV) interview from last week? We must have missed it when it aired.

10. I always prefer to see the article before it’s printed. I’m sure the reporter won’t mind.

One step up, two steps back.

(Photo Credit: D.C. Atty)

The 45 Commandments of Public Speaking

Public speakingPublic speaking is important in the business world. It allows you to showcase your expertise, services and talents…and helps build your self-confidence. It can also help to build your business (I am living proof). You may be asked to provide a presentation to a few colleagues in your office conference room or speak to 50 people a professional networking meeting.

Moses had 10 Commandments but I’m offering 45–The 45 Commandments of Public  Speaking.

  1. Thou shalt know your audience and what their challenges are.
  2. Thou shalt never belittle or embarrass a person who asks a question.
  3. Thou shalt always arrive early and be prepared and relaxed.
  4. Thou shalt network with the audience before the program begins.
  5. Thou shalt have a memorable open and close.
  6. Thou shalt be able to adjust the length of your presentation on the fly if necessary.
  7. Though shalt engage and involve your audience.
  8. Thou shalt never turn your back on the audience (in other words, walk backwards)
  9. Thou shalt not hide behind the podium.
  10. Thou shalt not tell jokes or stories that could be offensive–to anyone.
  11. Thou shalt not read your presentation, speech or remarks.
  12. Thou shalt be able to deliver your presentation even if technology fails.
  13. Thou shalt not overclutter PowerPoint slides with too much text.
  14. Thou shalt stand on the right side of the screen so the audience reads the slide and easily moves their eyes back to you.
  15. Thou shalt be honest with Q&A; if you don’t know the answer, it’s OK to admit it.
  16. Thou shalt approach the platform or stage with confidence, poise and grace.
  17. Thou shalt be authentic and genuine.
  18. Thou shalt provide your own introduction and avoid having your bio read aloud.
  19. Thou shalt finish on time.
  20. Thou shalt dress professionally.
  21. Thou shalt share a story or two that reveals your personality and drives your message home.
  22. Thou shalt be aware of your vocal habits, pacing, pausing and inflection.
  23. Thou shalt prepare your presentation with relevant and concise information that flows logically.
  24. Thou shalt look in the mirror and check your appearance before the presentation.
  25. Thou shalt use your gestures, eye contact and body language to your advantage.
  26. Thou shalt understand how to effectively inject humor without using political, sexual or religious jokes or stories.
  27. Thou shalt set the ground rules for technology (Twitter, backroom, texting, laptops, etc.) with your contact person and audience before the program.
  28. Thou shalt know the power of silence and how to use it effectively in public speaking.
  29. Thou shalt work on developing your own natural style, charisma and delivery.
  30. Thou shalt understand the age group and learning style of your audience.
  31. Thou shalt get your audience thinking, feeling, reacting and involved.
  32. Thou shalt  accept compliments with a friendly smile and “Thank You” after the program.
  33. Thou shalt keep your hands open as to welcome comments, input and ideas from participants.
  34. Thou shalt maintain control of your audience when leading activities and small group exercises.
  35. Thou shalt keep your jacket open as a closed jacket indicates you are hiding something.
  36. Thou shalt smile!
  37. Thou shalt not use an overhead projector and transparencies.
  38. Thou shalt bring a few prizes or giveaways to offer to audience members.
  39. Thou shalt be energetic and not eat a heavy meal before presenting.
  40. Thou shalt mentally prepare for success and eliminate anxiety and nervousness.
  41. Thou shalt exude a positive attitude.
  42. Thou shalt get the logistics of the room and program at least one week prior to the session.
  43. Thou shalt learn the industry lingo of your audience so you can connect with them.
  44. Thou shalt occasionally record your presentation and critique it for improvement.
  45. Thou shalt know that people will not remember your PowerPoint, they will remember you and your  message.

Stand out and be memorable!

(Photo Credit: Jonny Goldstein)

10 Things Clients Say that Scare PR Professionals

The fogThe relationship that public relations professionals share with their clients can be unique. With any business, when a PR consultant is hired, there is typically a learning curve as projects begin to progress. It may take a few days or weeks to get into the rhythm of the process and working together.

Most people hire PR consultants because they are either miffed by the news process and want someone who is well connected, media savvy and creative…or they simply don’t have the time or desire to write, pitch and place press releases and stories.

If you are a PR pro, you’ll likely get a good chuckle out of the following list. If you’re a business or nonprofit professional, please keep in mind that my list is intended to politely remind you that thinking and breathing is not newsworthy. You must be willing to do something or say something that impacts the public, without being self-serving. Above all, if you hire a PR consultant, allow them to use their expertise to help you get publicity.

Here are 10 Things that Clients Say that Scare PR Professionals. Do any of these sound familiar?

  1. I want to be on Oprah.
  2. I wrote a press release once in college.
  3. How much will it cost to get my press release printed?
  4. I want to get publicity but I don’t like to talk to those pushy reporters. You know I was once misquoted.
  5. I know your PR ideas will make me money. I’m on a very tight budget.
  6. We’re sponsoring a giveaway with the local minor league team and will be giving away travel mugs with our new logo. It’s Tuesday night; which TV crews can you get to cover our story?
  7. Oh you have an opportunity for an interview with a reporter?  Tell them I’m available on Wednesday at 8 AM or next Tuesday at 3:30.
  8. I’ve scheduled a free seminar for next month…
  9. My friend works in my field in Connecticut and his publicist got him into three magazines, an interview with Matt Lauer and a quote in the Wall Street Journal. That’s what I’m looking for.
  10. I’ve scripted out all of my answers for the TV interview you’ve arranged so I can just bring my notes on the set.

