Three Reasons Twitter Helps Your Business – And Three Reasons It Doesn’t

advertising alphabet business communication
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In recent months, we’ve witnessed countless ways that Twitter has either helped or hurt a person’s business or reputation. It doesn’t take much for a person’s comments on Twitter to stir up an avalanche of responses, for good, bad and indifferent.

Twitter is a platform for sharing news, data, comments, stories, images, videos, observations, and a whole lot more. Marketers love the medium for its ability to help their businesses create brand awareness and connect with new and existing customers. But as we have seen too many times before, it can also hurt your business in terms of lost opportunities, lost customers and damaged reputation.

(Editor’s note: I am currently not on Twitter though I do see benefits of it for customer engagement. On a personal level, I don’t feel a need to use it to gain followers because I value my privacy far too much. Facebook takes up too much of my time as it is.)

According to a Pew Internet survey as of February 2018, 24 percent of Americans use Twitter on a regular basis, or about 67 million people in the U.S. That’s a huge increase from 2012 when only 13 percent of Americans used Twitter. Still, in recent months, the platform has fallen behind Instagram, which boasts 27 percent of American users.

Demographics tell a larger story. Four out of 10 Twitter users fall in the 18 to 29 age group while 27 percent are between the ages of 30 and 49. If your business targets these age groups, Twitter is the ideal platform to market to them.

There are a few downsides to consider when using this platform. Below are three reasons Twitter can help your business and three reasons to use it with caution.

Three sound reasons for using Twitter:

1. Brand awareness. If you are just launching your business and you are looking to build your customer base, Twitter can help create awareness for your brand. The key is to interact regularly with followers. Don’t push your product or service too much or too often, which will only turn people off. Being overly promotional is a common mistake with new business owners.

Instead, share your insights about the latest news, your knowledge and your commitment to the industry, related to your brand. Keep it professional, which increases your credibility with customers. Make sure people understand who you are and what you do.

2. Customer engagement. Once you’ve built your following, you have to keep them following you. Keep them engaged by sharing tips and tricks related to your business. If you run a tax business, for example, you might share an idea for saving money or a new update from the IRS that could impact their next tax return.

Many businesses also turn to Twitter for faster customer service. The key is to respond to customer complaints or feedback fairly quickly. That’s important because many customers have short attention spans these days. A recent survey by Sprout Social finds that 89 percent of social media messages to brands are ignored. The average time that a brand responds to a complaint is 10 hours while the average user is willing to wait only four hours. That’s a huge gap of time. The sooner your business responds to customer complaints, the better you look in the eyes of your customer base, and the more likely they will stick with your company.

3. Reputation management. By providing valuable information to your followers, you are seen as an expert in your field, which only boosts your reputation. For example, a physician specializing in women’s health might post links to reports about the latest breast cancer research and follow up with additional posts to comment on it. Each time you post a comment, an idea, an observation or link to a new study or an article of interest to your customers, you are seen as the go-to expert in that field, and your customers and clients will continue to seek out your professional opinions. In fact, they will continue to expect the same level of knowledge and expertise each time.

Three ways Twitter can hurt your business:

1. Gaining followers is more important than gaining customers. Twitter is a communications platform designed to help you develop meaningful connections with people. When you focus exclusively on its ability to tell you how popular you are, however, then those connections have no meaning for your business. At the first sign of trouble, those followers will have no reason to stay and will likely abandon you. Focus on the quality of relationships rather than quantity.

2. There’s no guarantee that your followers will translate to actual customers. Followers are just that – followers. But are they the right followers for your business? Are you reaching the right audience in terms of demographics? If you serve high-end customers but your followers aren’t in the same income bracket, you might have to rethink your marketing approach.

3. It’s too easy to abuse and misuse. As we’ve seen too many times before, comments can spread like wildfire in the Twitter-verse (see Roseanne Barr, Kathy Griffin). Faster than you can say “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to write that,” the damage is done. As your own brand, it’s imperative to mind your manners when you are on social media. Avoid getting too personal on the medium; keep it professional if you use it for professional purposes. Twitter and Facebook are great for connecting with people but it is also easy to post something without thinking about the consequences. That said, it is possible to express a dissenting opinion without resorting to personal attacks or bullying tactics.

Twitter is a valuable platform for marketing purposes, but it’s not for everyone. Not everyone in your targeted demographic will be on Twitter either. As long as you play it smart and avoid the minefield of trolls and critics hiding in the Twitter-verse, Twitter can be an asset for your business.

