Category Archives: Business Success

Lift Your Public Persona

By MICHAEL MINK Posted 12/20/2010 04:53 PM ET

When the publicity spotlight finds your company, your skills can maximize a good situation or salvage a bad one. Here’s how:

Be prepared. Before facing the media and public, know exactly what you want to say by crafting your message in detail. This includes anticipating questions. Ask yourself: How do we want our customers or stakeholders to see us?

“It’s too easy for anyone in the C-suite or for a spokesperson to say the wrong thing publicly, and the damage can be significant,” Jeff Ansell, co-author of “When the Headline Is You,” told IBD.

“When John Walter was named CEO of AT&T (T) (in 1996), a reporter at the news conference asked who his service provider is. Walter didn’t know and within four hours of that exchange, AT&T’s market cap plummeted $4 billion. And that was supposed to be a good news story,” Ansell said.

How to avoid that? “Don’t say or write anything you wouldn’t want to see out there publicly,” said Frances Cole Jones, founder of Cole Media Management.

Practice messages. Do this out loud and get feedback. Rehearse answers and ways to move the conversation to the points you want to convey. “Recognize that the first words out of your mouth form the first draft of the story,” Ansell said.

Jones suggests practicing in front of a mirror, especially when doing telephone interviews. “This will remind you to smile and your voice will follow, making you much more interesting to listen to,” she said.

Another benefit: If someone asks you about something that makes you feel tense, “you’re going to see your face tense up, and that’s going to remind you to take a breath and then speak,” she said.

Be accessible. This is especially true when a crisis emerges.

“Not engaging media only leaves your critics with an open field, allowing them to hammer home their messages while you’re hiding behind the door,” Ansell said.

In good times, Jones says, no media opportunity or event is too small. Consider doing all you can.

Follow social media. Dedicate corporate resources to monitor the Web, Ansell said, and respond accordingly: “See what people are saying, and more often than not engage bloggers in conversation. Like Mark Twain said, ‘a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.'”

Jones said, “Tweet wisely or forever hold your peace. Consumers have the power to talk back, and companies need to realize that.”

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10 Things Women Can Do Today to WOW Tomorrow

12/09 - 10 Things Women Can Do Today to WOW Tomorrow with...

Register for my upcoming teleclass, “10 Things Women Can Do Today to WOW Tomorrow” presented by the Downtown Women’s Club.

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Event Details

Join author, corporate coach and career expert Frances Cole Jones and learn (at least!) 10 practical, immediately applicable changes you can make today to guarantee you are more effective tomorrow, including:

  • How to ensure you are projecting your most authoritative self — in person, on the phone, and on the page
  • The proven formula for selling anybody, anything, anytime
  • Ways to gracefully handle interruptions, circumlocutions, and the occasional (preposterous) interjection

To view or download the presentation for this teleclass, visit the following link.

3 Ways Women Can Wow

Published today on the Downtown Women’s Club blog:

While there’s no doubt in my mind that men and women are created equal, I am equally sure that they are created different—after all, a cup of flour and a cup of sugar are equal in amount but have very different properties.

With this in mind, I offer the following female-oriented career advice:

1. Because women have naturally higher voices, it’s particularly important to ensure we’re speaking from our diaphragms, as a lower voice projects far greater authority. To check if you are, place your hand on your abdomen while you speak. If you’re hand’s not moving in and out as you talk, your diaphragm’s not engaged. An easy way to practice engaging it is to lie on the floor with a heavy book on your stomach and breathe deeply until the book is moving up and down. When you stand up, your voice will have dropped about an octave.

2. I want everyone—male or female– to be aware of how they are taking up space. In my experience, men tend to take up more space—leaning back in their chairs, interlacing their fingers behind their head, spreading their knees apart– while women often make ourselves smaller—shrinking back in our chairs, folding our hands in our laps, crossing our legs. With this in mind, consider others’ posture and attitudes in your next meeting. Then consider your own. If you’re sitting back with your hands in your lap while others are leaning forward, move to the front of your seat, sit up very straight, lean in, and place your hands flat on the table to indicate accessibility.

3. Listening without interrupting is a vastly underrated skill set– and interruptions come in many forms. As women, we often interrupt by agreeing and encouraging—saying things along the lines of “Exactly!” “Of course!”  or“I know what you mean!” The trouble with this is that it has the potential to interrupt others’ thought patterns. What can you do instead? Practice signaling your encouragement and agreement via non-verbal techniques: by leaning in, nodding your head, and smiling.

