Keeping It Real: How To Be More Authentic In Your Communications

The irony of blogging about how to manufacture authenticity does not escape me. Surely being ‘real’ does not require an instructional video? Unfortunately, in the age of fake everything, it does.

In modern corporate environments, particularly the marketing and communications space, we have developed a sophisticated language designed around coded phrases that have been deliberately created to squash authenticity. When a business claims to be leveraging a paradigm shift to move the needle towards a success narrative you know they are full of it and have lost the ability to communicate authentically. Why would you trust a brand or person that can’t even trust themselves enough to be themselves?

Being authentic is not just a moral obligation, but can have serious benefits for your career or brand. There is no better example of the growing value of authenticity then the election of Donald Trump. Regardless of your political views, his campaign to win the Republican nomination and then defeat ‘Crooked Hillary’, was a masterclass in the value of being authentic.

Despite his many other flaws, US voters developed an appreciation of his desire to not be anything else, other than himself. On the other hand, Hillary came to reflect everything that was manufactured; a slick careerist unable to say anything for fear of offending anyone. It became a choice between a flawed human and a perfect machine. People still trust people more than robots and the rest is history.

So how can you be more authentic in your communications, and enjoy the benefits of more engagement, without appearing to be faking it?

Be fearless

The courage to offend is often the first step towards authenticity. However, being courageous is not just about being an over-opinionated blowhard and saying whatever pops into your ahead. As Donald Trump will ultimately learn; manners and tone matter too.

To courage to speak your mind, add respect. A simple acknowledgement of the fact you disagree sends a clear message about your intent to ‘agree to disagree’ and builds trust with your audience.

Too much modern corporate and political spin is created to avoid any potential blowback from individuals or groups who may not agree with you. The ability to respectfully disagree while maintaining dignity and composure are essential to authenticity.

Avoid platitudes and cliches

Platitudes are statements, especially those with a moral content, that have been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful. Like clichés, they are lazy form of communication that indicate to your listener that you haven’t bothered to create original thought for them. Avoid clichés like the plague.

Actions speak louder than words

Speaking coach and author Nick Morgan believes a lot of coming across as authentic is in the non-verbal cues we give people. These non-verbal cues are the second conversation you are having with your audience and can have a huge impact on your ability to engage with people.

“We’re learning that in human beings the second, nonverbal conversation actually starts first, in the instant after an emotion or an impulse fires deep within the brain but before it has been articulated. Indeed, research shows that people’s natural and unstudied gestures are often indicators of what they will think and say next. You might say that words are after-the-fact explanations of why we just gestured as we did.” Nick Morgan (www.publicwords.com)

Morgan identifies four aims (or intents) that give rise to authenticity. The intent to be open with your audience by relaxing, the intent to connect with your audience by keeping their attention, the intent to be passionate about your subject matter and the intent to ‘listen’ to your audience by adjusting to their needs or mood.

READ MORE: How to become an authentic Speaker

Keep It Simple Stupid

Your staff and customers are facing and endless barrage of information meaning simplicity has never been more powerful or necessary. Effective leaders distill complex thoughts and strategies into simple, memorable terms that colleagues and customers can grasp and act upon.

If you’re having trouble distilling something to its essence, it may be that you don’t understand it. So get clear and look out for technical jargon and business speak, which add complexity. Say what you mean in as few words as possible.

These are of course only the basics but a good starting point to throwing off the shackles of fakery and beginning to build better relationships with your staff, colleagues, customers and partners by becoming a new, realer, you.

How Strategic PR Content Drives Public Image

Developing positive content about an individual or organisation is only a small part of what defines Public Relations. Whether it be from the advice of a PR practitioner or the choices made by an organisation, much of the PR sphere involves responding strategically to any situation in order to maintain a favourable public image.

Trust and relatability are values that an audience holds dear and they contribute heavily to public image.

This means that sometimes, a well-spun positive message to cushion a negative situation doesn’t cut it. Instead, maintaining a positive public image sometimes means crafting content that defends in the face of public scrutiny or admits guilt.

Public Relations content needs to reflect the expectation people have that individuals and organisations understand what constitutes appropriate behaviour. For example, when people do something wrong, we expect them to own up to it. When someone is being wrongly persecuted, defence is acceptable as long as innocence can be proven.

Here are some examples of this in action.

Know when to ‘hit back’

In 2016, the Sunshine Coast Daily’s brand took a slight dive after publishing what many would consider a ‘low brow’ piece on their website and social media.

