3 Ways to Simplify your Message

By: Jeff Heisner

Albert Einstein once said, “any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”  It doesn’t take an Einstein intelligence to understand what he’s saying… Keep it simple.  If it’s good enough for Einstein, it should be good enough for you and your business.

A major issue many companies and professionals run into during media interviews or in public speaking is confusing the audience.  The message gets lost and is completely convoluted.

You’ve probably been in an audience when this has happened and looked around to see if anyone else understands what the speaker is trying to convey.  It makes me feel like I’m back as a freshman at Central Michigan University in my first week of calculus class.  The point is if you don’t simplify your message you run the risk of losing your audience and blowing a chance to communicate your message.

Here are three keys to simplifying your message.

  1. 1. Remember what’s important – Work on breaking down your message into it’s most basic and understandable components.  Try to turn that message into an 8 second sound bite.  Here’s a perfect example of how a simple, basic message works by remembering what matters, and in comparison what’s not important.  Wheaties, the breakfast of champions.  Wheaties-the General Mills cereal primarily comprised of a wheat and bran mixture baked into flakes.  Which one are you gonna buy?
  2. 2. Know your audience – Many times the speaker/interviewee either forgets who their audience is or doesn’t understand how to communicate with that audience.  Business owners and a number of spokespeople talk at a level way above their audience’s heads.  If you know who you are talking to the chances are you will be better prepared to relate to them.  Use analogies your audience understands, not analogies you think are clever.  You wouldn’t give the same interview to Charlie Rose that you would to the View.
  3. 3. Leave out the jargon and technical talk – “He smacked a 51 off a hard pan, turned it 90 degrees around the pines and landed it 20 feet.”  Only a few people may have understood that was a golf reference to Bubba Watson’s incredible sand wedge shot that hooked around the trees and landed on the green to help him win the Masters.  Whether it’s golf, or any other industry getting too technical is a sure fire way to confuse your audience.

Kevin Na Loses Tournament but Wins his Share of Fans

By: Jeff Heisner

If you caught The Players Championship this weekend you probably witnessed one of the more bizarre scenes in golf and one of the more gracious ways to handle adversity.

It was a great example for not just the sports world, but businesses and professionals to follow.

Kevin Na somehow played himself into contention.

Kevin Na at The Players Championship - Gallo Images

This despite being so uncomfortable standing over the golf ball he couldn’t get himself to swing the club.

Na stood over the ball seemingly ready to pull the trigger, but instead would waggle his club back and forth, take a few more practice swings, even back off the ball.

On several occasions Na barked at himself in frustration.

Not only was it uncomfortable for Na, it was tough for fans watching on TV or at the course.

Many people at the TPC Sawgrass showed their displeasure with the amount of time he was taking by the lashing out and heckling the 28 year old golfer.

Fans yelled at Na, “hit the ball!”

As the day went on and the beers went down, a few fans showed great originality singing “Na, Na, Na, Na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.”

Like he’s never heard that before.

It turned out to be a frustrating day for Na who endured the taunts, the swing demons, and struggled on Sunday finishing tied for 7th.

Na did win over his share of people with his post-round comments and how he dealt with the unruly fans.

“I feel like I did a decent job today,” Na told The Golf Channel on Sunday. “I appreciate all the people who are rooting for me. I can hear people rooting for me. There are a couple guys who get on your nerves, but it is what it is.”

“Honestly, part of it, I deserve it,” Na said. “I’m being honest.”

“I’m not being nice to myself, trust me.  I’m ripping myself. But, you know, there’s so much on the line that I just have to sometimes back off… As ugly as it is and as painful as it is, believe me, it’s really tough for me, and I’m trying.”

Before The Players Championship, Na was best known for taking a 16 on one hole during a PGA tournament.

He earned his share of fans then, as he was able to poke fun at himself over his score.

Here’s hoping Na gets things straightened out, and speeds up his play.

He is very candid, a good interview, who golf fans could embrace.

And on this occasion Na gives us a great lesson on how to handle a difficult public situation (addressing the problem and taking his share of the blame).

A Big Political Communication Faux Pas

By: Jeff Heisner

In the hotly contested Massachusetts Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren winning or losing looks like it will come down to what the voters think of Warren’s credibility.

Right now it does not look good for Warren after a pair of big communication mistakes.

Elizabeth Warren

Associated Press

Since the story broke in the Boston Herald reporting Harvard Law School touted Warren as a minority, the Harvard Law Professor, has come under fire about whether she used her claims of Cherokee ancestry to further her career.

It was later uncovered Warren had listed herself in school directories as being a Native American minority.

Warren says her great-great-great grandmother is Cherokee which makes her 1/32 Native American.

The small fire could have seemingly been put out with a somewhat easy explanation, instead Warren, herself added plenty of fuel.

