What if I told you that it took me ten years to understand what I was teaching? It looked like I was teaching people how to write, but what I was actually doing, I realized late in the game, was teaching writers how to peel away the layers of their story and dig for something more true, more authentic and just plain honest. And while all that digging and examining is good for writing, it’s also excellent for living. When you chip away at the façade of your story, and you lay down one true word, and then the next true word you will eventually become stripped down and naked to yourself. And when you see yourself like that, there’s no turning back. You may, as many of my students have done, begin the process of changing your life.
I’m a process person. I’m all about getting words onto a page; messy, ugly, imperfect, glorious words. And to do that you need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
For me, it’s not about what I’m writing or whether I like what I’m writing that’s important. That the pen inks like a river across the page, that I have the courage not to know what the next word is, or the word after that…that I keep going anyway. That’s the spirit, that’s what makes a sound turn into a song. I might only be able to hear bits at first – the merest sound of a refrain – but I’ll swirl it around in my mouth, taste it, roll it on my tongue and Wa La, I start singing. That’s how I make a song. The important part is not that I make a perfect song, but that I have created a channel for song sounds to come through – which means I can make more sounds and more songs.
It’s the same for writing. When I put these words on this page I didn’t know where I was going or what would come next, but if I’ve become a student of anything, it’s learning to not love what’s coming through me and to keep going anyway. That’s just part of the creative process. If I turned back every time I felt lost, or if I judged what I was doing, I wouldn’t make anything. I have to let go of perfection if I want to be a maker of things, because it’s not about the thing that I make, it’s about the making, and I want to be a maker for a long, long time.
Want to be a story maker this summer? Laurie’s 5-week e Course, Telling True Stories starts on June 17th. Laurie is an amazing teacher. Once you start telling the unadorned truth it changes everything. If you want to be a maker of things join Laurie in Telling True Stories – and watch your life change on the page, off the page.
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So many people call themselves thought leaders now – but they aren’t. To be a thought leader takes some doing. It’s not so much about being original as it is about putting things together in an original way. Thought leadership marketing comes down to packaging your knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences, and yes, your thoughts in a way that makes you media worthy and worth listening to by your audience — a huge audience.
Follow these nine steps to get going on the path to be respected, heard and reverberated out into the world to become the very definition of thought leadership.
1. Cultivate an opinion.
Thought leaders have opinions. They shape a story. They position facts in a context. They make statistics come alive by interpreting them. We value people who give us perspective on things that matter most in our culture today.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and their first woman to sit on their board, said of the differences about how men and women respond to taking credit for their success, “If you ask men why they did a good job, they’ll say, ‘I’m awesome. Obviously. Why are you even asking?’ If you ask women why they did a good job, what they’ll say is someone helped them, they got lucky, they worked really hard.”
To follow her lead take a look at your field or industry and find something that irks or inspires you and start to formulate some opinions about it. Folk singer Joan Baez said, “I’ve never had a humble opinion. If you’ve got an opinion, why be humble about it?” Thought leaders aren’t afraid to voice a strong opinion. The media seek guests who have opinions that help us ponder what’s important.
2. Make a prediction.
Can you see the future? Look into your private crystal ball and share it in a press release. Over twenty years ago I told my literary agent that getting on TV and grasping at fame was going to become a national obsession. I wrote up a book proposal about how to get on TV, supplied anecdotes from my own experience as a publicist and media coach, and gathered statistics to show that this was going to be a hot new trend. He pitched my idea to all the top New York publishing houses.
9 was you can be a thought leader
Alas, the traditional book industry didn’t buy it. It was too far ahead of its time. But guess what? Didn’t that prediction come true? Practically everyone is now scrabbling for his 15 seconds of fame. New reality TV shows are popping up every year. The Fishbowl Effect has become our current reality where your iPhone video can make national news.
