Communicate Clearly To Connect

Do you ever wonder “what to say” when you head off to a networking event or a client meeting? Do you think it’s easier to write an email rather than pick up the phone and have a real conversation? Well you’re not alone. When we’re busy working at our computers all day, generally alone, it’s easy to lose the knack of easy conversation. Let’s face it, the cat really isn’t that interested in what you have to say. Take a few moments to read a few tips to get talking again.

As a fan of the TV show The West Wing; I watched with interest and amusement the “grooming” of the character Toby Ziegler from Communications Director to White House Press Secretary. In addressing the media his assistant constantly reminded him to use the communication skills of wooing a woman. To be “witty and seductive.”

In winning over our clients or the media perhaps we don’t need to go that far but is does pay to put some “personality” into your customer communication.

For many of us we’re busy constantly setting up appointments, meeting new clients, networking and making connections with a number of new people. We are engaged with our personal and professional PR – communicating who we are, what we do and how we make a difference. Therefore we need to ensure each meeting or contact counts.

Effective communication is important when building relationships with clients, customers and the media. A stimulating conversation or well-told story may be the most interesting part of a meeting, presentation or media interview. Even witty small talk with a potential client can evolve into a new business deal or project. Here is a few conversation pointers to keep in mind when meeting or networking.

1. A good business introduction includes your first and last name and the name of your company.

2. Always introduce yourself to those sitting next to you at a business dinner. If possible, meet everyone at your table before you sit down. Sit next to someone you don’t know rather than someone you do know.

3. When introducing your guest or another person at a function, mention both first and last names and perhaps an interesting item of information about that person.

4. Before going to an event, business or social, be prepared to discuss items of current interest including books, films, television shows, or current events.

5. You can find your next conversation starter by reading at least one daily newspaper, weekly news magazine, or watching a morning news show.

6. Take the time to get to know others first. People don’t care about you and what you do until they know you care about them. Build relationships and trust first.

7. Beware of being a pushy promoter. We’re often so passionate and excited about our business or latest project that we talk too much and over sell ourselves.

8. Listen closely and think before you speak. Don’t interrupt, let the other person finish their thought before you give your opinion. Learn to do 80 percent of the listening and just 20 percent of the talking.

9. Listen attentively, smile and make good eye contact.

10. Practice the five words that help create and maintain small talk conversation Who, What, When, Where and Why to form open-ended questions.

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5 Ways to Work Closer (and More Productively) With Your Law Firm Marketing Director

Over the past decade the idea of a law firm marketing director, or even a Chief Marketing Officer, has become more and more popular with mid-size, and sometimes even small, firms. While the title may vary (communications director, marketing manager, etc…) the goal remains the same-to help attorneys further their marketing goals, both individually and firm wide. Though it may seem like one more person to work into an already busy day, developing a relationship with your marketing director may be one of the smartest things you can do on your business development journey. Not only are most marketing directors experienced in creating marketing strategy and copy, they often bring with them connections to organizations, writers, reporters and editors. Here we present five ways to further your relationship…

Let Them Get To Know You

Rather than treating a marketing director as just another firm member you pass in the hallway, find the time to sit down and develop a relationship. Don’t just forward your resume via e-mail, schedule a meeting (or a lunch) where you can tell them about yourself and your background in your own words. Speaking with you and hearing about your goals and accomplishments can help spark ideas that a resume cannot.

Get To Know Them

It’s a simple truth of all social interactions-you’re more likely to go out of your way for someone you have a personal connection to. Nurture your relationship. Send them interesting articles you come across, stop by their office and say hello, and return their calls and emails in a prompt manner. In other words, treat them like a client-or better!

Ask For Help

Don’t forget that a marketing director’s job is to help you so don’t be afraid to ask. Need help re-writing your biography? Ask. Need to polish up an article for publication? Ask. Wondering how your speech for next week’s conference sounds? Ask. It’s their job to help you present yourself and the firm in the best light possible, and having a non-lawyer critique your work can only benefit the final product.

Be clear about what you want.

Marketing directors aren’t mind readers…they can’t help you unless they know exactly what you want out of your marketing time. If you’re not comfortable in front of a crowd they can brainstorm ideas on where to get you published. If you’re looking for the spotlight, they can often submit your name for recognition in regional or national lists of top lawyers. And if there is a topic in the news that you can expertly comment on they can get in front of a camera…or reporter. The more specific you are about your goals, knowledge and strengths, the easier it will be for your marketing director to work on your behalf.

Let them do their job.

You would never send your marketing director into the courtroom, so don’t tread in their territory either. Seeking their advice should be at the top of your mind when marketing opportunities arise. Most people in that position have a strong background of their own and can guide you in the right direction, or even take some of the work off your hands. If you don’t want or need their help with a project, at least inform them of what you’re working on, whether it be a meeting with a reporter or a local “SuperLawyers” list. A simple email mentioning the initiative can do wonders to nurture your relationship and build respect between you both.

Your relationship with your firm marketing director can be one of the most fruitful partnerships in business development. By working together you can maximize your time and energy while furthering both the firm’s marketing agenda and your own.

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Career Switch From Journalism to Public Relations – Research, Communication Skills Transfer Smoothly

As the economy squeezes news editors, reporters and producers into new careers, many emerge into the public relations field. Aside from any initial hesitation about “going to the dark side,” it can be a smooth glide from one form of information delivery to another.