The story was republished after originally appearing in The Sun, entitled ‘Women quits job to breastfeed her boyfriend’. As the headline implied, the story was about a woman who took part in an ‘Adult Breastfeeding Relationship’ with her boyfriend.

After reaching an untold number of Facebook news feeds, readers and Facebook followers curiously clicked on the story and were left feeling like taking a shower after reading. But not before letting the SCD know what they thought about the quality of their content.

Source: Sunshine Coast Daily – ‘Woman quits her job to breastfeed her boyfriend’, June 8, 2016.

Source: Sunshine Coast Daily – ‘Woman quits her job to breastfeed her boyfriend’, June 8, 2016.

The SCD’s reputation took a slide as more people began to realise stories like this one were constantly appearing on their Facebook news feeds, and as far as they were concerned, the SCD’s quality of journalism had gone to the dogs.

A trashy story? Perhaps. Was it what many people were clicking on? Absolutely. It was this fact that inspired SCD to step in and stand their ground.

Source: Sunshine Coast Daily – ‘OUR SAY: That’s not news! Or is it?’ by Steve Etwell, June 10, 2016.

Their response piece explained that their range of stories is diverse, and ultimately the SCD couldn’t be held responsible for what people seemingly preferred to view on social media.

Source: Sunshine Coast Daily – ‘OUR SAY: That’s not news! Or is it?’ by Steve Etwell, June 10, 2016.

Of course, many rolled their eyes at such a defence. But the logical points managed to hit home for some:

Source: Sunshine Coast Daily – ‘OUR SAY: That’s not news! Or is it?’ by Steve Etwell, June 10, 2016.

While some readers did not change their negative opinion about SCD content, the news platform felt their point was valid and needed to be addressed. Doing nothing risks the audience continuing to believe that SCD doesn’t grade better than fish wrap. Whether people accepted the statement or not, it was a strategic piece of PR damage control that made their point clear and provided people the appropriate context.

Know when to fold

In April 2017 the media and communications industry was in a frenzy over the now infamous incident involving United Airlines and their response when a passenger was rather brutally removed from their seat.

If you’re having trouble remembering, On April 9, 2017, O’Hare International Airport security forcibly removed passenger David Dao, a 69-year-old doctor, from United Express Flight 3411 when he refused to depart the airplane. Management requested he and three other passengers give up their seats on the plane for flight staff. Camera footage was taken of Dao being manhandled by security as they pried him out of his seat. Other passengers looked on in horror as the man was dragged down the aisle.

Dao reportedly suffered several injuries including a broken nose and it turned out the plane was not actually full, even though he was asked to give up his seat for airport staff on the grounds that the plane was overbooked and the staff needed to fly for work purposes.

However, the real issue to be addressed here his how United Airlines responded to the incident the next day. The airline released a statement which, in part, stated:

“Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation.”

United chief executive Oscar Munoz then followed this up by apologising for “having to ‘re-accommodate’ these customers.” He also issued a statement to United Airlines staff supporting their actions as per protocol. His statement to his employees also went public.

Naturally, this sparked all kinds of outrage. The public were furious that this “combination of airline jargon and public relations spin” was part of their first response. Especially after such objectively confronting footage was released. PR blogs and opinion pieces rained from the sky, weighing in on how this could have been better handled.

This is a stark contrast to the PR dilemma the Sunshine Coast Daily faced. No matter what protocols United Airlines had in place, trying to immediately justify their actions through bland corporate spin was not the right move, especially when the public was stirred by footage of a bleeding passenger in distress.

It was universally agreed that the best course of action was to face the music; back down and own up to what happened. Take actions to prevent it from happening again. Show (don’t tell) that they could earn everyone’s trust back. The security guards were reportedly dismissed several days later, but by then it was much too late – the public had up their mind.

As we consider these two examples we can draw the ultimate lesson about public image. Humans are complex creatures, and Public Relations content should be created to reflect that fact.

Facebook News Feed Changes Will Bring About A Rethink

Facebook has announced changes to its news feed flagged last year which will have the effect of prioritising posts from friends and video content over posts from media outlets and businesses.

For news outlets and pages this will change the likelihood of their posts appearing in your news feed.

Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s head of News Feed wrote in a post that Facebook was built to bring people closer together and build relationships

He wrote: “With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion. We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content…”

“Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”

You can read Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement here in full:

So, what types of Page posts will show higher in News Feed?