Related reading:
Why Do Normal People Struggle with Twitter?
10 Reasons You Should Stop Using Twitter Now
Don’t Write Off Twitter

 

How to Fire an Employee: Text, Email or Meeting?

pexels-photo-530024.jpeg

It’s no fun being fired from a job, especially one you’ve enjoyed for many years. Neither is it fun to be the one who has to fire someone. Just ask anyone who has ever been in that position.

There is no good way to tell someone that they no longer have a job or end a working relationship. With the prevalence of texting, email and social media, it can be tempting use these tools to do the job for you. It might be easy and convenient, but is it wise? And is it professional?

Texting and emails have become commonplace in the office, especially for routine tasks like scheduling meetings, confirming appointments and sharing ideas. At the same time, in-person meetings and phone calls are losing favor, especially among millennial workers.

When it comes to being fired, millennials prefer getting the notice by email or text. A recent survey by software company Cyberlink finds that one in eight workers between the ages of 21 and 31 said they prefer getting fired by text or instant message. (I suppose the other seven out of eight surveyed still prefer in-person meetings, phone calls or some other method.)

Despite the increased popularity of texting and emails for firing people, in-person meetings are still the best way to go, according to millennial expert Dan Schwabel in his book “Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation.”  Today’s workforce yearns for personal communication in the office, he says in a recent story in the New York Post.

While it might be easier to shoot out a quick email or text message to fire someone, it can come across as cold, impersonal, and in some cases, downright cowardly. Are you too busy to meet with the individual in person, or simply want to avoid confrontation? In-office meetings to fire someone, regardless if that person performed poorly on the job or is being downsized, is more appropriate for the situation and shows more respect for the individual. It is more crucial if the individual has worked with your organization for some years, since you have already established a relationship with them.

Whether you choose to dismiss an employee by email, text or in person, a lot depends on the type of relationship you have with that person, how long they’ve worked at your organization, your age and your communications style. Still you want to treat them respectfully and professionally, no matter how lackluster their performance has been on the job.

Put yourself in their shoes. If you were the one being fired, how would you want to receive the message? Do you really want to get that notification in a text message, or would you prefer an in-person meeting so you can ask questions and iron out all details?

There is no kinder, gentler way to tell someone they’ve lost their job. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. But meeting with someone in person, rather than hiding behind a text message or email, I believe, is more personal and sincere.

Texting, emails and social media have their place in the workplace. But there’s a time and a place for them. When it comes to firing someone, meeting in person is still the best option.

Want to Improve Your Business Skills? Try Working a Crossword Puzzle

play-stone-1237457_1280

An editor I worked with many years ago used to set out the day’s New York Times crossword puzzle so that everyone in the office could fill in the blanks that he could never finish. Usually by the end of the day, that crossword puzzle was completely filled in.

Another company I know has one or two jigsaw puzzles set up in one corner of the office in varying stages of completion. Workers who pass by can work on them, filling in a few pieces at a time while taking a break from their own tasks. Little by little, the puzzles are getting becoming more complete.

You don’t have to work in an office with a group of co-workers to enjoy the benefits of working puzzles. Computer games make it possible to complete puzzles on your own. Whether you play Free Flow, Angry Birds or Tetris, on your own or with a group of people, on the computer or in an office, computer games and puzzles can do more for your professional life than just provide a temporary respite from the daily grind. They can also help you build skills that are as beneficial to your business success as they are to your personal life. Here’s what games and puzzles can do for you:

They can help you solve problems. 
When playing games and puzzles, you are faced with a task, and it’s up to you to figure out how to achieve it, whether it’s to arrive at a certain destination, overcome an obstacle or reach some other goal. You may not have all the information you need to get there so you have to make the best decisions possible, and you may not have a lot of time to make them. Games like chess can also help you learn to anticipate an opponent’s moves so you can be prepared to respond appropriately. The more problems you solve in puzzles and games, the more skilled you become in solving problems in your everyday business life.

They help you process data and meet deadlines. 
Since some games are timed, you may be faced with a running clock – or a looming deadline — while trying to solve a problem. When you don’t have a lot of time to work with, you have to make snap decisions. You learn to quickly assess a problem, come up with possible solutions then decide which one will work best in that situation – all while racing against the clock. If you work in a fast-paced environment, these types of timed games can help you become better problem solvers while under pressure to meet a deadline.

