Speaking & Presenting with “Presents”

By Susan Matthews Apgood, President & CEO, News Generation, Inc.

On Friday, June 21, PRSA-NCC held a workshop at Oglivy in Washington, D.C. named “How to Present to Senior Executives and Clients.” It was presented by Sarah Gershman from Greenroom Speakers.

Sarah outlined that there are three kinds of presence: 1. Presence of Self, 2. Presence of Message, and 3. Presence of Delivery. She explained that when you address an audience, you need to break down a wall. How do we do this? First, we have to create a shift in the way we prepare for a presentation. Instead of starting with the topic, start with the audience.

For each presentation you give, you have to look at what the audience’s needs are. Needs come in two forms: spoken and unspoken. Many prepare to present with a focus on all of the knowledge they have as a presenter. Instead, shift that focus to what the audience needs to know. What do they need to get out of the information you are presenting?

As you prepare to present, outline three items: 1. What do you want the audience to know? 2. How do you want them to feel? and 3. What do you want them to do after listening to your presentation? From this, you have to break through and become part of the audience’s story to get them to engage and listen to your story.

Many people HATE to speak in front of any audience, large or small. Gershman’s take on that? People are not worried about the presenter. They are thinking about themselves. What do to they have to this afternoon? What about dinner tonight?

Ninety-three percent of content delivered comes from voice and body language. With only seven percent coming from words. That does not mean that words are not important, of course they are. We just have to make sure that what we are delivering to the audience matches the tone of what we are saying. People typically don’t remember the words you said, they remember how you make them feel.

Ears will lose focus if the speaker is presenting in a monotone voice. How do we create contrast as a presenter? You can talk louder and then softer, you can change the tempo in your delivery, you can update the pitch of your voice, and you can change your tone, presenting more practically and then mixing in with emotional tones.

In terms of body-language, there are three ways to keep the audience engaged. First, by movement. For example, lean into the audience when a question is being asked, and then step back to address the entire audience when answering the question. Second, by visuals. Make sure that your Power Point is not too busy where you are making the audience work for what you are presenting. Too much text on a slide will make the audience focus on two things: you and the slide deck. Keep it simple. Third, eye contact. Instead of looking at a presentation as addressing 50 or 100 people, look at it as having several short conversations in a row. One person at a time.

Sarah closed her presentation by outlining the difference between charisma and presence. Charisma is when people are drawn to a person because of their natural attributes. But presence is when the speaker is drawn into the audience. Sara concluded with the idea of always having gratitude towards the audience, and making sure you provide them with the gift of your presence or providing “presents.”

If you would like to connect with Sarah and have her come to your team and present, you can email her at sarah@greenroomspeakers.com or visit her website at http://www.greenroomspeakers.com.


What’s New in Today’s Newsroom?

By Sheri L. Singer, President of Singer Communications

It’s always been challenging to reach journalists. Today, many journalists work remotely and the message I hear when I call them is, “You can leave a message, but I rarely work from the office and don’t check messages often.”

The newsroom landscape has changed significantly, even in the past year. Here are a few tips to help.

Be a detective. In reaching out to journalists today, you need to be a detective to find those covering your industry. Start by using a media database, resource references or the Internet. But also think outside the box. Your final list may include traditional journalists, online only editors, influencers, bloggers and podcasters.

Include bloggers. Identify a few of the bloggers that cover topics in your industry and whose opinions are well respected.

You can determine their influence in numerous ways — Who reads their blog? Do they have the ability to influence the industry? How do they influence your industry? How many people read their blog? Or you may tag them by other factors of importance to your company or organization.

Once you’ve identified these bloggers, follow them on social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. There’s a possibility they may follow you in return. Be sure to share content relevant to them on these platforms.

In addition to sharing relevant information with bloggers, you may choose to pitch them. According to one source (Finn PR), 88 percent of bloggers say they expect PR practitioners to contact them, but 51 percent complained that the PR professional didn’t craft a personal pitch.