According to Mosseri page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.

If you still want to see all content from a favourite page or business, you will still be able to; you’ll need to change the appropriate preference setting to see posts from your favourite pages.

This change is a sure-fire reminder that Facebook is there to make money and not just to give a business or publisher a free platform to promote itself and drive traffic. Organic reach will continue to decline for them and necessitate a rethink on the sort of content they provide and the level of sponsorship they will need or future posts.

If you’re a brand and can generate engagement, discussion and sharing then you may still be able to generate organic reach. However, all brands will need to rethink their content marketing strategies and decide how important Facebook is to their marketing programs.

Facebook has introduced these sorts of changes before and now it’s up to users and advertisers to react and respond.

Hopefully one meaningful change to news feed will be the penalising of publishers who seem to thrive on clickbait-type articles and headlines.  We’re looking at you, Fox Sports!

Image copyright: grinvalds / 123RF Stock Photo

Everyone’s Talking But No-one’s Listening: It’s Time to Reclaim the Art of Communication

 

Image 20161121 30364 ufkeaj.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
So much to say, but who’s paying attention?
Flickr/jordan, CC BY-NC-ND

Olaf Werder, University of Sydney

In a world of mass communication and social media, people seem prepared to share their opinion on almost any subject.

When it comes to remembering a conversation you were involved in, in most cases the deciding factor is the contribution you made to that conversation, according to British journalist Catherine Blyth in her 2008 advice book The Art of Conversation.

But today when people talk, online and offline, any real dialogue seems to have given way to parallel monologues, paired with an inability to actively listen.

Healthy advice

A brief trip into my own discipline of health communication illustrates the dilemma. The core argument of what makes health promotion work is that the promoter must first find the barriers as to why people don’t live healthier. The promoter then converts those into convincing campaigns.

Yet, health promoters still have difficulties explaining why seemingly reasonable people still deliberately disregard or dismiss their messages. In Australia alone, the federal Department of Health says smoking still kills an estimated 15,000 people a year.

So, how do we explain that people wilfully choose to harm their future health by ignoring sound health marketing? Researchers call this phenomenon health resistance. It is basically a lack of motivation to comply with someone else’s ideas of good and bad.

And since every form of communication starts with someone’s own worldview, which has to pass through the filter of a possibly very different worldview of others, these rebellious reactions are not surprising.

In politics and social issues (debates of marriage equality, climate change, race and religion, etc), we witness an increasingly dire split and hardening of positions. But the attempt to focus on perfecting one’s own arguments has equally led to an impasse in advancing public health.

Communication skills

The study of communication has its origins in rhetoric and public speaking skills of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Rhetoric teaches the art of using persuasive tools. However the idea of resolving disagreement through measured agreeable discussion, known as the dialectic method, played an equal role to the ancient Greeks and Romans.

With this in mind, it is interesting to see how our outlooks of communication have changed in modern times. Back in 1922, the American writer and reporter Walter Lippmann still called communication:

[…] a central and constitutive place in the study of social relations.

This opinion was echoed by his contemporary, philosopher John Dewey, who argued that:

[…] communication can by itself create a community.

This early definition was close to the spirit of the dialectic method. It was also in line with the root of the word “communication”, which comes from the Latin communicare (to share or to make common) and communis (belonging to all). Both terms are also related to the word “community”.

The rise of mass media

The rise of electronic communication technologies and mass media after World War II shifted the focus onto a more scientific interest of how best to disseminate information. This was famously symbolised by the communication loop model of Claude Elwood Shannon and Warren Weaver.

A growing interest in the information processing capacity of communication ultimately led to a detachment from the art of debate.

Persuasion and media effects concepts moved centre stage. Those areas were especially useful for purposeful or strategic communication that were needed in political campaigning, marketing and public relations. Those fields, not coincidentally, grew in importance at the same time.

US communication scholar William Eadie noted that by the 1980s communication in the United States had been separated from the study of speech and rhetoric. It was more associated primarily with learning journalism and media production, while the latter became subcategories of English.

The dawn of the information age intensified the focus on creating messages further by providing people with unfiltered, instant access to media and removing communicators from real audiences.

Whereas the idea of the internet as a democratic source of information and active engagement was noble, the web algorithms that filtered what someone was exposed to along their interests created an echo chamber of one’s own held opinions. It effectively reduced communicative competency to engage in human dialogue.