They help improve concentration and focus. 
Playing puzzles and games helps you focus on the task at hand and block out distractions and improve your concentration. When you are able to focus on the task at hand with minimal interruption, you can resolve the problem or reach goals more quickly. Participating in games and puzzles proves that multi-tasking is counterproductive because you need to have good concentration to successfully complete the puzzle or problem in front of you.

They help develop self-trust and intuition.
When working on problems at work or working on a puzzle in your spare time, you may find yourself working with limited data. With less than optimal amounts of information available, you have to find other means to solve problems. Usually that means trusting your own past experience and your intuition to know what your next move may be.

They help improve your emotional and mental outlook. 
The most obvious benefit to playing games is the emotional lift it gives you. Games are just plain fun, and when you take time to have fun, your outlook improves. By setting aside your own work problems to focus on a puzzle or game for even 10 or 15 minutes gives your brain a rest so that when you do come back to work, you can look at a problem or task with a clear head. And with a clear head comes a solution you did not see before.

Clearly, games and puzzles offer many benefits. Just don’t overdo it on the playing part and refrain from using games to avoid working on a project you should be doing. If you have a habit of spending too much time playing games and puzzles, and not enough time working on your latest client project, perhaps you need to time yourself. Games and puzzles are a leisure activity after all, not a key part of your job. So set the clock for 30 minutes for play time, then get back to work.

Gummy Vitamins May Be the Key to Your Business Success

candy-2

I was out shopping for vitamins recently. I was overwhelmed by the numerous options available on the store shelves. How many versions of multi-vitamins could one person possibly buy?

I was especially intrigued by the availability of gummy vitamins. Gummies – those sweet, squishy, fruit-flavored candies that are a favorite of kids and adults alike – were being sold as vitamins. For people like me who have a sweet tooth but hate taking pills, gummy vitamins seemed like a godsend. For years, I had a problem remembering to take my vitamins. Vitamins are a necessary evil. You have to take them to achieve good health, but taking them can be, well, a real pill.

I decided to take a chance on those gummy vitamins. I love gummy candies anyway, can eat a whole small bag of Haribo’s in one afternoon.  Whoever came up with the idea to combine vitamins with gummy candies is a genius. Since I started taking them, I never forget to take them.

That shopping experience got me thinking about other innovative products on the market today. What makes them unique? What do they offer consumers that other competing products don’t? Why are they successful?

The answer is simple. They solve a problem.

The gummy vitamins provide a solution to individuals like me who have a hard time remembering to take vitamins. Turn them into a sweet treat, and people will gladly seek them out and take them regularly. Who can say no to candy?

Self-adhesive stamps is another genius idea. What problem do they solve? While most people don’t use stamps these days, choosing to use email and online billing to conduct business, stamps still come in handy for sending greeting cards and donations. (Yes, I still mail my donations and greeting cards by snail mail.) Self-adhesive stamps save time and I avoid the yucky experience of licking stamps before affixing them to envelopes, and I don’t get a horrible aftertaste from the glue the way I did with traditional stamps. Instead, self-adhesive stamps affix to envelopes with minimal effort, and makes mass mailings much easier to complete in shorter periods of time.

There are numerous examples of products like gummy vitamins and self-adhesive stamps that solve a problem. What makes them special? What makes them successful? Like gummy vitamins and self-adhesive stamps, these products solve a problem.

Think about your own business, product or service. What problems does it solve for your clients and customers? How will it make their lives easier and better? Once you understand the problem that your product or service can solve, it’s much easier to market that product to the people who need it.

The same concept holds true if you are the product you are marketing to potential clients. Think about your own talents. How are they unique to the marketplace? What solutions can your talents and experience provide? The more you understand your own talents and qualities, the better able you will be able to solve a client’s or employer’s problem. And the more successful you are likely to become.

What do you think is the most innovative product or service on the market today? What problems do they solve? Share your thoughts below.

Make a Positive Impression with Handwritten Thank You Notes

writing-1209121_1280

There will come a time in your career when someone will do something special for you. It could be anything from buying you lunch, to passing along a job lead or introducing you to a new client. When that happens, it’s up to you to show your gratitude.

But in our busy workdays, how many of us think to write a thank you note and actually take the time to do so? Even if we do think about it, how many times have you sat staring at the blank page wondering what to say?

