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- Body Language and Gestures,
- Career Development,
- Customer Service,
- Elevator Speech or Mission Statement,
- Human Behavior,
- Marketing Communications,
- Messaging and Content Development,
- Networking and Relationship Building,
- Professional Speaking,
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- Series - Presentation Reviews,
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I had the privilege of delivering a guest lecture on personal branding at one of the local universities last week. One of the key messages I tried to convey to the students of Professor Murphy’s marketing class was the importance of telling their brand story in a way that is meaningful and easily understood by their target audience.
Although a succinct, well-told story does help to increase the visibility of your brand, its real purpose is to create a desire among the members of your target audience that gets them to say, “I want you.”
Here at The Chief Storyteller®, we’ve helped many of our clients harness the power of storytelling to more effectively and quickly accomplish their objectives. One of the communications elements we specialize in is your elevator speech (a succinct answer to “What Do You Do?”). A good elevator speech will tell your brand story in a meaningful and easily understood way…in 30 seconds or less.
Word (or message) clouds like the one I created for my personal brand and shown above are a visual representation of your elevator speech. Key elements of my brand story (e.g., branding, strategy, sales, marketing, storyteller) are noticeably more prominent than some of the less celebrated ones (e.g., fitness, sustainability, outdoor, leader, explorer). Like a well-told elevator speech, a good word cloud will leave your target audience with a meaningful and easily understood impression of your personal brand...in 30 seconds or less.
As I told the marketing students, every one of us has a personal brand and word clouds are another good way of telling your brand’s story to drive the results you want.
Last week, I wrote about why I think sales people need to spend more time in front of their customers. I told the story of one of my former customers and how he taught me the importance of nurturing business relationships – the kind of relationships between a seller and a buyer where the salesperson genuinely cares about his customer's business and understands his needs.
If you really think about it, none of this should be surprising. Very few people I know are going to be “sold” by broadcast content from a faceless brand about how great the company and its products are. What people want is an opportunity to converse with another person. Someone who genuinely cares about them and what they think. Someone who will engage them in a two-way conversation.
And so it is with online branded content. When brands post and promote content over social media – a blog, an announcement, or even a photo – it should be done in a way that invites and rewards conversation. Start by revealing the people behind the brand. Speak in a friendly, conversational tone. Be brief and to the point. Include hashtags and a link to relevant and meaningful content. And respond in a timely and personalized manner when someone initiates a conversation with you.
Acknowledging your followers and their feedback is a great way for your brand to show it trusts and values their opinions. Engaging them in an interactive conversation is the first step toward building mutual respect for one another and, quite possibly, a long and mutually beneficial relationship.
Relationships between two people are important. Always have been and always will be. Social media has not changed that; all that’s really changed is how people communicate with one another in the course of building and sustaining those relationships.
What’s also changed is the way brands communicate with their customers. Customers are eschewing one-way broadcast communications from brands in favor of two-way conversations. And those conversations are no longer between customers and a brand. They’re between customers and the people who represent those brands. Brands who want to create long and meaningful relationships with their customers need to show their human side.
Your brand’s human side (i.e., its personality) is a mirror image of the people who bring your brand to life across social media – your community managers. Community managers are the face of your brand – they create relationships within the communities they serve.
It’s important to choose your community managers wisely. For starters, community managers should be people who can represent your brand intelligently and who know their way around social media. They should be people who’ve mastered the art of engaging with and influencing others (as demonstrated by their Klout or Kred scores). And because social media is so transparent, the ideal community managers should authentically possess and demonstrate these personality traits:
Can you think of any others you might want to add to the list? If so, please reply back and let me know.
For more on the human side of branding and social media, please see:
• Why a Good Social Media Strategy Includes Content and Engagement
• How Volunteers and Community Managers Serve Brands, Too
• Social Media Is About Building Relationships
I have come to learn and be a fan of The American Freedom Foundation several years ago.Its "mission is to honor the men and women of America’s armed forces, raise awareness for their service and sacrifice and raise money for organizations that serve and support our Veterans, active duty military and their families." AFF has partnered with AUSA to hold a Warriors to the Workforce event at its annual convention in the Washingont, DC area Oct 21 to Oct 23.
Guy Timberlake, CEO, of The American Small Business Coalition, (I'm a member) connected me to AFF. I'll be presenting on 10/23 a program on the importance of your personal "Tell me about yourself" story and business storytelling in general.
The event is free of charge.
American Freedom Foundation’s Warriors to the Workforce
Hiring Event at AUSA Announces Workshop Sessions
12 Workshop sessions will take place at October 21 – 23 to provide resources and information for veterans and transitioning military
The Warriors to The Workforce Hiring Event presented by SourceAmerica™ during the 2013 AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition at the Washington DC Convention Center on October 21 – 23, 2013 will include workshops featuring some of the top speakers in the country providing resources and information for veterans and transitioning military.
Presentations will include topics such as mental readiness, confidence building, networking and presentation skills, resume writing, interviewing techniques, job searching, career planning through goal setting, translating military skills and training into civilian life and corporate experience, among others.
