Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

Do You Know How to Create and Use Punchy Sound Bites?

blackboard_sound_biteBe quotable. Make your point. It’s kind of like a tag line. Sum it up in eight words or less.

Sound bites have typically been associated with political speeches and the subsequent ‘confusion’ (allegedly) created by reporters who have irresponsibly taken things out of context.

A sound bite or quote is the short tight combination of words that hits your message home.

It’s the needle in the haystack.

How do you determine the nugget, the key point that you can pull out of the entire speech or article that is powerful, succinct, and telling?

I’m fluent in sound bites because of my experience in broadcast news and covering press conferences and political events. It requires a new way of listening.

Today, we depend on sound bites because of the dwindling attention span of our society. Too often, 140 characters are too many.

Below are five ways to recognize valuable snippets and sound bites so your communication pops:  

Testimonials: Gather a few thank you cards or recommendation letters you’ve received from happy clients. Highlight one or two key phrases that resemble a movie advertisement. For example, when a new movie released, you’ll see these kinds of splashy nuggets: “Best Thriller of the Year!” or “An Amazing Voyage of Life!”  Identify the words or phrases in your client’s note that reflect your brand and results.   

Blog Posts: Have you participated in a webinar or read an intriguing article? Find the expert’s snippet or quote that can strike a chord with your audience. Open your post with this powerful quote and build out your topic.  

Slide Decks: Have you been repurposing old but still relevant content to include visuals? Pull a couple of gems and quotes from well-respected thought leaders and include them in your slides. The words should be bold and punchy.

Research: Many communicators are moving away from lengthy white papers and case studies. Learn how to capture key results from research so it’s easy for your audience (or boss) to process. Simplifying material isn’t about ‘dumbing down.’ You can quickly add a hyperlink to the full content for those wishing to access more details. Remember that infographics are appealing and easy to grasp because they are sprinkled with sound bites.  

New Developments: Many speeches delivered by thought leaders and politicians contain more than just the key points that support the title. Trained journalists will tell you there are often tidy little references or hints of something to come. Pay close attention, not only to the main points of a speech or article, but for a hint that may be dropped about a new trend or industry development. By pinpointing this buried treasure, you’ll have a new nugget or sound bite to fuel fresh content.  

Clearly, there is value in communicating in sound bites. 


(Image via)


7 Smart Things Every PR Pro Can Do During a Blizzard

Edited snowstorm jan 2014Can’t pitch your story because of the weather?  Tired of eating the cookies you bought during an ‘emergency’ pre-storm grocery run? Sick of watching reporters get blown off their feet during live shots of the blizzard?

Speaking from personal experience, I’ll venture to say that most PR professionals and communicators don’t thrive on down time.

With the media in complete storm mode, forget unsolicited phone and e-mail pitches.  

Below are 7 ways for communicators in marketing and PR to stay productive until the weather clears. Most of these can be done from your cozy couch.  

  1. Use SlideShare to create a slide deck from a previous post that received a lot of hits and comments. Repurpose the post by grabbing a few key points from your written text. Add some images and graphics to spice up your words. Post it on SlideShare and cross-promote it on your other social channels. (If you’ve never tried SlideShare, decks are created in PowerPoint, so it’s easy enough).
  2. Take pictures to energize your blog, e-newsletters, and presentations. So much better than stock photos.
  3. Write your Editorial calendar for the year. We are well in to January. It’s time to get the framework together for 2014.  
  4. Check out Muckrack.com (on Twitter #Muckrack) and Help a Reporter Out, or HARO. These are two places where news pros and bloggers are scouting out subject matter experts and trusted sources. There’s plenty of activity to pursue while your sluggish competitors watch the snow fall.
  5. Subscribe to the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. It’s a research center that provides in-depth studies and data on timely news issues. You’ll want to bookmark the Journalist’s Resource.
  6. Identify five blogs and pursue opportunities to guest post.   
  7. Poke around Pinterest to see how others in your field are using it to (visually) appeal to customers and prospects.

