Archive for the ‘Messaging’ Category

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The Perfect Pitch


Put the Perfect Pitch on your “Marketers Must Read” list. Whether you’re on the Agency or Client side, you’ll get a ton from Jon’s ideas on giving the Perfect Pitch. The run-down on how London won the Olympics is worth it alone.

There are weeks when I seem to motor from one set of PowerPoint to another. Not all of Jon’s ideas will work so well inside the large corporation where it is less about winning via the perfect pitch. But the principles still apply and could make those weeks more effective and enjoyable.

Here are a couple of complimentary thoughts directly at those people inside the business:

  1. Answer First: Get your answer out. Then support it. This is very different to, say, an agency pitch, where you might want to build to a crescendo for effect. Internally, Execs don’t have the time. Headline your point and hammer it home. To help do this, make every .ppt slide title a headline. Focus on your headlines and let them tell the story. Good summary of Answer First over here
  2. Ask in Advance: If big decisions are going to be made, get the asks in front of the decision maker in advance. I’ve sat through many a presentation to discover they want something I would have said “yes” – and in some cases “no” to over the phone.
  3. Control the room: The is the most common breakdown area. Folks will sit down, behind a laptop screen, and proceed to speak. It’s neither engaging or effective. Get out of your seat, command the room. Use a clicker (this is my weapon of choice). Ideally you want to position yourself at the front, in good proximity of the whiteboard. Tip – remove the pens and put them where you can get to them. When at Sun, we called this getting “whiteboarded” – you put all this effort into a presentation and some “expert” proceeds to redirect attention away from your goal to their graphic mastery on the whiteboard. I started timing meeting delays related to computer-to-projector issues. Here’s the reason – lack of preparation. Get the the room in advance and test the connection. And if you are relying on a customer’s kit, get the presentation to them in advance and have them run it from a system they know works.
  4. Demand that folks “be here now”. Tell them how long you need and why you need their attention. Keep the agenda, printed out, in front of them. If participants have sunk into Email or Blackberries, ask them to stop and focus. Or, ask them to leave. I reckon it’s a one in ten thousand chance that they are actually taking notes. I once sat in a keynote where a well known TV producer was speaking. he suddenly stopped mid flight and asked a lady in the front row if he was boring her – “should he leave?”he asked. “No”was the response – he then pointed out, very publically how rude she was being – that he had put a lot of effort into the presentation and being there. Damn right.
  5. Get away. Too often you get the sense folks have spent so much time on the presentation and data they haven’t put any time into their views and ideas of what to do about the problem or opportunity at hand. Allow enough time to get away from the data and reflect on what you want to say about it. Your biggest insights won’t happen while preparing slides. They’ll come when you take a walk around the campus to reflect on what you are doing. Or, when you hit the gymn. Get away from the slides and they’ll get better.
  6. Go raw. Most of the time you don’t need PowerPoint. Speak to your key points. Use Excel or whatever tool you pulled the data together. Think about other ways of bringing data to life: “PowerPoint presentations may improve 10% or 20% of all presentations by organizing inept, extremely disorganized speakers…” PowerPoint inflicts “detectable intellectual damage” on the remaining 80 to 80 percent. – Edward Tufte
  7. Information vs. Insights: Be clear on what you are communicating. Half the slides I see try to deliver insights but all they are doing is delivering information. Get information out in advance. Put it in back-up. Focus on the insights that support your case.
  8. Words Matter: Labor over the words. As Edward Tufte says, most .ppt presentations suffer from “over-generalizations, imprecise statements, slogans, lightweight evidence, abrupt and thinly veiled claims”.
  9. Manage Input: Jon gives a great example from a colleague of his’5/15/80 percent rule. Often you are bringing the 5 percent you know, learning the 15% you know you don’t know, and discovering (and hopefully, opening your mind) to the 80% you don’t know you don’t know. The more senior the executives, the more likely this is to be the case. So, how are you going to proactively manage input in the meeting?
  10. Be Clear on the Outcome: And be clear on how you plan to move the audience from A to B. “A presentation is much, much more than a message. What you a re seeking to communicate is just one of a number of factors that influence your ability to move an audience. What you say, and what they see and hear, should not be the same” – Jon Steel. In other words, make sure you aren’t reading the slides, you won’t get the outcome you desire.

I can’t recall who recommended the Perfect Pitch – it might have been Mitch – but thanks!

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What sets a blog apart from a book, or say an article for a magazine? I’ve long argued it is incompleteness. At their heart – however long or small – a blog post ultimately aspires to be a conversation — and a blog a conversation starter. That the technology we use connects, categorizes and distributes our content give these conversations legs.

Our medium also provides us with an out. We can be wrong. Right. Or, somewhere in between. But the onus isn’t necessarily on us to be complete or accurate. Every conversation represents a point in the evolution of the thought or idea. In fact, the quality of the circle with who you are conversing can illuminate and enhance our words. If you don’t value the conversation, you’ve switched back to transmitting content, becoming a web publisher.