If we look at the current public and political dialogue in many countries, it seems bleak. The fallout from the US presidential campaign and the UK’s Brexit vote are just two examples.

But we know from psychology that humans have a natural drive toward belonging and contribution (being heard) and finding expressions of their creativity (being inspired). This explains social movements, the fan culture in sports and participatory management.

Getting the message through

One way to arrive at practising a slower and more compassionate communication style is to borrow ideas from the Slow Movement. We can step away from instant responses and replace the idea of conversations as a competition, with a win-win mentality.

The field of health communication attempts this in the form of community-involved and -led health campaigns, creating ownership, mutual voice and togetherness in the process.

On an individual level, we need to balance impersonal with personal communication, seek out and engage with opposing opinions on purpose, and try understanding the background for someone’s position by actively listening.

This goes beyond the freedom of speech idea. It forms an attempt to find common ground when talking to each other, which is not coincidentally also a definition of the term “community”.

The ConversationBesides the obvious effects in building connections, it has direct health implications, working against isolation, antagonism and stress.

Olaf Werder, Lecturer in Health Communication, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Owned Media Sites Inform, Educate and Entertain

The understanding and importance of owned media is growing as brands increasingly put more resources into the media platforms that they own.

Owned media in contrast to paid or earned media is anything under the company’s control. More specifically it includes websites, newsletters and blogs. In contrast, earned media is PR and editorial, paid media is advertising and sponsorship.

Social media is not classified as owned media. Despite the fact that you own your social media channel you don’t control the interaction with your community and the public. Plus, much of the reach now must be paid for, especially on Facebook – so these platforms can now easily be described as being rented, not owned.

What are the key qualities for owned media?

There are many points to consider when setting up your owned media strategy. The key point is to develop content that people will want to engage with and have a reason to follow and be interested in you.

Understanding what people are interested in learning about and sharing will help shape your content calendar and drive your SEO strategy.

Exploring new formats can help you reach new consumers on platforms they care about. Consider branching out into audio books, epub (ebook file format) or a regular podcast. Consumers will consume content in different ways and you may need to explore new ways to deliver your content.

Have you noticed how much video content is now in your Facebook news feed? It’s become the go to medium for message delivery and done properly ranks through the roof for engagement. It can be more expensive but can also influence your SEO, improve trust and help your brand have a position of insight and reliability.

Owned media sites are an extension of your brand and create additional avenues for people to interact with you. When it comes to owned media, as long as you can keep up with providing interesting content there are no real limits to how much you can create.

Importantly, owned media should not be a hard sell but endeavour to attract an audience and then be in a position to convert them after establishing value and trust in their minds.

Owned media strategies create value for people beyond the products being sold.

The three key considerations for owned media content is that it should inform, educate or entertain. Of course it can have more than one of those qualities.

Some leading examples of companies that are successfully turning their owned media platforms into engaged and informed communities are:

ANZ Blue Notes – The ANZ Bank established BlueNotes partly as a response to the cutback in traditional media that weren’t able to cover all the topics they wanted to cover from a business point of view.  It’s produced by their own in-house team of writers with sourced contributed content. It’s not about having ANZ branding thrust into readers feeds, but covering a range of topics including the global economy, technological innovation, Asia Pacific region, business finance, leadership and management, social and economic sustainability, workplace diversity and ANZ news.

Johnson & Johnson – their Baby Center website is a content driven website about pregnancy and baby care. It’s not a hard sell and J&J’s branding is hardly visible. They’re building an audience and positioning the brand as experts in baby care and driving demand for baby care products.

General ElectricGE Reports was set up by GE according to their managing editor Tomas Kellner to tell their side of the story. “The company wanted to contribute the GE Capital perspective to the conversation — but there weren’t enough writers around to be picking the story up from every company that wanted to be heard. So we originally built this platform to tell our side of the story, reactively. Now it’s really a proactive tool where we can tell all the stories we think are worth telling,” he told Brunswick Review.

 

 

Earning Media: How To Dance The Dance Of Publicity

The PR community talks constantly about the concept of earned media. It’s our bread and butter, and we are always ready with an explanation as to how it differs from marketing or advertising, otherwise known as ‘paid media’. Earned media is the result of strategic thinking to bring important news to the forefront. Information earns the title when external parties, namely journalists and the media, have deemed it a worthy offering to bring to the public’s attention.

Sometimes, however, we get caught up in the message or product we are trying to sell, and the concept of earned media can get distorted. In the worst cases, earned media becomes a marketing vessel and the only thing that separates it from paid media is the platform and the price tag.