Just because there’s a blizzard, there’s no excuse for you to have a brain freeze.

And if you opt for Plan B—watching the first few seasons of Mad Men on Netflix—we won’t judge you. Promise.

Stay safe.

4 Letter Words for Creating New Content

Brooklyn it's where my story beginsI was born in Brooklyn, New York. I know a lot of four-letter words.

Sure there are a few that aren’t suitable for this space. But I learned a lot of positive four letter words when I was growing up, too. My parents and grandparents told me—and showed methe meaning of these words: give, help, and team.

When looking at my website analytics, I find that most of my visitors are searching for topics and ideas for their own content and articles.

With four-letter words in mind, here are ways to spark your creativity and develop fresh content:

1. Get a clue about what success means to your target audience.  Have you identified your target audience? Do you know the top five dreams or goals they have for their professional success? When you answer this question, you will have an endless pipeline of topics and content.  

2. Stay curious. Consider every minute, hour, and day a happy adventure in which you’ll discover tons of new things. Read magazines you’ve never picked up. Walk the long way to the office building. Strike up a conversation with someone who appears quite different than you. Read a section of the newspaper you always skip. Listen to a new talk radio show or podcast. Rent a really old movie.  Watch 10 Vine videos. Peruse a competitor’s boards on Pinterest.  Be open to learning.

3. Keep asking questions. When looking for fresh angles and topics, ask yourself the following: What else, what else, what else?  What else is this conference about? What else do people want to know? What else can someone read to learn more? What tips can make their jobs easier? What else did the speaker mention that’s relevant to my audience? There’s always more. Don’t scratch the surface. Keep asking questions.

4. Rage against inertia. Inertia flies in the face of the Internet and everything it represents. Static, stuck, still. Inactivity in social channels simply doesn’t work.

5. Plant the seed. Deepak Chopra wrote, “In every seed is the promise of thousands of forests.” What seeds are between your ears or hiding in social channels that can be planted in fertile soil, nurtured and cultivated? looking up at trees

6. Ramp up your efforts. Don’t take the pathetic road to ‘Pity City.’ I speak from experience in suggesting it won’t serve you well. Sporadic articles, posts, slide decks or videos won’t suffice in keeping people engaged. Commit to these four-letter words and you’ll soon find increased energy and momentum when developing content and ideas.

Need an added content boost? If you would like to brainstorm with me about topics that are relevant to your demographic, sign up now for a discounted one hour telephone coaching session.


9 Social Media Topics to Explore in 2014

Wide shot of 628Energy and Momentum. That’s the theme I’ve adopted for 2014.  

The following nine topics recently crossed my radar.

Are you ruminating on website designs, crowdsourcing, podcasts, or agile social media? This post may spark the energy you need to get off the dime.  Translation: Read this and take action!

If you’re like me and are committed to learning (and applying) new practices and tools on a regular basis, you’ll want to bookmark this and share it with your likeminded friends.

1. Code? Say What?

Do Non-Techies Need to Know How to Code?

2. Mumbo Jumbo

10 Words Your Graphic Designer Wishes You Knew

 7 Google+ Terms You Should Know

3. Show Me the Money!

5 Tips on Crowdsourcing Your Brand’s Influence

4. A New Website? Yikes! 

The Complete Guide to Launching a New Website

 What Should I Put on the Homepage?

5. Can You Hear Me Now?

Give Voice to Your Apps: Why Speech is Replacing Touch on Smartphones

6. Video Killed the Radio Star…Or Not

Tools to Make a Killer Online Podcast  

 The Beginner’s Guide to Vine

7 Reasons to Use Multimedia When Communicating  

7. Market, Market, Market

How to Write Call-To-Action Copy that Gets People Clicking  

Build Experiences Instead of Products

How to Use Psychographics in Your Marketing  (Why buyers buy)

Work Hard on Content, But Focus on the Audience First  

8. More Social Networks? Eureka!

Could Pheed and Line Become Major Social Networks in 2014?