She claimed her ancestor’s “high cheekbones” are evidence of her Native American heritage.

That remark raised plenty of eyebrows and her opponents have called her out for stereo-typing Native Americans.

According to reports several of Warren’s past employers claim Warren’s minority status had nothing to do with her hiring.

Warren contends she did not use her status as a minority to gain any kind advantage for future jobs.

However this bumbling explanation didn’t do Warren any favors. “I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group, something that might happen with people who are like I am,” Warren said, according to the Boston Herald.

So by calling herself a minority she just wanted lunch, with no intention of advancing her career.

Not sure many New Englanders will buy that.

Perhaps Warren should have simply insisted she had Native American lineage, mentioned great-great-great grandma and stopped there.

Warren could have saved herself from becoming a political punching bag when she added her explanations of “high cheekbones” and wanting to be “invited to a luncheon… with people who are like I am.”

Sometimes less is more!

Hard to believe Warren or no one in her campaign saw this coming and couldn’t have come up with a better and much more sensitive way to put this story to rest.

How To Tell Your Client They Need Media Training

y Jodie & Jeff Heisner

We’re writing this blog because we hear the same thing over and over again from Public Relations Professionals, “I have this client that could really use your help, but I’m not sure I can tell them.”

When it comes to talking to your client about needing media training, here is the first thing PR Pros need to remember; if your clients are doing media interviews, they need media training. It isn’t something reserved for the very bad or the extremely high profile, not any more.
Get it out of your head that telling your client they need media training is an insult.

This is one of the first things you should be telling all your clients when you take them on.

If your client blows an interview and misses out on a perfect opportunity to get their message across, perhaps even ruins a relationship with a reporter. Remember, that is not only their reputation, but also yours they are tarnishing.

That being said, it can still be difficult to bring the subject up with certain clients. Here are some ways to ease it into the conversation.

“It’s not you, it’s them.” Reporting has changed dramatically in the past few years. Due to demands of the job and time constraints reporters are unable to devote the time they might like to a story. Reporters are also less experienced and now doing the job 2 or 3 people once did. Reporters can and do lose sight of their story and get completely “off-track.” Your client needs to know how to steer the interview.  They also need to know what to expect from different types of interviews. Experienced interviewees know what their message is and how to bring it back to the important issues they want to get across.

“What you’re doing is great, but we want to add some polish.” Someone may be an okay interview now, but media coaching will take them to the next level.  Once they are a polished interviewee, that’s when you get reporters coming to you to interview your expert time and time again.

“All the top experts are media trained.” For some of your clients, those who want to be that top expert, hearing that major corporations, national experts, CEO’s and politicians are media coached, might help them to understand what it takes to be that good.

Whether it is from Bottomline Media Coaching or another professional media training company, do yourself and your client a favor and get them media trained. It may be a difficult conversation to have initially, but it will only make your job easier in the long run

Big Bang Over a Buck

By Jodie Heisner

Ahh Social Media. We love it, we hate it, we all use it. Unfortunately, many social media users are happy to retweet, comment and share far before they know the whole story.

Monday morning Phoenix Anchor Kaley O’Kelley quickly became an internet sensation when she reacted to the news Peyton Manning would be going to the Denver Broncos. However what Kaley said and what the social media world claims she said were two very different things.

Tweets like…

  • “@news_phoenix Phoenix News Anchor Hears Peyton Manning News, Yells ‘F**k!’ On Live TV”
  • “@tyduffy: Phoenix News Anchor Dropped F-Bomb After Hearing Broncos Signed Peyton Manning”
  • “@Fetter21 I had the same reaction – Phoenix News Anchor Dropped F-Bomb After Hearing Broncos Signed Peyton Manning”

…went out seconds after the segment aired along with links to poorly shot home videos like this one:

 

But if you watch the original video on the link here: Kaley Lost a Buck

You can clearly hear O’Kelley said “I just lost a buck,” referring to a $1 bet she placed with her Dad. That didn’t stop the country from continuing to spread to word via Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, for hours after the incident. As I am writing this I just saw a new tweet on it. Ironically, the discussion on Good Morning Arizona with DJ’s JohnJay and Rich was on how quickly information spreads via tablets and cell phones.

Co-Anchor Scott Pasmore worked to set the record straight, but that was hours after the “buck” had passed.

What most social media users don’t realize or think about is that what seemed like a funny moment, could easily cost an anchor their career. Depending on the station, it may not matter that she didn’t actually say what everyone thought she said.

Thank goodness sources tell me management at 3TV has been more than understanding and able to laugh at the situation.

A lesson for 3TV here too, if you want to squash a rumor on social media, acknowledge it ASAP, laugh at it, move on. There was no mention of the incident on the station’s Facebook or Twitter pages. I guess even TV stations have a thing or two to learn about Crisis Communications.