Here are a few things to consider to help keep earned media grounded in its definition.

Earned media needs a powerful message

A powerful message makes a great story. The focus should be less about ‘what’ you are trying to promote with free publicity, but ‘how’ it will affect people. It doesn’t matter how much money you or your company makes, or how important you think you are – if you don’t deliver a message people care about, you end up wasting everyone’s time.

(Of course a big company name or well-known figure adds weight to any story, but you’d be surprised to see how many shallow media releases are out there that essentially say nothing, but were distributed nonetheless because a big company thought their name alone was enough to turn heads.)

This, however, does not mean your message needs to be pandering or fabricated to make people pay attention. Just be honest, but go deeper – who benefits and who suffers from your information? What are some interesting facts surrounding the topic? Which powerful players are involved?

Why does this story need to be told?

Earned media can be spoiled

Earned media is distinguishable from paid media because its essence of honesty and purity. Journalists, in particular, are more likely to run a story if it can be interpreted as an unbiased piece of information beneficial to the public.

An audience is smarter than the cattle some perceive them to be. They can usually tell the difference between when they’re being informed, and when they’re being sold to. Only the very best marketers and writers and blur those lines, and even then, more people are wising up to PR tactics every day.

When crafting content in the hopes it will become earned media, it’s best to avoid certain behaviours like the overuse of adjectives or using a full weapons chest of empty corporate ‘buzz words’ to make simple concepts sound more amazing.

Keep that powerful message in mind, because desperate, empty and promotional prose is easily identifiable and will often lead to content that sours your message and your brand.

Earning media requires patience

Free press as a result of one great story is only a small part of what makes earned media so effective.

Earned media is also the right to free publicity as a result of a long-term process of establishing trust and building relationships.

Building an effective media relationship, however, is not as simple as becoming friends with journalists who will, in turn, have your back as a contact no matter what. The journalist could be your child’s godparent, but their job is still on the line if you send them terrible media releases and weak news tips in the name of flimsy self-promotion.

It’s a slow burn. Earned media relies on a strong message and engaging storytelling, but the best results come after a long and consistent period of delivering the best content possible. Over time, you will have built a foundation where publishers will see your name and immediately assume you must have something interesting to say.

Building strong relationships takes patience, strategic thinking and realistic expectations, which are words that describe the very nature of earned media to a tee.

What is Your Brand’s Editorial Mission?

In the digital world every single brand, every single company, is a publisher. If you have a website, you are publisher, if you have a Facebook page, you are a publisher. If you send clients technical guides on how to use your products, you are a publisher.

The key to being a great publisher is a strong, clearly-defined and purpose-driven editorial mission. An editorial mission is the foundation of your content strategy and defines what you’re going to talk about and share as a content creator.

What is ‘editorial’?

The term editorial has traditionally been reserved by newspapers for the section of the paper where the ‘editor’ expresses the publisher’s own views and policies on a current issue. It was always separate from the objective news ‘reporting’ of the paper that was meant to be devoid of the personal opinions of the journalist and their editor. As an example, it has long been a tradition of newspapers to use their editorial pages to endorse their preferred candidate ahead of an election. This decision is meant to be the considered wisdom of the editor or senior editorial team and until recently had the potential to swing undecided voters.

In it’s strictest definition editorial content should not be influenced by outside forces. The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) says there is ‘no advertiser influence’ in the creation of editorial features and in all case’s the editor’s decision about content and tone are ‘final’.

Editorial is simply content that has been developed independent of outside influence, for no other purpose then providing the audience with information, insight and understanding.

However, the incredible growth of content marketing and the digital economy has seen many of these walls heavily eroded with the definition of ‘editorial’ content now encompassing a complex array of goals and influences.

Editorial as marketing

Fairfax’s Domain business unit is one brand that has used editorial to grow traffic and engagement. While the business is a relatively simple online listings business, the fact it is owned by Fairfax has provided the opportunity to use editorial as the spearhead for its marketing strategy.

In an interview last year with CMO magazine Domain’s chief marketing and editorial officer Melina Cruickshank explained how the company bought together data-driven decision making, editorial content, audience-oriented marketing and mobile-first thinking to drive a 92% increase in unique browsers in 18 months.