 9. The Times They Are a’Changin’ aka Flexibility

Agility is the Key to Business Success in 2014

 Nos. 1, 2, and 7 (Psychographics) are where I am starting.

Where are you putting your energy?  


7 reasons to use multimedia when communicating

corner picture at folawnsThese are numbers that PR and marketing professionals simply can’t ignore.

PR Newswire and PR News recently conducted a survey of how companies are usingor not usingmultimedia in press releases and other communication.

The research finds:  

  • 56 percent of PR and marketing executives rarely or sometimes include multimedia in press releases
  • 9 percent of respondents always feature multimedia elements and rich media in their press releases
  • 75 percent of those surveyed plan to increase visual storytelling in 2014


I was invited to discuss these findings on a webinar with Michael Pranikoff, Global Director, Emerging Media at PR Newswire  and Matthew Schwartz, Group Editor at PR News.   

Here are seven takeaways from our conversation:

Matthew: There’s a big appetite out there to include visual elements and rich media in press releases and other communication channels. The survey offers encouragement but there’s still that chasm between the desire among PR and marketing executives to use visuals and the challenges of budgets and resources. It’s really finding the link between what visual storytelling can do to enhance your communication and public relations while making the case to the C-suite for increasing budgets for these kinds of channels.

Michael: PR Newswire has looked at 60,000 pieces of content that’s been syndicated over the past couple of years. You get almost 10 times the amount of views when using multimedia than just doing a plain text news release.

Matthew: You would think right now that the static press release would be antiquated in that you have an oncoming generation of decision makers who have been conditioned to the visual and multimedia elements in a release, in a piece of text, in a brochure, or in an annual report. For those companies who continue to distribute plain text and vanilla press releases, I don’t know how much those companies are on the right side of history.

Susan: Our minds think in pictures, not words. That’s why this is so important. Communicators must convey our messages through a blend of pictures and words, not one or the other.

Michael: Layering video in any kind of media leads to an emotional resonance and component that people are looking for in brands…audiences are craving this and gravitating to visual.

Matthew: PR people should start thinking about their own behavior as it relates to video…They go through their workday and they tend to click on a video that caught their attention. It’s not unlike your customers and prospects. They are doing the same things. It’s really changing a behavior.

Susan: Business communicators must understand how their clients and prospects are consuming information. It’s not about how you want to deliver the content. It’s about how the audience wants to receive it and engage with it.

Matthew also notes that a B2B product or service that may seem bland or dry on paper can come to life with visual elements.

The three of us agreed there are many opportunities to repurpose content that contains visuals.

To listen to the free webinar, visit CommProBiz.

5 reasons to include Storify in your PR strategy

(Editor’s Note: This is a guest post provided by Alicia Lawrence)

20 years of DRAMAStorify is one of the new kids on the social media block, but it’s made a big impression. Founded in 2011, the website curates content from all over the Internet, eliminating the need to jump from one site to another for information.

You may have already seen the work of Storify in the news. The Washington Post, NPR, and other media outlets have started using the tool to build context around the biggest stories of the day.

If news editors are reaping the benefits of Storify, so can you.

Here are five ways you can use Storify in public relations.

The ‘About Us’ Section

Every company website has a page dedicated to how the company began, what it does, and how it does it. Why read it when you can see it? Use Storify to combine web content, a promotional video, slideshows, interviews, raves on social media and testimonials from your best customers. Turn your story into a multimedia experience and then share it! Storify even gives you an option after publishing to tweet the people you mentioned in the board letting them know you used their post.

Product Launch or Campaign

If your company is launching a new product or simply revitalizing an old one, you could issue a press release, a how-to video, and early buzz from thought leaders. However, you’ll get better results if you combine all those things into a Storify board. This board should give a full account of what you say about the new products and what others say, too. If it’s a versatile product, include tweets, pins, or videos of how others are using it.

What People Think

When it comes to reputation, consumers are more apt to listen to other consumers than to what the brand advertises about itself. Instead of pointing people to a dozen social media sites, put the raves on one Storify board. Add reviews from consumers and critics, award notices, and other high praise. Plus, when asking for comments and feedback, you can suggest that customers go to Storify to add their opinions to the chatter.