In addition to these transition workshops, veterans will have the opportunity to meet with some of the country’s largest and most veteran friendly employers including ADS, Inc., Aerotek, ATK, Inc. BAE Systems, Ball Aerospace, Calibre, Camber, CSC, EMCOR, ESRI, First Command, Fluor, General Dynamics Information Technology, Geneva Software, HP, Kaplan, Kelly Services, L-?3 National Security Solutions, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Navy Federal Credit Union, Northrop Grumman, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, SAIC, SourceAmerica, Troops Into Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Verizon, Vets Group and Veterans Administration.
When it comes to business planning and strategy, I’ve noticed there are two types of people – those who believe they can and those who believe they cannot. The folks in the first group will generate a slew of ideas for making dreams come true, while those in the second group will offer only excuses for why the possible is really impossible.
One of the lessons I learned as a scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America is that the key to personal and organizational growth is empowerment. Empowering others gives them the freedom to try new things, to take risks and to learn (and grow) from their mistakes. Empowerment is allowing others to bring a “can-do” attitude to the challenges and opportunities they encounter. It is a sharing of decision-making authority and it drives accountability at all levels of an organization. And it encourages creative thinking and innovation, both prerequisites for growth.
This “can-do” attitude is one of the attributes I see consistently in entrepreneurs. Many of them start with a dream and an idea. One idea becomes several and as they implement their ideas, they take some risks. Not every idea is a home run and they learn from their mistakes. And this is how they grow their businesses and realize what, for many of them, has been a lifelong dream. As an example, I recently wrote about the story of Knockaround™ sunglasses and the role founder Adam “Ace” Moyer’s “can-do” attitude played in the growth of his business.
Which do your business planning and strategy discussions include more of: ideas for making dreams come true or excuses for why the possible is impossible?
I was at a meeting recently where one of the participants emphatically declared that social media was all about creating great content. Period. An “if you post it, they will come” approach to building a presence across the digital marketplace, if you will.
As an experienced business storyteller and social media professional, I would have to disagree. Sure, content is important. Engaging others is equally, if not more important. Social media is not a one-way communication. It is not a conversation between a brand and a person. It is an interactive dialogue between two people who share a common interest. It is a forum for engaging others with compelling images, personalized stories and the exchange of information.
To help you understand how well you are engaging others across your social networks, consider using an application like Klout. Since it was updated in September 2012 to include a new feature called Klout Moments, I have been using it to help identify my own social media posts that have generated action (e.g., likes, RT’s, favorites, etc.) from the people in my networks. Klout Moments is a measure of influence and it tells me how the content I am posting is engaging the people I care most about.
So, as you build or modify your brand's social media strategy, be sure to include an equal focus on content and engagement. After all, when it comes to social media and the impact of these two elements on your strategy, it is an "and" conversation.
For more insights on social media branding and the relationship between content and engagement, please see:
• How to Measure Your Brand’s Storytelling Effectiveness in Social Media
• Branding Lessons from Social Media
• Brand Building Through Social Media
• Content is the New Currency for Brand Storytelling in 2013
The Latino Hotel and Restaurant Association, LHRA, is on of the preeminent organizations representing the business interests of Latino hotel owners, operators and developers. Internationally, members own and operate hotels representing more than 20,000 rooms, employing over 15,000 individuals, and whose assets are valued at more than $2 billion.
Over 300 people from the US, Mexico, Central and South America will be attend. Members are influential, decision-making executives.
If you are in the hotel or restaurant industry, join me and hundreds of professionals from around the world. I will be delivering Thursday morning's keynote, "Get Funded: Design and Deliver the Perfect Investor Pitch."
Top 5 Reasons to Attend
1. Forecasting. We cannot predict the weather in Florida, but our expert speakers and panelists can make educated predictions on how they think hotels and restaurants will preform in 2014!
2. Education. Two action packed days of presentations and panels focusing on industry trends that will help attendees boost their performance.
3. Networking with colleagues. Mix with other successful hospitality business professionals at our unique receptions and breaks.Last year we had a chefs competition to close the event...this year savory dishes will kick it off!
4. Legacy Building. Join LHRA as they hosts this year's Battle of the Brands - High Stakes Golf Tournament to support Latino students seeking careers in the hospitality industry! Compete in this stimulating golf tournament and help us raise money for student scholarships!!!
5. Industry Recognition. Meet owners, operators, developers and industry suppliers who have proven themselves worthy of LHRA recognition at this year's Estrella Awards!
Last week, I wrote about the power of social media in brand storytelling. If the power of social media lies in its ability to foster stronger and more personal relationships that lead to higher levels of customer engagement and brand loyalty, how do you measure it? One way might be to consider your brand’s influence and outreach, as measured by Kred.
I’ve been using Kred for the better part of a year now. While I may have my own sense of how my personal brand might be perceived by others, Kred provides me with an outside perspective through a visual activity stream. This stream includes a snapshot of what others see, how they are reacting to the content I share, the topics I am most influential in and why.
Kred measures influence (or the likelihood that someone will trust me enough to take action on the content I post, on a scale from 1 to 1,000) and outreach (or my generosity in online relationships, as determined by my willingness to follow others and share their content, on a scale from 1 to 12). Brands with higher scores enjoy higher levels of trust and generosity – both key elements in storytelling effectiveness.
While much of what my Kred Story tells me is consistent with my expectations, I am occasionally surprised by what I find. For example, my latest report (shown here) includes my influence (685 out of 1,000) and outreach (6 out of 12) scores. It also contains a summary of hash tags that have appeared in online conversations with me (e.g., #branding, #leadership, #socialmedia, #marketing, #storytelling, etc.), a steady growth in followers and a short listing of my top communities (e.g., marketing, social media and music).
