Your 3 Step Plan to Healthy Communication

 

Photo courtesy of http://blog.arkadin.com/

Photo courtesy of http://blog.arkadin.com/

A recent Kaiser survey asked Americans how they thought the Affordable Care Act would impact them. 57% said they didn’t know enough about the law to say.

In an eHealthinsurance.com poll of small businesses with less than fifty employees, 56 percent believe they are required to provide insurance for employees under the Affordable Care Act beginning in January of 2014. Yet these businesses are exempt from the new healthcare program.

Reaching and influencing individuals across the country is certainly a challenge. On the other hand, the story is so big that an array of mediums exist to tell it and we are ready to talk about it.

Small businesses are one of the key target markets of the Affordable Care Act’s communication efforts. Yet it appears many small business owners do not understand how the act impacts their companies.

This blog post isn’t really about the Affordable Care Act. It’s about the importance of strategic messaging and planning for healthy communication.

Whether you need to reach millions, thousands, hundreds or just your own family members, you can improve your communication with this 3 Step Plan:

  1. Plan, plan and then plan. Spend as much time planning for the communication of the idea, event, product or service as you do in planning to create, develop or produce it.
  2. Accept that how you think it should be isn’t how it really is. Just telling someone something a few times doesn’t work. Using only a couple of mediums—“We have it on our website and we tweeted it” or “We sent a press release and some emails plus bought some TV ads”—doesn’t cut it. Repeat your message in multiple mediums.
  3. Pick your favorite cliche and live by it. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Less is More. Make It About Them. Unfortunately, people often don’t adhere to these principles. Some say they do but then can’t help themselves. Clarity. Brevity. Focus on your audience and what they can take away, not on your jargon or corporate speak.

Follow your 3 Step Plan for Healthy Communication. Be disciplined. Start now.

What’s the Big Idea?

Ever wonder why those car ads have so much stuff crammed into them that you can barely read the print?

Or wish that a salesperson would stop blabbering about all the features and benefits their product has to offer?

Worse yet, ever sit through a presentation that includes what seems like a hundred PowerPoint slides being read to you by the speaker?

We have all probably been there in some way, shape or form.

The problem arises because the advertiser, salesperson, and speaker all neglected to focus on one big idea.

Instead, they made it about them rather than us…and gave us more information than we wanted or needed. It’s kind of like the casual acquaintance you run into who goes on and on about their kids when you ask how they are doing. All you really wanted was the quick thirty second update…not a breakdown on school, sports, height, weight, friends, favorite food, and so on…

We’re bombarded with messages from the time we wake up until we crash at the end of a long day. We can’t afford to spend more time processing information unless we are sure we need it. We remember creative messages that are memorable and make an emotional impact. We relate to them and they are focused on one main idea.

Think about ads or slogans that you probably couldn’t forget if you wanted to?

Can You Hear Me Now?

Got Milk?

Choose Your Healthcare As If Your Life Depended On It.

Try to remember the last time a salesperson made just the right pitch.

Or you thoroughly enjoyed a presentation or speaker.

The presentation or pitch was focused on you and on one big idea that you still remember today.

The next time you are creating an ad, making a sales pitch, preparing for a presentation, or writing a memo, improve your message by asking yourself:

What’s the Big Idea?

 

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

Use the Seinfeld PR Approach to Tell Your Story

This is the third in a series of three articles based on content from recent presentations made to college students.

While preparing a speech for a group of college seniors, I focused on the importance of a lifelong thirst for knowledge and achieving positive, incremental change. The end result was a presentation with three key themes:

  • Success, like beauty, should be in the eye of the beholder. You decide what you want to do, how you want to live and what you want to achieve.
  • People will want you on their team if you are organized, efficient and get things done.
  • Potential employers need to know what you are capable of and how you think. Use the Seinfeld PR Approach and tell your story.

The sitcom Seinfeld lasted nine seasons and was named the greatest program of all time by TV Guide. Yet it was described as “a show about nothing.”

While Seinfeld focused on the minutiae of everyday life, its popularity was driven by our ability to relate to and like the key characters. They seemed believable, real and hilarious. We knew someone like them or noticed that some of our own quirks were similar.