So this step is critical — before you reach out to a blogger, read some of their blogs. Develop a customized pitch or a direct message and send it to them via email or a social media platform.

When developing a message to a blogger, talk about some of the issues they have written about in the past. Let them know you have information to share that may be relevant to what they cover.

According to research by Finn PR, less than half of bloggers (41 percent) expect to be paid. But the question of charging a fee or not is completely dependent on the individual blogger. You want to ask the blogger about any fees to be certain you are clear on the details of working with that blogger.

Once you build a relationship with the blogger, you may suggest that your organization or company write a guest blog. Again, whether blog posts accept submissions from outside authors is completely up to the individual blogger.

Remember that your goal in reaching out to a blogger is most likely to build a relationship. To this end, building a relationship with a blogger is a marathon not a sprint.

Get to know an industry influencer. An influencer has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience.

Every industry has influencers such as celebrities, industry experts and thought leaders, content creators such as bloggers, or micro influencers (those influencing a specific segment of your industry).

Influencers are often quoted, referenced, or interviewed in online articles, industry publications, TV/cable, radio or podcasts. For example, in the medical bioethics field, Arthur Caplan is an influencer.

Typically, when working with an influencer, you make a direct ask of what you’d like the influencer to do–recommend your company’s product, promote your association’s event, attend an event or celebration, etc.

Unlike working with a blogger, often there is a fee to work with an influencer. It may be helpful to first discuss what you expect the influencer to do before negotiating the fee. Be sure to mention any other benefits the influencer might obtain from working with your organization — getting in front of a new audience, helping a charity, etc. If the particular influencer’s fee doesn’t fit your budget, ask if they could recommend a colleague.

Consider podcasts. As of June 2019, there are 700,000 podcasts with 29M episodes according to MusicMPH that based their information on studies by Nielsen and Edison. And those numbers are predicted to increase.

Identify the podcasters in your industry and listen to those podcasts. You may want to consider trying to get your CEO or other spokesperson on the podcast by reaching out to the podcast producer or host.

If you are successful in getting your spokesperson on a podcast the most important tip is to prepare for the interview. Start by using your organization’s messages and help the spokesperson by conducting mock interviews with some softball and tougher anticipated questions. In some cases, the podcaster may ask you for questions in advance.

Let your industry community know that you will be participating in the podcast and tell them how they can listen. You may choose to record the podcast and (with the permission of the podcaster) and post a minute on your website.

Continue to share industry information with the podcaster after the podcast airs. This is about building long-term relationships, not just being a one-hit wonder.

Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the new newsroom. Have a tip that’s worked for you? Feel free to add it here.

About the Author

Sheri L. Singer is passionate about helping companies and associations solve their PR related challenges. As president of Singer Communications, she also is Chair of the American Society of Association Executives’ Healthcare Community Committee. She speaks about 15 times a year for various companies and associations on PR related topics.





Public Relations and the Free Press: Elements in a Critical Equation

By Judy Phair, APR, Fellow PRSA; PRSA National President and CEO, 2005

PRSA’s Code of Ethics has always been a point of pride for me, as a member and a public relations professional, just as I’m sure it is for all of us who have pledged to uphold it. The words set the stage, but it is understanding and translating them into action that counts. Ethical public relations doesn’t just happen because we say so. It’s part of a critical equation that begins with a free society. That free society, in turn, requires a free press and an informed public.

As public relations professionals, we have an obligation to speak up if any element of this equation is threatened. It’s the only way we can do our jobs successfully, on behalf of our employers/clients and in the service of our own ethical and professional standards.

Recently, PRSA – on behalf of all of us – exercised its right and obligation to advocate forcefully and openly for the necessity of a free press and an informed public. In a public statement, it affirmed the free press as a “vital engine of democracy” and urged the White House to reestablish, with its new appointment, the traditional role of the White House Press Secretary. In particular, the statement called for recognition of the Press Secretary’s role to “advocate for a free press and keep American citizens well-informed about actions being taken that will affect their lives.” Practically speaking, that translates into “frequent and informative briefings and working productively with the press,” the statement notes. In contrast, during the last six months, two formal press briefings were held at the White House, and the last on-camera briefing by a spokesperson at the Pentagon was May 31, 2018.