Event Recap

Event promotion is one of the main responsibilities of a PR manager. Storify can make it more immersive, especially for annual events. If you have a big event coming up, create a board around last year’s gathering. Include tweets, photos, videos and other content from speakers and participants that emphasize how fun – and valuable – it is to attend the event. In addition, don’t forget to promote the newest event – multiple tweets showing the excitement of attendees for this year.

storify image from Alicia 11-2013

How-to’s and Troubleshooting

When you search for tutorials on how to use a product or solve a problem, a lot of YouTube videos appear in the results. By pulling everything together in a Storify board, you can bring your listing to the top. Instead of creating different boards, combine the two. For example, I just created a board for Havahart with how-to videos and instruction manuals for setting up traps, as well as a few funny pictures and reviews for the product, into one single board.

Finally, what makes Storify different is that it lets you organize all the posts, tweets, videos and other feedback about your business into one convenient, interactive location.

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business, and Spin Sucks.

3 ways to write positive news headlines in a negatively charged world

A rainy September day at the George Washington Bridge in New York.

A rainy September day at the George Washington Bridge in New York.

It’s time to kill the ‘headline fear factor.’

Anyone who writes or produces content could be guilty of spewing fear throughout communities.  

Bright, well-educated, and good-intentioned people who are cognizant of the power of headlines and SEO have followed the media’s poor example of sharing negativity to get people’s attention.

I was a news reporter and news director for 10 years.  I have zero tolerance for newscasts and talk shows that work hard to drag us down.  

Last week, the TV weatherman declared: “More rain tomorrow means another dismal day in…”  It’s rain, not the damn plague.  

Yes, horrific things happen. Yes, headlines may sell. But the world just doesn’t need any more negative crap to digest.

If you don’t believe me, listen closer to what we’re being told. Remember the weatherman I just described. 

Flip This

Are you writing posts and titles with words such as “pitfalls” and “mistakes”?

Let’s flip things around. I encourage you to use language that reflects a positive and helpful attitude.

Set the tone with words that are upbeat and encouraging. Leave the blunders, mistakes, and failures for someone else.

Consider these examples:

1. “7 Mistakes Parents Make When Selecting Colleges” can be changed to “7 Tips to Selecting the Best College for Your Child”

2. “Common Missteps that Small Business Owners Make Their First Year” can be flipped to “Tips for Small Business Success.”

3. “10 Pitfalls of Social Media Campaigns” can be reworded to “10 Successful Social Media Strategies.”

The headlines and titles of your articles, blogs, and programs are the magnet to draw readers and potential business into your pipeline. 

Pique interest with emotional and positive words and phrases that speak directly to your readers and their success.

Using positive language and an upbeat tone instead of scare tactics and poison will have a subtle but important impact. We need more hope and less pessimism in our world. 

Today’s takeaway: Be the fountain, not the drain.

The guerrilla marketing genius of Jay Conrad Levinson

IMAG0387Many of you recall the old commercials and ads that turned Charlie the Tuna, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and the Marlboro Man into household names and brands. I remember watching the TV commercials, in the pre-remote days when people actually watched commercials.

The common thread behind each of these products was Jay Conrad Levinson, who worked on the creative teams that developed these brands.

In the early 1980s, Levinson coined the term “guerrilla marketing,” which sparked a revolution in business marketing, advertising, and PR. He would go on to author and co-author some 60 books, selling more than 20 million copies worldwide.

The “Father of Guerrilla Marketing” passed away on Thursday at the age of 80.

During the past three decades, Levinson was able to use his talents and genius to morph his guerrilla marketing brilliance to include technology and social media.

What exactly is guerrilla marketing? It started with three points, and over the years, has grown to 15.

This is how Levinson has described his concept. “I’m referring to the soul and essence of guerrilla marketing which remain as always — achieving conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money.”

Entrepreneurs, myself included, can relate to the energy over money method, just as Gary Vaynerchuk writes in Crush It: “The best marketing strategy ever is to CARE.”

