The Pretenders

February 15, 2016

Isn’t it interesting how many terms once only used and understood by marketing professionals have made their way into mainstream language? One of those decidedly ubiquitous terms is “branding”. Everyone is talking branding. What is your brand? How to market your brand. Branding your company.  On one hand, I think it’s great that companies pay more attention to branding and recognize its importance. This is a concept for which I fought many years in different companies. However, once new terms hit the daily lexicon, pretenders and charlatans follow. Everyone thinks they understand branding, but do they?

“BRANDING”

Think about SEO and SEM. Again, many people know those acronyms, but how many know what they stand for and how to actually perform and/or utilize the services. SEO is search engine optimization. SEM is search engine marketing. The two processes are similar in some aspects but do refer to different processes and results.

“SEO or SEM”

I can tell almost immediately when someone with whom I’m talking is throwing out these terms (and others) with no clue as to what they really mean. It’s easy to talk a good game, so companies hiring marketers often need to pass by numerous charlatans and pretenders before finding a true professional. My advice? Look at past results. Ask specific questions:

What is my brand?

How will you determine and develop my brand?

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?

What results have you had?

Unfortunately, the pretenders can give marketers a bad name. A company will hire someone with high hopes for greater visibility and increased business but then get no results because they’ve hired a pretender. Good marketers will get you results. Those results cannot be attained on demand and they may take a different form than you had originally envisioned, but professional marketing executives will help you meet your company goals and improve your bottom line.  They know how.

 

 


Where are the good writers? And editors?

May 29, 2014

Much to my disappointment, writing that is error-free, typo-free and grammatical seems to be a thing of the past. TV commercials, radio commercials, and printed materials abound with errors. It makes me crazy and it makes me sad. It also makes me wonder who’s in charge. All I can do is shake my head, after I turn off the painfully sad commercials with people who don’t speak properly. I’ll never buy their products, but obviously I’m not the intended audience so they don’t care. 😦


Edit with Respect

June 27, 2013

As a communications professional or manager, you are likely tasked with editing the work of others.  How well this editing is received depends upon you and your attitude.

writing pic

A few years ago, a young woman on my staff asked me why her colleagues seemed to be so offended when she edited their work.  After observing her in action, I realized that, while her editing was right on, her attitude was not. She treated people in a condescending manner and incredulously asked one person how it was possible that he did not know a basic grammar rule.

Rule number one for communications professionals is RESPECT. Respect your colleagues, subordinates and managers, regardless of their writing skills. It will go a long way towards developing and maintaining good work relationships.  (This is a good rule for all workplace interactions regardless of your position or responsibilities.)

My standards vary depending on your occupation. I hold my staff to a very high standard, with respect to grammar, spelling and typos. We are the ones who should do it right. For people in other departments, I cut them a little slack. That doesn’t mean I don’t correct them, but that I do it with lower expectations. Although I do expect a certain professional standard across all departments, if someone in a “non-writing” position, such as a numbers person or salesperson, makes a grammatical error, my approach is quite different.  My corrections will be prefaced by something like, “I’m sure you don’t know this because you’re a numbers person, but…” or “There’s no reason you should know this, but the rule is…” I usually end the conversation by saying, “Feel free to ask me about this anytime, especially if you think something doesn’t sound right. It’s my job to know this and I’m always happy to help.”

 


Public Speaking Part II: More Simple Tips for Success

October 22, 2011

I recently attended a public presentation that was sponsored by a Member of Congress. A facilitator welcomed everyone to the event and then introduced the young woman whom the Congressman had sent in his stead.

She walked to the podium and said something like: “Uh, hi everyone, um, I’m uh Jane Smith, and uh the Congressman, that is Congressman Jones, well, uh, he couldn’t be here tonight, but this is important, but he couldn’t be here, so, um…..(long pause)… anyway, he wants to welcome everyone, so welcome, and uh, this is, well, he thinks it’s important because, well, uh…..

You get the idea. I was literally cringing as I sat in the audience. Yet she had boldly strode up to that podium with all the confidence imaginable. Her mistake? I would guess it was lack of preparation. That is the number one mistake most people make.

Maybe you’ve done this yourself. You think, “oh, it’s only 5 or 10 minutes, I’ll just wing it.” Or, “I know this so well, I don’t need to prepare.”

It was clear to me that Jane Smith hadn’t even thought through what she was going to say. Imagine how different her remarks might have been if she had even thought “I’ll say that I represent the Congressman, I need to talk about why he thinks this is important, and then I need to welcome everyone.”

This illustrates a basic principle of public speaking. At the very least, you should organize your thoughts before you speak. Even if you don’t practice exactly what you’re going to say, you know that you need to talk about A, then B, then C – in that order.

