Name: Jennifer Flachman
Bio: During my more than 15 years of experience planning and implementing full-scale communications, public relations, and investor relations programs for a Fortune 1000 company, BurrellesLuce was my media monitoring service of choice. I then joined the BurrellesLuce team in 2013, where I use my background as a platform to collaborate, strategize, and problem-solve in our ever-evolving field of public relations and brand management. When I’m not working, you’ll find me in my favorite yoga pose or paddling beyond the surf break off the shores of Santa Barbara. An alum of Gamma Phi Beta International Sorority, I love spending time with my husband, our two kids, and our lovable Lab puppy Rubi. I'm also an avid supporter of Kids4Kures, a charity my 15-year-old daughter created, which supports community cancer charities. Twitter:@jennflachman; LinkedIn: Jennifer Flachman; Facebook: BurrellesLuce
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At the PRSA International Conference a few weeks ago, I attended my colleague Johna Burke’s talk about best practices in B2B public relations. She focused on several important areas that will always be key to our evolving industry.
Many departments within an organization have a methodical workflow. Accounting and procurement departments have a clear definition of their tasks, and they have a method for bringing in, assessing, and approving information,
PR departments and practitioners don’t exactly follow that type of workflow. Although they might create a template, or spreadsheet to plug in information, the template never quite ends up in its original shape.
PR practitioners are tasked with creating a workflow that provides clear direction for their organization. Everyone from customer service and administrative staff to C-suite executives need to understand what public relations workflow looks like, or what to expect under normal daily operating conditions.
Key to developing an effective communications plan is a firm grasp on the organization’s business strategy. Whether that strategy is education, driving sales and revenue, advertising, public relations, or marketing, understanding that focus allows PR practitioners to develop a workflow that focuses on an organization’s overarching corporate goals.
Integral to the business strategy is an understanding of the organization’s financial statements. Understanding a company’s profit and loss statement effectively aligns PR workflow and department objectives. Public companies produce quarterly and annual financial statements. Look for it, whether it’s publicly or internally available, and study it, because everything ties into to funding.
Do the research yourself. While educating yourself and your staff on your company’s financials, do the same with your competitor. Think twice about hiring someone outside of your organization to gather intelligence; you are your most effective resource.
In researching your competitor, don’t go for the thirty-thousand-foot overview. It’s too easy to misinterpret your market. Also, it’s critical to market against a competitor’s reality, not their myth, or your perception of their overarching goals. Know their concepts, understand their message. Understanding their marketing materials and how your competitor is spending money is equally beneficial to your overall success. The time you put into understanding all of these elements will provide the intelligence to back up what you will ultimately need to sell to your C-suite.
Next, study your customer. How do they find you? What does their daily organic search look like? How do they get to your product or service? Are you creating SEO interesting enough to speak to your audience and capture your service or product’s attention?
That static audience no longer exists. Understand why people are using each platform and what they’re doing with the information. Are your followers influencers? Can they help your business? Are they able to cause action? How do you communicate with them?
Create thought leadership around the topics your followers have posted. Look for themes around the content you’ve created, or the content displayed about you. This provides an opportunity to invite followers interested in a topic that’s related to your service, product or industry. Create a saturated market by looking at what surrounds your brand and how those themes tie in.
Take an open-mined look at the conversations around your content. Ask someone else in your organization to interpret your message and help you clarify your message.
Talk to your audience. Talk to your advocates, the people who have had a good experience with your product or service. Reach out to your badvocates, those who have had a bad experience and need to be reconverted. Acknowledge the trolls – those posters, who no matter what are going to be out there spewing venom.. Instead, classify them and if necessary, call them out with, “Dear Troll, we know you don’t like us, however, you are not our target audience, so what we’re saying doesn’t resonate with you, but thank you for the comment, we so appreciate your feedback.” Ultimately people connect with people behind the message, not with brands or the message themselves.
Yesterday we talked about Mike Neumeier’s tips for giving a presentation. He recommends it be less of a presentation and more of a conversation, and to step away from technology when outlining and drafting your presentation. Today, I’ll share his tips for creating optimal presentation slides once you crack open that laptop.
Presentation slides shouldn’t make much sense without the support of the presenter. If everything your audience needs to know is on all of your slides, why have a presentation? Just send it as an attachment in an email.
