Category Archives: Communication

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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Wow of the Week: Play it Up

We all know the phrase, “play it down,” for making less of an emotion or situation than we might otherwise be feeling. And I think this can be a useful reminder to ourselves when considering how much time and energy we want to devote to a feeling or person or circumstance.

That said, there is a lot to be said, both personally and professionally for “playing it up.” For making more of an occurrence than we might originally have thought, or been hardwired to do; and for quickly acknowledging our participation in a “no-fault” situation.

Let me give you an example: Recently, I had an exchange with a conference coordinator with whom I was working on an event. When I arrived at the venue, I discovered she had not ordered me a lavalier microphone—my sole choice was the mic attached to the podium. “Well,” she said, “We’ll just have to make the best of it.”

We? The last time I checked she wasn’t the one who was going to be trapped behind a hunk of fake wood for an hour while trying to wow.

Now I understand her thinking—and the thinking of many peoplewhen a dropped ball results in an inconvenience/mistake/accident: their idea is that their minimizing it will lead to others minimizing it.

What I’ve discovered, however, is that you will get a lot further if you play it up, rather than playing it down. In this instance, I would have been far more impressed had she said, “I am so sorry—this is my fault. Unfortunately there’s nothing that can be done about the technology now, but is there anything I can do with the room set up, or the book signing area, that will make you more comfortable?”

Within the corporate world, I always recommend customer service departments play it up, rather than down—overcompensating for even the smallest complaints. Why? Because while most departments respond quickly to high stakes situations, many respond poorly, or not at all, to circumstances that are less than dire. The trouble with this choice is that these disgruntled customers can now take their grievances to the virtual streets, setting up URL’s such as or creating a music video about poor luggage handling along the lines of  a musical review over a broken guitar that has received over 500,000 hits on YouTube, and reversed United Airlines’ position on baggage handling. Or, speaking from my own experience, blasting out to their 3,000 Twitter follows when the customer service rep at their local big box store greets their tale of a broken appliance with, “Whatever…”

So the next time you find yourself in a situation where you’ve dropped the ball, and/or there’s no clear right or wrong, step up: play it up—meet, and perhaps even exceed—the person’s level of concern. I guarantee you’ll both move on more quickly.

Frances Cole Jones

Watch the YouTube Video

How to Wow With Your Voicemail Video


Show Me, Don’t Tell Me

As you may know, the first rule of writing good fiction is, “Show me don’t tell me.” The idea being that you can’t say a character is resilient, thoughtful, or brave you need to show the reader that he or she is these things.

Somehow this idea has not translated into our other writing, particularly in the context of applying for jobs. For example, how many of us have seen cover letters in which a candidate describes him or herself, “a real go getter,” only to have that resume collecting dust on our desk three weeks later—three weeks during which that “go-getter” of a candidate didn’t pick up the phone?

How else might a go-getter distinguish him/her self from the pack? Well, recently I walked out of Grand Central Station to find two young people dressed in business suits standing on the sidewalk handing out copies of their resumes. What were their stated objectives? Entry-level jobs in finance and marketing. Their qualifications? The usual for people just starting out—captain of the swim team, internship at local retail store, a summer at the local copy shop. In addition to hard copies of their resume, however, they had also blown each up to a poster-board size and created video resumes and posted them on YouTube—the URL for these was at the top of their CV’s.  Seeing these actions told me more than any video: they were creative, gutsy, and self-confident. You can bet that if I had been at a financial or marketing firm with—or without—an opening, they would have been hired on the spot. They brought being a ‘go-getter’ to life.

Another gap in candidates’ descriptions of themselves is often revealed via a technique I recently heard HR professionals are using to weed out those who are truly committed to working for a particular firm from those who are not: what they do is stop the interview halfway through and says “I just don’t think you’re the right fit for us”—regardless of the candidate’s experience. One of the HR professionals with whom I spoke says it’s amazing how many people actually say, “I actually didn’t think so either, but I just thought I’d come in…”

Um…how not to wow.

How do I recommend you handle this situation, should you encounter it? First, make sure you don’t look down, lean back….reveal your discomfort through your body in any way.Smile. Inhale. Speak on an exhalation. Say, “I understand how you may think that, given my lack of experience with X/my checkered past/how long I’ve been freelancing, but I think you’ve underestimated how committed I am to working for your firm. If I may, I’ll take you through my thinking one more time.” A response that, both physically, and verbally, should reassure the most hardboiled of HR professionals.