No real surprises until I got to the last top community I just listed. Music? Really? Now that is a surprising insight, given that music is not something I would associate with my personal brand. As I thought about it some more, I realized a good number of musicians are storytellers, too. I suppose it's possible my posts may be resonating with people in the music community and this might be a target audience I may have overlooked.
As your brand hones its storytelling effectiveness on social media, be sure to include outside measures of your influence and outreach by tools like Kred. Hopefully, most of what you'll find will reaffirm your sense of how your brand is being perceived online. The things that surprise you might just open new doors and opportunities for your brand.
Is your brand using social media to tell its story? If not, you may be missing out on one of the best opportunities for interacting with your customers and prospects. Unlike traditional media, the conversational nature of social media can help your brand foster stronger and more personal relationships. Relationships that lead to higher levels of customer engagement and brand loyalty.
I recently wrote about the importance of telling your own story on social media vs. letting someone else tell it for you (or not). If that wasn’t enough to convince you to jump on the social media bandwagon, let me offer you a list of 7 more reasons why I believe social media is a powerful platform for business storytelling. Social media:
- Delivers value – through fresh and original content – that helps to differentiate your brand
- Establishes your credibility and authority as a thought leader – through commentary on trending topics and industry issues
- Demonstrates your commitment to corporate citizenship in your local community – through updates on events and invitations to participate
- Invites customer feedback – through the effective use of questions and comments showing genuine concern – that allows you to react quickly to customer dissatisfiers and offbrand experiences
- Creates emotional connections between brands and consumers – through its ability to allow two-way conversations
- Achieves strong SEO results – through a combination of user interaction, keywords and relevant backlinks
- Encourages people to share, engage and even buy your product or service – through informative and interesting content
For more on the power of social media as a channel for brand storytelling and customer engagement, please see:
• Branding Lessons from Social Media
• Brand Building Through Social Media
• 5 Insights on Marketing Your Brand in Social Media
• Social Media Is About Building Relationships
• Are You Embracing Social Media?
To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.
Great Leaders are Great Storytellers: Five Tips to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness
Copyright © The Chief Storyteller ® LLC. All rights reserved.
Ira J. Koretsky
July 2013, Published with The Latino Hotel and Restaurant Association (LHRA)
With today’s communications so fast and furious, do you have the time to really process the multitude of messages demanding your attention? Of course you don’t. You pick and choose based on what resonates.
So as a leader who has to communicate your own vision, how then do you ensure your messages resonate and generate the right actions? By surrounding them with compelling personal stories. Together, they make a business story.
If you were to look back over your career at the leaders that inspired you, I would bet part of what makes you smile when you think of them was their ability to connect to both your heart and your mind. Truly, only through business stories can you accomplish both.
During my career, two leaders have really stood out. When I think of Mike C. and Colonel M., I smile and remember fondly my time working with each of them. They stand out because of how each treated me—they were great listeners, they were great advisors, and they were great supporters. Over 26 years later, I am still friends with Mike C. Unfortunately, I lost track of Colonel M. when I left the US Army.
Why did Mike and the Colonel make such powerful and indelible impressions? Our shared experiences. Experiences define us. And it’s the stories we share about these experiences that help shape the world around us. We live through each other’s stories. The best stories have several key characteristics. They are simple; are easily understood; have immediate resonance; are delivered passionately; and have a positive outcome or learning experience.
Great leaders are great storytellers.
Whether you are speaking at a small, informal meeting; in front of investors; or before thousands at a shareholder’s meeting, use these five tips to improve your own business storytelling.
Identify the One Thing You Want them to Remember
Ensure your business story has only one key message. In the absence of a clear message, audience members will either forget what you said or create their own interpretation. Think of your message as a headline—about seven words in length. To see the potential power of a headline, try this: Type a phrase into your favorite search engine. You will be greeted with hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of pithy, short phrases all vying for your “click me” action. Which one will you click?
“Texture” Your Story
Use a variety of language styles. Imagine you were in an audience listening to some of our greatest contemporary storytellers. They use a variety of techniques and styles such as metaphors, alliteration, and repetition. Be deliberate in your word choices. Be deliberate in using character dialogue. Be deliberate with your rhetorical devices (by way of example, starting several consecutive sentences with the same words is a repetition figure of speech called “anaphora”).
Make the Journey Relevant
Make your story pass the “so what” test. Invite your audience into your experience by sharing the WIIFM?What’s In It For Me. Well-told stories create a shared experience, which enables your listeners to understand your business message on a personal level. Your words should crystallize common values and experiences. Be sure to answer the audience’s question of “Why is this important to me?”
Only Share the Good Parts
Edit ruthlessly. You have at most, three minutes to share your business story. Don’t think the whole story has to be shared. It doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. Instead, rethink how you tell your story in a business setting. Typical personal stories told at parties involve boring parts. Lots of boring parts, with the good parts interspersed. The good parts make your story interesting. If you need a little help identifying the good parts, ask your friends and colleagues for feedback. Or next time you tell a favorite story, listen for questions and look for favorable body language. Now edit or omit everything else. Then texture your words around the good parts.