That was my experience after three decades on editing desks in New York, New Jersey and Michigan — my version of a path many others have taken successfully. “I was hired for my first PR position many years ago because of my journalism experience, and I know many others who have made a successful transition,” says Christopher Trela, an independent practitioner in Costa Mesa, Calif.

But one veteran PR executive in Washington, D.C., thinks we’re generally ill-prepared for the profession. Richard Mintz, owner and managing director of The Harbour Group in Washington, D.C., boldly waves a red flag at PR aspirants whose first career involved bylines and the Five W’s.

“Journalists by their nature don’t make great advocates or public relations people because they’re trained to be objective rather than to take sides,” he told Atlantic magazine blogger Jeffrey Goldberg in January 2010. “They also tend to work alone, and they have no business experience.”

Those comments in a post headlined The Great Journalism Exodus score one out of three for accuracy, based on my background and that of other newsroom emigrants. Overlap “between the two fields is galactic,” says Jill Parker Landsman, who brought seven years of reporting and editing experience to her position as communications director at the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

Business imperatives are recognized

Direct business administration know-how typically isn’t a tool carried out of newsrooms, it’s true. That’s not to say all journalists are clueless about management, marketing and bottom lines – life-and-death issues in their industry. As Goldberg notes at the start of his post: “Friends in the public relations business… tell me they are inundated with calls from journalists looking to escape our profession before it dies, as opposed to after it dies.”

Characterizing journalists as rigidly objective and solitary doesn’t describe professionals accustomed to flexibility, point-of-view narratives and teamwork. While balanced fairness is the goal, journalism requires subjective decisions about themes, sources, word choices, quote selection and presentation sequence. Reporters and editors work closely with photographers, graphic artists, page designers and online producers – a newsroom version of account teams.

Mintz also seems to overlook or devalue reflexes that accompany newsgathering experience.

“I use my skills to help my company make better decisions on how to place stories, land coverage and shape releases that will capture the attention of journalists,” says Ed Garsten, an electronic communication manager who joined Chrysler in 2005 after more than 30 years in journalism. “My colleagues turn to me often and ask, ‘Will journalists buy this?’ That empowers me to be truthful to them…. I’m fitting in very well.” He had worked for CNN, AP and The Detroit News.

Aleta Walther, a marketing communications consultant in San Clemente, is familiar with bias against journalists among some executives. “I had a PR friend, a VP at an agency, tell me that he would never hire a journalist,” she recalls. “In the next breath he asked me if I was available to assist on a new business proposal. I never told him I was a hard-core reporter at one time.”

Steven Forsythe of Peachtree City, Ga., traded newspapers for corporate communications more than 30 years ago — and still uses a vivid memory as a reality check. “Many PR people would have been dismayed to see the comments we wrote on their inane releases or photos, posted on a newsroom bulletin board for laughs. I have tried to make sure that never happens to mine,” says the top communicator at Global Aviation Holdings near Atlanta.

Credibility with clients

From San Diego, agency CEO Tom Gable reports job inquiries from “lots of terrific talent” leaving the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune and other West Coast papers. “Relating to journalists is just one factor” in their favor,” says Gable, a former business editor of his city’s daily. “I would rate writing and story-telling abilities higher, as well as credibility in being able to tell a client that the story they think belongs on the front page of the WSJ probably would only make [a trade journal's] new product briefs.”

Another Californian, former newspaper reporter and editor Michele M. Horaney, believes “PR people with a news coverage background have a leg up over folks who got PR degrees and have never written a news story.” Horaney, now communications director of a nonprofit political research organization in Berkeley, adds: “Being able to write and do research from an ‘in the news’ and ‘in the public’s interest’ perspective is invaluable.”

Naturally, switching career tracks can present a few hurdles at first. “The hardest thing for journalists to learn is to write in someone else’s voice,” comments print veteran Retha Lindsey Fielding, chief communication officer at a nonprofit in Austin, Texas. “It just doesn’t feel right at first.”

Former TV news producer Bev Carlson, a board member of Nebraska’s chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), knows “many former newsroom co-workers who have transitioned into highly successful public relations careers. It all depends on the person and their willingness to be flexible and learn.” Carlson adds from Omaha: “Former journalists are outstanding in the research aspect of putting together PR strategy. And since journalists — the good ones — have the innate training to be quick studies on anything, the learning curve for the other aspects of the job doesn’t have to be painful.”

Speaking of adjustment pain, Garsten at Chrysler acknowledges he “still can’t stand the stultifying pace of decision-making” outside the world of deadlines every minute. Overall, these career re-inventors take pride in something I also appreciate: Delivering clear, accurate, timely information that audiences can use. The content differs, obviously, but the challenges do resemble those of journalism.

See how a former journalist with marketing experience can raise awareness of your enterprise cost-effectively. For a free phone consultation and project proposal, call 248.258.5982 or visit [http://www.astamm.com/] to send a message. Marketing communication support:

Web content: Keyword-optimized consumer or B2B information, news-style articles, ghost-written blogs and other materials present marketing messages in an accessible, informative context.
Brochures: Colorful, creative, compelling language enhances marketing collateral.
Guest columns: Dozens of commentaries, essays and other op-ed submissions written on behalf of clients have been placed in daily newspapers and trade publications. Service includes submission.
Media relations: News releases, coverage pitches and electronic press kits include details that editors, reporters and producers want – - quotes, fact sheets, reference statistics, independent sources to call.
Speech texts: Mission messages, USPs and points of distinction are woven into meaningful, memorable remarks.

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