Know that when you make a prediction you’re intrinsically ahead of your time – and most likely will get disapproval and pushback. No worries. Time will bear you out. The important thing is to stand by your word, continue to accumulate evidence and keep touting your prediction during your media appearances. Thought leadership marketing is a process, not a one time event.
3. Shape thinking.
Keep up on current events. Thought leaders can comment on national radio and TV and in print on events as they happen. They are the first people the media call to put a story in perspective, to help shape thinking. They are often the people who pose the questions to ponder. They don’t necessarily have all the answers.
What they have is a point of view that helps others to consider consequences, options, and directions to difficult or perplexing problems. This type of thought leadership definition is organic and evolves naturally as the thought leader continues to hone his thoughts and message.
Robert Reich, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, often comments on political and social problems such as how public higher education is being starved which will result in a shrinking middle class. His clearly expressed and statistically well-supported opinions are regularly heard on MSNBC and NPR. He’s a great example of someone who is personal, energetic, and captivating. I’m particularly endeared by how he bounces up when he can’t contain his energy as he delivers his message.
Your delivery and demeanor is every bit as important as the words you speak and can influence people subconsciously. Thought leaders are aware of how they are being perceived and work on refining their inner consciousness and outer appearance.
How can you start to shape a conversation that’s at the heart of your business or industry and at the same time reflect who you are and what you think?
4. Have a philosophy.
Have you noticed how many people have written a manifesto? It’s kind of becoming de rigueur. But many aren’t worth reading. They are trite or light. Your audience wants to know not only what you believe, but what you believe in. They want a philosophy that dives into their deepest longings — things that they feel that haven’t been expressed directly in a way that they can understand.
Manifestos are a sort of formalized philosophy. Wikipedia defines philosophy as “In more casual speech, by extension, ‘philosophy’ can refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”.
Brene Brown thought leader in thoughts, words, action
During every media appearance you want to make sure that your philosophy comes through loud and clear in a story, vignette or example so your audience has a sense of who you are.
One of my favorite sayings is by Gandhi, “My life is my message.” And another one close to my heart: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
When everything you do, say, are and think from your words to your website is in alignment™ then you’re completely congruent and your life becomes your message. This is what I have my clients and sound bite course participants put into practice before ever sending a press release out to the media. Often publicity hopefuls want to rush their offer to the media before all the pieces are in place. And that’s a big mistake. A reputation is easy to ruin and hard to regain.
In her media appearance on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, Brene Brown told a story about her daughter, Ellen. To my best recollection she said that Ellen’s teacher called her up to tell her she could tell whose daughter Ellen was by how she handled an incident in art class. As I remember it the teacher said, “You’re messy.” Ellen sat up straight and said, “No, I’m not messy. I’ve just made a mess.”
Brown told this story to illustrate a point about self-talk and not calling ourselves names or saying derogatory things about the core of us, but to focus on behavior instead of being. It shows you that Brown is walking her talk by transmitting her values and behaviors to her daughter and it gives you a sense of who she is. Your philosophy should shine through your stories in a natural way in every media appearance.
5. Spearhead a movement.
My client, journalist and author David Sheff who wrote the #1 New York Times best-selling book Beautiful Boy, (which later was turned into a movie) and wrote his second book called Clean, Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy. The title itself is an opinion. Sheff thinks that addiction is the worst problem in the U.S. today. You can tell immediately that he’s serious about this topic and wants to make an impact on this epidemic.
On his website he has a link to sign a petition to send to President Obama to end the war on drugs and declare war on addiction. Right next to that he has a link to an organization called Brian’s Wish to pull people together into a national movement to end addiction.
Thought leaders start movements
Sheff believes that we’re fighting the wrong war and he is making his opinion known – backed with five years of research and facts. This is thought leader marketing at its best.
When I first wrote this piece he had just started his book tour and has already been on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, NPR’s Fresh Air and Weekend Edition to discuss his views and to shift American opinion with the facts, stories and statistics in his book, speeches, and media appearances.
I media trained him to insure that he incorporated his most important points into every interview since he especially wanted to talk about this new movement.
