In high school, one of my teachers slapped his hands down onto his desk with incredible force each time a student muttered the word, “UM.” You can imagine how quickly this simple, yet loud, action broke his students’ habit of using “UM” as a filler word. Within weeks, several of the students picked up the habit and began slapping our desks each time we heard the phrase. The next week, even more students picked it up. It was fun, and the habit stuck.
Fast forward a year and I’m sitting in my very first lecture hall as a freshman at The University of Kansas, watching my right hand fly up and slap my desk, making a startlingly loud noise in an otherwise calm and quiet room. The professor muttered that awful, one-syllable word and my knee-jerk reaction was far beyond my control. I wasn’t the only student who did it, so at least I wasn’t alone in my embarrassment.
“UM”: A word used to express doubt or uncertainty or to fill a pause when hesitating in speaking. Often used to indicate hesitation, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. It’s also a four-point word in Scrabble, according to AnaGrammer.com.
English language aficionados and Scrabble devotees, is there anything worse than hearing that word? Who among you would happily join me in smacking their hands upon the closest flat surface upon hearing an “UM?” Most of us find it difficult to listen to anyone stumbling over their words and inserting an awkward “UM.” But, if you aren’t high-scoring Scrabble enthusiast or an English professor, why should you care?
According to a recent article from Inc., which currently boasts more than 3.7k shares, “People judge your intelligence and credibility based upon what comes out of your mouth.” Yikes, that deserves a desk slap! Lucky for us, the Inc. article not only spells out the eight conversational habits that kill credibility but it also provides hope for all, stating we can be more believable and command even more respect by acknowledging and avoiding the following eight errors:
6. Weasel words
7. Fake apologies
8. Spray and pray
As we head into the Lenten season, what better time to break a bad habit? Visit the link above to gather more insight from the article and review the real-time fixes to correct each bad habit. Then join the conversation on Facebook.com/MorningstarCommunications and tell me which habit you’re trying to break.
I find these lessons fascinating and beneficial. Below are three lessons from LinkedIn’s series that resonate with me.
Advice: Enjoy the Journey
Chester Elton, Author of "All In"
“So often we forget to take a step back and enjoy the day we’re having, the conversation we are engaged in, the moment we are enjoying with our family or friends. Are we always so busy checking our phones for texts and emails that we forget to appreciate the good things that are happening right in front of us?”
Advice: People Come First, Results Second
Gary Shapiro, President and CEO at Consumer Electronics Association
“Care about the people and the results will follow. This means figuring out people's passions, desires, concerns and fears, and then addressing these needs accordingly. Some people thrive on recognition, others want clear rules, others need incentives, others attention. I tried this. It works.”
“If I try to do something four days a week, I spend a lot of time arguing with myself about whether today is the day, or tomorrow, or the next day; did the week start on Sunday or Monday; does today "count," etc. And that’s exhausting. If I do something every day, I fall into a habit.”
The best advice I’ve gotten – Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes you’re not pushing yourself, taking risks and learning.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?Tagged Chester Elton, Gary Shapiro, Gretchen Rubin, LinkedIn, Morningstar Communications, Tricia McKim
In Daniel Pink's new book, "To Sell is Human," he explains what he calls "Non-sales selling: persuading, convincing and influencing others to give up something they've got in exchange for what we've got." The role of today's executive has shifted from order-giver to "mover." Pink explains, "Moving other people to part with resources, whether something tangible like cash or intangible like effort or attention -- so that both get what they want."
I've spent a lifetime helping leaders present information in the most persuasive way. Whether we're developing a strategic messaging platform, orchestrating a four-channel content distribution approach or coaching executives one-on-one...the end-in-mind is almost always to get others to agree with your point-of-view.
After all, isn't that what leaders really do: get others to go along with them? Willingly and enthusiastically, whenever possible!
I'm honored to speak from 4:30 to 6 on Tuesday, February 25, to the Atrium group at the Downtown KC Central Exchange. I'll share a dozen proven strategies to enrich your power of persuasion.
