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4 Tips for Nailing a Media Interview

by Elizabeth Shelton 1. June 2015 09:23


Ack! You’re about to be interviewed by the local media (or worse—national!) and you’re terrified! You’re not alone. Fear of public speaking is America’s #1 phobia; 75% of Americans suffer from glossophobia, aka speaking in public.

I have found some of the techniques I learned from my stint as a professional actress have been extremely helpful when preparing for a presentation or receiving an unexpected call from a reporter. Being prepared, even when you’re caught off guard, goes a long way in soothing anxiety. Regardless of the situation, the best thing you can do is to know your key messages and stay on point. You need to know these as well as you know your ‘elevator speech.’ And this applies to every industry and sector, for-profits and nonprofits.

  1. Always have three different ways of stating what your business or organization is about that can be tweaked to your audience. For example, “I help nonprofits grow by helping them build relationships important to their growth.” And “I create marketing communications strategy and tactics to help grow business.” Lastly, “I help build relationships with stakeholders by strengthening communication important to growth.”
  2. If you have time to plan, determine ahead of time what you want to accomplish in the interview. Are you being interviewed as an expert in your industry? Then now is your chance to shine. Be prepared with key facts and details that you can easily deliver. Prepare a success story to share that reinforces why YOU are the expert.
    Are you promoting for a cause? Then you need to construct key messages that will resonate with your audience and motivate them to help. Tell stories of how their help impacts others and benefits the whole community. Lead them to a website where they can donate or register and have more compelling information there.
  3. Practice in front of a mirror! A study by Dr. Albert Mehabrian that is frequently referenced revealed “the total impact of a message is based on: 7% words used; 38% tone of voice, volume, rate of speech, vocal pitch; 55% facial expressions, hand gestures, postures and other forms of body language.” If you’re preparing for a televised appearance, practice with video. Then watch the video without the sound to ensure your body language matches your words and is not off-putting or distracting. Common mistakes include crossing your arms and holding your head too high or too low. I had a professor once who jingled the change in his pockets the entire time he lectured, which made it extremely hard to focus on the material he delivered. Don’t be that guy.
  4. Before the interview BREATHE! Practicing controlled breathing helps to control the racing heart, dry mouth, and sweaty palms that descend on even the most seasoned pros. Breathe in through your nose to a count of 4; hold it for 4, then exhale through your mouth to a count of 7. Do this three times to calm yourself.
    If your practice video revealed you look too low-key and lackluster, then you have the opposite problem and need to energize with an opposite approach. Rapidly inhale and exhale through your mouth (similar to panting) for 10 seconds while also quickly shaking your hands. Take a few normal breaths before repeating one or two more times, breathing normally in between.

Even professional performers get nervous. Rather than focusing on the feelings your terrified brain is putting your body through, control your breathing and remind yourself that you are prepared, you are the expert, and YOU WILL NAIL IT! Now get out there and break a leg!

Playing Word Association with Facebook

by Elizabeth Shelton 24. March 2015 09:24

Most people are well aware that Facebook, like most social media platforms, targets advertising based on the user’s posts. Beginning today the company will share “topic data” with its advertisers that previously had been withheld. This means they’re not only delivering eyeballs searching for your product or one that is similar, Facebook now can deliver the exact words people are using when discussing your product or service.

As is frequently the case when a new layer of the advertising onion is peeled back, some people will misinterpret this to mean Facebook and its advertisers know Whitney Whoosywhat thinks a particular brand of mascara is “awesome.” Those people would be mistaken. The data will be delivered in an anonymous dump, parsed demographically and by words frequently appearing with the specific product or service. I.e., 12% of females aged 15-24 think Mybrand Mascara is “awesome!” Just think how this additional bit of information could sculpt not only your marketing strategy, but your PR efforts if you find your product associated with unflattering evluations.

In its usual fashion, Facebook is launching this service to advertisers at no cost in the beginning. Ideally, the ‘reveal’ will pay for itself as brands find Facebook advertising to be more informative and effective; thus, they will spend more marketing dollars there. From a marketer’s perspective, more informed data leads to more informed marketing. From a consumer’s perspective, the only difference will be advertising that is more targeted, if it’s even noticeable.