When we try to communicate our own message, why not focus on the real stuff that makes us unique? Instead, many people think they need to embellish things or avoid talking about what they see as “nothing.”

Don’t underestimate what you’ve done. What you see as nothing can be interesting to others. Tell your real story in a creative way.

Why is it relevant to members of your target markets? What will help them relate? Why should they care? Break it down to a basic, core theme—What’s in it for Them?

Once you’ve developed your real story, tell it again and again. Use memorable anecdotes, ask questions and listen.

Focus on Less and More: Less talking, more listening, more real stuff. And remember it’s not a story about nothing. It’s a story about you, what you’ve accomplished and what you bring to the table.

 

 

6 Things To Do With Emails

This is the first in a series of three posts based on content from presentations made to college seniors.

While preparing a speech for a group of college seniors, I focused on the importance of a lifelong thirst for knowledge and achieving positive, incremental change. The end result was a presentation with three key themes:

  •  Success, like beauty, should be in the eye of the beholder. You decide what you want to do, how you want to live and what you want to achieve.
  • Potential employers need to know what you are capable of and how you think. Use the Seinfeld PR Approach and tell your story. What you think is nothing can be interesting to others.
  • People will want you on their team if you are organized, efficient and get things done.

DM IUP ACME

For this post, here are some tips to improve your organizational skills.

6 Things To Do with Emails:

  1. Act–Act on it immediately.  If something can be done in less than 15 minutes, act on the task immediately and complete it.  Then, it’s done and off your ‘to do’ list.
  2. Tickle–If a task requires action within two weeks, place it in your ‘Tickle’ folder along with a due date. Your ‘Tickle’ folder should be reviewed two or three times each week with actions taken based on priority.
  3. To Do–If the item needs acted on within the next week and you can’t work on it immediately, put it in your ‘To Do’ folder.  This folder will contain multiple items  and  must be reviewed every day to stay on top of your main priority items.
  4. Delegate–Delegate or forward the email to someone. Provide specific timelines and action items for the person assigned the responsibility. Follow up as necessary on the progress.
  5. File–If it is important but not actionable immediately, create a folder and file it as soon as possible.  If you can’t file things quickly, at least file multiple items once a week.
  6. Delete–You need to get rid of emails if they are not relevant now or won’t be within six months.  Enjoy deleting. It should be a liberating experience.

The key is to touch the email once and then have a plan for it. Use these 6 Things To Do with Emails to become more productive and gain peace of mind.

But What If It Doesn’t Work?

When we have an idea, one of the first things we ask ourselves is “But what if it doesn’t work?”

How many times does this prevent us from trying something new? How often do we accept the status quo even though we think there has to be a better way?

It’s OK to consider what might happen if an idea doesn’t work as long as we ask two other important questions:

“What if it does work?”

“What do we stand to lose by sticking with the current way of doing things?”

We subconsciously fight change. Our self-doubt and negative inner thoughts prevent us from proposing or implementing new ideas. We avoid or ignore problems and make irrational rationalizations like “That’s not my responsibility.”

Whether you are a team member, middle manager or senior leader, you owe it to yourself and your organization to focus on creative solutions that improve your customer experience, operational processes and overall bottom line.

You have to do your part to foster an environment of creativity and innovation. Challenge assumptions. Offer solutions rather than just pointing out problems. Ask questions of peers, bosses, subordinates and customers. Actively listen and think about what you hear.

Try following the 5 W’s Technique used by journalists, police officers and market researchers.  Ask and answer: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

*Who do you want to reach and influence? Clearly define your target markets. Learn how they think. What makes them tick? Why do they say both “yes” and “no?”

*What are you selling? Not just the mission statement or website copy points. What are you really selling?

*Where do we have a competitive advantage? What makes us different? Why do they want and need us?

*When can we maximize our opportunities? When do they (your target audiences) want and need the solution?

*Why aren’t we making it happen?

Instead of convincing yourself a new idea might not work, ask the 5 W’s. The answers will lead to creative solutions that enhance your customer experience.

Paterno vs. Freeh: No Winners in PR Battle

When someone we care about is criticized, it’s natural to defend that person. It’s understandable family and friends of Joe Paterno would want to defend the former Penn State football coach.