Connecting on philosophical, strategic and tactical levels, these pearls range from How to Harness the Power of Three, the Macro / Micro technique, and my favorite suggestion to demonstrate team alignment when making team presentations -- "Steal the Punchline."
Here is a sneak peak at a couple of persuasive strategies you can begin using today.
Leveraging the Macro / Micro Approach
Macro / Micro is the most persuasive way (from the recipient's point-of-view, always!) to get someone to agree with you. Use this construct to frame your argument at the (macro) 30,000-foot level, then immediately provide one (micro) three-foot level example to ground your suggestion. Restate the macro, followed with, don't you agree?
So, here's how Macro / Micro plays out in the real world. Let's say you and a few other parents are responsible for finding the end-of-season place to celebrate your kid's soccer team season, and thank the coaches. You want to go to Red Robin. You would say something like, "I suggest we go to a place that doesn't mind if we have a bunch of crazy teenagers, with both alcoholic and fun non-alcoholic drinks for the kids, and that's nearby our final game. How about Red Robin...it has all three. Sound good?"
Some people need the philosophical framing. Some need the specifics. Kind of like the Myers-Briggs test: some are sensors; some are intuition-based. Do both. To get our way, we need to connect with everyone.
Just like sports, improving your persuasive skills requires both practice and patience. But when your plan and your delivery come together, you're going to get your way more often!
Do a Run-Through Before All Major Presentations
Another tip is one that we all already know, but often skip: perform a complete run-through in front of somebody who intimidates you before giving your actual presentation. I find most executives do what I call a "walk-through." They say, I'll start with the story about the three buckets, then I'll do an intro, ask for questions, and then review each slide." Nope. It's imperative that your confidence and enthusiasm be sky-high. Present a full run-through as a practice, complete with the constructive critique from a person whose opinion you greatly respect. This will help you polish your delivery and verify if you have any communication / connection glitches. And importantly, you'll have a feeling of confidence that will exude through your remarks. We all benefit from actually articulating all of the words -- at least one time -- before "showtime."
I have yet to see an executive do a worse job after a full run-through, but I've sure seen my share of stumbles and gaffes for those who just "wing it."
I've been told -- more than once -- that many of these suggestions are just "applied common sense." While that may be true, they work just the same.
Wanna get your way more often? Apply these techniques and the line forms right behind you!
Onward and upward!Tagged Central Exchange, Eric Morgenstern, Morningstar Communications, persuasive speaking
As I'm writing this, I have that butterfly feeling of writing my first public blog in a brand new place. It's an exciting feeling for an intern, knowing that you now get to flex your creative and strategic thinking muscles all in the same day.
You see, I definitely don't fit the profile of a traditional intern. I finished my degree a little more than a year ago, and I'd worked full-time in a corporate administrative role before Miley Cyrus became a household name.
Now, I happily embrace my new surroundings, because I know that this is where I was meant to land. Being in college while I worked in the insurance industry gave me a lot of time to think about where I would like the road to take me after earning the diploma I'd worked so hard for. I knew I had to make a change.
It's up to all of us to take a step back and re-evaluate our professional lives if we aren't where we imagined ourselves. I received some great inspiration from a blog I read last fall about a woman who had spent 20 years of her career in magazine publishing and desperately craved a change. She took an internship in radio that barely paid for her transportation to and from work and landed a job doing something she loves. I was not this far along in my career path when I decided to make a similar change, but her story gave me hope that an internship in a whole new industry was the right step for me, too.
I think the best way to describe this particular professional challenge is in a quote from an episode of BBC's "The Office":
"It is better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb then halfway up one you don't."
What challenges have you faced in finding your way in the professional world?Tagged Morningstar Communications, Rachel Peterson
Trust. It’s the key component to every successful relationship. In the public relations and marketing world, it encourages clients to keep those relationships in tact and also motivates them to refer others your way.
