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Deliver an Outstanding Presentation

Posted in Best Practices


I’ll admit it, I’m a geek for presentations. I love watching powerful speakers, and helping clients create slideshows is one of my favorite tasks at Morningstar Communications. Delivering outstanding presentations involves two main components: honing your presentation skills to really engage your audience, and creating effective slides to compliment your dialogue.

My love for presentations explains why lately I have been fascinated by two things: TED videos and Slideshare’s “World’s Best Presentation” contest.

Hone your Presentation Skills

If you haven’t watched TED videos (“Riveting talks by remarkable people”) check it out. There are topics on everything from global issues to entertainment. Some of the speakers are inspirational, including Ric Elias, who survived the Flight 1549 plane crash into the Hudson. View his presentation below entitled “3 things I learned while my plane crashed.”

As I watch TED videos, I am reminded that the best presenters not only present intriguing information, but they also engage the audience. They are completely themselves. They use humor when appropriate. They make eye contact. Put simply: they connect with the audience.

Sharpen your Slides

If slides are needed to drive your point home, use them to compliment your dialogue. Slideshare, the application that allows users to upload their slide decks to share online, holds an annual “World’s Best Presentation” contest. The winning presentations tend to be highly visual, limit text on the slides, and deliver messages concisely and effectively. Check out one of the winners below: Presentation Advisor’s “Social Media for Business.” This presentation will make you rethink how you create slideshows.

Once you have practiced your dialogue and refined your visuals, let go, let your preparation speak for itself, and  focus on connecting with the audience. It is that human connection that will ultimately engage the audience and motivate them to action.

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Comments Off Posted on by Holly Eckold

P-steps for pitching success

Posted in Best Practices, Media Relations

When doing media relations it is important to know to whom you’re talking and why you’re talking to them. Pitching media types without knowing their body of work is a waste of everyone’s time. One of the worst things you can do is get lazy and start firing general pitches to publications and blogs that “seem like” good fits.

For maximum effectiveness, there are a few steps to take that will help get your message to the right people. One of my teams recently worked on a blogger outreach project in which we pitched an organization as a great place for community business leaders to volunteer. With so many nonprofits competing for people’s time, we wanted to make sure we were heard. As a result of the pitch, about half the bloggers in two of the organization’s major markets have written or are currently working on posts. A definite success.

For best results:

Purpose
Determine what you want to gain from potential blog posts so key messages can be established from the beginning. This will help the blogger be clear on the topic and organization, and help narrow the potential bloggers to pitch.

Plan/Prepare
Once you figure out what type of bloggers you will be targeting, now you can search for those bloggers. Twitter and basic Internet searches are great resources. Remember to read the blog posts to make sure their content is congruent with what you’re pitching. Make notes about the topics and the blogger that match your purpose. Also look at what blogs each blogger recommends for more resources.

Personalize
Those notes you took? Now is the time to use them. The skeleton of the pitch was written after the purpose was determined, so now you can personalize each pitch by throwing in bits about recent posts and why they might be interested in the topic. If they feel like you took the time to read their material, they will take the time to read yours.

Pitch
Go ahead and distribute your personalized and targeted pitches. If you did your homework and have a small list, that’s OK. It is more important to pitch to a few people that care about your story, than a few hundred that don’t.

In some cases, bloggers may write for more than one publication, which could mean double the exposure from one pitch. Add in the tweets and re-tweets once the blog is posted and you could potentially be reaching thousands of eyes, eager and interested to learn your story.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tyler Dustin

Phone vs. Web … Does it Work for Them

Posted in Best Practices, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Online Marketing, Shanny's Posts

Photo courtesy of National Genealogical Society

I know that I am not so young anymore, but I am not so old either. And yet in my lifetime the way I access information has changed drastically. When I was growing up we went to the library and looked through the card catalog, literally card-by-card to find the books that may or may not address the issue I was researching.