“We needed to bring together the journalists and audience marketers, create a new division called content and audience, and just go for it. It was a huge risk, and completely different to what everyone else had been doing. But I told him (Domain Group CEO Anthony Catalano) it was all about our journalists and our content. Domain’s strengths are mobile and editorial. People are obsessed with property, and if we can communicate to them in an authentic manner about property and gain their trust, we’re going to grow our reach.”

Editorial Mission

Editorial content is no longer the exclusive purview of pure media companies. Every brand that wants to communicate with customers should have an editorial mission that clearly articulates what they hope to achieve from their content. It should define you as a brand and what you stand for in the eyes of your stakeholders, both internal and external.

At the core of editorial and its value to an audience is the substance and integrity of the opinions that it carries. Having an editorial mission that is simply about the  features of your products and services does not count. Having an opinion about the externalities and influences that affect your customers is one of the easiest ways to supercharge your content strategy.

When developing our MBA News Australia website a few years ago we thought long and hard about our editorial mission. We needed to speak to both our audience (potential MBA students) and our customers (the business schools and universities that want to reach potential students). We needed a mission that guided every content decision we made. Ultimately we came up wth three guiding editorial principles:

  • Inform – provide the latest news, views and information about the courses available to people considering embarking on an MBA.
  • Educate – we want to help our readers understand the many options available to them for postgraduate business education
  • Advocate – be a champion for MBAs and the pursuit of management excellence.

Staying true to this mission has seen the site establish a reputation with both readers and advertisers as the first-stop for information about studying for an MBA in Australia.

Taking the time to define what your content means to your audience via an editorial mission is the first step in developing an effective content strategy. So get to it.

13 Words That Will Improve Your Writing

There are plenty of words that get overused in the business environment – narrative, platform, synergy and competency – to name a few. Everybody understands what these words mean but they have become so broad as to be irrelevant in most uses. Often these buzzwords are bandied around to fill the space left by a person’s lack of vocabulary.

In the interests of expanding my own vocabulary 9as well as yours) here are a few rare and common words you should be using more in your corporate writing.

  • Preach – being a powerful advocate for your company and products is an important function of any leader or employee. While most usage has a religious connotation you do not always need a pulpit to preach. We should never be afraid to preach what we practice, or practice what we preach.
  • Oracular – most investors will know instantly who you are talking about when referencing the “Oracle of Omaha”. While not the direct adjectival version of oracle, but still related, the adjective oracular, is defined as resembling an oracle (as in solemnity of delivery). In usage it can appear in a range of forms, including: “Our CEO is the oracular voice of the industry.”
  • Articulate – the ability to speak or write clearly and distinctly often gets lost in a haze of buzzwords. Simply asking a colleague, client or customer to ‘articulate’ what they want is a great way to avoid confusion. Articulating something is simply saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. For anybody with a waffler in the office, a polite request to be more articulate, may go a long way.
  • Concatenate – Concatenate comes directly from Latin concatenare, which in turn is formed from con-, meaning “with” or “together,” and catena, meaning “chain.” The simple definition is to link together in a series or chain (The word chain itself also evolved from catena.)
  • Felicitous – Defined as ‘well suited or expressed’. The prevailing market conditions were felicitous to improving earnings. Felicitous and the noun felicity, meaning “great happiness,” and later, “aptness,” derive from the Latin adjective felix, meaning “fruitful” or “happy.”
  • Neologism – This is the word that sparked this blog. A neologism is a new word, usage, or expression which has been created to reference something .Webinar, malware, netroots, and blogosphere are just a few examples of widely0used and understood neologisms.
  • Because – a relatively common, well understood word that doesn’t get used anywhere near enough. There are many ways to be specific, or more articulate, in your writing. One of the best is simply giving a reason why. And the most effective transition word when giving a “reason why” is because. Why? Because it is.
  • Precrastinate – The opposite of procrastination, it’s the tendency to complete or begin tasks without thinking them through. In one Penn State study, folks were asked to carry one of two buckets to the end of a course. Most chose the closest bucket, despite having to carry it further. In a sentence: “I shouldn’t have precrastinated on that report. Now I have to go back and do it again.”
  • Temerarious – Closely linked to temerity, temerarious is someone or something, that is rashly or presumptuously daring. “More important still—and here he is perceived as either temerarious or feckless—[Pope] Francis has departed radically from his predecessors in that he actively encourages his bishops … to speak boldly when addressing him and in assembly….” — Michael W. Higgins, The Globe and Mail, 13 March 2015.
  • Battle – Like preach from the church, we need to reclaim ‘battle’ from the military. As a noun battle is a sustained fight between large organised armed forces, but as a verb it becomes about struggling tenaciously to achieve or resist something. It is a word that engenders a sense of desperation and the need to fight to achieve a result. Business is a battle in so many ways, we should be calling it what it is.
  • Munificent – Munificent first came into usage back in the late 1500s when English speakers, perhaps inspired by similar words such as magnificent, altered the ending of munificence. With a similar definition to ‘lavish’, munificent means very liberal in giving or bestowing. Twiggy Forrest’s recent philanthropic activities were a munificent gesture.
  • Perspicacity – defined as having a ready insight into things; a shrewdness. My father first taught me this word many years ago after returning from a stint working in the Papua New Guinean highlands. After calling a local labourer a ‘[unrepeatable] dumb [unrepeatable]’ he was forced to check his dictionary after being told to never question said labourer’s perspicacity ever again. It is a bit pompous (the adjectival form, perspicacious, even more so) but still worth dropping into the odd email to impress the socks off the boss.