I recently read an article in Psychology Today, which examines the relationship between trust and transparency. Before I read the article, I believed that in order to build trust I first had to be transparent. To my surprise, transparency is not always the fundamental building block of trust. The article points out that transparency and trust are not cause and effect and that transparency that isn't thoughtful can actually weaken a person’s trust in your abilities.
“Thoughtful transparency means that your purpose isn't self-serving and is grounded in doing what's right without violating confidentiality. If communication shifts to a self-serving agenda, or a tell-everything-you-know regardless of impact on others or the purpose behind it, it's far from trust-enhancing.”
While the article focuses on the relationship between trust and transparency at a workplace level, it translates well to a client level.
So, how do you use thoughtful transparency to build trust with your clients? Check out these helpful tips:
1.) Show That You Care
Show your clients you genuinely care by taking time to learn as much as possible about them and their businesses. The more you know about the business, the more they’ll feel that you’re a part of it, and the more likely they’ll be encouraged to engage and continue working with you. Being knowledgeable about your client and their business will build their trust in you.
2.) Respect Confidentiality
Building trust and genuine relationships with your clients involves confidentiality. Ensure your clients that they can depend on you to respect their confidentiality at all times. A client will want to continue working with you if they believe in your capability to protect their privacy.
3.) Be Honest At All Times
Honesty plays a major role in trust. In today’s world, with social media on the rise, it is all too easy for a client to find out whether or not they can trust you to be honest. The bottom line: if you are not honest with a client, you will get caught and it will destroy any preexisting trust you may have already established.
Collaboration. It’s a buzzword I hear more and more in the marketing communications space, and a practice Morningstar Communications finds of great value. We often partner with freelance designers, web and SEO experts, and our clients’ internal teams to develop and deliver excellent strategy and execution for our clients.
The old adage “None of us is as smart as all of us” rings true in these situations. Each person or agency looks at the opportunity from a different vantage point, bringing their key skills and experiences to the table. For example, in past months we’ve worked with designers on several different projects, including a logo/brand identity project and a 2014 print advertisement. Morningstar Communications brings expertise in creating the messaging, content and strategy for the project, and our freelance design partners help visualize and bring these messages to life through the creative. Working together from the very first meeting, we’re able to mesh our skills and create an end product that is far better than if we had tried to work alone.
Here are a few keys to successful collaboration:
1. Respect what each party brings to the table. Recognize the strengths of your collaborators as well as your own.
2. Maintain a partnership mentality. Everyone is working together as equals and partners toward a common goal. Listen to all ideas and keep an open mind.
3. Set expectations. Ensure all parties understand the process, their roles and the expected outcomes and outputs for the project.
*Borrowed from the popular Vanilla Ice song “Ice Ice Baby”Tagged client service, collaboration, Morningstar Communications, Tricia McKim
We've always known that three is a magical number, particularly as a construct to help persuade people. Now we have scientific "proof" to confirm The Power of Three.
A recent study published in The Social Science Research Network, "When Three Charms, But Four Alarms: Identifying the Optimal Number of Claims in Persuasion Settings," relayed by The New York Times, confirms the well-accepted truism that when you add a fourth "sales" point, it weakens the credibility of the first three.
This tells us we should emphasize three accolades or positive points. If we use four, our "BS-O-METER" starts to go off, which is absolutely no surprise to all of us who help shape persuasive messaging. It confirms what we've all known all along: three is a magic number.
For example, if you're making a persuasive presentation, provide exactly three reasons why. "I think we should go to the ABC restaurant to celebrate our kid's soccer season and thank the coaches, because it's close, inexpensive and fun." If you added another positive attribute, such as the new "healthy meal options," the persuasive power of the first three reasons diminishes.
My friend Steve Liggett named his company Trilogy Communications back in the '90s. He celebrates March 3 each year (3/3) as Trilogy Day. Smart. And ahead of the curve.
Use "three" as a default
When making persuasive arguments, use three things as your base construct. When asked a question, simply frame your "spontaneous" answer with a "past / present / future" answer - the power of three. "Thanks for asking, in the past, we used to ABC. Today, we DEF and as we look to the future, we're focused on GHI." This works in virtually all "sales" situations.