It helps to work from a formula to get the task done quickly, efficiently, and with sincerity. Be sure you use professional quality note cards or stationery to write your message. Most thank-you notes I write contain three sentences: a thank-you intro, detailed sentence, and a closing remark.

First sentence: Thank the recipient for the gift, meeting, gesture of kindness, advice – whatever they did for you.

Second sentence: Explain why you appreciate the gift, meeting, advice or gesture.

Third sentence: Reiterate your interest in the job, client or product offering, or mention something specific about what you learned.

Closing sentence: Close the message by offering to return the favor, or how you plan to use the gift.

Example 1:   Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview for a Customer Service Associate with XYZ Company. I enjoyed talking with you and learning more about your organization. Based on what I learned about XYZ, I feel my skills and experience would be a strong match for your needs. I welcome the opportunity to answer any further questions you have about my background.

Example 2:  Thank you for joining me for coffee last week. I enjoyed our conversation and appreciated learning about your company’s latest product innovations. I believe your new products will meet the needs of an underserved market. If there is anything I can do to help you promote these products, please contact me.

I have always preferred handwritten notes better than email. Handwritten notes show that you’ve taken the time to THINK about what you are writing. Because so few people are likely to send thank-you notes, let alone write them by hand, they’re more likely to make you stand out and make you more memorable.

Emailed messages are likely to get lost in the in-box, and texting is too informal that recipients may not take your expression of gratitude seriously.

If you’re looking to make yourself stand out to potential employers, clients or business associate, sending a thoughtfully-crafted, handwritten thank-you note may be the very tool you can use to make a strong, positive impression.

Practicing Gratitude in Your Work Life

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

One of the most memorable “gifts” I received during my career was a greeting card for Thanksgiving from a printing vendor. The message on the card was simple, yet powerful. “At this time of Thanksgiving, we want to express our gratitude for your business.”

The fact that I received this greeting card in November before Thanksgiving and before the usual rush of cards and gifts in December made it stand out. The message from my vendor came across as sincere and more thoughtful because it did not get lost in the rush of the holiday season.

November is a month to remember our blessings and express gratitude for the things we have and the people who share our lives. That makes it the ideal time to express our gratitude in our work lives, whether it’s sending thank-you notes to our vendors and associates, or buying a cup of coffee for a co-worker to show appreciation for their efforts on a work project.

Before the holiday rush sets in, think about what you are grateful for, especially in your work life. It could be anything from the technician who fixes your smart phone to the indispensable assistant who makes your business run smoothly. Maybe it was a former boss who gave you good career advice or a teacher who encouraged you to keep writing.

If you are not sure what you are grateful for, try this exercise. On a piece of paper, jot down at least five things or people you are grateful for in your business. I think you’d be surprised at how many people have helped you become the successful business person you are.

One of the most powerful means of communicating gratitude is thank-you notes. I believe the most effective, and most memorable, are handwritten because I think they come from the heart. In an age when emails and texts dominate the communications landscape, handwritten thank-you notes are often overlooked. The handwritten thank-you notes I’ve received from bosses and other business associates always made me feel deeply appreciated, and they confirmed that I was doing a good job. I still keep a few and re-read them whenever I feel in doubt of my abilities. I will write more about thank you notes in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned.

Other outward expressions of gratitude may include healthy treats like a fruit basket, gift cards, a cup of coffee, while other forms of gratitude, such as personal affirmations, prayers and meditation, are more private.

Even just verbally saying, “Thank you for your hard work on this project. I couldn’t have done it without you” goes a long way toward establishing good will and respect, and reflects positively on you and your business.

At this time of Thanksgiving, take the time to be grateful for every person and every situation that have served you well in your career. Of course, saying “please” and “thank you” should always be part of your everyday business vocabulary.

Six Words and Phrases That Should Be Used Sparingly

notepad-117597_1280Have you ever noticed the knee-jerk reactions people have when you use certain phrases or words?

It’s not that those words are offensive in and of themselves. But their meanings tend to conjure up connections in the brain that triggers an emotional response.

While we can’t completely avoid using these terms all the time, we can be mindful of how and when we use them, and the impact they can have. In some cases, those words can mean something different than what we intended.

I’ve compiled a list of “cautionary” words that can wreak havoc on meaningful conversations. There are more words, I’m sure, but this brief list should get you started thinking about the way we convey meaning in our everyday conversation with our word choices.