There are some great sites around that can help improve your vocabulary (many of them were the source for above). Check out:

Dictionary.com – http://www.dictionary.com/wordoftheday/

Merriam Webster – https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day

WorkThink – http://www.wordthink.com/

Oxford Dictionaries – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/explore/word-of-the-day

New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/column/learning-word-of-the-day

 

Fact: Fake News Isn’t New

While fake news isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s fairly worrying.

False stories spread on social media – or, true stories embedded with fake facts and vice versa – have morphed into a modern, more terrifying and more impactful version of what the old-fashioned 1990s viral chain emails used to do (Fig.1).

HAUNTING Fig.1. Early 2000s chain email, apparently from Mother Teresa.

US Politics: The fusion of news and politics has created a whole new news stream

In the US, fake and misleading news is at peak popularity during elections and specifically the run-up. Stories that get the most hits during this time – upwards of 2 million – were stories that “fed into conspiracy theories,” according to a published interview with a fake news website owner.

On May 18, 2017, the US Office of Science and Technology Policy addressed President Trump in a letter stating its concern that “disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration. You previously made the false claim that President Obama ordered your phones to be “tapped” based on false reports which have subsequently been contradicted by U.S intelligence officials,” it read.

In other words, Trump got in trouble for believing and feeding the fake news that was served to him.

Google has cracked down on fake news, illustrating its intolerance by disabling fake news’ ability to attract advertising revenue. However, results of these actions are yet to be reported.

There have even been cases whereby non-researched media stories have been published supported by false facts linked directly to made-up chain emails from previous years.

Facebook’s fact checker: Will it work?

After acknowledging it had been somewhat taken over by fake news, Facebook recently began the rollout of a feature that flags certain posts as “disputed.” In some cases, however, this appears to be having the opposite effect to the one Facebook actually wanted.

Some sources have reported that ‘disputed’ articles are still populating Facebook feeds without displaying warnings. Others have said traffic to fake news posts have increased after Facebook activated the service, which begs the question: Maybe people just want to be entertained? Or perhaps they are actually drawn to conflict?

The new Facebook feature works in partnership with dedicated fact-checking websites from the U.S.

Satirical news sites are also causing a headache for Facebook, with many passive readers unaware of the deliberately-fake content, instead ‘flagging’ the article and commenting disapproval.

Fake news is bad, but it’s part of a bigger problem

Deliberately misleading news – the kind of content that’s not fake – is seen by some to fall into a category of the lowest form of click-bait designed to fool readers, usually prompted by a vague or misleading headline, or even partially ‘missing’ headline – one of the tackier ways to gain attention.

As a reader, It’s important to read past the shocking headline, check the author and double-check any sourcing before committing to forwarding or tagging someone in an article.

Bottom line: Don’t fall for cheap click-bait tactics. You’re better than that!

 

A Toolbox For A Media Spokesperson – The ‘Must Have’ Essential Skills

The media spokesperson is one of the most important players in the media machine. Acting as as a journalist’s primary source, they are responsible for representing their organisation and its message to the world.

To the untrained eye, a spokesperson’s job is simple: Attend interviews and press conferences and provide the media with information for their story.

However, underneath the surface a spokesperson must be armed with a range of skills in order to:

  • Provide the media with a powerful and controlled message, and
  • Maintain their reputation and the reputation of their organisation.

Here are some of the skills that a good media spokesperson must have. They are also the skills that a good PR professional must be ready to teach their clients.

