Why You Need A Media Message (Video)

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on February 11, 2014 – 6:02 am

Jibberwocky. Molaquin. Pretirific.

Those are made-up words. And believe it or not, nonsense words have something to do with the need to create media messages. I’ll explain how in the video below.

In this video media training tip, you’ll not only learn why you should have a message—but how to deliver an entire “on message” interview without ever repeating the same sentence twice.

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Interviews Aren’t A Dance: Don’t Let The Reporter Lead

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on February 9, 2014 – 6:02 am

Wikipedia tells us that “in partner dancing, the two dancers are sometimes not equal. One takes the Lead and the other is the Follow.” As you might have expected, gender often plays a role:

“The Lead (conventionally the male in a mixed-sex couple) is responsible for choosing appropriate steps to suit the music (if it is an improvised dance), and leading the Follow by using subtle signals to complete the chosen steps smoothly and safely.”

The majority of interview subjects approach media interviews as a dance. In their view—conscious or not—the reporter leads the dance through his or her questioning while the interviewee gamely goes in whichever conversational direction the journalist decides.

But good media interviews are not a dance. You are equal to reporters—not a companion who follows their lead.

dance

We see this dynamic in our training sessions often. We might begin with a short lecture about the importance of remaining on message—and for the first few practice interview questions we ask the trainees, they remember to transition back to their main points.

But within a few questions, they forget about their messages entirely and just start answering our questions. We, the reporters, are leading the dance again, and the trainee has abandoned their interview strategy entirely.

It’s easy to understand why that happens. In everyday conversation, we have a more natural give and take, with each party switching turns taking the lead and follow roles. If someone asks us a question, we answer the question.

But media interviews aren’t conversations. They are strategic forms of communication intended to reach and appeal to a specific target audience. Spokespersons who forget that—and who lapse back into conversation mode—are turning the lead role back over to the reporter, voluntarily surrendering their right to be an equal.

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How To Avoid Being Misquoted By The Media

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on February 5, 2014 – 12:07 am

In this video media training tip, I’ll offer a very simple technique to help you avoid being the victim of a media misquote.

Remember these three words: Click, clack, repeat.

You can see some of our other video media training tips here.

 


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Do A Few “Ummms” Actually Make You More Memorable?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 29, 2014 – 5:27 am

The conventional wisdom among media and presentation trainers is that saying “uh” or “um” during an interview or speech can prevent an audience from hearing your point.

In a recent post, I challenged that notion. I argued that verbal filler is a natural part of ordinary spoken communication. Michael Erard, the author of Um…:Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, estimates that about 5 to 8 percent of the words that normal speakers say every day involve an “uh,” “um,” or some other speech imperfection.

In excess, those verbal imperfections can interfere with effective communication. But an occasional “uh” or “um” is unlikely to distract an audience.  

In fact, some fascinating research suggests that audiences actually remember more from speakers who do utter an occasional “uh” or “um.”

 

uh oh sign

Here’s a summary of the study from The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois:

Could generations of speech coaches been wrong all these years? New research is showing that speakers shouldn’t discard those “ums” and “ahs” and other speech fillers if they want to be understood by listeners.

Duane Watson of the Cognitive Science group and Scott Fraundorf from his laboratory used a story recall task as part of an experiment that tested the mechanisms by which speech fillers affected memory for discourse. They used natural speech instead of “laboratory speech” and controlled for the extra processing time that fillers provide listeners. They discovered that the fillers actually facilitated recall for listeners.

“One finding that we had is that if you’re listening to a story or a speech, people remember the content better if the person says ‘uh’ and ‘um’ in it than if the story is completely fluent,” Watson said. “This is counter-intuitive, because if you go to a speech coach, they say don’t say uh and um.”

Woman gesturing with her hand while a business team is watching her

Why Does “Uh” and “Um” Improve Listener Recall?

“The task was for them to listen to it and then tell the story back,” Watson said. “We found that they’re better at it if uh and um is actually there. So we think that maybe those disfluencies are increasing the person’s attention.

“This is speculation, but if the speaker doesn’t know what they’re saying very well, you pay attention more because you think you need to work harder to get it.”

My Advice

Watson’s last line, about the speaker not knowing what they’re saying very well, concerns me. No speaker should ever be in that position. But as he says, that’s speculation, and we can still take a larger point away from his study without getting distracted by his final point.  

Here’s my advice: Don’t over-focus on a few uhs and ums along the way. If you do, you’ll probably under-focus on the flaws in your delivery that have an even greater impact on how the audience perceives you. 

Of course, there are times that speakers use too many verbal fillers and distract their audiences from hearing their most important messages. If you think that might be happening to you, here’s an exercise that will help.

Thank you to reader Art Aiello, who pointed this story out to me.


