ditch-jargon-speak-smart

As a professional communicator and nearly obsessive people observer, one thing I often find myself doing at events is listening in on conversations between individuals and groups of people. Some may call this eavesdropping; I like to think of it as homework.

While it may seem totally creepy, the rationale is simple: Through these types of observations, I gain knowledge and insights about the evolution of language, culture, business, and inadvertently modern-day communication.

More specifically, I hear the jargon that emerges as we attempt to codify language within certain industries.

Bryan E. Jones, VP of marketing North America and the Dell, makes the point that jargon is typically used for two reasons: “It’s either a shorthanded way to speak to colleagues or others in your industry (which is fine); or it’s a shield that says, ‘What I do is hard and complex and I want you to stay on your side of the line.'”

Anthony Ray, aka Sir Mix-A-Lot, puts it a little more bluntly: “People think it makes them sound smarter.” He adds: “It’s not just the tech industry that’s guilty of this. It happens in every industry under the sun.”

As a longtime entrepreneur (Appboy) and investor (T5 Capital), Mark Ghermezian has seen his fair share of jargon: “I understand why it exists, and there are definitely some environments where pulling out your ‘industry speak’ will work; but it’s all about context and knowing your audience.”

In terms of the technology and business landscape, and in order to decode and rethink some of the most overused and overrated terms, I asked Jones, Ray, and Ghermezian to give me their take.

ditch jargon speak smartHere are their thoughts on some of the most pervasive catch phrases, what they really mean, and suggestions on what we should we be saying instead.

1. “Social selling.”

This something I’ve been hearing rumblings of for the past year. “Social selling as opposed to unsocial selling is pretty ridiculous if you think about it,” says Jones. “As if we would ever say to a customer: ‘Hi, I don’t want to get to know you or your business, but I would like you to buy things from me. Is that OK?'”

Let’s stick to simply “selling” coupled with a genuine interest in our respective buyers, shall we?

2. “Disruption” and “paradigm.”

These two are like the startup world’s Bobbsey Twins: completely different, each with their own adventures, but often finding themselves together at last. Notes Ray candidly: “It goes a little something like this: Company X will completely disrupt the industry and totally shift the current paradigm.”

What to say instead?

“How about just telling us how you’re ‘different,’ and what real-world problem you are trying to solve,” says Ray. “Using jargon is often a cover up for fluff and truly smart folks will see straight through it.”

3. “Data-driven insights.”

“In my opinion, there’s no reason to track data that’s not going to benefit the customer relationship,” remarks Jones. “We have a tendency to want to track every detail, but it’s our responsibility to take a step back and question the utility of it all.”

In other words, we could think of this as “information that will enable us to make better decisions around the customer.” While “data-driven insights” sounds super smart, it doesn’t mean anything short of context and application.

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PR-measurement-challenge

Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Imagine trying to invent a light bulb with a match.

Or cure malaria with a rampant mosquito.

The “problem” with PR has always been, and will always be, understanding how on earth the investments made in it map to quantifiable business outcomes; and ultimately, how PR efforts affect the customer, who in turn are the ones supporting the business.

In other words: Measurement.

Today, companies are largely data-driven, and this requires us to look at solving the PR measurement problem in a different way then we did five or ten years ago. If we attempt to measure PR at the level where it was created, in the messaging and communication tactics themselves, we will fail miserably because we are missing a huge piece of the pie.

We cannot measure PR success by headline impressions, or story placements, or (God forbid) advertising value equivalencies. These outcomes do not get us any closer to solving the real problem, which is answering the question of “how does this translate to business value, and what is the customer getting out it?” Instead, this current way of thinking pulls us back to the source of the PR activity itself, which isn’t a metric. It’s an output from a specified task.

PR Measurement Inquiry

In order to understand the “what shall we measure?” behind PR measurement, we must first begin by asking the most accurate questions which will get us closer to solving the problem.

The question isn’t:

What publication will give me the most headline impressions?

Rather, it is:

What publication has the highest probability of reaching my target audience and getting them to take some sort of action?

Or:

What publication will tell my story in a compelling way so that customers understand my value proposition?

Once the appropriate questions have been posed, PR measurement outcomes should be quantified using metrics like:

#1 – Do customers understand what value we offer through the stories we are telling? >> Are they sharing stories, engaging with content, or commenting on the posts?

#2 – Are customers (or potential customers) taking actions that signal they are interested in purchasing our product or service? >> Are they visiting our website, downloading materials, signing up for demos, or making an actual purchase?

#3 – Are people talking about us positively? If not, what are they saying? >> What is the tone of the reactions to our stories and how do we collect important feedback?

#4 – How do we compare to innovators or incumbents in our space? >> What is our share of voice and power of voice and are we even on the competitive playing field?

Ultimately, PR is about listening carefully and telling stories in order to reach a particular audience or customer segment. Gone are the days when it was enough to wave around a story in the New York Times and say: “Look, we did it! Our job is done here.”

Instead, we are now armed with data that can get us closer to solving the problem of “how PR translates to value for the business.”

Achieving PR measurement resultsPR Measurement Technology

PR measurement technology solutions (of which there are many) are merely a conduit to solving the problem. You need them in order to automate activities that pull you (the PR professional) away from critical thinking, relationship building, storytelling, and strategic planning. But you also need to ensure that these technologies ask the correct questions to begin with in order to solve your problem.

If you have massive amounts of data but no real way to apply it, you are basically swimming up shit creek without a paddle. How do you ensure your PR measurement technology is going to empower you, rather than just create more work for you or arm you with big numbers and fancy pictures?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I getting access to information that I can’t find otherwise?
  2. Is this information allowing me to understand the impact of my PR efforts in a clear and concise manner?
  3. Does this technology provide me with insights that can help me make better decisions about future PR efforts?
  4. Do I feel empowered by this technology or am I confused and frustrated?