While PRSA’s statement reflects a current situation, it is about good practice, not politics. Threats to a free press are a worldwide and growing concern. Last August, PRSA joined with 14 leading international public relations communications organizations to issue a collaborative statement in support of a free press around the world in response to these concerns.

Public relations professionals understand all too well that threats to a free press anywhere, in any form, directly impact another critical element in our ethical public relations equation: an informed public. When public interest is ignored, an uninformed public can rapidly lose trust in a society’s basic institutions. Loss of these essential elements in our equation threatens our ability to provide valuable service to all our audiences.

Some wise words from the late Patrick Jackson (founder of Jackson Jackson & Wagner and 1980 PRSA President) come to mind. Pat, one of the most widely known and respected practitioners in our profession, talked about trust as an essential part of ethical, successful public relations. He called relationships with our publics “the currency of public relations” and said trust was necessary to build those relationships. He argued that people want to be “served, not sold; involved, not told.” Those words still resonate today. They remind us of the great things that can be achieved through a free press working in tandem with thoughtful, ethical and strategic public relations professionals.


New PR/PA writing, shorter than ever, FYA not FYI, zippier: Are you prepared?

By Don Bates, APR, Fellow PRSA

Keep writing long, indirect, colorless documents and soon no one will read what you’ve written as intently as you would like – or at all.

Today’s for-profit, nonprofit and government organizations, along with their audiences, expect PR/PA writers – both staff and consultant – to get to the point quicker and with more oomph.

This is due, in part, because readers don’t have time for what social media expert Guy Kawasaki calls ‘War and Peace’ memos or 60-slide PowerPoint presentations for one-hour meetings. Email and texting have robbed us of untold time and attention once devoted to more traditional writing styles and forms.

This is due, as well, to the truncated text that is intrinsic to the internet, the single most important driver of new business writing and design influence. Online images, for example, have replaced a megaton of the verbiage that was normal in the print-dominated world of a relative few years ago.

Because of these and related changes and influences, headlines, subject lines and lead paragraphs must also be shorter and snappier. Writers must use tighter, more concrete language that will get more people to do things quickly on their employer’s or client’s behalf – e.g., buy, invest, donate, volunteer, participate, support, work for and vote.

Copywriting is the key to creating the desired energetic text, especially for blogs and social media sites, which people scan like ads. Copywriting is generally zippier, friendlier, younger in tone, more playful and more emotional than traditional business prose.

Unfortunately, most organizational writers have little serious copywriting experience – that’s found mostly in ad and marketing agencies – so they must go back to school to upgrade their skills.

They must attend workshops and seminars of local and national PR, advertising and marketing associations. They must read books on the topic. And they must subscribe for free to online sites such as HubSpot, Copyblogger and Co-Schedule, each of which will send them invaluable how-to guidelines as context for buying their innovative products.

In the current organizational writing environment, a picture is worth far more than a thousand words. Writers at all levels need to keep this in mind as they’re urged and eventually required to embrace the “snackable” brevity that is fast becoming the new norm in PR/PA and related business writing.

About the Author

Don Bates, APR, Fellow PRSA, teaches public relations writing and management at New York University. He also teaches writing workshops worldwide. For over 40 years, he has handled PR for corporations, associations, and nonprofit organizations. He owned The Bates Company, Inc., an international PR agency, which he sold after 12 years. He has taught at Columbia University and the New School University and is founding director of the graduate program in strategic public relations at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM), Washington, DC. He teaches his well-known full-day writing workshop several times annually for the PRSA-NCC chapter in Washington, DC. His next workshop is August 20.

Make Your Next Website Redesign Your Last

By Carrie Hane, Founder & Principal Strategist, Tanzen

Is it that time again? Time to redesign your organization’s website. It’s been about three years since the last time, and it is showing its age. People are having a hard time finding things. The design is so four years ago. Content creators are complaining about how much time it takes to get content published.