We also wanted to make sure he could stand firm on his controversial beliefs when challenged. We practiced worst-case scenario questions and surprise ones too so he could maintain his equanimity and stay on point during each media appearance.
The media is interested in people who have inspired a movement. It shows that the topic has enduring value and interest if a substantial number of people have joined it. Spearheading a movement is so much more interesting than just claiming you have a big following. A movement shifts thought into action to create real and lasting change.
6. Be controversial.
Another client of mine, Dr. Sara Gottfried, a Harvard trained integrative physician, science nerd, yogini and author of the New York Times best-sellers The Hormone Cure, The Hormone Rest Diet, Younger and Brain Body Diet, peaks out on the overuse of pharmaceuticals for peri-menopausal and menopausal women. She says of women dealing with hormonal issues such as depression, lack of sleep, weight gain, mind fog, low sex drive, “You won’t find the answer in the bottom of a pill bottle.”
Gottfried takes a stand against the practice many physicians have to medicate their patients to appease the problem without seeking the core issue or root cause that’s the source of the complaint. Instead she advocates lifestyle shifts: “How to think, eat, move and supplement.”
Thought leaders invite controversy
Once you take a strong stance you can expect to be pitted against someone with the opposite view during your radio or TV interviews – because friction makes for good TV. Audiences love to see people who have opposing views that might even provoke a tiff, because sparks fly and unexpected things happen — which equal good ratings.
If you want to be controversial you also need to be prepared to be challenged and able to stay on message with equanimity and grace no matter how forceful or hostile the host or other guests become.
7. Play both sides.
While you can choose to be controversial, you can also choose to appoint yourself the voice of reason and examine both sides of an issue. Susan Freinkel, a journalist who wrote the book, Plastic: a Toxic Love Story, began an experiment that turned into an investigation of how plastic affects our behavior, our environment and our lives. The premise: To go one day without touching anything plastic. What she discovered? It was impossible — starting with her toothbrush and toilet.
Instead of taking one side to the story – plastic is evil. She explored how plastic is both a boon and a bane to the way we live in a New York Times Op Ed piece. In one sentence she played both sides of the topic: “In other words, plastics aren’t necessarily bad for the environment; it’s the way we tend to make and use them that’s the problem.”
Op Ed pages thrive on people who take a strong stand on one side of an issue as well as those who can shed light on both sides in an intelligent, thoughtful or provocative way.
In our media coaching sessions together Freinkel and I focused on stories about how certain plastics are negatively effecting our health, children, land and seas, and also which plastics are safe and useful and help save lives.
Great thought leaders can mediate both sides of an issue
On Fresh Air, she discussed both sides of this fiery debate with a level head. In other media appearances she backed up her findings with solid statistics and also by moving fascinating facts into the conversation like: “The average person is never more than three feet from something made of plastic.” And, “In 1960, the average American consumed 30 pounds of plastics a year. Today, just 50 years later, Americans consume on average 300 pounds a year.” Here is something a bit startling: “Just because a plastic is made of plants doesn’t make it ‘green.’”
By moderating the positives and negatives, by sharing information not widely known and educating us, and by using stories and statistics, you can become a trusted neutral source for change.
8. Coin a term.
During her appearance on The Ricki Lake show Dr. Sara Gottfried reached into her prop basket and pulled out a gleaming diamond Tiara, put it on her head and offered it to Lake, who said she didn’t want to take it off. Gottfried called taking uninterrupted time for yourself, Tiara Time.™ It’s catchy and easy to remember. Can’t you just imagine saying to your BFF, “I need some Tiara Time™ right NOW.”
Your vision is how you see the world in the future. It’s what you’re aspiring to in the big picture. It incorporates how you are going to serve. For example, I’d like to see Aikido, a type of Japanese Martial Arts, which I’ve been training in for eight years, incorporated into every school in the world.