Don’t abuse your visuals. Keep your slides simple. Pictures and images should add visual interest and when necessary, serve as cues throughout your presentation. Your audience isn’t there to read your slides, they’re there to listen to you, so don’t let your slides tell your story, let them support it.
Select pictures and images similar in style, and just say no to clip art. Use large images compared with small. The key is not to overload your slide. Once large image makes more of an impact than several small ones. Your presentation should be original, and it should be a reflection of your style.
Less is more. Charts and graphs can be challenging. Your audience shouldn’t be occupied reading numerous bullet points, or studying complex graphs and charts; they’ll miss what you’re saying. Neumeier uses the guideline three bars, three words, three numbers when developing a slide that contains graphs and charts. Not filling a slide makes what’s on that slide more important. Be selective; only show what’s necessary to get your point across.
Always prepare for the “Oh No!” Keep a separate copy of your presentation on a thumb drive. However, if you are the only one who notices any of your mistakes, or missteps, continue on. If there’s a typo, don’t point it out. If someone in your audience points it out, thank them and continue on. If technology fails, let someone else fix it; you’re the presenter, keep going. Your audience doesn’t want to watch you fix your presentation. Remember, your slides are important, but they aren’t as important as your conversation.
Questions from your audience are a great sign that you’re engaging. It’s best to decide at the beginning of your presentation how you’ll handle questions and when you’ll take them. Be sure your audience knows this in advance.
Neumeier follows words of advice from Guy Kawasaki. After listening to thousands of business proposal presentations. Kawaski concluded that most were too long and too boring. He developed a rule for the perfect pitch. He refers to it as the 10, 20, 30 rule and explains that any idea, no matter how great it is should be delivered in 10 slides, in 20 minutes, in 30 point font.
So where does “How to Give a Presentation in Nine Words” fit in? The Treachery of Images, the painting of a pipe by Rene Magritte with the text, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” It’s not a pipe, but merely an image of a pipe, like a slideshow isn’t a presentation, just an image of on. So, in nine words: have a conversation, keep it simple, know your stuff.
I had a great conversation at the PRSA 2013 International Conference with Mike Neumeier, principal of Arketi Group. Let me clarify: I was engaged in a conversation with Mike and about 75 other people in the room during his session, “How to Give a Presentation in Nine Words.”
Mike’s overarching theme was that a presentation should be a similar to a conversation; it should be a talk between you and the people in the room. For most of us who aren’t natural presenters this can be tricky, especially when our presentation, or “talk,” involves a room full of strangers or – even more distracting – a virtual audience. His advice: don’t treat your presentation like a lecture, treat it like a talk. Whatever your topic, imagine having a conversation about something important you want to explain to a friend.
Research your topic before starting an outline. You have to know what you’re talking about. Understanding or becoming an expert on your topic or idea before starting your outline is key to developing a compelling presentation.
Once you have your big idea, write it down and refer to it as you work through your outline. Jot down notes to complete your points. Use those points to support your idea.
Key to accomplishing a successful outline is to step away from technology. Go old school and use pencil and paper to create your outline. You can’t create a compelling presentation using tools such as Power Point, Key Note, or Prezi. These presentation platforms have their place, but much later in the process. Until you have a well-developed outline, these shouldn’t be used as a source for developing content.
Stepping away from technology has another advantage: it eliminates distractions created from checking email, or voicemail, allowing for better concentration. Neumeier asked us think about a great conversation we had with a friend, coworker or prospective client. During our conversation, were they checking their email, posting to Facebook, or tweeting? Probably not; the reason our conversation was memorable was because their focus was on us, not technology.
Once you’ve done all your thinking offline, it’s time to crack open your laptop. Check back tomorrow for Neumeier’s tips on creating presentation slides. Until then, keep in mind that it’s not about great-looking slides on Power Point, Key Note, or Prezi; your presentation is about developing great ideas that will win people over while using slides to support those ideas.
A large portion of all human interaction is nonverbal, which is excellent news if you’ve mastered body language and conduct business exclusively face-to-face. The CIA’s The World Factbook reports that in 2011 there were 2.1 billion Internet users, 1.2 billion active landlines, and 6 billion mobile phones, and modern businesses are putting those connections to use. Now that digital communication has made the world smaller, our face-to-face meetings have largely been replaced by phone meetings, video chats and email.