Dress for success

It is important for a good spokesperson to be correctly attired.

Common sense, right?

In the PR world however, correct attire is not as simple as throwing on a suit to ‘look professional’. Clothing should properly reflect the spokesperson’s position and level of authority, and more importantly the environment surrounding the story.

For example, the hard hat, high-vis vest and rolled-up sleeve combo is a much-loved costume for politicians who visit a factory or blue-collar work site on the campaign trail.

Clothing can speak volumes and can convey its own message, so a good spokesperson must ensure they are dressed to match their words.

Do: Consider a lighter, less formal outfit if the story is about (for example) an ‘active families’ program at the beach.

Don’t: Speak on behalf of a multi-million-dollar company unveiling wearing thongs and a band shirt (especially as CEO).

Have something to say

Providing the facts (who, what, where and when) is only the first step. A good spokesperson must also answer these questions:

  • Why am I giving this interview?
  • Why is the media choosing to spend their time with me?

The answer to both of those questions should lie within the story: you are speaking with the media because what you have to say is newsworthy.

In order for a story to be newsworthy, a spokesperson should always be prepared to add necessary layers to the facts. In other words: Here are the facts, but why do they matter? How will an audience benefit from knowing this?

Too many media releases offer nothing more than a variation of the following:

“[Insert organisation] is delighted to be a part of [insert business venture].”

Of course the organisation is delighted. Who cares?* It is vital to bring more than a simple sound bite to the table.

* It is actually quite important to establish the subject’s position. However, the point to take away is that as a spokesperson, your standpoint and the standpoint of your company should be accompanied by rich and engaging dialogue.

Spokesperson Preparedness

A good spokesperson should never walk into a media event with nothing more than the knowledge in their mind.

A spokesperson should be briefed on the position and viewpoint of their organisation, and dressed appropriately (as previously mentioned). They should also have a general understanding of the media outlets they will be speaking to (e.g. are you speaking to hard-hitting journalists? Are there any ‘gotcha’ tabloids in the crowd?), and a working knowledge of the story’s background should a journalist pose challenging questions. A good spokesperson should also have their ‘character’ prepared.

Play the part

A media spokesperson is similar to a character in a play. You must don a personality necessary for the part. This skill normally involves appearing professional and authoritative in front of the media, but it also includes adopting mannerisms that will engage an audience. If a spokesperson has had a bad day, or not necessarily in the mood to talk to journalists, that will all come through in the delivery. It’s imperative to leave personal feelings at the door and become the character the story requires.

Jargon filter

Often a media spokesperson will be the representative for a big company that specialises in a particular sector like finance, government or property development. And with specialised knowledge comes ‘jargon’. Jargon is the term given to words and phrases that are exclusive to a particular group, and not universally recognised as common language.

The true challenge of jargon is to understand that it is not black and white. A good spokesperson knows when to add jargon to their speech, and when more common dialect is appropriate.

Jargon pros:

  • Conveys knowledge and control of the business and its material.
  • Gives the audience faith that the spokesperson is the right person for the job.
  • Audience feels trusted to follow along – jargon can sometimes be interpreted through context and allows an audience to feel like the media spokesperson has welcomed them into their world.

Jargon cons:

  • Too much conveys pretentiousness
  • Jargon at the wrong time may confuse the media and affect the message
  • Heavy jargon alienates the audience

Tightrope walking

Tightrope walkers have superior balancing skills, and so too must a good spokesperson. It is essential that certain aspects of the message never tilt all the way to one side:

  • Be confident, but not arrogant. Journalists and their audience must feel like you’re sharing your insight, not talking down to them.
  • Have a message, but not an ‘agenda’. There is a difference between news and advertising, and most people recoil when the two get confused. A spokesperson’s message must be embedded within the story, and delivered in such a way that engages an audience and allow them to feel as though they came to your way of thinking on their own. Blatantly pushing an agenda breeds hollow words, identifiable bias and a cheap story.
  • Don’t say too much, don’t say too little. Journalists should be offered a rich backstory and plenty of information to sink their teeth into. However, giving too much away dulls the intrigue, bores an audience and runs the risk of journalists walking away with the wrong angle (due to an overload of information). Similarly damning is saying too little, which could result in the perception that there is no story. It’s important to find the ‘sweet spot’.

The last skill is undoubtedly the most vital.

Keep calm.

Own the message. Own the delivery. There are no biting monsters at media events.