9 steps to become a thought leader is about self-mastery
The principles of Aikido, The Way of Harmony, work as a way to polish the spirit, to turn lead into gold. The founder, Morihei Ueshiba says, “True victory is self-victory; let that day arrive quickly!”
I believe that, through this practice we can eradicate bullying and practice respect, compassion, and self-mastery on a daily basis in our hearts, homes, schools, and communities.
My dream is to combine physical self mastery with verbal and emotional mastery so every child in the world can: Speak your mind. Stand your ground. Sing your song™.
Declaring your vision during a media interview moves it out in a big way into the public eye. Not only have you taken a stand but you give thousands or millions of people a chance to take a stand with you. That in itself creates powerful change.
The point of being a thought leader isn’t just to get more media appearances, more sales, more followers, or more money. It’s an opportunity to make great shifts inside yourself and out in the world.
So if you aspire to taking yourself and your business forward in small or big ways, then focus on these nine things. And even if it isn’t in your nature to be on national TV or to gain an international platform, just pondering these points will give you clarity for your business as you grow and change.
If you’d like to schedule a free 15 minute time to talk about you becoming a thought leader go here.
Have you reviewed your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, website/blog, and Biznik profiles lately to make sure the stories you are sharing are accurate, current, and compelling?
I changed my profiles to reflect a keyword-rich headline two weeks ago and welcomed two speaking engagements and a new joint venture conversation almost immediately. Just imagine what bounty awaits for you when you revisit YOUR online profiles.
Quick Tip: describe yourself in a headline statement with relevant key words within. “Networking Expert Brandy Mychals,” “Boston Elder Care Expert Michael Bloom,” “Business Bio Expert” and “Get Known to Get Paid Mentor” are ways to describe each expert that offer potential clients and the search engines descriptive labels that deliver impact for all.
As the New Year gets off to a fast start, this is a useful exercise, especially if you want to attract more of the right clients faster and more easily. Try it, and share YOUR successes as they unfold in perfect timing to welcome a shiny New Year.
Business bio expert and get know to get paid mentor Nancy Juetten shows mission-driven experts how to get seen, heard, celebrated, and COMPEN$ATED for their expert status. Nancy created Bye-Bye Boring Bio to guide service professionals, speakers, authors, coaches, and those serious about earning expert status to prepare and share their stories so they can Get Known to Get Paid. Nancy’s clients describe her as self-esteem in a can. She sprays it and fabulous things about you are in the air for everyone to see. You feel better, potential clients find you more appealing, and you look and sound like a professional. Just like that.
Join us for a free webinar where you can get Nancy’s help ON THE SPOT for your bio DURING this call. Be there LIVE to give your bio a quick makeover – which can lead to big results.
We were all sitting in Jack Canfield’s living room on a huge couch in his home in Santa Barbara surrounded by giant gems, crystals, artwork and views into the lush gardens reminiscent of Canfield’s beloved Hawaii. Canfield mentioned that he wanted a room where diplomats and leaders of countries as well as his family could feel comfortable. I love the idea that we were sitting on the same couch where those same leaders of countries had sat before us.
Each of us in his living room had won this mastermind day with Jack Canfield for being a top affiliate for his Bestseller Blueprint Program. In the room, brainstorming about our businesses, were some of the most successful Internet Marketers on the web today.
Bill and Steve Harrison led the discussion and asked us each to share something about our business that was working well that others could learn from. A fact about ourselves that no one knew. And then ask a question about our business to get feedback and help from Jack Canfield and the group. I’m going to share with you some of the things that happened in that room that will help make your book a best-seller.
1. Speak With Authority
“I’ve got one question, then I’ll tell you what to do,” one outspoken Internet Marketer said. We all laughed. And then we listened. He had already proven himself as someone who knew what he was talking about. Earlier he had kept us all in rapt attention with the measurement tools he employed to get the highest clicks to conversions as well as his mistakes that lead him to his success. Once you’ve proven that you have solid knowledge people trust what you have to impart. Best-selling books are written by voices who have proven methods and who can impart them in a simple and direct manner.