This week, the Paterno family released their report criticizing the Freeh Report, an independent investigation commissioned by the Penn State board and conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh and his law firm. The Freeh report stated Paterno, former PSU president Graham Spanier and administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz had known about allegations of child abuse.

The Paterno family raised “serious and troubling” questions about the Freeh report’s findings including that there is no evidence supporting the allegation the football culture at Penn State had an impact on the situation.

Sue Paterno, the deceased coach’s wife, and son Jay Paterno appeared on numerous media outlets to discuss the report.

Sue Paterno(left) & Luis Freeh(right)

Sue Paterno(left) & Luis Freeh(right)

*Sue Paterno called Sandusky’s crimes “heartbreaking” and said she prays for the victims.  She also told Katie Couric “if the experts don’t know, how can we know?” about Sandusky’s behaviors.

*On ESPN, Jay Paterno said the Freeh Report “is based on flimsy evidence at best…he jumps to a lot of conclusions that just aren’t supported by facts.”

*He also answered questions on his Dad’s statement about wishing he’d of done more by saying: “He said with the benefit of hindsight I wish I’d done more. I think knowing what he knew in 2001, he did what anybody else would do…”

*Since Louis Freeh and his organization didn’t really have a national image prior to the case, they took the approach of issuing a statement rather than conducting interviews: “The self serving report the Paterno family released today does not change the facts established in the Freeh Report. I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

Rebuilding an image after a scandal is a huge challenge. The general public tends to remember an overarching message. Changing the gut feel instincts of people by focusing on specifics or legal/technical requirements is particularly difficult.

When President Clinton attempted to make his case during the Monica Lewinsky scandal that “it depends on what the definition of is is,” it didn’t improve public perceptions and was met by a combination of disbelief and frustration by many.

Jay’s comment that his Dad “did what anybody else would do” isn’t going to change perceptions of those who think his Dad should’ve done more.

It’s difficult to decide when to kickoff a PR campaign to rehabilitate an image. Did the Paterno campaign begin too soon? Will rehashing the story have a positive or negative impact on public perceptions?

In the end, it’s still a sad story and most people will probably maintain the same perception of the parties involved that they had prior to release of the Paterno Report, regardless of the PR efforts on both sides.

What do you think? Is the Paterno campaign dredging up bad news or will it change opinions? Should Freeh defend his report more vigorously?

 

David M. Mastovich, MBA is President of MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm focused on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions. He’s also author of “Get Where You Want To Go: How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.” For more information, go to www.massolutions.biz.

That’s My Story and I’m NOT Sticking To It

As I channel surfed the other night, I came across the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail. I’m not sure why, but Cocktail is one of those movies I end up watching for at least ten minutes every time I stumble onto it.

Tom Cruise in: “Cocktail”

The premise is that Brian Flannigan (Cruise) leaves the military and goes to the big city to make his fortune. He’s unable to find a job without experience or a college degree, enrolls in business school and meets bar manager Doug Coughlin (played by Bryan Brown) who hires him.

In typical Cruise fashion, he becomes the coolest bartender of all time, tosses bottles of liquor in the air without breaking glass or spilling anything, takes 3 minutes to make one drink while dozens of bar patrons excitedly watch him and never complain. All the while, Coughlin provides cynical commentary on life.

I clicked on just as Flannigan was writing his own obituary for one of his college classes.

He makes himself a billionaire senator who died in the arms of his 7th wife who happened to be about 60 years younger.

Hey, he was writing his own life story, why not make it big?

Story telling for you and your company isn’t like Flannigan’s fake obituary. You can’t just make things up and hope people believe it. But you do need to focus on what makes you unique. Your story has to resonate with your target audience, not just those with a vested interest in the organization. It has to be real. Authentic. Believable. Concise.

Can you tell your story to anyone, anywhere, any time and have them take away the main points?

Test it. Practice telling friends and family. Tell it again and again internally. Tweak it as you learn what resonates and what doesn’t.

And, when you finally have a memorable story, remember that story telling isn’t a one time thing. Your story has to evolve over time and change with the times.

