Executive Communications

Knock it out in November: Make Your Messages Matter in a Noisy Month

 Image: Troye Owens via Flickr Creative Commons

Image: Troye Owens via Flickr Creative Commons

We’re just one days away from a mid-term election that’s drawing Presidential-cycle like attention in many parts of the country.

With that in mind, the next week or so is going to be pretty noisy, so plan your media outreach and messaging accordingly. 

Here's our quick guide to navigating the month ahead.
 

A Takeaway from the Campaign Trail
Election Day will reveal who will control the House and Senate. But its results will also help communicators get insights into who won the messaging war.

We’ve been providing communications support for a highly-watched House race and have already learned some timely lessons from this year's race.  I’ll be doing a more in-depth blog with some key takeaways after the votes are counted, but for now here’s a nugget that has relevance to all communicators trying to engage their audience:

Pitch the story, not the policy: Never underestimate the power of a compelling personal story. We found a highly effective approach to addressing a policy issue is to find ways to frame it with an authentic story. For instance, the candidate we’re working with lost his father at a very young age. His mother who had never worked outside her home, had to re-invent herself to provide for her three kids. Fortunately, Social Security offered a bridge that allowed her to keep her home and her family together. When told in this context, the candidate’s support for protecting Social Security takes on real, authentic meaning—and sticks with those who heard the story. 


Here are some other trends to watch as we move deeper into November:

Annual Reports: The Clock is Ticking
We’re a month into the fourth quarter – with the holiday season just a few short weeks away. If you’re involved with creating your organization's annual report, now is the time to start laying the groundwork for a smooth process and a stellar product. Here’s some recent advice about why now is the time to get to work

The Hard Sell is Getting Harder
A new study on brand supports the pressing need for organizations identify and promote their purpose rather than trying to force-feed their messages to consumers.

The 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study encouraged brands to connect their purpose with a relevant moment in culture as well as to confront a controversial issue that has direct impact on stakeholders and customers.

The study found that 64% of consumers identify as belief-driven buyers—a 13% jump from last year. Further, 84% of respondents said they noticed a brand communication when it engaged their attention compared to 16% who noticed it when it interrupted their attention. 

While these findings were focused on businesses, they are also relevant  nonprofits, particularly as they aim to capture their audiences attention ahead of Giving Tuesday on Nov. 27. 

Giving Tuesday and Small Business Saturday
Speaking of Giving Tuesday, November offers nonprofits a great hook for telling their stories in the media — and for connecting with their supporters. The same is true for small businesses with Small Business Saturday.

Ideally, you’ve already mapped out your communications and media strategy for these events.

But if you haven’t, it’s not too late.

Our team is happy to help you build a lightweight campaign this month — with an eye for how you can build relationships that will have lasting value in 2019 and beyond.

Contact me to learn more!

How to Write Op-Eds That Change the Conversation

A well-placed op-ed can help you call attention to an important issue or change minds about a controversial topic.

How to Write Op-Eds Whitepaper

The explosive op-ed written by a senior member of the Trump administration that was published this week in The New York Times is an extreme example.

But op-eds can also be incredibly useful for nonprofits and companies that are looking to inspire action in local and national markets.

Op-eds explained

Unlike reported news stories, op-eds are opinion pieces written by those who aren’t on the staff of a newspaper, magazine or website. They offer outside voices the opportunity to express opinions and share ideas in their own words.

Traditionally, they appear opposite the editorial page (hence the name, op-ed), which is where the newspaper’s editorial board expresses its opinion on important issues.

Why op-eds matter

While newspapers don’t quite carry the same influence they once did, op-eds can nonetheless be valuable tools for those looking to raise awareness about a problem or issue.

In fact, one could argue that op-eds have more influence than ever.

That’s because a published op-ed not only appears in the newspaper, it also appears online, which gives you the opportunity to point to it on your own site, in blog posts, and through social media.

But, as is the case with pitching stories, it’s a challenge to get news outlets to run your opinion piece.

Newspapers and other outlets only have the resources and space to run a limited number of op-eds. As result, competition for these pieces can be fierce.