2. Talk the Language of Your Tribe
When one person in the room asked for advice about stopping slander many people offered solutions to help him let go of his resentment. But he would have none of it and got more and more red-faced and worked up over the unfairness of it all. He said he wanted justice as he filled the room with his fury. He wouldn’t accept anyone’s methods to make a shift until someone said about the slanderer, “F_ck him, then forgive him.”That worked.Why? He spoke the angry man’s language first. Then gave him what he needed to let it go. When you give advice speak the language of your audience so they can hear you. There’s a Sufi joke that goes like this: A tax collector fell in the river and couldn’t get out.. Many people gathered and tried to assist him. Even though was starting to drown he wouldn’t take anyone’s hand so they could pull him out. Mystified and alarmed the people rushed to get advice from the wise fool Nasrudin. He asked what the helpers were saying. “Give me your hand,” they said.
“Never ask a tax collector to “give” you anything,” said Nasrudin. Say, ‘take’ my hand,” which they did and got him safely out of the river.
The examples in a best-selling book need to address both the spoken and unspoken needs of their audience. Best-selling book authors understand the language of their tribe so they can tell them things that others can’t because they may be hard to hear or bear.
3. Tell Stories With Your Own Twist
When it was my turn to offer the factoid that no one knew about me to the group, I told a short story about an experience I had in college.When I was attending UC Berkeley I worked at Zellerbach Hall as an usher. One evening the great ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev came to perform and, in my naivete, I thought it would be lovely to invite him to tea. After his performance I went back stage and approached him. When I asked him to tea he just stared at me. I thought, well, Russian is his first language, perhaps he didn’t understand. So I asked again. This time he smirked. Not a word, just a smirk. That was my answer. The typical saying goes: Always ask for what you want. The worst that can happen is you get a “No.”“But that’s not the worst thing that can happen,” I said. “The worst thing isn’t even a word. It’s a smirk.”Canfield said, “Good story!” This story didn’t have the same ending we’ve heard before. No one expected anything to come after the “perceived” ending: The worst that can happen is you get a “No.”
We’ve all heard tons of advice – mostly unoriginal – except in the telling and with a twist. That’s what makes you, the best-selling author a unique storyteller – and thought leader – the surprising twist.
4. Put Butt to Seat, Words to Page
“I’ll tell you a secret to working less. Work less,” said one coach. We all sat stunned. Huh? It’s a similar statement to what made the Nike brand truly famous. “Just do it.” But how, people ask. I don’t have the time, others moan.This coach claimed that he only worked three hours a day (Less than Tim Ferriss!) by just allowing himself that time to get his work done. He then had to manage his time around those three hours instead of letting the minutiae of his day frizzle away his time.
Here is my version of his statement on how to write a best-selling book.
p style=”text-align: left; padding-left: 30px;”>Step one: But butt in seat. Step two: Put pen to page. Step three: Move pen without moving mind. Step four: Don’t stop. Step five: Rinse and repeat.
5. Write the Worst Sh_t in America.
Yes, give yourself permission to write the worst sh_t in America, advises best-selling author Anne Lamott, who told an audience recently that her sh_tty first drafts are just as sh_tty as yours. Believe it.You first have to write something in order to create a best-selling book. Editing comes later. I was talking to my client and colleague, Sharon Melnick, Ph.D. – business psychologist and stress resilience expert who has a new book out called Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure’s On, and she said that to try and write and edit at the same time is at cross purposes for your brain. These are two different functions that aren’t compatible when done simultaneously.
I know how hard it is to get words on a page so I’ll share a few secrets from my writing group.
First, we all follow Anne Lamott’s advice. So write without censoring yourself. When you don’t think you access the deep knowing that is available in the unconscious. This is the same process for creating sound bites. I advise my clients to just talk without pausing or thinking. I then search for the gold, mining the best phrases that come out naturally in the uncensored talking.
