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Public Relations

Overcoming Most People’s Biggest Fear: Speaking in Public, Part 2

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Fear is the great conqueror. Fear is a paralyzing and malevolent force that lies, cheats and steals. Fear of speaking in public – which is one of the most common but also one of the most undermining fears to have — whispers lies in the mind of a person, robbing him (or her) of the ability to share ideas, influence decisions, connect with others and lead groups. By keeping a person silent, fear of public speaking steals away achievements, promotions, and raises. Fear of speaking in public cheats a person from reaching his fullest potential and making his greatest contributions to the world. It not only robs him of success, it also robs others of his voice and wisdom. Fear of speaking in public is a prison of a person’s own making.

It’s also been said that the truth can set one free. The truth is that people who fear speaking in public are not alone. College surveys indicate that 80-90% of all students suffer from stage fright at the beginning of any course that involves public speaking. Just knowing they aren’t alone in feeling afraid to speak to groups helps. It is also true that a certain amount of stage fright can be useful. It pumps adrenaline into the body. A manageable amount of that adrenaline and stimulation helps the mind think faster, speak more fluently and communicate with greater intensity that normal. Here’s another truth. Most professional speakers – even the very best ones — never completely lose all of their stage fright. Most professional speakers usually have a small amount of stage fright before they start and for the first minute or two, and then they get past it and use that adrenaline to deliver a great presentation. So it’s good to be a little afraid. But here’s the most important truth of all about public speaking. The main reason most people fear public speaking is simply because they are unaccustomed to speaking in public. It’s normal to feel unsure and uneasy when learning anything new. Riding a bike. Being interviewed for a job. Driving a car. Public speaking is no different and no more difficult. It just takes practice. Knowing these truths should make it a bit easier to conquer the fear of public speaking. But the very best way overcome this fear is to properly prepare. Continue reading

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Turning Storytelling into Sales

Great storytelling – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace– is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. Storytelling has been important to every people in history. It is a cornerstone of human existence, enabling people to communicate and connect. It’s been a primary tool used in government, religion, education, and – of course — business. The world’s most persuasive, compelling, and successful communicators were all great storytellers. Socrates was a great storyteller. Ben Franklin was even better. Walt Disney was masterful.
Thanks to the Internet, mass media and social media, storytelling has become a quintessential part of sales and marketing strategies. So how does a company take good information and turn it into a great story? For stories to be impactful, they need to be easily recalled and they need to motivate people. They must have emotional resonance and relevancy — most of which comes out in the details. A good story holds the audience captive. It stretches the limits of the imagination and allows listeners to marvel or wonder at something. It touches them and leaves them vulnerable. That’s why stories are such an amazing communications tool. Here’s how to turn a product or service into a great story that enhances the bottom line.
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How Good is Your Company’s Storytelling?

Today’s sales and marketing efforts require good storytelling. But storytelling is nothing new. Even before people could write, they were telling each other engaging stories to share information. That’s because no one is – or has ever been — interested in absorbing dry information. Even with today’s technology, dry information is still unpalatable whether it is delivered in a print ad, a radio commercial or video. Information is simply more likely to be accepted if it comes gift-wrapped in a story. Storytelling has the power to transform drab business details into something interesting.

Why do people find stories more compelling than other information? It’s physiological. When we listen to a standard presentation presenting dry information or hear a boring lecture, the Broca’s area of the brain is stimulated. This is in the side of the brain that deals with language and logic. However, when we are told a story that is rich with meaning and visual cues, there is a dramatically different response in the brain. Both the right and left lobes of the brain are activated. In addition to engaging the left part of the brain that handles logic and language, a good story also engages and stimulates the right side of the brain– what is deemed as the creative part. Stories grip us and help us experience emotions.  It is those emotions that help us connect with a brand, service or product. Storytelling helps shape the narrative surrounding a product or service. The goal, then, should be for a business to wrap every effort within a compelling story. Here’s how to start.
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Under-Promising and Over-Delivering