As we stand squarely at the center of an industry that is being driven – for better or worse – by new technological advancements, we are required to challenge the status quo, learn new modes and methods for our profession, and ultimately change “business as usual.”

In other words…we cannot solve the PR measurement problem at the same level where it was created: With PR. We must apply other areas of expertise (data science, analytics, etc.) in order to reach a solution.

6-sales-and-marketing-tactics-to-avoid

When you’re a busy entrepreneur, there’s nothing worse than having your time wasted. A lot of frustration can occur as a result of others’ carelessness and disregard for your busy schedule and crowded inbox.

Many sales and marketing professionals continually miss the mark when it comes to outreach practices. From sub-par sales pitches to irrelevant follow up emails, these misfires can result in radio silence, bad word of mouth, or even worse, lost revenue.

So how can you be sure you’re not wasting a potential customer’s valuable time (or worse: pissing them off!) while still accomplishing your sales or marketing agenda?

First and foremost, take a good hard look at every communication you send through a “utility lens”. Is what you’re sending actually helpful or is it just adding to the noise?

Next, think about everything you’ve encountered that secretly made you seethe inside…then do the opposite. You’ll be amazed what you uncover when you turn a critical eye to your own experiences.

Since we’re big believers of putting our money where our mouth is, we decided to cull together 6 sales and marketing tactics we’ve recently endured. Real talk: we’ve experienced EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE at some point in the last 60 days.

If you’re the one calling the shots in terms of sales and marketing content, or you are squarely positioned in front of the customer, do yourself a favor and avoid these at all costs…

1. Distracting pop ups during demos

I think it’s awesome your team does Happy Hour on Wednesday at 4pm, but please keep calendar reminders, text messages, or other distracting notifications from popping up during a screen share demo. It’s unprofessional and let’s be real, I’m more apt to be nosy about your social life than pay attention to your product. Don’t let digital distractions steal the show.

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Past-present-future-of-PR-with-Sally-Falkow

When it comes to PR prowess and expertise, there are not many individuals who possess both in droves like Sally Falkow. As president of PRESSfeed and one of the industry’s leading minds on new technology and digital PR, Ms. Falkow brings over 30 years of PR experience to the table.

Sally Falkow headshotSal (as she often signs her emails) generously offered to sit down with me at her beautiful home in southern California for a candid conversation about the past, present, and future of PR.

Needless to say, the takeaways were endless.

Here’s just a sampling of our dialogue, which most definitely included talks about what happens when you eat too much cheese, real time anagrams, and a Rosetta Stone case study guaranteed to blow your mind.

The entire interview can be heard below. I suggest streaming it as you make dinner this evening or book marking it for an upcoming flight.

Sally Falkow Notable Quotables

  • You cannot approach PR like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Your whole content strategy should be informed by analytics. Analytics allow you to know what is needed and wanted.
  • PR absolutely must embrace the PESO approach (Paid, Earned Shared Owned). Start with Owned (produce the content). Owned gets Earned (picked up by media). Amplify and push content with Paid, and then it will be Shared (social engagement).
  • Whatever you’re doing in PR, it has to tie back to the business goals. It’s about outcomes, not outputs.
  • PR goals cannot be vague (e.g. raise awareness, get more FB likes). They must be measurable. Identify where you are now, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there.
  • Not measuring PR is like playing soccer with no goalposts.
  • 80% of firms are starting to spend more on digital skills, but there aren’t enough people with those skills because most students are still being taught very traditional PR.
  • You can’t teach someone to be a brilliant strategist, but you can certainly become a more critical thinker than you are today. People can learn to play chess, which requires critical and strategic thinking.
  • You need to understand the basics of coding, and the basics of the Internet. Otherwise you won’t know what’s coming or what’s possible.
  • All PR people should find one or two sources that they read to stay up to speed with all of the changes.

You can soak up more of Sally’s infinite wisdom by visiting her fantastic blog.

7-deadly-business-sins

As an entrepreneur, it is both a privilege and a tremendous responsibility to build a company–often from mere ideation all the way to IPO.

A successful and fulfilling life, much like a business, offers many roads by which to travel. Some are filled to the brim with heartache yet, miraculously, overwhelming joy. While others fall prey to the fiery pit of misery and self-effacing failure. Truth be told, most of the outcomes have to do with the choices we make; and subsequently how we choose to react to things that are thrown our way.

So, if you’re going to spend half your adulthood building a business, how can you avoid turning both your soul and your life’s work over to the devil? Because as much as modern culture–obsessed with relativism and moral indifference–will tell you the two can be compartmentalized, I beg to differ.

Deadly business sins#1–Unconscious bias

We do not choose how, when, where, and in which environment we grow up. But as we mature into self-actualized adults, it is in our best interest to question beliefs and biases we have developed about people, places, and things. Fortunately for us, we don’t live in the 1950s anymore in terms of many of the “isms”–racism, sexism, you name it. It’s not perfect, but we have evolved. Subsequently, providing a platform for discourse about the modern day workplace, and how our “unconscious bias” affects our ability to grow and thrive, is one of the most important ways to avoid the killer behavior of building a one-dimensional company. Kool-aid was always bad for you.

The antidote? A variety of professional training resources exist along the lines of “diversity in the workplace” and “uncovering hidden bias.” Do yourself and your organization a favor and invest in one or two of these trainings. If you’re a tiny startup, then (in the very least) circulate reading materials or talk openly about how to avoid unconscious bias as you grow and scale your company.

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