Then we follow Natalie Goldberg’s philosophy not to take your pen off the page. You keep moving your pen no matter what.
To do that you can write phrases like, “What I really want to say is….” What I don’t want to say is….” What I’ve hidden from you all along is….” “I am writing the worst sh_t in America….”
These phrases will keep your pen moving on the page. And yes, I suggest that you write by hand before typing your work into your computer. There is something that happens when you’re touching organic objects like paper that allows for a deeper connection to yourself and the world.
All of the brilliant Internet Marketers in that room had written the worst sh_t in America. Then they refined it and refined it again and again. But they weren’t afraid to do it. Or rather, their fear didn’t stop them. “Better done than perfect” is a good place to start.
Editing is not writing. Some of the best “writers” in this country are perceived as such because they have talented editors.
So write the worst sh_it in America – and then edit the heck out of it.
Advertisements for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday filled my inbox and jammed my mailbox. They were littered across my social media networks; they crowded the airwaves and even filtered into my online groups.
Everybody had something to pitch, hoping they’d end the year in the black and surely the White House said a prayer for a surge in spending to help economic growth.
As the first big shopping weekend of the holiday season drew near I pondered what I could possibly do, what could I offer with all the ads promising slashed prices and discounts galore.
What was a B2B to do?
I decided that I wouldn’t sell a thing. Instead I would give something away. I thought this unique selling proposition (USP) would definitely set me apart and stand out in the season’s raging sea of advertisements.
Earlier this year I hosted a marketing bootcamp; I covered eight marketing topics and decided to give away one of those sessions…Design 101. I bought a domain name, built a quick landing page and placed an ad on Facebook and put up a flyer in a few groups. This would be my test to see if this crazy idea would be worth expanding next Black Friday.
Here’s what happened
From November 23 to November 26 my Facebook business page saw likes increase by 5.5 percent. Not too bad given my ad’s parameters.
Twenty-four people signed up to receive the free session and 41 percent of those people had no previous engagement with my brand.
The jury is still out on conversions because those who took advantage of the free offer have a few more days to purchase the entire bootcamp at the discounted price. (It is the holidays and lots of people like to wait till the last minute.)
Will I do this again next year? Definitely. This campaign allowed people to experience my brand in a way typically not available to prospects. Forty-one percent of the people who requested the free session had never engaged with my brand previously.
Free stuff in general. Everyone usually has something they give away for free. It’s how we build our lists right? Amazingly, the other 59 percent of the people who took me up on my free offer were people who were familiar with my brand. To be quite honest I was shocked to see some of the names of the people who requested the session.
My blog is a great source of information, I have a business event list that I put out just to subscribers and other freebies but the session pulled in a different caliber of audience. Giving away something of value hands down seems to be the best draw. So it’s not just about giving away something for free, it’s about giving away something really good for free.
Closing the deal. Next year, I’ll definitely shorten the sales window, no more than a week after receiving the free session.
So that’s it. My USP for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday connected me to new members of my target audience and I was able to offer this group and even those familiar with my brand something they truly valued. I’ll call it a success even without my sales numbers which I’m sure will drive some in the C-suite absolutely nuts.
Known as The Marketing Stylist™, Lisa N. Alexander helps entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their businesses through strategic marketing and planning. Lisa describes this process as helping clients develop their WOW factor for their big marketing red carpet events. Web launches, advertising campaigns, social media marketing, new business launches are all big marketing events that require the expertise of a stylist and her clients love her work. Lisa is also an author, public speaker and was featured as a mom business with a “stellar” unique selling proposition.
By Susan Harrow, Media Coach & Author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul
Did I Just See You on Video?
If not, I should have.
Video this, video that. Video, video everywhere. Do you really need to have videos?
The answer may dismay you….
I’ve kind of avoided it as I thought it was just too much work. But you’ll see more from me on my new YouTube channel (more about another time).
After I talked to Steve Washer I got my rear in gear. Here’s why:
Video will more than double your conversion rates.