Facebook and Intellectual Property--Yours or Theirs?

by Elizabeth Shelton 5. December 2014 12:04

As is often the case following Facebook changes, several of my FBFs are posting a lengthy item they believe is helpful, while encouraging others to share it. This time the post is about intellectual property. Many of the kind but misled believe leaving a post that quotes Articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the Code of Intellectual Property protects everything they post on their FB page. It does not.

A few social media types have already blogged about this, but I found a nice compilation from various reputable sources on one of my favorite and always reliable sources: Snopes.com. Let me (again) encourage you to check Snopes before reposting ANYTHING you think is helpful. (This includes another well-intentioned but totally wrong post also circulating that states entering your PIN backwards will notify police in the unfortunate circumstance a gun is being held to your head at the ATM. It will not.) To quote directly from Snopes’ 11/28/14 post on IP:

Before you can use Facebook, you must indicate your acceptance of that social network's legal terms, which includes its privacy policy and its terms and policies. You cannot alter your acceptance of that agreement, nor can you restrict the rights of entities who are not parties to that agreement, simply by posting a notice to your Facebook account…While the social network does not technically own its members content, it has the right to use anything that is not protected with Facebook's privacy and applications settings. For instance, photos, videos and status updates set to public are fair game.

As I have said many times, you have a tad bit of control by limiting all of your privacy settings to friends only. And as I also have repeated, don’t think for a second ANYTHING is private on the interwebs.




3 REAL Tips for Entrepreneurs

by Elizabeth Shelton 24. July 2014 09:45

Weekly, it seems, someone is sending out tips for being a successful entrepreneur. Rarely, it seems, are they fresh. You know what I mean: Love what you do! Surround yourself with winners! Blah, blah, blah. So I put together my own list from personal experience and watching others succeed and, unfortunately, fail.

First and foremost, KNOW YOUR INDUSTRY!!  I remain astounded by the number of intelligent men and women who launch a business in an industry they know little about. The two key culprits begin with the letter R-Restaurants  and Retail.  Just because you eat out and go shopping does not mean you have a clue about how to start and run a business!! If this really is your burning desire, go work in a restaurant or a clothing store for a minimum of six months. Work your way up to management and do that for at least  six more months. THEN after you have learned how to purchase, mix, merchandise, and market the Kool-Aid, may you begin to drink it.

Second—do not sink thousands of dollars into advertising until you have identified your target audience and where to reach them. Every media salesperson worth his or her salt will come knocking on your door to convince you their medium is exactly what you need. Unless you already can describe your customer with key demographics (age, income, race, etc.), you are at their mercy. If you sell hearing aids, then newspaper advertising might make sense for your older audience. However, if you sell cutting-edge technology, you are throwing away your marketing budget on print. Which leads to my third point…

Establish a marketing budget! Opening a business without funds set aside to invest (yes INVEST) in marketing is like building a house without budgeting for appliances. Yes, you can make do without them, but is it wise? Is it efficient? Is it productive? There is no magical formula for determining a marketing budget.  It goes back to the previous step. ID your audience and how to reach them. Then do some research on what those tactics cost. Get estimates and bids, and don’t hesitate to negotiate! Then budget that amount plus a bit more for unexpected opportunities that make sense for YOUR business (not your media salesperson's quota). 

And if you wisely decide to invest in professional help to guide you through the marketing maze, call me. Like a good financial advisor, I will ensure your marketing dollars will yield a positive return.

The Graph App and Privacy

by Elizabeth Shelton 22. July 2013 12:18

Once again, Facebook has made changes to its algorithm, this time in the form of a Graph App, following closely on the heels of Graph Search. As usually follows such a change, the web is ‘a twitter’ with people posting privacy concerns. One that has made the rounds before asks everyone to uncheck a variety of boxes under the Friend tab. Don’t bother.

