Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

Archives for December 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!!!

99 Tips to Creating Powerful Video Blogs

clayfaceThe buzz these days is that video blogs will be the new trend in Social Media in 2010.

Yikes, you say…I’m shy, I have a face for radio, I need to lose weight, I don’t know what to talk about, pass the lipstick, yada, yada, yada.

Not to worry. I have two pieces of good news for you. First, no one expects you to be a pro. Second, it’s not that difficult to produce (create) a video blog, or vlog, that can attract people to your website and help grow your business.

The important point to remember is that even if you are currently writing your  blogs, everyone learns in different ways. Using a visual medium is a powerful way to connect with people. It allows them to get to know you in a more personal way. They see your movements and style, hear your voice and words, and are engaged on a different level.

Like anything else, you’ll likely start out a bit shaky but I encourage you to stay with it. Practice will help build your self-confidence and improve your on-camera presence.

Here are 99 tips to help you produce top-notch video blogs:

1. Use technology you are comfortable with.

2. Invest about $200 in a flipcam, tabletop tripod and basic editing software.

3. Hire a local college student or person who can easily teach you in a couple of hours how to edit your segments.

4. Remember that #’s 2 and 3 will be the only overhead you have; make the investment.

5. Come up with a snappy and punchy title for your vlog.

6. Identify a theme that will be consistent in all of your posts (know your area of expertise & passion)

7. Be enthusiastic about your topics and being on camera, or don’t venture into this! It will be extremely obvious to your viewers, which will result in a loss of your credibility.

8.   Keep it short and sweet. Limit your segments to 1-2 minutes (or less) and pack each one with good content.

9. Forget a quota on how many posts you “should” create each week/month.

10. Develop a framework or Editorial Calendar that’s realistic and proactive.

11. Avoid creating a video when you have nothing of value to say.

12. Write a rough outline or bullet points to help you stay on message.

13. Know your information so you appear knowledgable and comfortable –do not read from notes.

14. Act as if the camera is not there and you are simply talking to an old friend.

15. Smile and relax!

16. Select a location that has natural sunlight and a simple background.

17. Overcome anxiety and your fear of public speaking by working with a coach or joining Toastmasters.

18. Pay attention to background colors so you don’t blend in.

19. Dress in bright solid colors like black, red, navy, and dark gray. Light colors look washed out on camera.

20. Avoid stripes, “busy patterns” and excessive jewelry (and make-up).

21. Present yourself in a professional yet casual style.

22. Decide if you are comfortable standing, sitting, or moving around.

23. Understand how best to position yourself if you have a product or prop to display.

24. Be aware of possible background noise such as an airplane, barking dog, screaming child, clock chimes, phones or beeping technology.

25. Avoid a close-up headshot. No one wants to count your blemishes, wrinkles or nose hairs.

26. Begin your video with a quick and friendly opening that welcomes your viewer.

27. Give your viewer a clue or line about what you will be sharing (the topic of your message).

28. Grab their attention and get right into the content.

29. Use tips that are easy to follow.

30. State the benefits of your information to your viewer.

31. Organize your thoughts and content so it flows in a logical sequence.

32. Help people solve a problem by offering solutions.

33. Avoid a sales pitch.

34. Weave in a client success story that can apply to your target audience.

35. Speak directly to the viewer in first-person language.

36. Avoid industry jargon, rhetoric and empty words that may confuse people and don’t add to your message.

37. Use language and material you are comfortable with.

38. Consult with your website or SEO team to utilize keywords and metatags that can increase your visibility on the web.

39. End with a quick reminder of your main point.

40. Thank people for watching; they have plenty to choose from.

41. Use an authoritative but helpful tone of voice to build your credibility.

42. Convey enthusiasm and passion in your voice, body language and facial expression.

43. Act with the genuine intention of helping others.

44. Speak slowly and emphasize every word as if it were Gospel (listen to radio & TV newscasters).

45. Drive key points with silence, pauses and strong eye contact.

46. Avoid “speaking down” to your audience.

47. Invite them back.

48. Ask viewers to refer friends and colleagues if they found your information helpful.

49. Give people a peek into your personality and life by sharing a quick anecdote or challenge that you have overcome.

50. Use present tense and active verbs.

51.  Choose your words carefully; they are powerful.

52. Forget about perfection. If you make a minor mistake, just continue, we’re all human!

53. Speak from the stomach, not the throat.

54. Use generic greetings for your opening and closing (say “Hello” instead of “Good Morning”)

55. Try to use “undated” content as much as possible, which may be tough for tax season, holidays, etc. Information that’s not tied to a date has a very long shelf life.

56.  Avoid using background music with words.

57. Use your vlog to cross-promote your Social Media (BlogTalk Radio show, chats, e-zines, etc.)

58. Focus on attracting and keeping people in your pipeline.

59. Put your finger on the pulse of your industry so you have fresh content and can help people work through challenges and trends.