Being realistic about expectations and trusting the people you work with are critical to the success of any PR campaign. And if you want to be on Oprah, hurry! The end of her show in 2011 is just around the  corner.

(Photo Credit: Canon in 2D)

Building Sales & Relationships with the Power of Silence

stop sign The Power of Silence is extraordinary. Yet so many of us are afraid to use it.

People are uncomfortable and nervous with silence because we are so accustomed to filling every space with words. Most of the time when we feel obligated to fill silence and keep speaking, we are polluting the air with meaningless chatter that doesn’t add much to the conversation. We use empty filler words that dilute our message and impede our self-confidence.

I teach this in my media training classes and in programs on resolving workplace conflicts, Emotional Intelligence and sales.

Consider how powerful silence can be. Certain people know how to leverage silence. Great speakers and accomplished actors use their eloquent words melodically as they slip in their cleverly placed pauses and silence. They carefully bring you into their moment and you become enveloped in their language, movements, stories and emotions. You’re mesmerized and hooked.

Strong communicators who are keenly astute about interpersonal relationships and leadership excel in their use of silence.

At work, sales professionals aren’t the only ones who must understand a carefully placed pause. When they throw down the gauntlet to a prospect and ask the loaded question, “Are you ready to sign the contract?,” nervous overspeaking will almost always kill the deal. When you ask your boss for a raise or promotion, simply stop and allow silence into your conversation. When you ask your partner if he/she loves you…well you get the picture.

U.S. actor, author, & humorist Robert Benchley said, “Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.”

Silence is often more powerful than words.

25 Tips to Writing Powerful Press Releases

LightBulb2Here is a quick list of 25 Dos and Don’ts of Writing Press Releases. These can easily help you to increase your credibility with reporters and become a trusted resource for them.

These tips can work for any small business, corporation,  nonprofit or association. I worked in busy radio newsrooms in the most competitive media market in the United States—New Jersey/New York/Philly. I’ve seen the best and worst releases, and listened to the best and worst pitches.

Too many mistakes when reaching out to the media can quickly destroy your reputation.

Consider these tips when writing:

1. Do have something new to announce (NEWS).

2. Do ask yourself why you are writing your press release  —the No. 1 reason.

3. Do write a catchy subject line and headline. Get their attention and use keywords.

4. Do include quotes from people directly affected by the news. Put a face on the story.

5. Do show and tell a compelling story.

6. Do write short, punchy, and easy to understand sentences.

7. Do show value to the reader/audience; Speak directly to them.

8. Do help ease the public’s pain/problem. Position yourself as the expert with the solution.

9. Do re-read and re-write your release/pitch before sending it.

10. Do include a contact person who is available and knowledgeable.

11. Do use present tense and verbs.

12. Do include a date for release.

13. Do target your pitch; Avoid the shotgun blast.

14. Do cite sources/attribution.

15. Do include names and titles in photo captions.

16. Don’t repeat information.

17. Don’t use “JAR” —Jargon, Adjectives, and Rhetoric

18. Don’t use accreditation initials & acroynms after your name that the public won’t easily recognize.

19. Don’t use the word “announce.”

20. Don’t begin with a name.

21. Don’t send out low-resolution pictures or poor quality video.

22. Don’t ask questions. You are expert and are supposed to have the answers.

23. Don’t sell anything.

24. Don’t go more than one page.

25. Don’t say “first annual.” There’s no such thing!

I invite you to sign up for my free 21-day video series “Speaking of Communication.” The segments cover PR, Social Media, marketing, sales, and more. Good luck!

Communicating Kindness with 29 Gifts

giftbox on a stringI just finished reading a new book titled 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life. It’s written by Cami Walker.

In 2006, Walker was 33 years old and had just gotten married. One month later she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. After battling depression, substance abuse and being a corporate workaholic, her life spiraled into a deep and dark abyss. An African meditation woman she knew, Mbali Creazzo, urged Walker to get rid of her negative thoughts. The prescription: Give away 29 gifts in 29 days.

Walker’s heartfelt book reveals how her health, life, mindset and spirituality improved by doing one simple good deed a day. Creazzo said, “By giving, you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life. The gifts could be anything, but their giving has to be both authentic and mindful.”

Over the course of her 29 days of giving, Walker called a friend, offered spare change to a homeless man, and gave a Kleenex to a woman in her support group who was crying.

These small acts of kindness transformed Walker’s life and motivated her to launch a website, http://www.29gifts.org/. Followers in 38 countries are blogging on the site and sharing their own stories. It’s all about people looking to change their lives and the world. She’s gotten national media coverage. The message of communicating kindness and goodness is spreading.

Today is Thanksgiving. I decided it would be a perfect time to start my own journey of giving. After I joined Walker’s website, I got right to work. I sent an e-mail to a dear friend and mentor in New Jersey to thank her for recommending 29 Gifts. I went on to share with her how much I appreciate her friendship, wisdom and inspiration during these last 10 years.

How about you? Are you willing to commit to communicating kindness and goodness to someone else, even people you don’t know and will never see again? Are you willing to join the adventure of 29 Gifts?

As Mbali Creazzo said, “It will shift your energy for life.” I’m in.

(Photo Credit: Procsilas)