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I Want My Money! An Important Lesson From A Great Ad

Written by Christina Mozaffari (@PMRChristina) on January 26, 2014 – 9:42 pm

I am not a numbers person. But a well-told statistic tends to stick with me.

In our media training sessions, Brad and I emphasize the importance of using both stories and statistics to support your organization’s message. They’re a critical part of communications. But statistics are particularly important for data-driven audiences.

Still, it’s not enough to give even a data-friendly audience raw numbers. So what makes a well-told statistic? Context. A statistic expressed in a relatable manner will be memorable for your audience. They may not remember the number itself, but they’ll remember your central point. And in most cases, that will serve your purpose beautifully.

Recently, H&R Block launched a campaign with the best example of statistics in context that I’ve seen in a long time.

 

The reason this commercial works so well is that it places one billion dollars into a relatable context. One billion dollars is too much money for the average person to grasp — and if we divided that $1 billion by the number of taxpaying Americans, the number would be too small to make us care.

However, $500 on every stadium seat in America is something startling and memorable. We can imagine that amount of money and think, “Why am I not getting my share of that?” Mission accomplished.

In The Media Training Bible, Brad shares four additional ways to cite statistics:

1. Make numbers personal

Numbers are often best when reduced to a personal level. Instead of saying a tax cut would save Americans $100 billion this year, say the average family of four would receive $1,250 in tax relief.

2. Don’t rely on percentages

Instead of proclaiming that your company’s new energy-efficient manufacturing equipment will cut your plant’s carbon footprint by 35 percent, be more specific. Will that new efficiency save 20,000 gallons of oil this year, enough to fuel 36 company trucks for an entire year? Say so!

Book Cover Stacked

3. Use ratios

An estimated 170,000 people in Washington, DC, are functionally illiterate. But that number doesn’t tell you much, especially if you have no sense of the overall population. Instead, you might say:

“One in three adults living in Washington, DC, is functionally illiterate. Next time you’re on the Metro, look around you. Odds are that the person to your left or right can’t read a newspaper.”

4. Provide relative distance

If your car company is introducing an updated model, you’d be proud to announce that the improved version gets four miles more per gallon. But you’d get even more traction if you said, “That’s enough to get from Maine to Miami once per year—without spending an extra penny on gas.”

Christina Mozaffari tweets at @PMRChristina.

 


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The Nuns Were Wrong About Your Hands. Here’s Why.

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 19, 2014 – 6:02 am

I occasionally ask audiences whether anyone went to Catholic school. I follow up by asking those who did whether they were ever instructed that it was rude to gesture using their hands. Many of them nod their heads, chuckling at the memory from long ago.

It’s not just nuns (and certainly not all of them) who perpetuated the belief that gesturing with one’s hands is considered undisciplined, undignified, and unrefined. Many of our presentation training clients have been taught the same thing by other presentation trainers (although I know many great trainers who never teach that erroneous advice).

In this post, I’ll strip away the myths about gesture—and share with you what the experts tell us.

Angry Nun with Ruler

Researcher Susan Goldin-Meadow, author of Hearing Gesture: How Our Hands Help Us Think, tells us that “we have not yet discovered a culture in which speakers do not move their hands as they talk.”

It turns out that gesture is innate. “Even individuals who are blind from birth and have never seen others gesture purposefully move their hands as they talk,” Goldin-Meadow reports. In one study, “the blind group gestured at the same rate as the sighted group.”

Whereas many people once believed that speech and gesture were two different things that could be teased apart, the research suggests otherwise. Goldin-Meadow writes:

“Gesture not only conveys meaning but does so in a manner that is integrated with speech. Several types of evidence lend support to the view that gesture and speech form a single, unified system.”

look at that!

Not convinced yet? In their book Nonverbal Communication In Human Interaction, authors Mark Knapp, Judith Hall, and Terrence G. Horgan report similar findings:

“Gestures help speakers retrieve certain words or describe objects that move as part of their function, and thus serve a greater interpersonal function. Listeners may benefit more from a speaker’s gestures when these gestures add emphasis or clarity to speech, help characterize and make memorable the content of speech, and act as forecasters of forthcoming speech.”

The evidence is clear. Humans speak using their hands. Effective communication depends on it. If any trainers tell you otherwise, throw them out of your office.

There are, of course, some guidelines for the best way to gesture. You can see some of those here.

Come join us for one of our fast-moving and content-rich media and presentation training workshops! Click here to see our upcoming sessions.


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I Am Not A Gay Lesbian Crook

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 12, 2014 – 6:02 am

I’ve written before about the dangers of uttering “quotes of denial,” in which the word “not” is placed immediately before a negative noun or adjective.

The problem is that the defensive-sounding negative word or phrase tends to linger longer in the public memory than the word “not.” So when Chris Christie uttered the phrase “I am not a bully” during his marathon press conference on Thursday, I knew it would be used against him.