Tell it. Test it. Tweak it. Tell it again.

Then change it as your company changes.

That’s my story and I’m NOT sticking to it.

 

David M. Mastovich, MBA is President of MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm focused on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions. He’s also author of “Get Where You Want To Go: How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.”  For more information, go to www.massolutions.biz.

Get Where You Want to Go!

Light Reading Archives

 

Joe Camel Kicked Out by Gangrenous Foot

Could graphic imagery like a picture of a diseased lung on a pack of cigarettes reduce the number of smokers?

The Australian government is looking to find out.  New regulations that require Australian cigarette companies to cover 75 percent of the front of cigarette packs with health warnings and stunning images kicked in October 1st. Potential cigarette customers will now see 14 rotating pictures on the front of cigarette packes including a gangrenous foot, bloody urine in a toilet,  a diseased lung, a cancerous tongue or Bryan, a man who died at 34 from lung cancer but wanted others to learn how smoking since he was a teenager led to his death.

Companies can not use trademarks on the cigarette packaging but must use designated font type and point sizes.

The legislation was passed about a year ago and also bans “decorative ridges, embossing, bulges, or other irregularities of shape or texture.”

The World Health Organization supports the requirements which might lead to other countries implementing similar standards.

It will be interesting to see how cigarette makers respond. They have a tough story to tell and many of the industry’s brands were built through iconic imagery like the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel.

What do you think? Should there be regulations on cigarette marketing? What would you do if you had to tell their story under these marketing limitations?

 

 

 

 

Go Daddy Gets It Right After Crash

You’ve probably read or heard about how Go Daddy was attacked by hackers on Monday that brought down Go Daddy and the sites of its millions of customers. The web hosting service responded first by fixing things and getting customers back online. They then handled the media firestorm with transparency and timely responses. Now, the company has gone a step further. Check out the email we just received about our accounts:

 

Call us 24/7: 480-505-8877  |  Online: www.GoDaddy.com
Dear David Mastovich,We owe you a big apology for the intermittent service outages we experienced on September 10 that may have impacted your website, your email and other Go Daddy services.

We let you down and we know it. We take our responsibilities — and the trust you place in us — very seriously. I cannot express how sorry I am to those of you who were inconvenienced.

The service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables. Once the issues were identified, we took corrective actions to restore services for our customers and GoDaddy.com. We have implemented a series of immediate measures to fix the problem.

At no time was any sensitive customer information, including credit card data, passwords or names and addresses, compromised.

Throughout our history, we have provided 99.999% uptime in our DNS infrastructure. This is the level of performance we expect from ourselves. Monday, we fell short of these expectations. We have learned from this event and will use it to drive improvement in our services.

As a result of this disruption, your account will be credited for the value of 1-month of service for each of your active/published sites.* This credit will be available to you for the next 7 days. Please click the button below to redeem your credit.


It’s an honor to serve you. Thank you for the opportunity to re-earn your business and trust.
As always, please call us 24/7 at 1-480-505-8877 — anytime, for any reason.

Sincerely,

Scott Wagner
CEO
GoDaddy.com

It’s good see such a solid response to the crisis from both a PR and customer service standpoint.

 

Are There More Stupid Statements Made in Sports or Politics?

Allen Pinkett’s nonsensical comments today  that the suspensions of four Notre Dame football players could be a sign that the program is gaining its edge got me thinking: If we had a competition for most stupid statements between politicians/political commentators and athletes/coaches/sportscasters, who would win?

It would be quite a battle.

Both groups make a lot of unwise public comments. Why? A whole lot of reasons. But I’m guessing their hubris leads to a lack of preparation and over confidence, a deadly combination with an open mic around.

I’m all for transparency and being true to yourself, your core values. On the other hand, just blurting something makes little sense. If you’ve trained much of your life to be an athlete or work in the political realm, you know the drill as far as public comments in interviews. Clear, succinct messages. Honest yet respectful. If your Mom wouldn’t like to hear you say it, don’t say it in an interview.

The rest of us “average” folks can learn from these “stars” and remember to think before we speak and to prepare like a professional before any interview.

What do you think? Who do you think would win?