Video need not be expensive or terribly time-consuming.
Video works equally well for the tech savvy and technophobe.
Video can make you irresistible, as long as you know the ropes.
Video is the least expensive way to transform your message into a full-fledged brand.
I have to tell you, I’m jazzed. I know I can do this now, and so can you. And to get us started I’m inviting you to a wonderful new webinar by a video expert who makes it simple and doable: http://bit.ly/PBxAJF
In this dynamic 75 minutes you’re going to learn:
The 10 step never-lose formula for marketing videos that will bring hundreds of excited clients to your door.
Two subtle techniques that make you irresistible on camera…or off!
The 6 factors that bring any marketing video to life.
How to be your best self on camera without learning lines or reading from a script.
How to easily create your videos by yourself – even if you’re a technophobe.
When you should be the face of your business and when you should not.
By Susan Harrow, Media Coach & Author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul
Here’s the question people often wrestle with when promoting themselves or embarking on a publicity campaign. How do I gracefully move from private person public persona. This is as much about temperament as it is about the desire for a more “exposed” life. Hear what W.S. Merwin says and what author and speaker Sam Horn discovered when she met him.
Save your seat in a free telephone seminar this Wednesday, November 7th on what you need to know to begin landing such deals.
On the call, you’ll hear me interview my friend Brendon Burchard, an author and speaker who’s figured out some really ingenious ways to land corporate and non-profit promotional sponsorships and use them to fund his marketing efforts.
By Susan Harrow, Media Coach & Author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul
Nora Ephron had an uncanny way of answering super serious questions with her trademark humor. People often looked to her to be deep. And sometimes humor can be discounted as surface or superficial. But it wasn’t in her hands. Like the time she was asked for the best advice to keep love alive and she said, “Separate bathrooms.” I wonder how many marriages have been saved by that wisdom?
I recently heard a 2010 interview with her discussing her work and she said, “We all love to play that game, ‘What is your last meal’, but the truth is, my oldest friend who died, whom I’ve written about, got tongue cancer, and said to me, I’m not even going to be able to have my last meal.’ And the truth is none of us are going to be able to have our last meal because either we’ll be too sick to eat it, or we won’t know it’s our last meal. And we will make the mistake of having had a tuna melt.”
The interviewer asked her, “So is the lesson from that never have a tuna melt?”
“No”, Ephron said. “The lesson is have your last meal this weekend and have it all the time, because you know….” The audience applauded.
She took the banalities that we’ve all heard a thousand times, “Live in the moment” or “Live like today is your last day” and created a story of originality with specific details – her friend with tongue cancer. The tuna melt. This makes her stories come alive and make us think differently.
The next time you’re asked for your advice and are tempted to say, “Don’t give up.” Or, “Do something different.” Or, “Show your vulnerability.” Chuck that. Follow the footsteps of Nora Ephron and think about turning an old truth into a new phrase that will make us laugh and remember. Thanks for the Tuna Melt Nora.
By Susan Harrow, Media Coach & Author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul
Here’s the situation. You’re in an important job interview and your cell phone rings. Do you answer it? You’re asked a question about your former job that you despised, do you diss it? You feel pretty confident about yourself, do you brag? The answer to all three questions regarding job interviewing skills is “no” according to CareerBuilder.com. It might seem obvious how to ace a job interview, but it’s not always so.
Most adults who have a modicum of common sense might not make these mistakes, but for 15-25 year-olds I imagine it’s more the norm. Any one of these things can instantly disqualify you for a job. And inappropriate behavior and dress happen more often than you may think.
After interviewing thousands of people as a consultant for a major corporation for everything from account collections to senior management, I’ve heard a lot of tall tales and even fallen for a few. I’ve been surprised and alarmed by kooky behavior. I’ve fallen in love with candidates and taken an instant dislike to others. The ones I’ve been smitten by follow Oscar Wilde’s advice: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Beyond that sage advice what I’ve learned is there are certain sound bites, protocols and manners that are essential to move from candidate to employee without being slick or salesy.