60. Use Ustream for your longer segments so you can interact with viewers in a real-time video chat. It’s similar to a live call-in radio show.

61. Archive your vlogs, and tweet and post links and nuggets in your Social Media circles. In other words, create a buzz.

62. Be upbeat. If you are not in a good mood, record your video another day. People pick up on negative energy.

63. Refrain from turning your back on the audience if you are writing on a flipchart or white board.

64. Critique your delivery without beating yourself up.

65. Watch other people’s video’s and vlogs to get ideas on how to improve.

66. Read industry and trade news to help develop topical content.

67. Plant “creative mental seeds” for viewers so they can immediately take action and use your tips.

68. Learn how to monetize your video blogs.

69. Be transparent and authentic in your intention and content.

70. Make this fun and not a chore.

71. Recommend books, links, websites and other people’s blogs so you become a trusted and valued resource.

72. Understand the power your video blog has in your branding and marketing strategy.

73. Chew gum—-off-camera.

74. Market, market, market- with bookmarking, YouTube, RSS feeds, word-of-mouth, etc.

75. Record, edit and post your segment the same day.

76. Ask yourself: “Why would someone want to watch this? “

77. Keep an eye on your competition.

78. Cite your sources when mentioning statistics, studies or research.

79. Use the lower third of the screen for your name, website or contact information (check spelling before posting).

80. Connect with your fans. A great idea may pop into your head and you won’t have a script. Turn on the camera and go with it!

81. Remember to be patient. You will not know the technology or have thousands of followers from Day One. It will take time to develop this new skill set and an online video presence.

82. Check out applications and platforms such as Viddler, YouTube and Ustream.tv.

83. Ask for feedback by encouraging comments and questions from viewers.

84. Go for quality viewers (your target audience), not quantity.

85. Sit or stand straight and use good posture that exudes confidence and pride.

86. Take your camera on the road and record an interview with the speaker or a well-known person at a seminar or conference (be aware of background noise and ask in advance if it’s ok to use the clip on the Internet).

87. Send people to your website, where there is a call to action (register for a free newsletter, webinar, buy a book, etc. )

88. Develop a thick skin. You may hear criticism, complaints or negative comments. Stay focused.

89. Remember that content is still king. If you have the expertise and are willing to share, the technology part will follow.

90. Forget about getting anything in return. Begin with an open heart of giving and helping people. The rest will magically appear…

91. Avoid slang, telling jokes and off-color humor.

92. Create a segment that is appealing to the eye. Video is  a visual medium.

93. Understand that YOU are the message.

94. Know your shortcomings. If you are shy or speak with a heavy accent, you may want to stick with the written word.

95. Think in sound bites. Simple and pithy nuggets that are distinct, relevant and memorable will help drive your  message home.

96. Produce a “Best Of” compilation of 10 or 12 segments and repurpose them as giveways, products or marketing material.

97. Sit or stand behind a desk or podium if you are self-conscious about your appearance.

98. Vent in private. Never badmouth anyone in your video or written blogs, or content. No exceptions.

99. Inspire people! Video blogs are your platform to impacting and influencing people. Go for it!

Overwhelmed? Go back to the top and start with #1. Take baby steps, and have fun!

(Photo Credit: Hyperscholar)

Santa’s Top 12 Communication Pitfalls

Santa upside downYes, even Santa Claus can encounter communication challenges while on the job. And you thought you had problems??

1. The “Gen Y” Elves continually beg Santa to remove “Ho Ho Ho” from his signature line in e-mails

2. Naughty comes before Nice in the dictionary

3. His new Virtual Assistant mistakenly thought “Jingle Bells” should be deleted as the ringtone on Santa’s new I-Phone

4. Chocolate chip cookies are fine but Santa really should have asked for what he wanted: a Grande Mocha Frappuchino, not milk

5. “Have you been a good little boy?” translates into “Load me up with gadgets”

6. The new sleigh isn’t a Hybrid because Mrs. Claus forgot to tell the dealer some of the details during the “Cash for Clunkers” purchase

7. Santa left out part of his address at the North Pole when he wrote to the President requesting money from the economic stimulus package to keep his operation running smoothly

8. Jolly Saint Nick didn’t realize how effective his brand really was until he waited in line for an autograph at a book signing with Sarah Palin and “Going Rogue”

9. The Elves brought hoof sanitizer with them this year after Santa e-mailed a company memo about the new H1N1 policy during the busy season

10. Donner and Blitzen felt much better this year because Santa brought Mrs. Claus along, and she always asks for directions

11. Santa misunderstood the word “Poken” when he was at a Verizon holiday party, and was quickly escorted from the building

12. As they leave the North Pole, Santa overhears the reindeer shouting “Next stop, Ronkonkoma”

Hope you had an amazing Holiday!

(Photo Credit: Bakerella)

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.