How can you get your opinion published?

We've helped a number of organizations and individuals write and place high-impact op-eds -- and we've learned a few tricks along the way to maximize our odds of getting these pieces published.

Download this free e-book to learn our 5-step process for writing and placing op-eds that change minds and inspire action.

The one word that will make you a great interviewer

 Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Want to improve your interviewing skills?

Then start asking this: Why?

It’s really that simple. Why has been my go-to ‘question’ for years to get the most out of interviews, whether it’s in the role as a journalist or interviewing someone for a corporate or nonprofit blog, bylined article, video, or op-ed.

Here are five ways this one word can do some heavy lifting for you. 

1. It turns an interview into a conversation: Interviews can sometimes be stressful and stilted, particularly with someone who isn’t often interviewed. Following up on a question by asking a range of 'why' questions can change that.  Why is this important? Why should people care about this? Why are you so passionate about this work? Those questions help the person being interviewed forget they are being interviewed--and start sharing some fresh thinking. 

2. It unlocks the good stuff: I’ve been present at interviews when the interviewer never diverts from a list of pre-prepared questions–rote questions that get rote, jargon-drenched answers. The interview ends with so much potential perspective and color left unsaid, followed by a story that no one wants to read much less write. Even if you have set questions, strategically digging deeper with why questions can lead to some great stuff. And I guarantee that the best, most authentic quotes you get will come from the follow-up why questions. 

3. It can reveal an ah-ha moment:  On more than one occasion, I’ve had an interviewee respond to a why question, with, ‘You know, I’ve never really thought about that.’ What follows is usually some golden material as that person talks through an issue in a way her or she never has before. Often experts and leaders are so consumed by their work that they don’t take time to step back and really consider all its nuances and value. A why question can change that.

4. It can get you out of a jam: There are times in the midst of an interview that things can get awkward, or a momentary distraction causes you to lose your train of thought. That’s never good, particularly if you are sitting across from a CEO or busy subject-matter expert. Turning to a why question can be a great escape valve that can reveal some great insights – and get the conversation back on track. 

5. It helps connect to the larger why: At Turn Two we are big advocates for our clients knowing and living the larger purpose of their organizations – we like to call it their ‘why.’ Asking why questions during an interview can often help reveal the connections between a specific project or initiative and the broader purpose of the organization. Finding that alignment is key, and it rarely happens without some why questions helping it bubble to the surface. 

So, the next time you’re interviewing someone, don’t forget to ask why. It will make for a great conversation – and an even better finished product.

Scott Westcott is corporate practice leader at Turn Two Communications

 

The 8-Second Key to Engage Gen Z

 You better have a good story if you want to capture the attention of Gen Zers.

You better have a good story if you want to capture the attention of Gen Zers.

Can you spare eight seconds?

That’s a question that communicators and marketers of all stripes should be asking themselves these days. 

If you’re still with me (after all, my time is up), I’ll explain. 

So eight seconds is the estimated attention span of Generation Z -- those people born after 1997.

Experts have summed up Gen Z’s approach to processing information as ‘Blink, Share, Laugh, Forget.’ Spend any time with Gen Zer’s ripping through their smartphones, and that description likely resonates. 

And it’s not surprising. Gen Zers have lived their entire lives awash in a flood of information and messaging. In many ways, ‘Blink, Share, Laugh, Forget’ represents the only logical way to process information and navigate through a day. 

Yet what does it mean for someone hoping to capture a bit more than eight seconds of their time?

In my view, the key is to find a way to flip ‘forget’ to ‘remember.’ The best way to achieve that: Tell a compelling story. 

“This generation loves story,” Marcie Merriman, executive director, cultural relevancy and brand strategy, Ernst & Young, told me during an interview last year. “What’s the history behind it? Why is it relevant? What does it mean to me?”

It makes sense. Stories are a way to differentiate your content from all that other information that Gen Z quickly forgets. Even better, a good story works for people of any generation.  

So whatever your mission, look for the story—something that provide context and meaning. 

Then find the best way – and medium – to tell it. 

But make sure you lead with a strong hook. You have eight seconds to make the sale.