Sunday, June 25, 2006

Your fly is down, or why public speaking skills still matter

I went to a public forum two weeks ago and listened to two presenters who despite an interesting topic failed to capture my attention. Was I turned off by the number of "ums" they had in their speech? Was it their lack of professionalism? I remember tuning out when one turned to the other and said, "Oh, I forgot we had all those slides."

Whether you are giving a formal presentation, making a pitch to a client, being asked by your boss for an opinion, or responding to a prospective employer's questions, your public speaking skills say a lot about you. If your skills are poor, it is the equivalent of smiling with spinach between your teeth or walking around town with your fly down.

Here are seven steps on how to improve your speaking skills.

1. Practice
2. Know the audience
3. Know the room
4. Realize that people want you to succeed – you don’t have to be perfect.
5. Don’t apologize
6. Concentrate on the message – give them something of value
7. Gain experience

I'll be going into more detail on this at Talking in Circles Toastmaster club meeting on August 15. Come visit.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Self-interest, or How to get someone to care about human suffering

Last night, at a meeting of the international committee of the Public Relations Society of America National Capital Chapter, we heard perspectives on "branding of human crisis." In other words, the speakers addressed the issue of how to get people to care about human suffering. Mike Carberry, president of CARMA International, a global media analysis company, put it simply when he said that self-interest drives coverage. The company recently completed analysis of global coverage of human disasters. The results of its study are published in Western media coverage of Humanitarian Disasters. Download the PDF. Major conclusion are:

Economics is a better guide to press interest than human suffering

Politics determines the timing, level of interest and story angle, not the humanitarian issues

Me, me, me - in other words, how it affects the individual/national interest determines coverage.

What's the take away? Look for the economic, political, and local impact in your story.

One word equity

Lord Saatchi who brought us some of the great slogans in advertising discussed the death of advertising as we know it in an online discussion at He says that people who grew up with digital technology have brains that are wired differently from older people. That is why they can multi-task so well. It is called Continuous Partial Attention. The consequences for marketers will be to build brands that are associated with a single word.

The strongest brands are defined by their ownership of one thought; the
very strongest by one word. The nature of this thought or word predetermines the
breadth of the brand’s activities.

The proliferation of channels in the digital age presents another challenge.

It requires a new business model for marketing which is more appropriate for the
digital age, in which companies compete to build one word equity for their
brands, the global ownership of one word.
In this new business model
companies aim to define in one word, the characteristic, the particular value,
the emotion, the performance, the one word they most want instantly associated
with their brand around the world. And then own it.
That is one word equity.
It’s the modern equivalent of having the best site on the high street. Except
the location is in the mind.

What's your word?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sleeping with the enemy?

The current issue of Fast Company features an interesting ad on its back cover. In a 3-inch strip on the left-hand side of the page is an ad for BMW's Mini Cooper with the tag, "Let's make room for mother nature." The rest of the page is basically white space with the logo of The Nature Conservancy and a Web page reference. Small letters at the top read, "This ad space donated by Mini."

For some environmentalists, this type of partnership may look like a sell out. From another perspective, it is a creative way to get your message across and to partner with an organization that may share your view of the world. This campaign is distinctive--a winner for both parties.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Communicating about global health

At the Global Health Council conference last week, professional communicators discussed messaging, media, and blogs. In an increasingly competitive environment, communicators need to be on target with their messages and know their audience. That point was highlighted at a workshop on communications for global health professionals and at the media awards luncheon. By focusing on messaging, communicators help get the word out about the importance of what their respective organizations do, which will lead to interest in the data from the technical experts and, ultimately, improving people’s lives.

In a break-out session, I talked with Lawrence MacDonald of the Center for Global Development. He agrees that blogs can serve an organization by driving opinion and helping to attract reporters. The blogs of the Center for Global Development add value by commenting on news sources that many of its stakeholders would like to read, such as the FT, but don’t have the time.