If Jane had organized her thoughts, her speech might have sounded something like this: “Hi, I’m Jane Smith, and I represent Congressman Jones, who couldn’t be here tonight. This is an important issue to him because blah blah blah. On his behalf, I’d like to welcome you and thank you for attending tonight.

Not an um in sight.

For a longer presentation or speech, more extensive preparation is necessary. In my earlier blog post on public speaking, I addressed some of these points; I’ve expanded on them here.

      1. Organize your thoughts, as noted above. Think about what points you want to make, and the order in which to make them. Make an outline or talking points.
      2. Research your topic. For example, if you’re talking about your company, make sure you know all the latest initiatives and their status and goals. Gather more information than you think you’ll need.
      3. Write your speech. Revise and edit. Revise and edit again.
      4. Practice. This is by far the most important part of speech preparation, so I’ll say it again. Practice. Read your speech aloud to yourself or your staff. Tape record yourself talking or ask someone to videotape you. Rehearse the speech until you know all the main points by heart. Memorize the entire speech if that will make you more comfortable. Rehearse some more. And then some more after that.

One of the best speeches I ever gave was only 10 minutes long. I was welcoming everyone to a holiday luncheon and shopping bazaar. Of the 200 people in attendance, I probably knew 150. I was very comfortable with this group, and had run many events for them in the past. But for some reason, I decided to practice my short welcome speech. I went over it and over it. I tape recorded myself and watched myself speak in the mirror. I revised it and shortened it. And I practiced some more. When I stood up to speak, I knew the points I wanted to make, the order in which to make them, and I had memorized about 80 percent of the speech. More than 20 people complimented me on that speech. And it was “just” a short welcome speech.

The more public speaking you do, the more comfortable you will be, and the more you will improve. Although some personality types, such as certain extroverts, may be more comfortable in front of an audience than others, if you practice enough and give a lot of speeches, you will become better.

What’s the best compliment a speaker can receive? He/she is a natural! I suggest that most, if not all, of those people we consider to be natural public speakers have had years of practice. I’d like to think that people in the audience of that holiday bazaar I referred to earlier listened to my welcome speech and said, “she’s a natural.”

A few more tips:

      1. Wear comfortable clothes. Don that favorite suit or power tie or really classy shoes. When you feel that you look good, you will be more confident.
      2. If possible, scope out the area in which you’ll be speaking beforehand. Plan ahead if you’ll have a podium or be sitting at a table.
      3. Only use visual aids if they will ADD value to the presentation. How many presentations have you attended where the presenter literally reads the Power Point slides to the audience. Yawn. You don’t want your props to be a distraction. A compelling speaker doesn’t need visual aids.
      4. Pay attention to your body language. It’s best if you appear relaxed. See my earlier post on body language.
      5. Smile. Remember, you’re the star, even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes.
      6. Show your passion for the subject. A LinkedIn comment pointed this out on my last blog. My apologies to the woman who commented; I can’t find the post in LinkedIn. But, she’s right. Hopefully, you’re speaking about something in which you have a stake. Let your enthusiasm and passion come through.

Public Speaking: 6 Simple Tips for Success

October 1, 2011

A number of years ago, I was in a Board of Directors meeting when my boss unexpectedly called on me to report on the communications department. I had nothing prepared. Nevertheless, I stood and gave an update. After the meeting, my boss explained: “You always get nervous before presentations. I was confident you knew this information thoroughly, so I took a chance that you’d do better improvising. You wouldn’t have time to get nervous.” He was right.

I’m not recommending this approach for anyone, but it did teach me a good lesson, and I’m rarely nervous now before speeches or presentations. The lesson learned? Tip #1, below.

  1. Know your subject matter. Perhaps you’re already an expert, and that’s why you’re speaking. If you’re not, become an expert. This is a must for feeling and sounding confident.
  2. Know your audience, and prepare appropriately. If you’re speaking on IT, you will give a much different presentation to consumers who barely know how to use e-mail than you would to an audience of programmers.
  3. Write out your presentation. Even if it’s only a ten or fifteen minute speech, write out what you want to say beforehand. How many people have you heard speak where every sentence begins with “um” because they have to think about what to say while they’re up there in front of everyone.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Some people memorize their speeches. Practice enough so that all you need do is glance down at your notes occasionally to stay on track. Memorize most of the speech, but leave enough room to improvise. This will make you look natural.
  5. Be confident. If you’ve followed all the steps above, you’ll come across knowledgeable, interesting, and relaxed.
  6. Enjoy yourself. Look at this as a positive, not a negative. The spotlight is on you, and this is your time to shine.


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