It’s been said (many times) that companies should strive to under-promise and over-deliver. Under-promising and over-delivering is seen as a good philosophy to control customer expectations and ensure that every customer becomes a raving fan when they get more than they expected. On the other hand, there are those who would argue that this is a great way to drive a business into the ground. Some see this as a formula for failure because it lowers the bar internally so that what is considered “above and beyond” is really nothing more than what the competition does on a regular basis without breaking a sweat. It therefore encourages mediocrity. Which is true?
Should a company seek to under-promise what it is offering clients? And should a company try to over-deliver, going above and beyond what is standard? Or should they set the bar high and strive to go above and beyond that? This is the conundrum with which leaders have wrestled since companies first began competing for business. There is no easy answer. The truth is that it depends. In certain situations, it is helpful to under-promise and over-deliver, but there are also times when under-promising and over-delivering actually hurts business. Understanding when it is good to do this and when it isn’t is the key.
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When “Company Policy” Creates Lifelong Customers… for the Competition

There are three little words that help businesses create lifelong customers more effectively than practically any other phrase: “It’s company policy.” The problem is that those words create lifelong customers for the competition of the company saying that to its customers. For businesses that want to drive their customers to the competition, have at it. Use that phrase to your heart’s content. Better yet, just close your doors now and save yourself the time and slow agony of going out of business the old fashioned way… failure to make money.
Let’s face it. Saying “It’s company policy” to a customer is just a nicer way of saying “We don’t want your business.” That is what a customer hears when an employee blames “company policy” for an unwillingness or inability to solve a problem or accommodate a request. And when a manager says “It’s company policy” to an employee, he is saying “If you don’t like it, go work somewhere else.” As technology and innovation continues to disrupt industry after industry, leaders and managers will be forced to decide whether they are going to stick-to-their-guns and cling to outdated company policies that kill business and alienate employees, or whether they are going to innovate and evolve with the times. Continue reading

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Content Marketing: Quality vs. Quantity

By now, most everyone has probably heard someone harping about the need for businesses to “tell their story” or “engage consumers with content” or “connect with customers on a personal level”. For over a decade, the mantra among marketers has been that Content Is King. Content is meant to attract and keep the attention of customers and potential customers. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it.” Everyone jumped on the content bandwagon. Ad agencies, marketing firms, public relations firms, SEO firms and media vendors all rushed in to help. They all touted the need for “MORE CONTENT.” The goal was quantity. Tell stories. Share information.
Today, consumers are saturated – actually overwhelmed – by content. Social media has enabled and encouraged everyone to share information and tell stories. Methods of storytelling abound. Businesses are sharing more information. Experts are writing white papers. Industry leaders are putting out Forecasts. Charities are telling stories. Teenagers are chatting and tweeting and sharing pictures, videos and stories. Even religious leaders – who used to be confined to telling their stories from the pulpit – have joined the digital storytelling revolution. And the media — the original reporters of the world’s stories — now find themselves vying to be heard above the storytelling din. People are experiencing an onslaught of ‘content’ the likes of which has never before been experienced. The whole of humanity is busy creating content. It is a growing ocean of noise. Now what?
This is where the law of supply and demand kicks in. When there is a glut of supply in the market, then the value goes down. Whereas once upon a time quantity was the name of the game with content, going forward the focus is shifting toward quality over quantity. Welcome to the age of quality content. Continue reading

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How to Become an Industry Insider or Influencer

In general, an “insider” is a member of any group that is limited in number and generally restricted in access. The person – by virtue of being a member of this group – has access to secret, privileged, hidden or otherwise obscure or complex information or knowledge. The insider is a member of the “gang” and hence knows things outsiders don’t, including insider jargon.
The term “Industry Insider” has various meanings. For example, in the world of securities trading, the term “Industry Insider” is generally used to describe someone who works for a publicly-traded company, or trusted advisor to that company, and possesses key information (often non-public information) about that company. They know things because they are on the “inside.” That information, if shared and/or used to influence stock trades, is illegal. The Securities and Exchange Commission considers that a form of illegal insider trading.
However, with the rise of social media, the term Industry Insider has taken on a totally different meaning. In our complicated and information-rich world, the concept of insider knowledge has grown in importance as a source of direct and useful guidance. Today, being an Industry Insider is considered a badge of honor, earning that person considerable respect and influence. So how does one become an Industry Insider, and isn’t this just a new way of saying expert or guru? Continue reading