When my eldest son was in 5th grade, the Web was in its infancy.  I actually taught his class how to do research online. Can you imagine a group of 11 year-olds today who don’t know how to search the Internet?

Today, there are many companies whose Web sites are secondary to their phone applications. I imagine their staff meeting when someone said,  “We have millions of people using our phone application, do you think we should have some of our junior programmers put something together so we have a website as well?”

Here are three examples where the quality and usability of the phone applications far exceed their websites:

  1. Shazam – their website is almost completely focused on downloading  applications for my phone. There isn’t even a link to tag a song on their home page.
  2. Urban Spoon – their website has a lot of information, but it is overwhelming and what is impressive about their phone application is that it is so simple, easy to use and fun.
  3. Flixster – their website is also overwhelming, but the key is that it takes me much longer using my laptop than my phone to find out what are the ratings and local showtimes for a specific movie.

The unifying thread for Shazam, Urban Spoon and Flixster is that their creators believed  their audiences would prefer to access their products from a phone instead of a laptop or desktop computer. This necessitates adopting the philosophy of less is more and truly identifying the key information.

90% of the time I access Shazam is when I’m sitting at a stop light in my car and a song I like starts playing on the radio. It would be incredibly frustrating and dangerous if I had to scroll through multiple screens to tag a song. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to see the lyrics or know what the top tracks are, but don’t make me sort through that information while I’m sitting at a stop light.

Picture courtesy of Apple Insider

As communicators we need to determine how our audiences want to access our information. If they are using their phones more and more, which I suspect is the trend, then we need to laser our efforts to communicate what our audience considers the most important information, in the most efficient way possible.

And then we will need to adapt to how my future grandchildren will want to access information. I doubt that will be looking through a card catalog at the library…

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2 Comments Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

Finding Your Cheese

Posted in Executive Insights

Early last week, our team got a sneak peak at Eric Morgenstern’s new presentation, Understanding, Embracing and Advocating Change in Your Organization, which he gave to members of PIAA in Palm Springs, CA on Friday.

During the presentation he mentioned the classic “Who Moved My Cheese?” While I’d heard of the book many times, I’d never taken the opportunity to read it. When Eric brought it up again, I decided there was no better time than now to cross it off the book list.

At the same time I decided to read “Who Moved My Cheese?” I hit chapter three in Gretchen Rubin’s No. 1 bestseller, “The Happiness Project.” Fortunately for me, chapter three is on work. A happy coincidence.

As I read these two books, their ideas became intermingled in my mind. From Hem and Haw’s complacency and inability to adapt to change in “Who Moved My Cheese?” to Gretchen’s beginning a new blog as part of her mission to aim higher in “The Happiness Project,” what once again became apparent is challenges will ultimately lead to happiness.

It is easy to get stuck in a rut, to feel too comfortable, to stop growing. Without change, we can become stagnant. It is with change that we find a need to stretch ourselves and find new solutions. While it can be frightening to head into uncharted territory, and you’ll often stumble along the way, the reward when you get there will be so much sweeter because of the challenges you’ve overcome.

So if change equals challenges, and challenges lead to happiness and satisfaction, we should all advocate for change. Because honestly, who doesn’t want to be happy in the long run?

If you haven’t read them already, I highly suggest you check out these two books. I hope they will inspire you, like they inspired me, to find your cheese.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

The New Era of Promotional Offers

Posted in Online Marketing, Social Media

I recently read an article about the importance of developing smart promotional offers, and how it can build your business. This got me thinking – how has the evolution of social media impacted companies’ promotional offers?

Social media sites have created many opportunities for companies and marketers. We use these sites daily to find out about promotional deals from our favorite brands. Clipping coupons from newspapers are a thing of the past. Today, there are more options and channels that companies can use to push their promotional offers. We now have sites like Groupon, which are daily coupons that come directly to our email, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t check for my Groupon of the day.