Compromise. 
At first glance, “compromise” seems like an innocent word. After all, people use it all the time in the act of negotiating. The problem stems from the implication that we must give up something in a compromise in order to get something else, which is counterproductive. Do compromises ever give you everything you want in the arrangement? Usually it means all parties involved are not getting something they want. Compromise doesn’t give you the results you ultimately seek, which is a win-win situation.

What if we switched out compromise in favor of collaboration? If we collaborate on a work arrangement, a deal, or a new song, a sense of equal partnership is implied. Even saying the word aloud – collaboration – has a different feel to it. It feels more inclusive than compromise. With collaboration, everybody wins.

Think how much more productive our members of Congress would be if they chose to collaborate on legislation rather than compromise?

Freelance. 
Some years ago, a young writer I met at a conference explained that she stopped referring to herself as a freelancer. “Whenever I told a client that I was a freelance writer, they tended to hear only the first half of the word and assumed my services were free.”

The woman made a good point. If you are starting out on your own and you identify yourself as a freelancer, are you unwittingly setting up an expectation among potential clients that your services are cheaper than other independent contractors?

A better option is “independent” or no descriptive term at all. Do you really need to identify yourself as an independent anything? In most cases, just saying, “I’m a business writer” or “I’m a photojournalist and graphic designer” are sufficient enough on their own to explain what you do without adding a “freelance” description.

Hate. 
I will write this once and never again: I hate the word “hate.” It’s such a strong, angry word that incites aggressive responses in people. I prefer the word “dislike,” which I suppose reflects my kinder, gentler approach to life.

I refuse to say or write that I hate another person, only that I dislike their opinions, dislike their attitude, or dislike the way they dress. Other comparable but less suggestive words: detest, loathe, abhor. Yes, they are as strong as hate, but they’re not nearly as hateful.

Diet. 
Another word that appears innocent enough at first glance, but can suggest negative meaning to some people because it makes them feel self-conscious, especially about their appearance. Diet, much like the word compromise, implies a loss of something or giving up something to get what you want. In this case, diet implies giving up certain types of foods that you enjoy in order to lose pounds. In fact, the word diet has almost become synonymous with “sacrifice.” Diet also implies a short-term solution to an eating problem.

The alternative phrases that I prefer are “eating habits” or “meal plan.” Rather than say, “I need to go on a diet,” which sounds negative and not enticing, instead say, “I plan to change my eating habits,” which is more positive and forward thinking.

No. 
Ever notice a person’s facial expression or physical reaction after you said no to their request? They sometimes look like they’ve been punched in the gut. No is one of those words that has an explosive effect, like a gun going off in the middle of the quiet evening.

While many times, saying no is necessary, there are ways to say no with less force and impact. For example, if your child asks for a snack before dinner, don’t just say no; instead, say “Yes, but after you’ve finished your dinner.” Or, to answer a worker’s request to leave work early, you can respond, “Yes, but please turn in your monthly reports before you leave.

I’m sorry. 
This has become one of the most overused phrases in business writing. Have you ever caught yourself writing to a client, “I’m sorry for getting back to your request so late.” It might sound sincere, but it also comes across as lacking confidence

In this instance, it might be better to use “thank you” to introduce the note. “Thank you for notifying me of your problem. Let me look into it and see how we can fix it for you.” This response sounds more positive and engaging without putting yourself down in the process.

Don’t get me wrong. Apologies are necessary if you are truly sorry about something that happened. But to continually use “I’m sorry” in business communications gives the impression that you lack confidence in yourself.

Whether used in personal discussions or in business communications, be aware of the words and phrases you use. Some can create negative feelings where none was intended.

How You Converse By Phone Speaks Volumes about Your Business

telephone-1324357_1280

 

 
Have you ever stopped to consider how you sound on voicemail messages or on telephone calls? What does our vocal manner suggest about you and about how you conduct business with others?

A case in point: I received a voicemail message earlier today from a nurse at my doctor’s office. I had expected her call, but I was busy at the time, so I let it go to voicemail. When I heard the message some time later, several things about the way the nurse left the message made me think about my opening questions. Her manner of speaking was rushed and somewhat disjointed, making it hard to follow her train of thought. As a representative of the doctor’s office, she came across as inefficient and disorganized, though I’m sure that was not her intent, nor her regular practice. It’s just the impression she made.