Frances Cole Jones is the President of Cole Media Management and author of “How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation” and “The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World.” She also has an App for the iPhone/iPad called “Interview Wow” You can send her a note at

Beware the Sixth Sense

Real estate agents often tell sellers to have bread baking when potential buyers come calling—the idea being that this “grandmother’s kitchen” smell makes “a house a home,” thereby stimulating fantasies of the picture perfect life you’ll have once you live there. Cinnabon and Subway do the same thing by leaving the doors of their business open and blasting fresh-baked bread smells into the street: they want their chain store to seem more like a neighborhood bakery just waiting to hand you your picture- perfect treat.

While many of us believe we are motivated solely by the price tag on our sandwich or sweater, we are, in fact, heavily influenced by all our senses. And while most of us have noticed the rock sound track playing in the store with the $150 T-shirts (thereby motivating us to believe the purchase of such a T-shirt will give us a rock star life) we pay less attention to the manipulation of our remaining senses: our sense of smell, our body temperature (hence the icy air blasted out onto sidewalks in the summer) and- finally, our little discussed “sixth sense”. No, I’m not talking about seeing dead people—I’m talking about our sense of shame.

Yes, shockingly enough we are often being manipulated by this infrequently discussed “sense.” What’s an example? Well, many high-end restaurants have a practice of decanting expensive bottles of wine at the table, despite the fact that the vast majority of high quality wine served in restaurants doesn’t need to be decanted. Why do they do it? It seems their research revealed that the a ritual/performance not only makes those paying the big bucks feel better about it, it makes those at nearby tables feel the, too, need to spend heavily to keep from looking like a schmuk in front of their date– their sense of shame has been activated.

Other industries in which I frequently see this sixth sense being activated are, sadl, the wedding and funeral industries. We all know people who judge the quality of the love between two partners by the size of the diamond in the band; less talked about is the choice made by funeral parlors to display only their least and most expensive coffins (there are more in the back, but they’re rarely on display) The idea, again, being that love is measured by the choice you make– after all, “everyone you know will be there.” (Should you think I’m being cynical, please note, when my father died we went ten rounds with our funeral director for refusing the $750 makeup charge—despite the fact that his casket was going to be closed.)

How do I recommend you handle a situation in which you sense shame-based selling is in play? By asking frankly, “How much does that cost?” when presented with the wine recommendation/the 4-ply cashmere sweater/the one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. Though it seems counter-intuitive, it’s the ultimate power question as it shows you’re not intimidated by the ‘theatre’ of the moment – you’re in places like this every day, and you know how much things SHOULD cost, just not how much they cost in this establishment.

Do I recommend manipulating this sixth sense when you’re on the selling/producing side? I do not. We’ve all heard of ‘reverse psychology,” I’m into reversing shame: making every customer feel like a king no matter what they’re wearing, how much they’re spending, or how busy your business might be.

How do I recommend you ensure you aren’t consciously or unconsciously activating this sixth sense? Well, in an office/conference environment, you might look at the shape of your conference room table. One of the things President Lincoln did was to insist on a round table, thereby sending an unspoken message that he didn’t think he wasn’t necessarily the most important person in the room—and he certainly didn’t need to control the conversation.

In a sales environment, I recommend having scripts, tools, and routines in place to make each customer with whom sales staff comes in contact feel recognized, understood, and respected. For example, if a number of customers come in simultaneously, the script salespeople might use could be, “Sir, I apologize, but I just need to finish assisting this customer.  It looks like it will be another two minutes. If you’d like to have a seat over here while you wait, I’ll I’d be happy to help you in a moment.”

The tool in this situation would be the chair in which the customer could be seated while he or she waits, and the routine a way the sales person might summon back up if the client they’re with runs over two minutes.

Thinking through the scenarios that work toward equality and unfailing courtesy will go a long way toward ensuring you never lose a customer by making him or her feel less than a priority—and will likely win you many more as your customers move through the world talking about the service you provide.

