Thursday, March 27, 2014

What a Young Mom Can Teach You About Messaging

By Amy Fond / Cameron Communications Inc.

Have you ever tried to dress a kangaroo? Probably not – but I can tell you getting a 3- year-old out the door daily must be similar. I have three kangaroos to dress, 3 year old twins and a 4 year old. Every morning since September, as we get ready for nursery school, I shout, “Get your shoes on” a dozen times and typically no one listens. Until last week.

Instead of begging my kids to pay attention, I decided to use language that forced them to pay attention.  Changing “Get your shoes on” to “Who here knows why getting your shoes on will get you a Hershey kiss?” I hit upon what they really cared about, forced them to think about it, and then act.

With toddlers, chocolate does the trick. But in Media Training, it’s more of a verbal promise – if you pay attention you’ll get something useful that will directly affect you. Before you give your next presentation or interview, ask yourself first, what will the audience really care about?

The truth, is people truly care about what affects them. Local news stations know this. They won’t run lengthy international stories, but they will tell you every six minutes about your weather. They know they’ll keep audiences glued if viewers expect every six minutes there will be a story that directly impacts their lives.
Listen closely the next time you hear an advertisement trying to get you to watch the nightly news. They won’t say “Up next at 11, a story about dentists.” They know America isn’t racing to the TV to catch that.  Instead they’ll say, “Coming up at 11, the 3 questions you need to be asking your dentist before your next visit.” Suddenly, if you don’t pay attention you’re missing something important.

Phrases like “What you need to know” and  “Why you should be doing x, y, and z” help signal that your message will be of use to the listener. A short list is also a great way to get people to pay attention.  You, the expert, have culled through the nonsense to give  “The top three things” the listener needs to do.

The next time you want your audience to pay attention, position your message so the audience wants to listen. It’s the equivalent of a Hershey Kiss bribe. If you listen, there will be something good you’ll get in the end. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


(Reading time:  75 seconds)

While there are certain efficiencies of scale that can be achieved in holding a press conference, there are also several down-sides to consider:

= If anything in the event is embargoed, set the ground-rules up front: No Tweeting!

= Spoon feeding the same message to all media will leave them all with the same story… but they will each want their own angle, so beware the pre/post event chit chat.  It’s all on the record.

= No savvy reporter is going to ask a brilliant question in front of all his / her competitors so they all get the answer.  They’ll seek one-on-one time before or after the event.  Be careful of being seen to play favorites.

= If you make a mistake in a one-on-one media interview, it’s one thing.  But if you make the same mistake in front of a gaggle of reporters, it magnifies the faux pas and starts a feeding frenzy.

= While you want the focus of the press conference to be the speaker(s) at the front of the room, smart reporters are also listening for commentary-like asides from employees and co-workers of the sponsor.  Don’t “paper the house” with pretty faces that might kibbutz their boss’s presentation.

= How long should a press conference be?  Just as long as it takes to deliver your message and answer a few questions.  Shorter is better… unless you are Chris Christie.


(Reading time 75 seconds)

Anyone who has followed me over the years knows my passion for improving Metro-North, the commuter railroad that connects Connecticut with NYC.

Late in 2013 I resigned from the official CT Metro-North Commuter Council after 19 years when it became clear that deteriorating train service was not being addressed by the railroad or the State.  My blog proclaimed that I had “resigned, but not quit”.

In January, I launched a new effort, The Commuter Action Group, focused on social media.  I knew that 125,000 daily riders had time and smartphones and we could harness both to affect change.

Our website (built using free software) connected commuters directly with the railroad and their elected officials.  The Twitter feed kept them updated on service outages and our Facebook page provided a forum for longer discussions.

The media pick-up was incredible.  In a month we had 500 opt-in e-mails, 2,300 Twitter followers and a thousand visitors to the Facebook page.  Complaints to the railroad more than doubled and lawmakers were suddenly focused on fixing the problem.

A “Commuter Speakout” event, which drew almost 200 angry commuters, dozens of politicians, four TV stations and all the major state media generated coverage seen by millions.

The campaign worked.  And it wasn’t expensive.  Aside from my time and energy, the total out-of-pocket cost was $12…  $10 to register the domain name and $2 to make some flyers.