It’s All About Them
Once you have identified your stories, think carefully about the words you are using. Words conjure feelings and emotions. The words you use and the stories you tell can elicit positive and negative feelings equally well. Words and stories have context and perspective. Many words have multiple meanings, and tone and delivery can be understood?or misunderstood?in a variety of ways. For example, the expression “You’re crazy,” can be playful, argumentative, or even condescending.
Leaders are constantly looked to for guidance and advice. Remember it’s all about them? It’s all about your audience. So Mr./Ms. Leader, what personal stories are you telling to inspire action? Do your audiences respond the way you intended?
With our easy global access to diverse cultures and experiences, your words and stories matter to those around you more than ever before. Be deliberate with the stories you tell and the messages you share. Follow the advice of famous novelist Joseph Conrad: “I have no use for engines. Give me the right word...and I will move the world.”
A picture really does tell the story of a thousand words. Which story, though? From whose perspective? Depending on the storyteller, the same picture can be used to tell different stories. These stories, and how well they resonate with us, are often what determine whether or not we engage with the storyteller.
Consider the picture shown here. It appeared on Instagram recently and was posted by a college graduate on the morning of her commencement. The picture was accompanied by a very short story – one that poignantly described that moment and the emotions she felt as her college experience was about to draw to a close. The caption read, “This day came to our party uninvited and unwanted….” This image, and the words below it, reminded me of the emotions I felt on my own graduation day.
You might notice there are about a dozen or so others in the picture. What stories do you suppose they might tell about that same moment in time? Here are some of my guesses:
• “And so it begins…a new day and the dawn of our future.”
• “The good old days came to an end today.”
• “The light of our friendship burns bright and will never be extinguished.”
• “So long to sleepless nights and all-night cramming…”
• “We made it!”
Can you think of any you might want to add to this list?
Everyone has his or her own story to tell, each of which leaves us with some insight into their personality, values, history and aspirations for the future. Some of them will tell their stories, others may simply choose to remain silent.
Now imagine the beach as a competitive landscape. Dotted among the landscape is your brand and a dozen or so of your competitors. Everyone is facing the same opportunities, challenges and uncertainties. Your competitors are telling their stories on social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blog posts). Your brand, on the other hand, chooses to stay silent. Instead, you let others tell your story for you. Or you let them guess.
Either way, what is your silence saying about you and your brand? What influence are your competitors' stories having on your prospects and customers? How are people perceiving your brand and the relevance of it to their lives? Perhaps it's time to engage your prospects and customers on social media.
Let’s pretend for a moment you’re in the business of selling transportation to college students. What, do you suppose, is most important to them: price, time, convenience, comfort or safety?
After you conduct your market research, you determine what matters most to your target audience is time. So you develop a value proposition and service offering that guarantees a five-hour bus ride from the student’s college to his or her hometown. Your business begins to grow.
A few months go by and somebody else comes along offering students a faster ride home (time) with door-to-door service (convenience), an impeccable safety record (safety) and extra legroom (comfort) at a comparable fare (price). Your business begins to decline.
What just happened? While you were building a business by offering customers what they told you they wanted, someone else came along and, with a little innovation, came up with an improved business model. By replacing buses with cars, your competitor found a way to provide your customers with better and faster service at the same price.
The moral of the story is this: it’s not enough to simply ask your customers what they want and then give it to them. Brands that enjoy sustained growth are continually innovating and finding new ways to serve their customers. Sometimes, that means providing your customers with something they will value before they even ask for it.
My oldest son graduated from Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia the other day. For many of his classmates, it was an occasion marked by feelings of intense pride, quiet anticipation and hope. So it was fitting to mark the end of their high school years and the beginning of the rest of their young lives with a commencement address by Class of 2000 Oakton High School alumnus and entrepreneur Adam “Ace” Moyer, Founder and CEO of Knockaround™.
Ace’s message to the graduates was simple. If you have an idea, follow your dreams. No experience is necessary. With the support and encouragement of family and friends, you’ll figure it out. Sure, the good will come with the bad and there may be times when difficult decisions have to be made. In the end, he told the graduating class of 2013, don’t be afraid to take risks. It will be worth it.
For Ace, his company started in 2005 with the idea of providing customers with classically styled sunglasses in many colors at an affordable price. Knockaround™ sunglasses were designed to take abuse and, as the thinking went, the people who owned them wouldn't mind abusing them because they didn’t cost much in the first place. That idea has since grown to include new models and color choices, limited edition and custom-designed sunglasses, apparel and accessories.
So follow your dreams and, as they say at Knockaround™, “keep looking at the bright side.”
Today is the third year people can say to me, "Happy Father's Day." As an older parent, having children makes you (I believe) more acutely aware of your personal and family life. For me, it also makes me think of how grateful I am for my good friends, trusted colleagues, and loyal clients.
What positive things does it make you think of?
I received this advertisment from Flickr. I like the content, style, layout, and message.
I would prefer to see a smiling person(s) instead of a flower. The message, in bold white letters, is "Smile." If the folks at Flickr really want to use a flower (assuming a connection to Spring), then use smiling people holding flowers or running in a field.
Your photography and imagery should always match the picture. Otherwise you run the risk of creating messaging disconnects. Messaging disconnects reduce click-throughs, success of call-to-action buttons, signups, purchases, and so forth.
