VC’s Invest in Conversation

They might be late to the party, but venture capitalists are determined to make the most of their newfound appreciation for working with the media.

Historically, VC’s  have preferred to wield their influence and spend their millions quietly in the background. But according to the New York Times, the success of Andreessen Horowitz has been an eye-opener. Great deals pivot not just on who has the most money to shell out, but also on who has the greatest reach and clout. Reach and clout are amplified by reputation. And reputation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

Here is some Media Skills advice for publicity-hungry VC’s:

Explain it to your grandma. Short, sweet, and simple: that’s how to explain your point of view to the public without being condescending.  

Work against type. The public doesn’t think that you’re called a ‘vulture capitalist’ for nothing.  Infuse your messaging with mission and show how your investment priorities make the world a better place for everyone.  You’ll be memorable and believable.

Get everyone on the same page.  The firms you invest in, your staff and your communication advisors: get everyone on board with the same methodology for identifying, framing and delivering messages. That will streamline your messaging and conversations and ensure productive collaboration.


Reputation ROI

What others think of your brand can cost you.

Echo Research just released its annual “Reputation Dividend” report, finding that corporate reputation added $3.19 billion to the market capitalization of the Fortune 500. The ‘reputation dividend’ wasn’t enjoyed by all; Apple’s value is enhanced by 58% by its popularity, while Sears’ shaky image has eroded 39% from its value, according to the Echo analysis.

Echo helpful provides a rundown of the most important factors that drive and support corporate reputation. This amounts to a handy priority list for those who manage conversations. Echo’s top three factors are:

  • Value of the company as a long term investment
  • Quality of the company’s goods and services
  • Global competitiveness

A strong messaging methodology will ensure that everyone engaging in conversations on behalf of the company can reinforce the company’s most important reputation drivers.  It’s not enough to understand the building blocks of a reputation that supports corporate value: it’s up to chief communication officers to translate those to a plan — and to put that plan into action.


Put Some Backbone In Your Message

Your posture bolsters your self-confidence.

That’s not us talking — it’s a group of researchers led by Richard Petty of Ohio State. In a study of undergraduates, the kids were directed to either sit up straight or slump while filling out a job application. Those who sat up straight were far more confident than the slumpers that they’d get the job.

The implications for interviews couldn’t be more clear: whether you are talking via phone or in person, put your shoulders back and straighten your spine. Your body language will become your message.

We Take Our Own Advice!

Show, don’t tell.

That’s one of the cardinal rules of storytelling. Don’t tell me you’re great at messaging. Show me. If you really are snappy, I’ll draw my own conclusion that you’re snappy. I’ll believe it even more because I own my own opinion, based on my observation of your undeniable snappiness.

As a strategic communication consultant and media trainer, I work with organizations to help them crystallize their messages.  Media interviews need talking points. To be quoted, you must be…quotable. Communication campaigns need slogans. To be remembered, your message must be…memorable.

That’s my tell. Here’s my show. My career strategy book, “The Career Lattice,” is due out in April from McGraw Professional. The message of the book is that strategic lateral moves are the only sustainable career path in  an era of slow growth and flattened, team-centric organizations.

How to say that in just a few words, especially when Fortune magazine freelancer Jena McGregor called for an interview?

“Over is the new up.”

“You’re so quotable!” said Ms. McGregor.

Thank you. And thanks for foreshadowing “The Career Lattice”  in a feature about lateral career moves.


Two Words to Describe Occupy Wall St.

Of all the commentary spilled over the Wall St. protests of the fall of 2011, the two best words come from, of all people, Al Gore.  As quoted by New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff, Gore called the boiling-over frustration “a primal scream of democracy.”

That’d be about right. People are beyond annoyed — so very beyond annoyed with the placid denials of the financial district and of politicians that physical protests feel like their best outlet.  Some — on Wall St. of course – have described the protests as a temper tantrum. I’ve yet to hear anyone on their side summarize their position as powerfully as a ‘primal scream.’

Wall St. has the money. Where’s its message?




The Biggest Scam in History in Two Words

As beautifully reported in the New York Times, the judge who oversaw the trial of Bernard L. Madoff thought long and hard about the sentence for the confessed swindler. Judge Denny Chin knew that the sentence itself would speak for itself – and that his sentencing statement would be widely quoted.

His decision to hand down a 150-year sentence would send a “loud, decisive message” about the legal violations on their own merits. But it was only after hearing several victims’ stories of personal financial devastation did the judge crystallize the statement he would give along with the sentence.  His law clerks told him that news crews had gathered early to broadcast every syllable uttered in the courtroom.

Judge Chin was well aware that his statement needed to contain terse, quotable elements. As reported by the Times, “One of the traditional notions of punishment,” [Judge Chin] wrote, “is that an offender should be punished in proportion to his blameworthiness.” Mr. Madoff’s crimes were “extraordinarily evil,” he added.

“Extraordinarily evil” summed up everything about the Madoff deception. Journalists seized on the phrase and it ricocheted around the world in headlines, leads and photo cutlines. “Extraordinarily evil:”  moral judgment,  empathy and perspective in two words.