Please, Don’t Take The Plunge

American metaphors about entrepreneurship are pretty scary.

Take the plunge.

Go out on my own.

Freelance — that one’s actually medieval.

And, these metaphors mislead would-be entrepreneurs all the time. That’s because no one actually works for him or herself. If you have clients, you are running a business. You are not on your own. You work with and for them.

Entrepreneurship is not a one-way leap into the unknown — at least, not for successful entrepreneurs. One of the key indicators of success, according to the Kaufmann Foundation, which researches entrepreneurship, is carving out a niche in an industry that you already know — and that already knows you.

Soft-focus self-employment of the sort described in Photoshopped terms in glossy magazines is just as real as the models in the accompanying stock photos of business women (all in their suits, still, I see).  The real key to success is building on the insight, contacts, and experience you have in the industry where you are currently employed as a staffer.

But…how to lay out the stepping stones to transition from staff to entrepreneur? You can gain some direction for engineering this transition in my book, The Career Lattice.  But I found that people needed the strategies in the book translated to a recipe, as it were.

That recipe is presented in an in-depth workshop, “Building Your Career: Lattice From Staff to Freelance,” which will be held on Saturday, May 2, in New York at the annual conference of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. The same workshop will be held on June 10, 2015, at Interlochen, the arts college just south of Traverse City, MI.

Join us as we plot your transition from the cubicle farm to self-direction, flexible days, and career growth determined by the goals you set and the clients you win and keep. I look forward to meeting you!


Don’t Flush Away $7,500

Can your organization afford to toss $7,500 to the wind and blindly hope it results in an enhanced reputation?

I didn’t think so. But if you gin up a standard press release — a $7,500 process — and then spend another $750 to blast it out to an uncaring internet — you may as well shred it and drop the confetti from an airplane, for all the good it will do you.

The hard costs of producing a decent release include collaboration, legal review, and integrating search-engine-friendly terms designed to anchor search results, according to marketing consultant Fred Godlash.

And all that’s great. But if your message isn’t memorable and share-able, it’s also a waste.

The key to a press release that sparks coverage by media and industry influencers is to join a conversation that people already care about.

Really, that’s it. Nobody cares about your company’s 37th anniversary. Nobody cares that your company had a booth at a trade show. Nobody really cares that your executive spoke on a panel.

They don’t care because such messages are about you. And when you use a press release to say what you want to say, you miss the chance to say what people want or need to hear.

There’s No Crying in Crisis Communications

Well, not in public, anyway.

But the very nature of crisis communication is that you’re reacting to an unplanned event. By definition, you can’t plan for the actual crisis. But you can have at the ready a response plan.

As you frame your crisis communication plan, consider the whole spectrum of stakeholders with whom you must communicate. That’s what I advise in this recent story in The Network Journal:  business partners, suppliers, vendors and their influencers are just as important as the public, employees and customers.

Media training needs to pivot around messaging techniques that enable you to rise to any occasion — crisis or not. You can’t memorize ‘talking points’ in advance. But you can create a grid of key audiences so you can quickly develop messages — using the proven Wilson-Taylor approach, of course — appropriate for each.



Has Anyone Heard of You?

Don’t believe your mother: Your work doesn’t speak for itself. Cultivating your reputation depends on one thing: what others think. Here are three ways to juice word-of-mouth:

  • Support others’ reputations on social media. Like them and they’ll like you back. Can you cash ‘likes’ at the bank? No. But people are more likely to do business with folks they know, and when your positive reputation precedes you, that’s one less obstacle to building rapport.
  • Comment on others’ blogs and on articles at well-read publications in your industry and in your profession. Then you can post links to the original work as well as your comment. You’ve affiliated with someone whose point of view you admire. That reflects well on you.
  • Be responsive to journalists, even when you are starting with stories that have local reach. Journalists mine each others’ work for leads. Don’t underestimate the value of building local relationships.

Get started with your media outreach strategy with the tips in this Use the News article that just ran in American Building Today. See that? You’re more interested in reading more because you’re wondering what American Building Today ‘liked’ enough to publish. That’s how it’s done!

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.


Why News Editors Prefer Women Sources

The bad news is that, according to 2012 Status of Women in the U.S. Media  report just released by the Women’s Media Center,  women are chronically under-represented as news sources.  Globally, women are the subject of only 24% of all news stories, and women are the prime ‘newsmaker’ sources for only 23% of all stories.

But that’s good news for organizations that are trying to get their messages out through media interviews. News editors are acutely aware of this gender disparity and actively search for women sources for stories. The more male-dominated the category, the more pressure there is to include women’s voices. Women in technology, finance, business and sports have a very good chance of being quoted or featured in a story if they can deliver usable quotes.

That’s why women are an organization’s secret weapon for reaching their audiences through media interviews. If you can, offer up a prepared female source for an interview. Chances are greater she’ll be interviewed and be quoted in the story. The same message carried by a man has to compete with all those other male sources to make it past all the hurdles of journalistic sorting and editing.

The report also outlined how women are pretty much outnumbered in media organizations, at pretty much every level.  Women are 73.5% of journalism and mass communication graduates, and represent a respectable proportion of mid-level editors and directors, but very few women at at senior levels.

Here’s how the math plays out. Women are:

  • 40.5% of news editors (that’s up from 37.3% in 2001)
  • 64.2% of television news producers
  • 28.4% of televisio news directors
  • 11.4% of sports news editors


Me? Trust You?

Trust is one of those dynamics that’s impossible to measure…until you’ve lost it.

That’s why we appreciate the effort that public relations firm Edelman devotes to its annual Trust Barometer.  The barometer measures the credibility of institutions, spokespeople and sources. If your trust is high or rising, you can accelerate it through smart messaging for media interviews. If your trust is low or dropping, you are being set up for a crash course in crisis communication. (Of course, the nature of crises is that you can’t predict them…but that’s a topic better left to crisis communication diva Jane Jordan-Meier.

Here are the highlights:

Most trusted industries:

  • Technology
  • Automotive
  • Telecommunications

Least trusted industries:

  • Insurance companies
  • Banks
  • Financial Services

What factors build a trustworthy organizational reputation?

  • High quality goods and services – 69%
  • Transparent and honest business practices — 65%
  • Company I can trust – 65%
  • Treats employees well – 63%
  • Communicates frequently – 55%

And, what types of sources are viewed as most credible?

  • Academic or expert – 70%
  • Technical expert within company  – 64%
  • Industry/financial expert – 53%
  • CEO – 50%

Counterintuitively, one of the strongest trends for the 2011 Barometer was the rebound in CEO trust and the erosion of  man-on-the-street employees. Looks like at least half the public is willing to cede some credibility out of the box to the 1%, after all.