If the measure of one’s commitment to protecting the environment is the number of cars taken off the road as a direct result of an action, this year’s record-breaking turnout of participants in the Washington, D.C. region’s Bike to Work Day is tangible proof of the region’s growing concern for the environment. On a recent Spring day in mid-May, over 14,500 registered riders made a difference by taking their cars off the road for at least one day.
Of course, like so many other causes, events like this would not be possible were it not for the generous support of like-minded corporate and not-for-profit sponsors like Whole Foods Market, Marriott, ICF International, AAA, Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA).
Working together with their local communities, these organizations are leading the way by telling a story we can believe in. It’s an authentic story about sustainability and how individuals can come together to make a difference. It’s also a story about a healthy and safe alternative to driving alone in your car…and about learning to enjoy the ride, as I and thousands of others did. One bike at a time, their participation in this year's Bike to Work Day provides us with a glimpse of the causes they and the people in their communities care most about -- sustainability, health and fitness, fun, etc.
How are you and your organization making a difference in your community? Are the stories being told reflective of your personal and organizational values?
I am a huge fan of audio books. On the plane, in the car, and on the subway I am catching up on my favorite business books and for pleasure books. A colleague introduced me to John Scalzi, who is primarily a sci-fi writer. As I do every time with new authors, I read reviews on Amazon, biographies on Wikipedia and Amazon, and ask the referrering person more about style and substance.
Reading John's bio on Amazon really piqued my interest. Reading the bio shows me he's a bit wry, funny, well-liked (he's won several awards), and has an interesting call-to-action at the end.
John Scalzi writes books, which, considering where you're reading this, makes perfect sense. He's best known for writing science fiction, for which he won the John W. Campbell Award (2006) and has been nominated for the Hugo Award for best novel (2006, 2008, 2009). He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, and was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word "Whatever" into Google. No, seriously, try it.
I indeed typed "Whatever" into Google and John's blog came up first. I'm convinced. Now I have to figure out which book to read first.
Moral of the story: If you have a personal bio on your website, LinkedIn profile, speaker one sheet, etc., have you considered, seriously considered changing it? Most bios are factual and chronological splashed at the end with the "Ira's married to the love of his life, has a wonderful daughter, and enjoys photography in his spare time." When I thought conservative was better, I didn't stand out. Today, my bio helps me more memorable and more engaging. My bio gives people reasons and opportunities to talk with me more about my background.
Try changing your bio....even if it is just a little.
Postscript 1: I just looked at his LinkedIn page and this is his first sentence in his Summary: "I write. I edit. I get paid. I fight crime! I lied about that last one."
Postscript 2: Some people asked that I include my bio. The bio is available as a PDF on The Chief Storyteller website, is included with my speaking engagements, has a variation on social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, is included in proposals, and the list goes on. People always ask me about something in the bio.
“Think deliberately.” The mantra of a person who has made improving communications his life’s work.
It all began some 30 years ago, at a high school science fair. Ira had presented his computer program on the heart and the circulatory system. One by one, the prizes were announced...third...second...first place. After nearly 100 hours of programming evenings and weekends, he slumped his shoulders and thought to himself, “I lost.” Then...Ira heard the chairwoman announce, “We are awarding the grand prize to a young man who could sell me my own pair of shoes!” And his name was called.
For more than 26 years nationally and internationally, Ira has been building his communication skills into a well-honed set of precision instruments. Within minutes, he will fundamentally change the way you communicate.
His most pivotal experience was serving as a public affairs officer in the United States Army Medical Service Corps. Trained in giving and preparing presentations for military and civilian executives, he gained invaluable insights into messaging, communications, and storytelling.
Living on both coasts, Ira has held various leadership roles in marketing and product management. After earning his MBA from the University of Maryland in 2000, Ira entered into the world of leading edge technology. It was while working in San Francisco and Silicon Valley he began to adapt his skills for use with the new, technology-driven tools today’s professionals have come to rely on.
And like all good communicators, Ira loves the stage. He performed improvisational humor professionally with ComedySportz in a career spanning 12 years and more than 1,000 shows. While performing, Ira had this epiphany: “improv mirrors life.” Life experiences stem from random and planned connections with people, and it is these experiences that help us to bond quickly with audiences.
Ira is an active blogger and writer, was a guest columnist for the Washington Business Journal, and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland. He helped the a US government contracting firm win a $94 million multi-year project; Altum develop a proposal that had a 100% success rate in going to the final decision round; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) secure funding for the National Youth Fitness Survey.
Earth Day is Monday, April 22.
Since it was first celebrated here in the U.S. in 1970, it has become an international movement for promoting the planet and a sustainable future. It is now observed in 192 countries across colleges and universities, secondary schools, local communities and a growing number of brands.
If you’re a marketer like me and believe sustainability is about more than simply promoting green products and behaviors, you’ll appreciate brands whose approaches to sustainability marketing include calls to action that champion economic prosperity, social justice and environmental protection.
A brand that is making a difference in these three areas is One, whose tag line is “do one good thing™.” The story of One began in the U.K. with an awareness of a single need – that something needed to be done about the one billion people in the world who lacked access to safe drinking water – and an idea – to create a brand of bottled water where all the profits were given to charity.
While it may seem counterintuitive that a brand concerned with world water issues is selling bottled water, the explanation One provides on its website is what makes its sustainability marketing effort so innovative and unique: “We are not saying buy our water INSTEAD of using tap water; we are saying IF you are going to buy bottled water, buy One and make a difference at the same time.”