I was struck by Malcom Gladwell’s view of his writing in a recent New York Magazine article (about his new book Outliers). He appears to view his work much in the same way as we might view a blog post:

When Gladwell’s critics themselves are world experts—as was the case when New York Times business writer Joe Nocera went after Gladwell for “conflat[ing] fraud with overvaluation” in a New Yorker article that argued that Enron’s misdeeds were hidden in plain sight—Gladwell retreats to the defense that his writing is merely meant to be provocative. “I don’t think it’s proper for someone in my position to be a definitive voice,” he says. “These books and New Yorker articles are conversation starters.”

How do you enhance a book and embrace the conversation? For most authors it appears impossible – without publishing it as a blog or wiki. For most they start the conversation but aren’t present for it, reinforcing the romantic notion of the isolated writer, lonely at work.

Clearly there are many opportunities to ignite a conversation – and many vehicles by which to do it. But to not participate seems like an opportunity lost.

Is the intent to start a conversation enough? Especially when your medium isn’t fostering participation?

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Corporate Journalism

Stowe flags a contender for word (or phrase) of the week: Corporate Journalism.

[…] In conversations with another McKinsey colleague, Tom Hayes, a former NYT reporter, we came up with the term “corporate journalism” to describe what we were doing inside of the Firm: applying classic reporting techniques inside of an organization to determine what, if anything, was “interesting” and deserved attention. That filter, “interesting” is subjective. Through McKinsey’s lens it meant information that could enrich the firm through more client engagements and increase the effectiveness of its consultants.

This takes me back to a phrase that Mark Tolliver used lots when I was at Sun: “evidence based marketing“. In short, get rid of all the platitudes and well-worn phrases and start with the evidence – then back into they hype if you must. These two concepts together are powerful – communications, message-making, marketing, the act of business, all should start with investigative rigor and evidence. From there, a fair dose of honesty and transparency is required.

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The Speechmaker

imageBig speeches require a massive amount of effort.

Good communicators know this and smart executives commit to it.

The Wall Street Journal has a piece this morning on how Bill Gates developed his commencement address for Harvard.

What’s intriguing is how committed Bill is to the process – this is rare in an executive.

A couple of observations:

  1. Pick keynotes your execs can get passionate about. As much as you want to establish a sense of importance, it can only be important to them if it is important to them.
  2. Pick issues, topics, themes that those same execs can get really passionate about. Chances are it isn’t the industry you are in.
  3. Models are useful – speeches by others provide good context and illumination. In Bill’s case: “The speech, delivered at Harvard’s commencement on June 5, 1947, outlined the Marshall Plan, the bold economic relief program that lifted Europe from the ashes of World War II. To Mr. Gates, the general was describing the challenges facing postwar Europe in terms similar to how the software billionaire sees his own, 21st-century crusade: using philanthropy as a catalyst for reducing global inequities in health, wealth and education.”
  4. Tone is as important as content. Don’t confuse the Exec’s tone with the tone required for the audience and speech. Bill groked that: “In late May, Mr. Gates tapped Mr. Buffett again. He wanted to press graduates to become more aware and active in helping solve global inequities but was worried about sounding “overly preachy.” Mr. Gates went to Omaha, Neb., for the annual shareholders meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, Mr. Buffett’s company on which Mr. Gates serves as a board member. After the meeting, Mr. Buffett gave Mr. Gates some tips on delivery and tone.”
  5. The notion of the single speech writer might work in Political circles but you are going to have a greater chance of success by bringing in collaborators. In Bill’s case: “When he started working on the speech in December, he used as a sounding board a Gates Foundation staff member who had written for Slate, the online magazine started by Microsoft. The two traded outlines and drafts of the speech. By the end, Mr. Gates and his staff had met six times for brainstorming sessions, completed six drafts and traded many long emails. Mr. Gates wrote some of the longest ones himself.”
  6. And, no matter how good you are at collaborating and crafting the content, the exec has to be committed to molding the speech into something special. I’m not talking about the standard rehearsal the day or hour before. I’m talking about time spent on putting their thumb-print on it.
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Why 47% of Campaigns Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeeds

Jon Beattie of Marker is up at the Future of Online Advertising Conference – he’s put together a great summary of a keynote on why 47% of campaigns fail – a summary of the presentation by Greg Stuart at the Future of Online Advertising conference today in New York. Greg is the former CEO, IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) and co-author of “What Sticks“.

He claims: Over US$112 billion ad spend is wasted out of a total of $295bn – Advertisers and agencies use the excuse of “publicity” to justify a failed campaign.

Here are the three highlights I liked:

  1. Did the campaign message get through? 31% of campaigns failed
  2. Out of 5 advertisers (P&G, J&J, Kraft, Nestle, McDonald’s) that did creative research of online campaigns: 1 was okay; 2 found half didn’t work; 2 all ads failed and had to start again
  3. McDonald’s took 20 per cent from TV put 13.4% into online kept the rest and increased awareness by 5 per cent when it had previously leveled out using traditional media.