Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Is Your Elevator Speech Going Up or Down?

It’s not an uncommon expectation to be told you need to have an “elevator speech” for whatever it is you’re trying to pitch / represent. While I certainly agree with this, I think it’s important to view this as a building block for a potentially more comprehensive discussion based on the circumstances. And like most things in business, it takes a little planning to get there.

*** For those not familiar with the phrase, an elevator speech refers to what you could tell someone about something in the normal time you would be an elevator together, so think 30-60 seconds.

What it is: a succinct, confident summary of the overall mission / objective.

What it is not: a hesitant set of details relevant to the mission / objective.

I believe in writing about what you know, so I’ll use the example of my experience at the LIVESTRONG Foundation.  When someone asks me, “Who do you work for?” I can say:

"I work for the LIVESTRONG Foundation. We’re a charity that helps anyone with cancer, right now - for free - and that includes the patient, family members, and friends. We know that cancer research is important, and thankfully lots of people are working in this area.  But if you’re diagnosed today with something like lung cancer, being told there might be an effective treatment for you in about 10 years isn’t much help. So we focus on what can be done right now, in multiple ways."
That’s about 20 seconds of time (yes, I checked) and summarizes our mission and differentiates our organization from others. That could be the beginning and end of the interaction, and the person who asked now has a very basic understanding about the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Hopefully it sets the stage for wanting to learn more, and this leads to the concept of the elevator speech being your foundation for more information.

*** During my military career I worked for a Colonel who told us that when it came time to brief him, be prepared to be at least 3 questions deep. He wanted us to try and anticipate what he might ask; not only making us more efficient in the briefing process (vs. saying, "Sorry, sir, I don’t know that but I’ll get back to you ASAP.") and also getting us to think like an executive.

Using my previous example, some questions to anticipate might be:
  • What are your key programs at LIVESTRONG?
  • What’s your annual budget, and how much of that goes to services?
  • Why don’t you fund clinical cancer research?
  • Whatever really happened with Lance Armstrong?
  • What’s next for the Foundation?

And having thought out the answers to these questions, you can also use them for a more proactive approach / structure if the person or group wants to know more, such as in an interview or giving a speech:

Overarching theme:
The LIVESTRONG Foundation helps people with cancer, right now.
  • Point 1 – Survivorship and Navigation services
  • Point 2 – Where the money goes
  • Point 3 – Our future partnership with the UT Medical School

This idea of having an effective elevator speech is necessary in practically all facets of business, from sales / fundraising, to conferences / presentations, and communications / marketing. But it is not enough on its own; it’s your foot-in-the-door building block to having a more engaged and meaningful conversation.  Good luck, now get out there and practice! Ciao for now – Cb…

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Social Media Content Cocktail Party

I’ll bet you wouldn’t have a hard time responding if I asked you to list out some common posts on Social Media that drive you crazy: vague emotional statements, random requests for money, irrelevant family photos, miscellaneous cats chasing lasers, and on and on. So the Big Question is: what can we do to improve the quality of the posts we are contributing and receiving?

I think it comes down to two key things: contributing to the conversation, and targeting the right audience. Let’s go to a cocktail party, shall we?
  • Imagine you’re in a medium sized room filled comfortably with a group of diverse people - some are close friends, some are colleagues, while others are friends of friends. After about 5 minutes one of the folks you’re not familiar with stands up on a coffee table, holds up some hors d'oeuvres for one and all to see, and proclaims in a loud voice, “So awesome! – nom, nom, nom.”

Anyone feeling a touch awkward right about now? And yet this type of scenario is played out (thankfully virtually) many, many times a day in our Social Media communities. Here’s what we can do to change it:

Content creators – you have something to say, and that’s great. I would offer that with a little forethought to your content and organizational skills, your contribution would be much more appreciated. I’ve often used this example: I don’t care if you just had the best grilled-cheese sandwich in your life; however, if you can tell me that AND where you got it, now we’re talking.

Likewise, the group of people you are sharing this information with is equally important. Using the previous example, there’s a big difference between sharing this grilled-cheese information with your global contacts versus a pared down list of locals who might actually be able to go and get said sandwich. Conversely, you might be a member of a forum for awesome sandwiches around the world, and this is completely relevant.

*** A word about groups and filters – you probably don’t use them enough. Most of the popular SM sites have many ways you can create subsets of your overall audience. A few of the most common are Facebook Lists and Groups, as well as Twitter Lists and Collections. Some are incoming and outgoing (FB) while others are just incoming (T). And of course you can self-filter by joining groups and forums where the specific subject matter, and sub-topics, are known.

Content digesters – simply put: you get what you ask for, and with the advent of big data curation, plus a whole lot more courtesy of your friends at the various SM sites. The point here is that the more selective and organized you are, the better the SM experience you can expect.  It starts with who you follow / friend, and then afterwards it’s up to you to organize them into relevant groups as outlined above. I take this a step further and bookmark these groups so I can go quickly to them and avoid the chatter. 

And finally, it’s OK to delete / hide input you don’t want to receive. I’ve even had to temporarily turn off content from sources I value when they go into live update mode I’m not interested in, or barrage me with marketing info. It’s your call.
  • Now let’s go back to our cocktail party. Instead of the cringe-worthy example I proposed, instead imagine this scenario: after about 5 minutes that same person walks over to the 2 hosts, plate in hand, and tells them that these hors d'oeuvres are some of the best they have ever had, and thanks them sincerely (and definitely leaves out the “nom, nom, nom” part!). A few others close by hear this, and they are appreciative as well. Appropriate contribution accomplished.

Creating and digesting meaningful content is not only possible; it should be your online goal.  All it takes is a little thought and organization on both ends – go make it so. Ciao for now, we’ll talk again soon – Cb…