The story of One is still being written. Since May 2005, One has raised over $7.8 million for clean water supply projects in countries where the need is greatest (i.e., where over 40% of the population lives in extreme poverty). Thanks to the efforts of One, over 1.5 million people now have access to clean drinking water and, instead of walking great distances to get water, children are now going to school. One bottles are made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), use less plastic than the typical water bottle and are 50% lighter than the average soda bottle.
So the next time you reach for bottled water, think of One and the difference it is making in the global economy, the lives of people in some of the poorest countries in the world and the environment we call home.
Last week I had the honor of being a semi-finalist judge for the The George Wasington University Business Plan Competition. About 35 judges discussed the merits and potential of some 30 business plans. Our focus was to select the eight lucky finalists. These finalists would then pitch on April 19, competing for over $60,000 in cash prizes. We had some passionate discussions, laughed a bit, and in the end, chose some really interesting ideas. I am really looking forward to the presentations next week. If you are interested in attending, the link is at the bottom.
The GW Business Plan Competition, founded five years ago by Florida Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Annette Scott, awards over $60,000 in cash prizes to teams of GW students, faculty and alumni who have innovative ideas for new products and/or services. The Scotts' daughter, Allison Scott Guimard, is an alumna of GW's School of Business, class of 2005.
With 109 submissions from 12 schools at GW, participation has increased significantly over the years. From those initial submissions, 35 student-based teams were invited to write full business plans, and from them, eight teams made it to the GW Business Plan Competition Finals. These eight finalists will present their business plans and ideas to a panel of distinguished entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists and GW alumni.
Eight student-led teams will present their winning business ideas and compete for over $60,000 in cash prizes during the GW Business Plan Competition. The GW Business Plan Competition Finals are the culmination of a year-long series of educational workshops and active mentorship on new venture creation. Finalists will present their business plans and ideas to a panel of distinguished entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists and GW alumni. In addition, winners from previous years will be present to talk about where they have taken their businesses since securing funding in a previous GW Business Plan Competition. Registration and a full schedule are available here.
Final presentations and awards will take place from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 19. The event is open to GW students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the general public.
The George Washington University
School of Business
Duques Hall, 6th Floor
2201 G Street, N.W.
If you are planning to attend let me know, we can meet up there for some coffee.
The other day, Geetesh Baraj, PowerPoint MVP and Manager of the "PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff" LinkedIn Group posted the following question to the group. My suggestions follow below...
Creating Slides for Multi-Lingual Audiences
I am researching a blog post topic -- since it is still being researched, anything mentioned below is not set in stone. I am open to all your thoughts and the scenario and the suggestions can be broadly changed as required.
Here is the scenario, and as I said, this is a broad definition that can be changed:
1. You need to create slides for a multi-lingual audience.
2. Everyone in the audience understands English to some extent, but they are not necessarily fluent in the language.
3. The presentation needs to distributed later to audience members -- and some others who were not present at the actual event.
4. Before distribution, the presentation may need to be translated to other languages -- this means that there needs to be some basic amount of text.
What are your thoughts about the use of:
1. Story / Outline: How deep should this be? Should the depth level be low -- will that compromise the content?
2. Text: What level of simplification?
3. Visuals: Should pictures replace text, or complement it?
4. Design and Color: What works best?
I've pondered this several years ago before I started presenting internationally. I have had the honor of conducting programs in 8 countries with six trips involving simultaneous translation. Here are some questions and suggestions.
1. How knowledgeable is the audience? Without knowing your answer, in general, I suggest ~30 to 50% reduction in complexity and content
2) The broad brush suggestion is to translate the presentation and handouts in advance. Bring your own version matched page-for-page with the translated version
3) Find people through your network whom have done business, worked in, or lived in the country/region and solicit feedback
4) Localize--always. For color, fonts, pictures, graphs, words, humor, etc. Some seemingly small things could actually backfire and you may never even know it
5) Consider an appendix or handouts with tips, examples, and how-to's
6) Solicit feedback from the audience afterward. Be gentle as you probe, as some cultures are not forthcoming with what they deem criticism of the speaker
When you think of products whose selling propositions are built around the promise of sustainability, which products come to mind? Green ones? Blue ones? How about gray ones?
If you said green ones, you might be right. Well, sort of. There is certainly no shortage of “green” products on the market today. Brands across many categories have added a green component to their products in an effort to appeal to one or more market niches, increase sales and demonstrate their commitment to the environment. Green products, as a whole, are largely considered alternatives to mainstream products and are often pricier. A common theme among green marketers is to ask consumers to make a positive change in one aspect of their consumption behavior, while permitting them to maintain the status quo with others.
Sustainability takes this call to action one step further. Sustainability is transformative. It seeks to reform the way we produce, consume and dispose of mainstream products. Upstart brands like method®, the maker of non-toxic biodegradable home and personal care products, market goods that are designed to reduce health risks, waste and water pollution. Their products are priced comparably to others in their category, sold in aesthetically-pleasing recyclable packaging and available through mainstream and specialty retailers alike (e.g., Target, Whole Foods, etc.).