So what’s a body language guru to do when all you have to go on is voice? Turns out there are plenty of adjustments you can make to the way you speak that can support – or detract from – your words.
My mother constantly barked, “Don’t slouch Jennifer!” She had a point: the way we carry our body affects not only our health, it also affects how people perceive us.
The way we sit or position our body has a massive effect on our breathing pattern, which in turn impacts how we speak. So sit up straight before you make that call – good posture radiates confidence all the way through the phone.
Our emotional state affects the pitch of our voice. When we’re excited or fearful, our vocal folds tighten and make the pitch of our voice higher. However, we tend to associate a low-pitched voice with authority, so if you’re trying to project a more commanding image, lower your voice a few steps. Voice pitch also exposes our mood; to make yourself sound happier on the phone, try smiling as you talk.
Tone and Inflection
Our word choice, delivery, and inflection constitute our tone of voice, an aspect crucial to accurately getting across your message. A curt, rough or forceful tone implies anger, while a soft, soothing and subtle tone of voice suggests delight or pleasure.
Inflection is the movement and melody of our voice, the highs and lows, and it signifies whether or not we’re interested in what we’re saying. Speaking in monotone indicates we have little or no interest in what we’re saying. Voice inflection, and the emphasis we put on certain words, can change the meaning of our sentences. So think ahead to the key points you’re addressing, and plan your tone and inflection around emphasizing those points.
If you’re in doubt as to how you sound or how you should sound, match your voice to the person you’re talking to. This doesn’t mean you should adopt a completely different accent; rather, make subtle, gradual adjustments by listening to the pitch, tone and inflection of the person on the other end of your phone call.
The reminders are simple, be mindful of your posture, answer the phone promptly, provide a sincere, welcoming and warm greeting, speak clearly, and please, don’t slouch. Sit up straight!
I’m a people watcher. I travel for work quite often, so I do my people watching in airports, walking down busy sidewalks, in elevators, restaurants, and during meetings. I’ve always been interested in body language because I’m intrigued by nonverbal communication.
Recently, while having a business lunch with a friend, I met McKenna, our server. She bubbled up to our table with a huge bright smile and her head held high, ready to take our order. She introduced herself then apologized and said she wasn’t feeling very well. I almost choked on my swig of water – her energy, smile, and posture all belied how she actually felt. McKenna is proof that if we control our body language, we can control the messages we send out to those around us.
When not controlled, body language is often a distraction. During another business meeting I sat next to a “yes” person. Like a bobble head, this person nodded her head in agreement with every statement. Instead of finding the nodding a demonstration of support or an indication she was listening, I found it so distracting that I ended up counting each bob, then bobbing along with her, and focused more on the bobbing than the content of the meeting.
During the recent PR Summit, where BurrellesLuce was a sponsor, I enjoyed a presentation by business coach, author and international speaker Carol Goman. Her presentation, “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Impacts PR & Profits,” provided fascinating insights into the nuances of body language.
Goman explained that we need to be aware of the nonverbal signals we’re sending if we want to be seen as powerful, credible and confident. For example, too many head tilts. A head tilt is a feminine gesture indicating that we’re listening and involved, but subconsciously these tilts could be perceived as submission signals. In order to project power and authority, we need to keep our head straight up and in a neutral position when in a professional setting.
Another mistake? Not taking up enough room. During a business meeting, status is nonverbally communicated by claiming space. So don’t keep materials in one neat little pile; spread out and take up some territory.
Watch your hand gestures; don’t point at someone, because it comes off as intimidating. And for heaven’s sake, don’t bite your nails, twirl your hair, or cross your arms. Not only are these behaviors are associated with passivity, but they tend to be irritating and imply nervousness.
Put on your game face! If you smile excessively, or do so at the wrong time during serious topics, you could come off as lacking authority.
Finally, if you want to read someone’s body language to see how you’re perceived, check out their feet. If you walk up to two people engaged in conversation and their upper torso turns toward you but their feet stay in place, you’re interrupting. If their feet turn toward you, know that you’re a welcome addition.
So next time you’re in a meeting, don’t forget to spread out, keep a “game” face, and aim your toes at the person you most want to engage.