Due to social media, companies are now able to fully interact and engage with their customers, and in today’s world, maximum engagement is a must if you want a positive return on your promotion efforts. Take, for example, designer Diane Von Furstenberg, who currently offers free shipping and a gift to users who get a friend to “like” their Facebook page. It’s a smart promotion that engages the customers and offers rewards for spreading awareness of the brand.

The reality is that today’s interactive marketplace has changed the way companies develop promotional offers. And no matter what type of business you are in, smart promotional offers are a useful and impactful way to build your brand and business.

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Comments Off Posted on by Sara Kiszka

Anatomy of Great Messaging

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights, Integrated Marketing (IMC)

Photo Credit: VKI Studios

I often meet with leaders  who struggle in answering the simple question, “What do you do?” In today’s world, when people don’t have the time to work to understand what you’re telling them, it’s more important than ever to be able to tell your story clearly and efficiently.

Clients come to us again and again to help them clarify their message.

That’s a great first step to help them connect with the people who matter most, so they can effectively change behaviors and attitudes. The way we set the ball in motion is with our six-part filter. It helps us get to the root of the story and give you the tools to answer the question “What do you do?” with conviction.

1.  What. Great messaging starts with the “what” of your message. As Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.” The facts are a good place to start, but I like to say, with a sly grin in my eye, that your story is always much better when it’s supported by the facts.

2.  So, What. Next comes the context. After we know the “what,” we really only care about how that impacts us on a personal level – the what’s-in-it-for me? Messages are only meaningful when they relate to each of us on a personal level. Tell the recipient why they should care; then they know why they need to take action.

3.  Now, What. You’ve communicated both the information and the “why you should care” but you’re not done until the person knows what to do. Now, what should tell them what action you want them to take, or attitude you want them to change.

4.  Simple. Messages must be simple to understand, and simple to say. People won’t give much effort to understand you so by keeping it simple, they can process the information so you get your point across.

5.  Recipient-oriented. This is where most efforts fall short. We all want to tell people “what we want them to know” versus “what they need to hear.” Great messaging comes across to each recipient as if it were crafted exclusively for them. Way too often we see messaging that is all “me, me, and then some more me,” instead of truly communicating from the recipient’s point-of-view. Here’s my non-PC example to help you understand this better.

When a three-year-old girl asks where babies come from, a spiritual, mythical answer is what they really need to hear – so we tell them about the stork.

When that same girl turns six, the answer is much more about biology.

And when she turns ten, the conversation turns to morals and behavior.

Same question. Same person. Different ears each time. The key is to craft and adapt our messages to each recipient’s point-of-view.

6.  Easy-to-articulate. Be sure that what you say is how people actually talk. Eliminate hype and jargon. Instead of something like, “we optimize independent resources to generate state-of-the-art, over-arching solutions designed to enhance revenue production”  it’s, “we help you put it all together to make more money.”

These six steps get you to the “what” of a solid communication program. The “how” comes from telling your story using an integrated mix of the Four Channel Media Model. In combination, you are able to elicit the most valuable resource of all – the attention of people who matter most to you.

Onward and upward.

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1 Comment Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Recognizing the Best

Posted in Community Leadership

My mind has been a bit preoccupied with all things Bronze Quill lately – the Gala is only a month away. In my last post, I encouraged people to enter their work into the contest. We received a whole batch of outstanding entries that are in the judging process right now. Good luck to all who entered.

Soon after the judging is finished, we announce the winners at the Bronze Quill Gala. It is on May 6 at the Clubhouse on Baltimore. I’d love for you to join us. It’s a fun evening where you can meet old friends and grow your network. Plus we have a tasty hors d’oeuvres buffet and drinks. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night.

Thanks for letting me donate my post to KC/IABC’s 2011 Bronze Quill awards gala. If you make it, stop by to say hi. I’d love to meet all with those I’ve communicated with over email or through Luminary Blog in person.

Hope to see you there!

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Comments Off Posted on by Rachel Spear