You’re about to embark on a journey that will be expensive and disruptive. Everyone is dreading it because they’ve all been through it before.

What if I told you this could be the last time you had to do this? That you could make this your last website overhaul.

It can be if you start by thinking about content in a broader context, outside of a website—or any interface. It can happen if you have a deliberate, forward-looking way of planning and creating content.

When you start with strategy, audience needs, and content instead of website design, content management systems (CMS), and vendors, you can get a website that will still have the same underlying structure and content in seven years as it does today. Ask the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It is still working for them and looking good through a series of small improvements instead of massive changes.

How to make a future-friendly website

A web design process that starts with discovery and alignment, then planning, and finally creation.

To make your website future-friendly, you have to start with acknowledging that the site is for your audience. It is for them to get the information or complete a task. Therefore, you need to ruthlessly prioritize who is really using the site. Then map what you offer to what they want. A bit of user research and internal stakeholder alignment goes a long way toward an effective website. And you can even use the information collected and consensus built for other work within the organization.

Now that everyone’s on the same page and you’re focused on how to serve your audience, it’s time to plan your content. The best way to do this is to create a content model. A content model is a representation of the types of content, their relationships, and their attributes. Not just for the website, but for the organization. After all, any piece of content rarely has one specific purpose these days. Get it all in there. This will guide your content creation, information architecture, CMS development, and interface design.

Now the real fun begins. You get to figure out what it will look like! It is so much easier now that you have made decisions about what is needed. Designers have material to work with so that they can support the content and strategy. Developers can build a system that support the content delivery and management (a true content management system). Authors can develop the content at the same time. Everyone is working from the same set of specifications and a shared understanding of what things are and what their purpose is.

When this all comes together, you can confidently launch the new website knowing it is useful, usable, flexible, and findable. All along the way you’ve made decisions that can now come together in a governance plan that allows you to govern the content and website efficiently.

Launching a website is only the beginning. Kind of like a garden: with regular care and feeding, it will continue to serve you and bring delight to others.

Simple but not easy

This explanation is simplified, of course. The biggest challenge in creating websites with this process is the mindset shift. Not only does the team managing the website have to buy-in to this approach, so does everyone else. And that’s no easy task.

It is possible. I’ve done it and so have others. In the 10 years I have been using some version of this process, I’ve seen two things happen:

  1. None of my projects have been late because we were waiting for content.
  2. The underlying structure of the websites I created are still holding up.

This framework is tried and true and builds on my own lessons as well as those of many others. It is detailed in the book Designing Connected Content: Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow. And I offer training so that others may learn to adopt it for themselves.

Investing in the Future of our Profession

By Susan Rink, President and Owner of Rink Strategic Communications, LLC

Throughout my career, I have been blessed with mentors and role models who have taken time to provide guidance, wisdom, a sympathetic ear and – upon occasion – hard truths to help me along. So as I have graduated into a “senior practitioner” role, I am deeply committed to sharing my experiences with those who are just starting out on their PR adventures. To me, it is both a way to give back to my profession and to invest in its future.

Over the past 10 years, I must have spoken to more than 100 college PR/Communications classes at American University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University and most recently, the University of North Carolina – Charlotte.

While my topics have ranged from crisis communications and strategic planning to “The Wacky World of an Internal Communications Professional,” the topic that drives the most engagement with both undergraduate and graduate students is, “How to Survive Your First Year in the Workplace.”

The reason for that is simple: Most colleges and universities are focused on building professional toolkits, with emphasis on research, measurement and strategy. But even professors who have come from the “real world” of PR don’t have time in their lesson plans to provide useful tips for dealing with workplace politics, finding a mentor or advocate, and dealing with the realities of today’s workplace. And that’s a darn shame.