As much as we strive to be polite and professional when communicating by phone, sometimes that doesn’t always happen the way we imagine it does. Seriously, how often have any of us listened to our phone conversation? Not often, if at all. The only way we would know that we did not communicate well would be if we got feedback from our listener.

But back to my nurse. After listening to her message several times, I made several observations about how she spoke that we all can learn from. Here’s what we can do to project a professional image through our phone messages and conversations.

1. Keep a steady pace. The first issue I had with the nurse was the pace of her speech. The nurse spoke rapidly, her words tumbling out of her mouth almost as quickly as her brain could process them. It made me wonder how many cups of expresso she had consumed this morning. She came across as rushed and overly busy. In fact, I had to listen to her message several times to make sure I got all the details right. If you suspect you speak too quickly, slow down your speech. It may seem slow to your own ears, but it may be the right pace for your listeners. You want to make your listener understands your message completely so there is no communication issues later on.

2. Keep the message brief and to the point. In the nearly one-minute message, the nurse provided a fairly detailed list of instructions to make follow up appointments. For something so detailed and important as medical tests and doctor appointments, I think it might have been better if the nurse simply asked that I call her back so she could go over the instructions with me personally rather than leave them on my voicemail. For example, she could have said, “I have completed and processed all your doctor’s orders. Please call me at your earliest convenience so I can go over all the instructions for your follow up tests.”

3. Stay focused on the conversation. Give your listener your full attention. When I called her back to ask a few questions, I could tell she was multi-tasking, frantically looking up information on the computer and print out a document from the printer while talking with me. Granted, this happens often in the business world. But as the computer program slowed and the printer stalled, she grumbled on the phone about how slow everything was taking. “I can’t believe how slow the printer is today. It’s like working in a black hole.”

It’s okay to make small talk. It’s also okay to apologize for any delays in getting information to the listener. But don’t dwell on how slow the new computer equipment is operating. No one really cares about that, and in fact, that kind of conversation can make you, or the nurse in this case, come across as disorganized and ill-prepared to deal with problems.

4. Complete any supplemental paperwork before conversing on the phone. The nurse’s original message conveyed a sense of urgency to make appointments for a follow up test. The only problem was, when I called to make that test appointment, the doctor’s order had not been faxed over and it was not in the system yet. Moral of the story: make sure all accompanying paperwork is complete before finalizing plans with the patient. Another glitch in the process that came across as disorganized.

This is just one example of how a simple phone conversation or voicemail message can convey different meaning than what we intend. Perhaps this nurse is new to this doctor’s office and is still trying to keep up with the work load, or perhaps she’s just having an off day. While she may intend to come across as efficient and productive, her messages were anything bu.

As you go about your own day-to-day business, think about how you come across in your telephone communications, especially if you conduct business for yourself or on behalf of someone else. Even a simple voicemail message or phone conversation can cause confusion for clients, patients or vendors. Slow down, keep your message brief and to the point, and make sure your listener understands everything you are trying to tell them.

Six Steps to Prepare for Media Interviews

success-1093891_1280
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

When I worked at a real estate trade publication, I often interviewed members to report on their business practices and housing trends. Many of these individuals had never been interviewed before, so naturally they were a bit anxious about the experience. Invariably, one of them would ask me, “What do I have to do to prepare for this interview?”

No matter what type of business you are in, doing media interviews can reap several benefits: to share your knowledge and expertise, gain exposure for your business, improve your credibility and expand your portfolio of work. It is an inexpensive and fairly easy way to create publicity for you and your business.

Despite its advantages, many executives and professionals shy away from doing media interviews. Some people fear being misquoted while others are afraid of looking foolish. Yet others feel they don’t have anything meaningful to say or that there will be a backlash from consumers or colleagues.

But the reality is these individuals lack the preparation needed to feel more confident during interviews. Once you know how to prepare for it, you can relax and enjoy the experience.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for media interviews so you come across intelligently and confidently.

1. Understand the topic of the news story. The writer should explain what the story is about and why they want to interview you. If you are still unsure, even after they’ve explained it to you, ask for clarification. Ask: What kind of information would you like me to provide? What can I do to help you with this story?

Keep in mind that most reporters will not provide you with their questions ahead of time. They are either too busy to do that or it’s simply not their practice. Don’t get discouraged. As long as you take notes when discussing the topic beforehand and ask for clarification when needed, you should be well prepared to plan what you will say.

2. Develop a few talking points. Once you have a better understanding of the topic and the information the interviewer is looking for, come up with three to five main points that will answer their questions.