Snopes.com is always a wonderful place to check facts for just about any tale circling the digital or F2F grapevine, and this case is no exception: http://www.snopes.com/computer/facebook/graphapp.asp. I encourage you ALWAYS to check there before blindly reposting inaccurate information. Sophos (another extremely reliable source) even called the steps circulating in the repeated post about the Graph App “rubbish.”

The most effective step you can take when your Facebook page suddenly appears different is to check your privacy settings. Recently, after numerous invitations to embrace the Graph App, I logged on one day to see that all of my icons had migrated to the other side of the page. I immediately went to my privacy settings and discovered they had defaulted from Friends to Public. I have since changed them back, although I am fully aware—as you should be, too—that NOTHING on Facebook and most of the Worldwide Web is actually private. So although regularly checking your privacy settings can help to some degree, do not lull yourself into a false sense of security. Also remember that the more apps you use, the more you open your technology to getting hacked.

Facebook Reverses Cover Photo Decision—Sorta’

by Elizabeth Shelton 28. March 2013 10:16

In an unusual act of acquiescence, Facebook has reversed its decision that prevented company pages from including a URL or calls to action on the cover photo billboard that spans the top of the page. Now you can actually encourage people to “Buy Now!” and “Like Us” right from the get-go. But reverting to more typical Facebook fashion, this indulgence is not without restrictions, naturally.

Using a vexing grid system of five squares, the Facebook text gods will determine whether your photo falls within the 20% rule, which allows only 20% of your photo to be text. This also applies to those annoying Sponsored Posts and ads. This is all part of Facebook’s latest strategy to create a more visual, “cleaner” look. Further proof one man’s idea of clean is another man’s hoarding nightmare.

I have consulted my usual reliable sources for a concise breakdown of the changes, and even the experts are confused. So I went straight to the source, which seems to confirm the update from Social Media Examiner that these restrictions no longer exist; they are nowhere to be found in Facebook's current guidelines for business. So much for the inspirational quotes I like to put on my cover photo! I’m hoping since my following is quite tiny by Facebook standards, I can fly under the radar until I figure out what to do next. 

If you have not yet created your FB business page, conveniently, a very helpful article just arrived in my inbox.  Follow these steps, especially the part about not immediately inviting your friends, and perhaps you will get your page finished before the next round of changes!


Social Media

Frustrated Customer Vents on Facebook: The Right Way to Respond

by Elizabeth Shelton 20. February 2013 07:31

Recently, I had the misfortune of attempting to order a refrigerator for a condo I rent out. Because I reside in another state, I could not find an appliance store that would accept my credit card order over the phone. Having been the victim of credit card theft, I see the logic in this. So I was sent to the website where I experienced the most exasperating online purchase experience I have encountered in years.
In short, the site would not accept my order. Again, I suspect it was because my billing and delivery addresses are in different states. However, a phone call to customer service resulted in FOUR phone calls as I attempted to maneuver their automated phone system, ending in an angry post on the company’s Facebook page. Although their phone system AND their website were disastrous, whoever manages their social media got on top of this potentially harmful situation and took immediate positive steps:

  1. First, the company posted an apology and assurance that they wanted to help me, asking me to email my information so they could promptly contact me.
  2. I did, but I suspect they closed shortly thereafter. So mid-morning the following day I posted an update that I had complied but still not heard anything.
  3. Immediately another post was made informing me I would hear from their VP of Customer Relations—and I promptly did!
  4. She apologized for the inconvenience, assured me she would get my order processed, and, after also experiencing their frustrating website, she finally did. She also waived all delivery fees, saving me about $60.

Bottom line:  technology goes haywire and mistakes happen to everyone. Because of the powerful voice that social media gives consumers, I had another option beyond their frustrating automated phone system. They not only helped me, but made it very clear they regretted my inconvenience. As a result, I may give them another try the next time, rather than writing them off altogether.