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Marketing Focus: Client Acquisition vs. Client Retention

Every business wants to increase their bottom line. And every company promises growth in revenue and earnings, but only one in nine companies is able to achieve sustainable, profitable growth. That explains why businesses spend a lot of money on activities to achieve profitable growth! Statista, the Statistical Portal, estimates that over 180 billion U.S. dollars was spent in advertising in the United States in 2015. And that is expected to reach $200 billion this year. Those funds are being spent basically to either acquire or retain customers. Or both.
While some companies focus on customer acquisition because they view it as a quick and effective way of increasing revenue, other companies focus on customer retention because they are marketing to customers who are already engaged with the brand, making it easier to capitalize on their experiences with the company. But which is more cost effective at driving up sales and increasing revenue? And should it be an either/or approach, or should companies focus equally on both? Given the amount of money spent on marketing, it is a question that should be carefully considered. Continue reading

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Be a Better Writer in 2016 – Part 2

For most people, writing is not easy. Converting one’s thoughts to writing is hard, in part, because we don’t speak the way we are supposed to write and we’re not always entirely clear about what we want to say or the best way to say it. That is true in any language.
Writing the English language has even more challenges. For every rule there are always exceptions. Words often have multiple meanings, spellings and sounds. Nevertheless, writing is a skill used daily by most people in their personal and professional lives. While no one expects the average person to be a master writer, it’s important to at least be a proficient one.
Thankfully, technology can help, to some extent. Correct spelling is the easiest part to get right. Spell check on most computers and devices automatically eliminates the most common spelling errors, but it doesn’t catch mistakes that involve homophones, homonyms, homographs or heteronyms. Those are words in the English language have the same sounds, spelling or meanings. These are the cause of many of the mistakes people make in writing. To make it a bit easier, here’s a little “cheat sheet” to keep at your desk for future reference. This can help avoid some of the most common mistakes. Continue reading

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Be a Better Writer in 2016 – Part 1

Despite the recurring diatribes about the decline of the written word, in truth, people write more now than ever. While few pen long letters on scented stationary anymore, people were pouring emails into the digital abyss at an estimated eye-popping rate of about 200 Billion per day in 2015. We also send text messages, tweets, and instant messages and write blog posts and comments, and otherwise fire off words at one another in a near-constant flow of communication. Written communication is a required skill for most any job or profession today. Whether it is composing a memo, preparing a letter, drafting a report, taking notes in a meeting, crafting a business plan, or just pounding out a quick text message, written communication is part and parcel of practically every occupation on a regular basis. People write PowerPoint presentations, business requirement documents, speeches, mission statements, position papers, standard operating procedures, manuals, brochures, package copy, press releases, and dozens of other specialized types of documents. Even salespeople and accountants – occupations often thought to be sans writing — must write reports and sales agreements.
Not everyone, however, is a good writer. The English language has many rules and just as many exceptions to those rules. It is a beautiful but challenging language to master. Nevertheless, business people in English-speaking countries are expected to write clearly, cohesively and concisely. Despite the growing use of slang, abbreviations and urban words, most professionals are still expected to be able to write in complete sentences. Spelling, grammar and punctuation do matter. Using the right words with their correct meanings is also important. Although there is an abundant supply of resources available online – such as dictionaries, thesauri, writing guides, blogs for writers, and the like – writing mistakes persist. Although anyone can make an occasional mistake, common or abundant errors can taint how a person is perceived. Poor grammar or spelling can even call into question a person’s professional expertise. To maintain a reputation as a professional, it’s important to write well. Here are some tips to improve one’s ability to write well in English. Continue reading

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