3. Do your homework. If the story requires some background research or statistics, such as the history of women in medicine or the percentage of apartments located near public transit routes, find the data ahead of the interview and have it ready so you can talk about it. You will come across as smart and organized, which writers appreciate because they don’t have to waste time following up with you later to get the data.

4. Provide examples and tell anecdotes to explain your points. In most cases, those examples do a better job of making your points than the individual points themselves. These anecdotes are more descriptive and helps readers visualize your meaning.

5. Keep your responses brief and succinct, but provide details. Think in sound bytes, especially if the interview is being recorded. Give the interviewer the information they asked for, then be quiet, indicating you are done talking. If the interviewer wants to know more or needs you to clarify something, they will ask follow up questions.

Remember, many interviewers have limited time to allow for the interview and they want to be respectful of your time as well. Make your points, but don’t run on and on or go off on tangents. Stick to the subject. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having a reporter cut you off because you talked too much.

6. Keep your expectations realistic. Just because you’ve been sought out for an interview doesn’t necessarily mean that it will lead to more sales, more clients or a Pulitzer Prize. In fact, it’s possible that once the interview is done, the writer may not use any part of the interview. This can happen for a number of reasons. Either the article ran too long for the publication and the editors had to cut your comments, or they changed the focus of the article and your comments no longer fit in with the topic. Don’t take it personally. This happens far more frequently than you can imagine.

Doing media interviews is a great way to build your professional credibility and portfolio. Following these steps can help you build confidence in your ability to speak with the media. With enough practice, in time you may become the go-to expert that reporters go to for insightful commentary about your industry.

Speech Writing Tips to Avoid Plagiarism

writing-1209121_1280

Like many people, I read about the plagiarism accusations over Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Granted, I did not see the whole speech in which portions were nearly the same as sections from Michelle Obama’s speech at the DNC eight years ago. The speech writer, Meredith McIver, a long-time employee for the Trump organization, took responsibility and admitted wrongdoing. McIver admitted that when she worked with Melania on the speech, they reviewed Michelle Obama’s speech and lifted several sections that they liked.

Why bother looking at previous speeches from other individuals when the best source of information is the person sitting in front of you?

I’ve written a few speeches in my career. Small potatoes compared to a highly visible presentation during a major political convention in front of millions of TV viewers. Speech writing isn’t difficult, but there are a few factors to consider when preparing one.

1. Get details about the conference or meeting that’s about to take place. Who is the audience? Where will it take place? Does the conference have a theme? A speech geared toward a room full of women will have a distinctly different tone and content than one geared toward a mixed-gender audience. If the conference has a specific theme, say the organization’s 50th anniversary, you can weave in historical facts about the company throughout the speech.

2. Interview the speaker. Ask lots of questions about their motivation for speaking. What are their goals for speaking, their main talking points? What hot button issues are plaguing their industry? What issues keep you awake at night?

Try to limit their ideas to two or three to keep the speech short. Listen carefully to their responses, but also listen carefully to the way they speak. Be sure to capture the speaker’s vocal tone. How we speak in public is usually not the same as in writing.

3. Review past speeches – of the speaker. If the speaker has delivered presentations in the past, review them to get a sense of how they conduct themselves. Do they use certain turns of phrases that are unique to them? When preparing the speech, you’ll want to incorporate some of those unique phases.

There should be no reason to review speeches from other individuals. Doing so only tempts fate. Borrowing ideas from other speeches may seem innocent, but if they aren’t coming directly from your speaker, those ideas aren’t authentic. And you want to create as much authenticity in the speech to give the speaker credibility.

4. Do necessary research. In some situations, you might need to quote statistics, say about Internet usage among different demographic groups. Make sure those statistics are accurate, current, and attributed within the speech.

5. Practice reciting the speech. Write a draft of the speech first, then rewrite and rewrite until it sounds right. Test out the speech yourself by speaking in front of a mirror or in front of a handful of people. If you find yourself stumbling over certain awkward phrases and sentences, then you know you have some editing to do. Have the speaker review it and practice it. Incorporate the speaker’s revisions and practice it again. Keep doing this process until all parties are satisfied with the speech.

Remember the speech is coming from the speaker, not from you. It’s important to capture their essence, thoughts and personality. If you focus exclusively on presenting the speaker’s ideas, you shouldn’t have to worry about plagiarism.