For method®, sustainability includes a focus on health, community and environmental impacts. Products like its naturally-derived, 2-in-1 dish and hand soap come packaged in a gray bottle made with recycled ocean plastic. Each bottle includes a blue tag around its neck with a short story of how method® is seeking to change the way we view the impact our consumption and disposal habits are having on our environment:
"it's estimated that several million tons of plastic makes its way into our oceans every year, polluting the environment and hurting our marine populations...we're on a mission to change that. that's why the ocean plastic used to make the bottle you're holding was collected by us, method employees. we know we can't return the ocean to it's pristine condition, but we can raise awareness of the importance of reusing the plastic that's already here. that's something. [and] that's why I'm gray."
The next time you think of sustainability, don’t just think “green.” Think about the gray bottle atop your kitchen sink and the transformative nature of what it represents. Now that's something.
One of our blog readers emailed me to let me know that Matt of "Where the Hell is Matt?" fame had a new video. I posted a blog in August of 2006 sharing a bit of background on Matt. This was before his three other videos and as it calls it, his "not-entirely-un-famous" status.
Once you read the About Matt page, you will really appreciate the storytelling behind his videos. The accompanying music in the 2012 video is fantastic. I even "Bought" the video from his home page despite being able to find it on the Internet. Why? Because Matt started out and I still think through today, to be genuinely selfless. He is honest, his videos reflect this, and the worldwide enjoyment is testament to his beliefs. With all of the messaging and organizations touting story this and story that, I truly believe the absolute genuine stories will be the ones that stand out.
Here is an excerpt from his About page:
He mostly just danced in front of iconic landmarks, but along the way he went to a country called Rwanda, and since there aren't any landmarks in Rwanda that you'd want to dance in front of, instead he just went to a small village and danced with a bunch of kids. The kids joined him immediately and without hesitation. That ended up being the best thing that happened to him on the trip. The kids taught him that people are a whole lot more interesting than old landmarks and monuments.
Matt went back to Stride and told them he did it all wrong and they needed to send him around the planet again. They said, "Okay," and in 2008 he put out another video that showed thousands of people laughing, smiling, and goofing around together. It took him five years and three tries, but he finally got it right that time.
Where the Hell is Matt 2005 video ~3,000,000 views
Where the Hell is Matt 2006 video ~18,300,000 views
Where the Hell is Matt 2008 video ~45,500,000 views
Where the Hell is Matt 2012 video ~9,700.000 views
Recently I purchased an item from the online Disney Store. A few days after delivery the email pictured below, arrived.
Here is the text of the email:
Title: THANK YOU FAIRY MUCH
How can we make it even better?
We want to hear all those thoughts flying around about how we can make your DisneyStore.com experience the best ever. Please fill out a brief survey - it will help us make sure that your experience was everything you wished for.
It will only take a few minutes of your time and no one will see your answers but us.
Thank you for your purchase. And thank you for letting us know what you think!
It about 80 words or ~15 seconds to skim/read Disney gets across a) They care; b) My time is valuable; and c) Brand consistency. On the bottom of the email, you can see all of the social media links, sign-up for the newsletter, and event alerts. Very well done.
I buy landscaping mulch every year. I’ve been buying it from the same local nonprofit now for several years…until this year, when they were unable to supply me. So I took my business elsewhere. Another “customer for life” gone forever.
Mulch is a commodity. I can get it anywhere at the same price. Regardless of where I purchase it, the product and the price are the same. Delivery to my driveway on the 3rd Saturday in March is free. And the one thing that bound me to my former supplier – the relationship I once had – had grown distant.
The decision to go elsewhere was an easy one. It wasn’t hard to find another supplier. I wrote a check and walked across the street to my neighbor’s house to drop it off. On Saturday, while I was away, my order was delivered and stacked on the sidewalk beyond my driveway. My expectations were exceeded. In years past, my other supplier would stack the bags in my driveway, which required my having to move them to the sidewalk in order to access my garage.
Later that afternoon, as I went out and began moving the bags to the area of the yard where they would be emptied, my neighbor’s SUV pulled into the driveway. Five guys from the delivery crew – all friends of mine – got out and began moving the bags to the rear of the yard. We laughed and we joked. Although I wasn’t looking for help, they insisted. Again, my expectations were exceeded. I knew then I had found a new supplier...one that I am hoping to stay with for years to come.
I share this story because it highlights the importance of differentiation in selling a commoditized, low-interest product. Marketers who succeed in retaining customers for life are the ones who consistently deliver and who find unique ways to differentiate their customer experience. Nurturing customer relationships and exceeding customer expectations are two of the best ways to accomplish this.
Think about your products and how they are positioned in the market. Are you just selling mulch?
For more on customer retention and ways to differentiate your customer experience, please see:
• Are Your Customers Looking for a Better Deal?
• Anticipating Needs Is the Key to Customer Retention
• “You’re Going to Like the Way You Look…”
I remind people that networking is hard. It is like a big blind date for professionals. And you should expect lots of no's and few yes's. I always quote Richard Bolles in "What Color Is Your Parachute?" "Think of every "no" as bringing you one step closer to a "yes."
During a recent "how to networking" program" I was asked one of the more frequent question, "How do I know if I should exit a conversation?"
Here are five sure-fire indicators that your conversation partner is ready to move on. He/she...
1. Stops asking questions. This is a direct way of letting you know. The awkwardness alone makes you cringe. Exit quickly.
2. Starts glancing around frequently. Many people do not realize they are doing this. This is not an absolute, more of an indicator as your conversation partner may be looking for a specific person.
