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Monday, October 31, 2011

Infographic: Meeting Facilitation Tips

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Republican candidates are trying to score political points on President Obama for his oratorical style. The same man who is often lauded for his effective speechmaking is being criticized as president for what political opponents are calling over reliance on the TelePrompter.

We'll leave the political fight over TelePrompters to the voters. But the dust-up does give us a chance to talk about when and where TelePrompters can and should be used.

When used properly, a Prompter can improve a presentation – particularly to a large audience.  Bottom line: very few speakers can memorize a whole text.  It's much better to look out at the audience than to keep looking down at the lectern.  If you believe the audience is important, Prompters allow the speaker to focus on his/her listener, emphasize key words and messages without looking at notes, and better vary pitch and cadence. The TelePrompter gives a speaker the opportunity to concentrate on the performance aspect of the speech.  

Here are some of the TelePrompter tips we provide to our clients:

1.    Don't try to "keep up" with the Prompter operator.  The Prompter operator will adapt to your pace.

2.    Change panels at the end of a thought or idea.  Don't bounce back and forth (the "tennis match syndrome") excessively. When you move from one panel to the other, insert a short pause and refill your lungs with air.

3.    Format your material on prompter to match your speaking patterns.  Underscore key words that you want to hit hard and mark your script for pauses.  You can also place key words in the prompter script, i.e. PAUSE, STOP, or signs like ARROWS.

4.    Arrange for a rehearsal with the person who will be operating the Prompter at your speaking location.  A series of run-throughs will allow the two of you to establish a rhythm and a comfort level working together.  Ideally this should be done the evening before and repeated the day of the presentation.

5.    Learn (don't memorize) your speech so you can focus on a powerful delivery.  It's ok to ad-lib a line.  The prompter operator will know.

6.    Remember that you're talking to an audience, not to glass panels.  Be as passionate and enthusiastic as you would be if the prompter weren't there.  This means that all the good rules about energy and enthusiasm for speaking from a lectern work for a Prompter.

What do you advise your clients regarding use of a TelePrompter? What has your/their experience been? Do you believe President Obama relies on it too much?

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Friday, October 14, 2011

More Evidence of Corporate Myopia: Netflix

There have been scores of articles and posts regarding the PR disaster that was Netflix’s recent decision to raise prices in what has generally been seen as a brand reputation-damaging move by CEO Reed Hastings. Largely, we agree.

In one such article in particular in ChiefExecutive.net we believe author Lincoln Murphy hit the larger issue head on the head: “…Netflix forgot that Pricing is a function of Marketing.”

To us at CommCore this appears to be another and all-too-common example of what we call “Leadership Myopia.” We get it; leaders are facing rising costs and a variety of other challenges that require tough decisions. But too often, the basis from which they form their decisions is too narrow and the implications they consider are too few. They look at their P&L and ignore other equally critical considerations. In other words, they are being incredibly short sighted.

The result is a predictable cascade: The action is executed poorly. The “supporting” communication is disconnected from the customer who then gets angry. The CEO responds with surprise. Instead of showing understanding, he or she fails to clarify the rationale for the decision in terms that matter to the consumer, and digs him or herself in deeper.

We recommend one solution to such narrow decision -making. A “reputation lens” can be affixed to a CEO through coaching. There are no (or few) lost-causes even when drastic choices have to be made. The only thing that stands in the way is the CEO’s own willingness to broaden his or her field of vision beyond a spread sheet or parochial focus.

(By the way - there are plenty more CEO trait deficiencies. Check out this recent article that our CEO, Andy Gilman contributed to).

What do you think? What other current examples are there out there? Is this “myopia” rampant? Is it usually a personal flaw with a CEO, or a corporate culture problem, or both? Is it generally fixable?

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Friday, October 7, 2011

No Waffling: How One Company Uses Crises to Its Advantage

When FEMA officials assess the need for aid after a weather disaster in the Mid-Atlantic or Southeastern US, they consult two barometers: The Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, and how many Waffle Houses are open.

This is no joke. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the Waffle House is so well-known for staying open or quickly re-opening its restaurants during a weather emergency, their level of activity is a good indicator of how serious the disaster is. "If you get there and the Waffle House is closed," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has said, "That's really bad. That's where you go to work."
Recognizing a branding opportunity, the chain has been pro-actively marketing its resiliency to disasters; after Hurricane Katrina, Waffle House executives implemented a crisis response plan to speed up the re-opening of Waffle House locations after a disaster. Senior executives developed a manual for re-opening more quickly by bulking up on portable generators, buying a mobile command center, and giving employees key fobs with emergency contacts.

In a recent academic paper, Panos Kouvelis, a business-school professor at Washington University in St. Louis, pegged Waffle House as one of the top four companies for disaster response, with Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe's.

At CommCore, we work with our clients to come up with "sticky" stories that create a strong visual representation of their brand or issue. Waffle House's 40 years of building and maintaining simple, yellow, plain buildings with a large neon black and yellow sign towering above presents a powerful image when contrasted with the dark devastation of a hurricane or tornado. Waffle House is now activating a low-cost marketing strategy via the goodwill from disaster victims thrilled to find a place to eat that's open. It also brings in revenue – customers happy to have a place during a disaster where they can spend their money to eat and find shelter.

What examples can you come up with of companies or brands that have turned crises or disaster response into a PR or marketing asset?

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

Our first computer at CommCore was an Apple ii - about as primitive as the Wright Brothers' first plane was to today's  A-380 or a Boeing Dreamliner.  The Apple product gave us an edge.

It is hard to understate the role that Steve Jobs had in transforming our world.  Superlatives are indeed deserved.  To say he had vision is like asking if Michael Jordan has a competitive streak.

He broke convention and truly succeeded.  Mere mortals are told to get in touch with the consumer.  Jobs succeeded with the gut instinct that the consumer doesn’t know what he/she wants until we show it to them.  Macintosh, iPhone, iTunes, iPad et al - at least he was right.

Jobs even had a self effacing perspective on mortality. Here's what he said at the commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, when he thought he had licked pancreatic cancer. "Death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new."

At  CommCore, we counsel clients on how leadership and CEO's make a difference. We also look at how Boards and organizations must compensate for a leader's human failings.  Job's failing was his health and we all hope that talented people at Apple who came up with the ideas that Jobs molded and shaped, all have a bit of their founder and visionary leader in them.

The world is smaller, more connected because of Steve Jobs.  Today it's just a little lonelier without him.

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