Some of the topics I cover in my workplace survival presentation include:

  • How to know whether this opportunity is a good fit for you (it’s not just about the salary)
  • Why it is important to have both a mentor and an advocate (and the difference between the two)
  • When to listen and absorb, when to speak up, and how not to get sucked into workplace politics
  • What others can learn from you
  • How to demonstrate interest in advancing your career without seeming too pushy
  • What to learn from bad bosses as well as good ones
  • What to do if the organization turns out to be a bad fit

As you can see from the list, these tips could apply to just about any profession. That’s not a coincidence, since some of them come from my work experiences prior to moving into PR/Communications. I’m sure that as you read this list, you are thinking of your own survival tips and what you might share with a group of young professionals.

Which leads me to this piece of advice: Get out there and tell your story. The young men and women who are preparing to enter the workplace are eager and willing to hear how they can survive and succeed in their careers. They are looking for someone like you to share knowledge and experience with them.

If public speaking isn’t your thing, that’s fine. Reach out to the young professionals in your organization and offer to mentor or guide them. They will appreciate your time and your wisdom, and best of all, you may even learn something new from these bright young minds. Like what the heck Snapchat is and how to use it.

About the Author

Susan C. Rink is president and owner of Rink Strategic Communications, LLC, which helps their clients talk to and listen to their employees during times of change. Her clients range from global technology, retail, manufacturing and hospitality companies to professional associations and “think tanks.” Prior to forming Rink Strategic Communications in 2007, Susan spent more than two decades in employee communication leadership positions with Nextel Communications and Marriott International. A long-time resident of the Washington, DC, area and former chair of PRSA-NCC’s Independent PR Alliance, Susan recently relocated to South Carolina where she is learning to drive faster, speak slower and cook really good grits.

‘They chew gum, don’t they?’

To get the word out with media relations pieces, Think Like a Reporter

By Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications

Famous story about a PR pitch gone bad: A PR pro at Warner-Lambert Company calls an editor at Inc. magazine. When, she asks, is Inc. going to run that story she pitched on W-L’s new flavor of Trident gum?

The editor explains that Inc. is a magazine for entrepreneurs and that every story the magazine runs is designed to help its readers build their businesses. Given that, the editor asks the PR pro, why would our readers be interested in a story about Trident?

The PR pro replies: “They chew gum, don’t they?”

With pitches like these, it’s no wonder journalists’ biggest pet peeves are releases that aren’t relevant to the audiences they serve, according to a survey by Greentarget.

So how can we write relevant releases?

1. Write about the reader.

A few years ago, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch did a study to learn who or what was most important to readers.

Get the word out with media relations

Would you like to learn to develop story ideas that readers want to read and that media outlets want to run? If so, please join Ann Wylie at NOT Your Father’s News Release — a two-day PR-writing workshop on Oct. 17-18 in Washington, D.C.

“Their answer was in some ways surprising. Many did not say their families, children or God,” writes Dick Weiss, former writer and editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Instead, their answer was: ‘Me.’”

If that’s what reporters’ readers care about, that’s what reporters care about too.

“What I really like about a [release],” a trade journal editor told Public Relations Tactics, “is when it scratches my reader’s itch and not your client’s itch.”

So write about the reader. Not about “us and our stuff.”

Learn more about writing for the reader.

  1. Offer value-added service stories.

More than half of business-to-business editors surveyed seek more feature releases, according to a study by Thomas Rankin Associates. Those include value-added stories like case studies and how-to stories.

Greentarget learned the same thing in its study: Journalists find releases that contain thought leadership — surveys, tipsheets, case studies, etc. — most valuable.

As Bruce Upbin, senior editor at Forbes, counsels: “Present the key element … that explains how your story can benefit Forbes readers.”

Learn more about writing tipsheets.

That’s write about the reader.

And yet, PR pros persist in writing about themselves.

“I recently got a message from a reporter working at a small local paper who received 80 press releases in one day,” writes digital communications strategist Jeremy Porter, “of which only two were relevant to the information his paper covers.”

Keep doing this, and we’ll be as successful as Warner-Lambert with its Inc. pitch.

Even if they do chew gum.

About the Author

Ann Wylie works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. Learn more about her training, consulting or writing and editing services. Get more writing tips when you subscribe to Ann’s free ezine.