More than 100 years ago Sears was credited with creating the modern array of "good / better / best" for all product offerings: three price points for each product. This concept has permeated all levels of business and commerce. It's usually Gold / Silver / Bronze...when there's a "platinum" level, it's out of the norm, and always makes us question the value of the first three levels.
This is a time-tested construct. Product positioning and nomenclatures include such standards as, "snap, crackle and pop," and a zillion derivations. My mom always said, "when you get to three things, that's a list...write it down."
We see three in pop culture all the time. There were three stooges, three supremes and three base models of the Honda Accord. Religion takes it one step further by focusing us on "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirt," as well as a cornerstone Judaic quote from Rabbi Shmon be Gamliel, "The world is sustained by three things: By justice, by truth and by peace." I'm sure we could all add a few items to that list, but once again, these sages settled on three – for a very good reason.
Three works. Always has; always will. It's simply how we're wired.
And now, we have science to support our gut.
So, go forth and use the power of three.Tagged Business Development, Eric Morgenstern, Morningstar Communications, persuasive speaking
You champion your clients and regularly think of ways to elevate their thought leadership. But what about your own company or agency’s position in the marketplace? You represent the brand 24/7, and should do so in an influential manner.
One of the most effective ways to strengthen your company both internally and externally is to be a culture ambassador. According to a recent Hallmark Business Connections infographic, 70 percent of consumers trust their friends’ recommendations. Most great businesses receive the vast majority of their new business from referrals. Word-of-mouth is truly the strongest selling point that significantly bolsters reputation.
To elevate your company’s brand, and assert your own through smart, positive advocacy, heed the following tips:
1. Interact on social media.
Share your non-confidential achievements with people you care about. For instance, I’ve posted Morningstar blogs I’m particularly proud of to my personal Facebook page. You don’t have to manage your company’s social media to make an impact. If a follower responds to your company’s tweet, feel free to take the initiative to establish a one-to-one connection from your own personal account.
Share overall business success. We often encourage our clients to urge employees to share important company updates via social media. For example, say an executive achieves a position on the Chamber of Commerce board. Congratulate him or her by sharing the link to the announcement letter and say how proud you are to work with talented people involved in the community.
2. Encourage employee bonding experiences.
Do the best you can to find commonalities among your colleagues and embrace their differences too. Learn from the variety of personalities. Some of the best work happens when cutting up with your co-workers. Good laughs spark creativity and productive brainstorms. Find the balance between fun and serious in order to maintain the smart wit we all seek.
Team bonding outside of work enhances team bonding on the job. You don’t have to sit on the senior leadership team to suggest a Friday happy hour or Valentine’s Day lunch. Take initiative and show your team that you care. Be passionate not only about the work you do, but for the people who help make it happen.
3. Tell your friends.
It’s a small world. You’ll rave to a close friend about how well your account team is doing and you see the hard work paying off. Your friend tells one of her friends you aren’t acquainted with to check out Morningstar Communications on his job search – she knows it’s a rewarding agency to work for. Then that friend of a friend finds a job with an organization that is nice, smart and successful; and makes the recommendation of Morningstar Communications.
We all have bad days. Never speak poorly of your own company or, like Eric says, make anyone mad. People remember the negatives. Even if you didn’t truly mean what you said, it could more than likely come back to haunt you.
You have a voice. Use it to transform your company culture. Strive to do all you can to champion your organization and propel business development, then you’ll enjoy the benefits added to your resume and your company’s and remember 2014 as a successful year that provided win-wins for everyone.Tagged culture ambassador, Hallmark Business Connections, Hannah Babcock, Morningstar Communications
Like many young marketing professionals, I am building my career and finding that growing your networks and committing your time to philanthropy are ever more important. In college, students learn the importance of these best practices, and how they contribute to securing a post-grad job. However, the importance of networking and volunteering only increases after one acquires that entry-level position. Interacting with industry colleagues is a vital ingredient in laying the foundation for a successful and lucrative career. Kansas City offers a wide range of professional organizations and volunteer opportunities for those of us just starting out, but still caters to a large demographic, so you can network with fellow industry professionals of all ages.