Sure enough, here’s the cover from this weekend’s USA Today Weekend:

Chris Christie Not a Bully

Christie should have known better, as history has provided us with numerous examples of bad—or downright disastrous—quotes of denial.

Here are eight memorable examples:

Richard Nixon, 1973: “I am not a crook.” President Nixon’s unfortunate phrase, uttered at the height of the Watergate scandal, became the five most famous words he ever spoke.

Bill Clinton, 1998: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” President Clinton stood by his denial for seven months until he finally admitted that he had, in fact, had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

Kenneth Lay, 2001: “We’re not hiding anything.” The CEO and chairman of Enron knowingly misled the public about his company’s woeful financial condition. The company filed for bankruptcy shortly after his untruthful claim.

Larry Craig, 2007: “I am not gay.” After being arrested for lewd conduct in an airport men’s bathroom, Idaho Senator Larry Craig denied the accusation by telling reporters, “I am not gay. I never have been gay.” (I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with being gay, only that if Craig’s intent was to deny it, he chose the worst way to do it.)

Larry Craig I Am Not Gat

John Edwards, 2008: “I know that it’s not possible that this child could be mine.” The Democratic presidential hopeful denied having a child with his mistress, Rielle Hunter. He later admitted that he is, indeed, the father.

Christine O’Donnell, 2010: “I’m not a witch.” Christine O’Donnell, the Republican Senate candidate from Delaware, had to do crisis control after a tape emerged of her saying a decade earlier that she had, “dabbled into witchcraft.” She took her critics on by releasing an ad that began with the words, “I’m not a witch.” The ad backfired, and she became fodder for the late night comics. She lost.

Oprah Winfrey, 2010: “I’m not a lesbian.” When the talk show host was asked about her relationship with close friend Gayle King, Ms. Winfrey tearfully denied the relationship was sexual. Her quotable quote was splashed across front pages worldwide. (I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with being lesbian, only that if Winfrey’s intent was to deny it, she chose the worst way to do it.)

Chris Christie, 2014: “I am not a bully.” Considering that Christie has made a career of incidents like this and this and this, his denial will only serve to reinforce his bullying nature.

How To Avoid The Language of Denial

In this video, I offer a tip for avoiding these types of “quotes of denial.” 

Come join us for one of our fun, fast-moving and content-rich media and presentation training workshops! Click here to see our upcoming sessions.


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How Many Times Should You Repeat Your Messages?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 10, 2013 – 10:09 pm

Finish these famous advertising jingles:*

“Like a good neighbor, _____ _____ is there.”

“GE: We bring good things ____ _____.”

“The best part of wakin’ up is _______ in your cup.”

Did you find yourself singing along? If so, you’ve just experienced the first lesson of media messaging, which demands that all messages be consistent.

You remember those commercials because the advertisers—State Farm, General Electric, and Folgers—stuck with their catchy ads long enough for them to become almost universally known.

Like memorable commercials, good messages require consistency and repetition. Spokespersons who change their messages from interview to interview prevent their audiences from understanding, remembering, and acting upon their messages, which usually require numerous exposures to become effective.

Just how many times do you have to repeat your messages in order to achieve your goals? Advertisers rely on the concept of effective frequency to determine the number of times they should run an advertisement. Commercials for simple products with high name recognition might need to be seen only twice to result in a sales increase, whereas ads for less familiar brands might need to be seen nine times.

In the age of media and message oversaturation, those numbers strike me as low. I advise my clients that moving their audiences from unawareness to action requires anywhere from 7 to 15 exposures—and sometimes more.

Consistency is broader than just media interviews—you should apply it across all of your auto accident lawyer Delray Beach communications platforms. Your website, public speeches, newsletters, annual reports, and all other internal and external communications should reflect the same themes as your media messages.

Think about it this way: every time a member of your audience hears a consistent message from you, your clicker goes up one notch on your march to 7 to 15 exposures. If I read your on-message quote in a newspaper article, you’re at one. If I visit your website and see it again, you’re at two. If I see your on-message interview on the local television news, you’re at three. But if your message is slightly different each time you communicate, you will never move the clicker past one.

Repeating your main messages may sound confining, but it’s not. In a few lessons, you will learn how to keep your messages fresh by reinforcing them with new stories and the latest statistics.

From The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager:

“We live in a busy and fractured world in which people are bombarded with pleas for their attention. Given this, you have to try extra hard to reach them. You need to be everywhere. And for people you reach multiple times through different mediums, you need to make sure your message is consistent, so for instance, they don’t see a TV ad on tax cuts, hear a radio ad on health care, and click on an Internet ad about energy all on the same day. Messaging needs to be aligned at every level: between offline and on-, principal and volunteer, phone and e-mail.”

 *Answers: State Farm; “to life”; Folgers

This article is an excerpt from The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview, available from Amazon here and for the Kindle here.

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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