10 PR Tips

(photo courtesy dean_forbes on flickr)

I will probably be referencing a few of these tips lists every now and then. For reference’s sake I’m getting them from the Vancouver company, James Hoggan & Associates.

  • Building a Presentation:
    A good presentation is like a good story: it needs a beginning (a clear introduction that sets out your direction), a middle (a solid, well-organized discussion), and an end (a conclusion that draws the whole piece together). To begin, you should be able to describe, in one sentence, what you hope to achieve, and what you believe the audience will learn. Then, set out a brief outline – a list of points that will provide a roadmap to help people follow along. Work through your points, build to a conclusion and, finally, restate your one-sentence thesis.
  • Presentation Style: Be Conversational:
    Whether presenting to a small or large group, you want your audience to be thinking about what you are saying – your content – not judging your presentation style. So don’t lecture. Don’t affect unnatural vocal mannerisms or use pretentious vocabulary. Speak just as you would if the conversation was one-on-one. That doesn’t mean that you should be overly casual in appearance or language; the appropriate level of formality should come from your content. But the best way to make your listeners comfortable and receptive is to speak plainly and conversationally – just as you usually do.
  • A great presentation begins with a single step:
    Any would-be golfer knows the risks of trying to fix too many things at once, especially right after a lesson. The result can be just as disastrous at the podium as they are on the fairway. If you hope to change your presentation style for the better, pick one element at a time. Start with learning to pause and take it, slowly, from there. Audiences want only two things: good content; and a shorter speech than they were expecting. Be prepared, be concise and be confident, and your audiences will be delighted.
  • Finish “Up”:
    One of the most common presentation errors is to finish a sentence with your nose buried in your notes, searching for the next point. If you want listeners to accept that what you are saying has value, you must deliver it with conviction – and trust that they will bear with you as you find your next paragraph or your next slide. This is especially important on a point you want to emphasize: finish with your head up, make some eye contact, pause to let it sink in, and continue.
  • Want good coverage? Tell a good story:
    When your business is under siege, you can’t hope to control the situation without first controlling the story. The most effective form of communication is a compelling narrative that ties your interests to those of your audience. This is particularly critical when you’re caught in the spotlight; it doesn’t matter if you have the facts on your side if your detractors are framing the story. So, don’t just react. Take some time now to define your company’s story. Then you’ll be ready to build a response into that narrative should something go wrong.
  • Don’t ignore the “Elephant in the room”:
    Being the optimists they are, business people tend to avoid speaking about problems and focus instead on solutions and benefits. Positive is good, but people won’t hear what you are saying about solutions and benefits if they are preoccupied with questions and concerns. Worse, silence on a pressing issue can be interpreted as denial, bad faith or incompetence. Good communications on a serious issue, begins with straight talk about the problem and then moves on to solutions and benefits.
  • Survey Public Opinion: Treat the Result Judiciously:
    It is critical, in crafting a useful PR strategy, to understand public opinion, and the best way to do that is through professional public opinion surveys. But it is equally critical that you interpret survey results carefully. Depending what’s on the front page that day, the public mood can swing wildly. And public attitudes evolve from raw opinion, which can be easy to change, to considered opinion, which can be extremely firm. If you hope to affect opinion, you need to understand where you are in the cycle, and how entrenched the public is in its views.
  • Employee Communications: Team Leadership:
    Ever wonder why after a fractious internal debate, some people resist a decision that didn’t go their way, while others accept the outcome, and throw themselves into the implementation? Research suggests it’s a reflection of whether they believed they had genuine input. It is not enough to give people a chance to express their views; they have to believe that the boss listened and understood. If a leader conveys genuine openness, is attentive and fair minded, team members are more likely to accept being overruled. If a decision seems foreordained, employee buy-in is much less likely.
  • Some secrets are best shared quickly:
    It’s hard to find the right balance between transparency and confidentiality, but take this as a rule of thumb: if you get asked a question from multiple investors or you spend more than 15 minutes discussing an issue, the information is probably material or at least worth mentioning in your regular communications.
  • Good things happen when people talk:
    At a time when the public suspects that business leaders say one thing but do another, one-sided corporate information campaigns can actually engender mistrust and, in controversial circumstances, solidify public resistance. The alternative is dialogue, a communication technique that gives your audience a voice. Dialogue can take many forms — on paper, on-line, on the phone or face-to-face — as long as you engage in a two-way discussion. In dialogue, you listen and learn. You accept your stakeholders as partners. And, if you succeed, you recruit supporters with a real sense of ownership in your solutions.

[tags]tips, pr, press, business, entrepreneurship[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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