When searching for professional organizations and volunteer opportunities, be sure to ask yourself the following question: What am I looking to gain from an organization?
Once you have determined your professional development and/or community involvement objectives, try out two or three associations that align with those specific goals.
Morningstar Communications, like many companies, encourages its employees to get involved in one or more professional associations and give back to the community. After outlining my own professional development goals, I decided to attend networking events with three of Kansas City’s well-respected professional associations. Here is an overview:
The Social Media Club of Kansas City (SMCKC): This organization hosts multiple networking and educational events throughout the year. Members of the SMCKC share a love of learning and are eager to discuss their best social media practices. Learn more about this organization here.
The Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (GKC-PRSA): With more than 200 members, the GKC-PRSA chapter provides educational luncheons on a regular basis. If you are searching for top-notch professional development opportunities in the PR and marketing fields, look no further. More information on this organization can be found here.
The Kansas City Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (KC/IABC): This organization provides members with numerous professional development sessions, networking and charitable opportunities. With special interest groups, KC/IABC is home to hundreds of communicators in Kansas City. Read more about the organization here.
For more information on Kansas City’s young professional organizations and volunteer opportunities, check out this list from our friends at the Kansas City Area Development Center.
Happy hunting!Tagged Community Involvement, Kansas City, Laura Jung, Morningstar Communications, Professional Organizations
My husband and I closed on our new house last week. After several years of talk and a full year of active real estate shopping, we finally found “the one.” As we now work tenaciously to make it our own, I’m struck by the similarities between this project and the strategic communications programs I work on for new clients. Sounds like a long shot from the surface, I know, but as I was cutting in the walls last night so we could get up that first coat of paint, the pieces fell together.
Typically when we start working with a new client, there is a pent-up need for marketing and communications. Businesses turn to us when they have an opportunity or challenge, and our team is eager to help. As is the case with our new home, there are many ideas and projects bubbling on the surface. It’s natural to want to move full-steam ahead into execution when the paperwork is finally signed. But I’ve found in my work and home life that having a plan, and a little patience (which is truly the hardest thing!), pays off greatly in the end.
Morningstar Communications Future Visioning™ process is one of the best ways I’ve found to steer this initial communications plan. It guides where we’re going and what goals we will accomplish. At the end of the five-step process we have a comprehensive integrated marketing and communications program to serve as our playbook. While we haven’t gone into that detail on the house, having an end-in-mind for what the house will look and feel like when we move in has gone a long way in smoothing the decision making process. By understanding what changes will have the most impact while considering our timeline and budget, we’re on the path for a successful project. However, even with a plan in place, I still want to see action and so do our clients.
To satisfy the urge to get started and see results, we always look for quick wins. What low-hanging fruit can quickly and easily make an impact? In the house, we changed out a chandelier above the kitchen island. What a difference one light can make. For clients, there may be an upcoming presentation for which we can provide coaching, or a new product launch where media relations is appropriate. The key is finding those seemingly small wins that make big impacts as they propel us toward our end-goal.
The first three days in the house were all about laying the foundation for a great end result. We spent our time cleaning baseboards, patching walls and selecting materials. Foundational work is often tedious and can take some heavy lifting, but on the surface it doesn’t always look like much got done. However, this work is critical to the success of the project. Likewise, in a client engagement we first work to lay the foundation. We build media lists, create key messages, develop processes for reporting, etc., so that when it comes time to execute the building blocks are all in place. From there projects start rolling and results become visible.
I love working with our new and established clients to help them grow. This house is equally addicting. I’m looking forward to seeing great results both at home and at work in the days, weeks and years ahead.Tagged Future Visioning, Integrated Marketing Communications, Morningstar Communications, Tricia McKim