GOAL FOR 2013: Teach the World to Spell

by Elizabeth Shelton 7. January 2013 09:32

Ahh, another year tossed into the Worldwide Wash; twelve more months to air the dirty laundry soiling the English language. Nowhere is the dumbing down of America more apparent than on the Internet. (Okay, there is a good argument for reality television, but that’s another vent for another post.)

I love those funny ecards at least one of my friends shares nearly every day. Yet there seems to be a glaring connection between biting sarcasm and an inability to spell. The most flagrant errors usually involve apostrophes and possession (you’re v. your; it’s v. its).

I especially resent the spelling and grammar feature in Microsoft Word. Usually, the spelling is accurate-- unless it involves possession. No wonder so many people are confused when a spell check tells me I need to add an apostrophe where one is clearly unwarranted—as in the third sentence of this post. No, Microsoft, I do NOT need to show possession in the word “friends!” It is plural, not possessive!

Did you know software exists to generate common misspellings for Google Adwords? This horrifies me. Have we become so inept that now we create software catering to it?? Yet, as a marketer, I admit I am conflicted knowing that 7% of searches are misspelled. My clients don’t care if their customers can spell; their money is just as green! (Note the correct spelling of ‘their,’ not ‘they’re,’ a contraction for ‘they are,’ as well as the correct placement of commas inside quotation marks, be they double or single.)

In the spirit of ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’ here are some links I have collected through the years to some hilarious and “tradgic” misspellings. I apologize in advance for any offensive language that must be overcome to have a good laugh and enjoy that ‘smugly’ feeling of superiority. Happy 2013; may we all become better spelers!





Win at Powerball! Or be Killed by a Coconut.

by Elizabeth Shelton 28. November 2012 08:14

Today’s Powerball drawing is at half a billion dollars. Oh, the things we could do with that kind of dough! Here are a few Powerball factoids:

  • The odds of winning the jackpot are about 1 in 175 million. Even if you live in Missouri, you have a greater chance of being killed by a falling coconut.
  • On a brighter note, the chances of winning the second prize of $1MM by matching all 5 white balls are 1 in 5.2 million.
  • 40 percent of the time, a number will repeat from the previous drawing.
  • Only 20-30 percent of winning numbers are a set of "lucky" or favorite numbers chosen by the ticket buyer. The remaining winning numbers are the result of a computer-generated “Quick Pick.”

If you must choose your own numbers, here are some tips to increase your chances of winning:

  1. Mix up your numbers -- have both high and low numbers on your ticket.
  2. Try to get the sum of your numbers to add up to between 111 and 189.
  3. Try not to have consecutive numbers.

Remember, anyone who predicts the correct red Powerball is an automatic winner. But don’t spend that $4 all in one place! Good luck, and if you win, be sure to reward the one who gave you these winning tips!




Comical Communication

by Elizabeth Shelton 13. November 2012 12:16

Yesterday I attended a presentation by Second City Communications, a spin-off of the Chicago improv group that founded so many comic celebrities, including Gilda Radner, Stephen Colbert, Jim Belushi, and Mike Myers to name a few. Part of Global Entrepreneurship Week sponsored by our local university, the group’s presentation was entitled Creativity and Innovation through Improvisation. Hopefully, the target audience of students came away more enlightened than this jaded communicator who was hoping for some fresh ideas, not just a fresh presentation. However, one key takeaway is a good reminder to everyone working on a committee or project.

Through a series of audience participation conversations, we were reminded to practice saying, “Yes, AND” rather than “Yes, BUT” or worse, “No.” While the latter responses may save time wasted on one person’s inappropriate idea, they may also inhibit that colleague from sharing their next idea, which could turn out to be great. “Yes, AND” encourages collaboration and increases the potential of turning a mediocre idea into something fabulous.



About the author

Elizabeth Shelton has worked in marketing communications for 20 years from nearly every perspective--advertising and PR agencies, corporate marketing, account management, creative direction, freelance writer and now as a consultant to small and mid-size businesses that want to grow. Each client's objectives and challenges provide the foundation for effective strategy and tactics that achieve measurable results. Come back regularly for tips and trends to grow YOUR business!

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