The job interviewing skills that will help you most are:
1. Do your homework.
Think of this encounter as meeting your in-laws. You would want to know who loves lemon pie and who hates sports, so you would be adored, wouldn’t you? Same goes. Learn everything you can about the company, the position and the interviewer before you set foot in the potential employer’s office. When the time is right you can ask intelligent questions and know if the salary you’re offered is commensurate with the market.
2. Choose what stories you’ll tell. Everyone loves stories. Turn the highlights of your accomplishments into stories that have three components: 1) a situation or problem, 2) action, and 3) result. Think of the best success stories to illustrate the skills and talents needed for the particular job for which you’re interviewing. Or, give an example of when you overcame adversity. Both can be potent persuaders. I’ll never forget my interview with the first African American man to be hired at Disneyland. He brought me to tears with his story of transformation from gang member to social worker. When you give colorful, specific details that engage emotions, your interviewer will remember you and your story better. If he needs to convince anyone else you’re right for the job, he’s ready.
3. Prepare for the worst.
When asked the dreaded question “Tell me about yourself” be prepared to take your interviewer through a few choice stories that illustrate skills you’ll need for the specific job you’re applying for. Get a friend or colleague to ask you worst case scenario questions, including illegal ones like, “Have you ever been arrested?” For “What if” questions feel free to clarify them with, “What I think you’re asking me is…” and then launch into one of the stories you’ve prepared that answers the real question.
For questions about your worst qualities like “What is your biggest weakness” use the “kiss, kill, kiss” technique—Start with a positive statement, insert the negative in the middle, and then end with the positive action you took to change the situation for the better. If you know that your potential employer will have questions (like who will take care of your kids if you have to work late) address these concerns before you’re even asked.
4. Prepare for the best.
Skilled interviewers use a technique called “behaviorally based” interviewing which means that past behavior predicts future success. These types of questions focus on how you’ve handled “failures” or difficult situations as well as successes. You’ll be expected to demonstrate or prove your worth through specific examples. They often begin with the line, “Tell me about a time when…” Your examples can come from community work, education, or personal experiences that apply to the type of position you’re interviewing for.
5. Listen for company values & issues.
Read between the lines. Listen, not just to the surface questions, but for problems that you are the solutions to. Also be alert to the underlying values of the company. One of the biggest hidden agendas of an interviewer is that he’s taking your pulse to see if you mesh with the company culture. You’ll want to demonstrate, through the types of examples you choose, that you do.
6. Turn the tables.
Don’t beg, grovel, or otherwise flip up your belly doggie style—even if you’re desperate for a job. Remember that you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Plan your questions to touch on important issues such as company or department morale, your exact job description, pending corporate changes, training programs, industry challenges etc. Follow up on any answers that seem cursory, as they are typically the ones that will lead you to what you really need to know to make the proper decision.
7. Finish with a flourish.
When I was a consultant to a major corporation, I always gave the interviewee a chance to sell herself at the end of the interview by asking: “Is there anything you’d like to add that I haven’t asked you?” The people who could name the problems that their skills and abilities could address impressed me the most—and frequently got the job over someone equally talented, but less savvy.
I’m taking my almost 10 years of interviewing skills in corporate America in a different direction now to help the gum chewing, cell phone answering, boss dissing teens and twenty somethings learn manners and job interviewing skills so they don’t get discounted for their talents and originality.
I want to accomplish 4 things that will help our economy out of the recession and improve the status and well-being of the United States in the global marketplace.
Prepare college students for job interviews after graduation.
Prepare inner city kids (not collegebound) to land a job w/a career path that suits their strengths.
Teach teen, college and young adult entrepreneurs what it takes to get start-up funding from venture capitalists by media training them to say exactly what their audience needs to know.
Teach teen, college and young adult entrepreneurs how to get and keep media attention to be profitable companies, thought leaders in their industry, and recognized, respected and sustainable brands.