It is Levinson who encourages small business owners to “get back to basics” in marketing. On his list of 200 guerrilla marketing weapons, he includes:

  • A street banner
  • A landing page
  • A vanity phone number
  • Patience
  • Business  cards
  • A meme


According to Levinson’s official website, guerrilla marketing is needed because it gives small businesses a delightfully unfair advantage: certainty in an uncertain world, economy in a high-priced world, simplicity in a complicated world, marketing awareness in a clueless world.

Thank you, Jay Levinson, for sharing your clues and knowledge with generations of marketers and small business owners around the world.

2 idiotic business beliefs you must dismiss

wooden chair with holesTwo statements I’ve heard recently from business professionals I know have stayed with me.  I’m nearly certain that these folks have no inkling that their words have impacted me long after they were spoken.

1. “I’m in business development, not the marketing department.” Did this come from an overworked individual who wasn’t feeling especially appreciated when we talked on the phone? Or could she have missed the important lesson that has presented itself to the business community these past five years: We are all in marketing, whether we signed up for it or not.

2. “Time kills deals.” I must disagree because it’s people who kill sales. Time does not make decisions. People do. If you didn’t close the deal, it’s because you misread the prospect. Whether subtle or glaring, you missed one or more clues within the sales process that halted the deal. The only reason time has passed is that the prospect didn’t have whatever it takes to actually tell you the truth. How do you know what issue or issues prevented your prospect from signing the contract? Go ask them, in a kind and curious way so you can get better. If you believe that time killed the deal, look in the mirror and think again.

Have you heard anything similar?

7 ways to provide content from your association conference

Rocakabilly marquisIf you want to get more mileage and content from your association event, it’s important to strategize a plan beforehand.

All of the marketing buzz shouldn’t come pre-conference. There are plenty of opportunities for nonprofits and associations to share your story during and after the event.

The following tips will help pique the interest of those who aren’t attending and will offer value to those who are on-site but may have missed a few sessions or learning opportunities.

To implement these suggestions, you’ll need to designate a media team. This can be a few interns, staffers, or volunteers who will act as cub reporters.

Send them into different sessions, keynotes, and receptions, ensuring you have “team coverage” and valuable nuggets from a few different perspectives and angles.

The key: Think like a news reporter.

1. Create an online conference diary or blog. Write a few short paragraphs at the end of each day that offers highlights and builds excitement for the following day’s events. This can also be a video post, which can showcase the enthusiasm and excitement of an attendee or staffer.

2. Think in sound bites. Your team of reporters should be able to grab phrases, nuggets, and catchy messages from keynote speakers and presenters. These can be tweeted with your conference hashtag or compiled into a ‘Top 10’ list for post conference updates.

3. Interview a speaker. Using a basic cell phone camera, flip cam, or old-style tape recorder, have one of your reporters prepare questions in advance so they can do a one-on-one at the event. Request the interview in advance so the speaker will be prepared. Ask about trends and insights they may not have addressed in their talk. Keep in mind, the final piece does not have to be a video segment. The audio can be transcribed into a Q&A format.

4. Make lists. With all the distractions bombarding us, people appreciate brevity and reader-friendly messages. Here are some examples: Top 10 industry gems overheard at XXX Conference…. 10 Takeaways from Our Keynote….7 Best Practices for XXX.

5. Create a SlideShare deck. Using one of the lists you have from No. 4, create a SlideShare presentation with graphics. This can easily be produced in PowerPoint and uploaded to the web. Same content; different platform. Cross-promote it on your various social networks.

6. Record a podcast. A conference round-up of highlights, insights, and trends can be recorded by one or two people. It’s always good to do the “person on the street” interview rather than a staffer or board member. Testimonials and insights from everyday people are powerful.

7. Gather pictures. Share conference pictures on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and blogs so people can ‘see’ the action.

If you’re feeling like this may be difficult to implement, remember that your team will already be at the event.

Think of this as simply a better use of their time.