Another misstep I heard about was the story of a candidate who touted his laser focus/unparalleled dedication throughout his lunch interview, only to take out his PDA and begin returning calls as his host paid the check. My guess is that he was either uncomfortable with sitting in silence, or wished to convey his busyness/importance. What I can tell you is that his choice backfired— instead causing the HR director to move him from the top slot to the bottom of the list.

Albert Schweitzer, the famed theologian/philosopher/physician said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”  Nowhere is this truer than in a job interview scenario—where what isn’t said is often far more important than what is.

Frances Cole Jones

Watch the YouTube Video

How to Wow With Your Voicemail Video

Tweet Wisley or Forever Hold Your Peace

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The Formula for Selling Anybody, Anything, Any Time

Originally published on AOL Jobs on Jun 30th 2010.

The Formula for Selling Anybody, Anything, Any Time

Here’s the thing: Sometimes we’re selling our ideas, sometimes we’re selling our products and, these days, many of us are selling ourselves as the best candidate for the job. With this in mind, here’s the proven formula for selling your best self to anybody, anywhere, any time.

First: Yale University did a study of the 12 most persuasive words in the English language. They discovered that the most persuasive word in the English language is “you.” Consequently, I recommend throwing it around a lot: “As I’m sure you know,” “As I’m sure you’ve heard,” “I wanted to talk to you today,” etc.

Second: California-based social psychologist Ellen Langer says one word in the English language increases the possibility of cooperation from 60 to 94 percent. No, that is not a typo. I will repeat: 60 to 94 percent. This word is “because.”

Lastly: The Duncan Hines Cake Mix Marketing Theory. When Duncan Hines began making cake mix, the decision to have cooks at home add the egg was made in the marketing department. Why is this effective? Because they realized that when we add the egg, we feel proud because we contributed; we can say, “I baked!”

Following, then, are three ways you can apply this formula for success:

1. A job interview scenario

When you are talking to a company about coming to work for them, you need to articulate the unique contribution you can make, so it becomes your shared success.

Too often, however, we spend our interviewing time talking about why we are right for the job. What we need to be talking about is why the job is right for us.

What might this sound like?

“I wanted to talk to you today because your job description/your company’s mission statement/your bestselling product is X, and my skill set/my personal passion/my sales experience is in Y. Applying the full force of my expertise to this job will enable us both to reach our goals.”

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It’s Auto-Reply, Not Auto-Pilot

In preparation for going on vacation, many people turn on their email “Auto-response” function. Perhaps because vacation is so close—and they’ve already begun inhaling the heady fumes of their SPF 50—they neglect to give these messages the time and care they must have in order for their best self to be present when they, in fact, are not.

Alternatively, some people travel quite a bit for work. Stressed, rushed, thinking two cities ahead, they whip out an auto-response whose terseness lands in others’ in box like a slap.

“Perhaps…’ you’re thinking, “or perhaps Frances is making too much of a small thing. Can these messages really have that much of an impact—or even be that different? After all, all I’m saying is I’m out of town.”

Yes, they can. As an example, I’ve included below messages from three different marketing managers, all of who work for the same company, and were out of the office for the same time period and the same reason (to meet with me.) I found the difference in their tone, and my subsequent reaction to them, noticeable:

  1. I am out of the office until Friday, February 26th. If your matter is urgent, please contact me at (Tel Number here.)
  2. I will be in NY until Friday, Feb. 26. If you need immediate assistance, please contact (Assistant’s Name) at (Tel Number here.) Thanks!
  3. Thank you for your message. I am currently traveling on business until Friday, February 26. I will be checking email periodically. Should you need an immediate response, please contact (Assistant’s Name) at (Assistant’s email) or (Assistant’s telephone number) You may also reach me on my cell phone at (Tel Number here.)

 Best Regards,

 (Her Name Here)

I think we can all guess which I preferred.

What, then, do I see as mandatory for inclusion in your auto-reply?

  1. Thanking someone for their note
  2. Including by when you will return to the office
  3. Stating your policy for responding during your time away
  4. Offering an alternate method of communication. If you don’t have an assistant, the following phrasing is nice: “I am traveling until (include date here.) During this time, I will only have intermittent access to email. Rest assured that as soon as I receive your message, I will respond.

The fact that you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you’re off duty. Taking the time to personalize this automated function ensures that those who are working while you’re away will be pleased to see you on your return.

Frances Cole Jones

It’s Auto-Reply, Not Auto-Pilot Video

How to Wow With Your Voicemail Video