Frances Cole Jones

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Stay Composed in the Face of Interview Zingers

Originally published on “The Work Buzz” blog by

Have you ever been asked a question in an interview that seems to come out of left field? One that makes you skip a beat and make you want to ask, “Come again?” and “Are you serious?” Unfortunately, not all interviewers ask the most kosher questions and it’s easy to become discombobulated.

Today’s guest blogger addresses this very issue.  Frances Cole Jones, author of “The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World” tells how to keep your cool even in the face of the most unnerving interview questions.

Don’t Get Flustered, Get Factual
By Frances Cole Jones

There appears to be an epidemic of inappropriateness pervading the job interview world these days. Several people I know have gotten questions that left them, literally, speechless — and one wasn’t so much disconcerted by a question as by the manner in which it was asked.

Following, a few suggestions I made for how each of them might have responded. If any of you have additional ideas, I’d love to hear them. (Alternatively, if you’ve been asked anything, or experienced anything, that left you confounded, I’d love to hear those stories, too.)

Q: “Do you know the average age of the people who work in this company?”

This was a question an older client of mine got when she applied for a position in a very youthful organization. While I can only speculate about what the interviewer’s intention might have been, I can tell you the result was my client left feeling shamed for even applying.

How did I recommend she handle this kind of leading question?

Leading questions demand fact-based responses. You don’t want to get into what you think your questioner is after, or do the dirty work of negating something that hasn’t been overtly stated.

Consequently, my Monday-morning quarterbacking coaching to her was to have responded, “I do.”

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PR, Perfected: Coach C-Suite Execs for the Spotlight

Give top-level execs the prep and confidence to stay on message and engage audiences

By Jessica Howell – August 16, 2010

Hollywood legend George Jessel once quipped, “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.”

It’s true that most seasoned executives — whether they appear to be or not — experience a bit of discomfort in the spotlight. Whether prepping for a quarterly earnings report or a small staff meeting, the concept of one-way dialogue is often fear-inducing to even the most polished among us. And while there’s no foolproof remedy for nervousness, it’s a PR pro’s duty to ensure that the C-suite team is well-equipped to hold their own behind the podium. And the best way to do that is to continually stress the importance of preparation, familiarization, and plain old practice….

“Hi, you’ve reached…”

In my last post I mentioned the pleasure I take in a great voice mail greeting, and a number of you wrote in to ask, “What made it so good?” Consequently, I put together a list of things I love—and don’t love—to hear:

Why is this important? Because your voice mail message is often the first contact a new person has with you— it’s an opportunity to impress someone right from the start. Despite this, I hear far, far too many voice mails that are less than memorable– and more than a few that do the person an active disservice.

For example, one day I got a call from a client who had just promoted a mid-level manager to a top spot.  I asked them if there was anything in particular I should be aware of. Well, they said, he’s smart and enthusiastic—which is great—but we’re worried he doesn’t come across as ‘manager material.’
Next, I called his office to make an appointment. Here’s what his voicemail message sounded like: “HI THIS IS JOE I’M NOT HERE LEAVE A MESSAGE OR CALL LEWIS AT 212…” Instead of sounding competent, calm, and in command, he sounded like he was trying to find his way out of a burning building.

So how should you go about recording your voice mail message?

  • You want to record it while standing and smiling. This will give your voice warmth and energy. If you sound even slightly flat/tired/anxious/impatient/distracted/drunk/flirtatious or like you are speaking to children, re-do it.
  • You do not want any background or ambient noise. No cars, music, dogs barking, telephones ringing, etc.
  • You want to inhale before you begin to record and speak on an exhalation as you begin to leave your message. This gives your voice resonance and authority. NOTE PLEASE that you want to inhale before you hit record. We don’t want to hear you sucking in a big breath before you start speaking.
  • You want to be sure that your name and any alternate numbers and—should you have one– your assistant’s name and number are distinctly articulated. If you or they have an unusual name, you will want to speak even more slowly.
  • Please do not leave your alternate number so quicklythat I have to call you back six times to write it down. Yes, it’s familiar to you. It’s not familiar to me.
  • If you are a business, and this message refers to your“business hours” please articulate exactly what those are. For example, “Please call back between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.”
  • You want to make sure it is current. Updating it should be the first thing you do on returning from a business trip or vacation.
  • Among the many benefits of doing this is the fact that once it is done, you will always have that recording of you as your best self—even on days when you might, perhaps, not be.

Frances Cole Jones