3. Stops smiling. This is generally an unconscious way of displaying disinterest. It could also indicate the person is unsure of how to proceed or may need further explanation on something you just said.
4. Shifts weight from foot-to-foot or side-to-side. Another generally unconscious way of showing you disinterest. Most of the time this body language is clear, time to exit.
5. Introduces you to someone else. If you are introduced to someone else quickly, there are two reasons...a hand-off (read "get rid of you") or an in the moment referral. Based on the conversation thus far, it should be easy to know which reason.
I'm a big fan of Acai juice--healthy and delicious. As the Bolthouse brand was on sale, I tried a bottle. Not until I was ready to recycle the empty bottle did I read the "about us" message/story on the side.
After 95 years
of working the land,
one lesson rises to the top:
the best beverages come
from the best ingredients.
Crisp veggies, ripe fruit.
All blended together to
make great-tasting juices,
smoothies and protein shakes.
Goodness in, goodness out.
It is a great message, shared succinctly in 42 words.
Two sugestions: 1) Include your slogan on the bottle, "A Force of Nature" and 2) Consider moving "Goodness in, Goodness out" closer to the top. Too often people leave the clincher sentence to the end. Instead, move it to the beginning.
All marketers should have a resume that includes sales experience.
I’ll admit, sales is hard work. It’s one of the toughest jobs in any organization. For those of us who have ever been paid on performance, it’s high risk - high reward. There are quotas to be achieved, customers to be served and forecast commitments to be honored. And yes, there are pay-impacting rewards for individual success and personal consequences for failure.
Sales is not a spectator sport. It teaches us to be accountable for results. It’s where we learn about customer wants and needs, how to achieve competitive advantage, the value of business storytelling and the difference between a well-intentioned marketing strategy and one that actually works. It’s where we learn interpersonal and communications skills that lead us to trust, respect and value the contributions of others.
These are, after all, the skills that will drive success in marketing, too.
For more on the dynamic relationship between sales and marketing, please see:
• Are Your Customers Looking for a Better Deal?
• The Purpose of Marketing Is to Drive Sales
• How to Tell the Difference Between Sales and Marketing
Everyone likes a success story.
I picked up a recent issue of Fortune magazine and found one hundred of them, under the story line, “100 Best Companies to Work For.” These stories were compiled on the basis of feedback obtained from what Fortune calls “the most extensive employee survey in corporate America.” The survey asks employees for their feedback on management credibility, job satisfaction and organizational culture.
Not surprisingly, each of the companies chosen for this honor has a unique story of what makes it a great place to work. The stories they tell evoke images of employee wellness, creativity, innovation, shared wealth, trust and respect, community service, passion, transparency and appreciation. Some of my favorites included stories about Wegmans, Recreational Equipment (REI), Men’s Wearhouse and Marriott International – all brands I frequent and ones I have highlighted in previous blogs.
Do you have a favorite success story from this list?
Click here to see the full list of this year’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.”
Today I was working with an executive client on her storytelling. Tanya wants to use more stories in her meetings, presentations, networking, etc.
As part of the first step of developing engaging business stories, we develop a story list. This is simply a list of Tanya's favorite stories and a few notes beside each story title.
After sharing a variety of stories, I asked her to rank her favorite ones. When she identified her all-time favorite, I prompted Tanya to share it.
Nearly three minutes into telling it, I identified the "make me care" moment.
During our discussions Tanya agreed that yes, this was the most important part...this was the business take-away.
For you, two suggestions:
1) Shorten your business stories, generally to a max of two minutes. Three minutes if you are able to keep your audience's attention the entire time2) Message/craft the words of your stories around your "make me care" concept. Be deliberate
I walked into the dry cleaners the other day to drop off a new dress shirt and a pair of slacks. I am a regular customer and, as you might expect, am frequently greeted by name when I walk in. By the time I had arrived at the counter, the assistant manager had already pulled up my account in their database. He was able to retrieve my account without my having to provide my phone number (an impressive feat, given the large number of customer transactions they process in a given day). He also knew how I liked my shirts (lightly starched, on hangers) and didn’t have to ask me.
He must have sensed I was in a hurry because, when he discovered I was leaving new items that needed bar-coded labels (they use these to identify and keep track of their customers’ garments), he told me to go on ahead and he would take care of it. When I asked if I needed a receipt, he said, “No, I got it.”
I returned later that evening and, without a receipt, said I was there for a pick-up. The employee behind the counter quickly retrieved my shirt and slacks, I paid for the dry cleaning and was soon on my way.
I share this story about my customer experience with Crest Cleaners because it is a big part of why they have been able to retain me as a loyal customer for many years. The relationship we have built is one of familiarity – I could walk in, leave my dry cleaning on the counter without saying a word (if I really wanted to) and know it would be ready that night. It’s also a relationship of trust – after all, there aren’t too many places where I would feel comfortable leaving over $150 worth of clothes without a receipt or claim check. Most of all, it's convenient. It makes dry cleaning the easiest part of my day.
Are your employees making the extra effort to anticipate your customers' needs? It might mean the difference between customer retention and attrition for your business.
For other insights on the important role people play in customer retention, please see:
• “Refrigerator Rights” and Why Organizations Covet Them
• Be Different – Thank Your Customers
• Service Before Self: Why Strength of Character Compels Others to Do Business With You