Few things are more satisfying than researching and writing a good speech. Similarly, few things are more frustrating than writers’ block when you’re on deadline writing a speech.
Whenever the dreaded block hits, I turn to my favorite books to break through. Somehow spending a few minutes reading some really good writing puts me back on track.
That’s why I found today’s post on Ragan.com “10 must-have books for speechwriters” so enjoyable. Check it out.
How many of these are on your shelf? What’s missing?
Here are a few of my favorites:
“Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History“— by William Safire, former speechwriter for President Richard Nixon.
“What I saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era” — by Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan.
“What Americans Really Want: The Truth about our Hopes, Dreams and Fears” — by Frank Luntz, pollster and political consultant.
“Power Quotes”– A great little book I picked up at a legislative conference.
I’ll be attending the PRSA Master’s Group meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 2. Looking forward to hearing from:
- Shannon Boldizar, Global Public Affairs Manager, Starbucks Coffee
- Trina Smith, Global Corporate Communications Manager, Starbucks Coffee
- Libby Catalinich, Director – Corporate Communications, REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.)
- Ron Lahner, Attorney and Partner in Dorsey and Whitney’s Global Health Group
- Chris Bridenbaugh, Bridenbaugh Communications, Moderator
We’ll be talking about trends in health and wellness in the marketplace. I’ll keep you posted!
Our instructors from CRT/tanaka, included:
- Ellen LaNicca Albanese, executive vice president, consumer practice director, CRT/tanaka, who has more than 25 years of public relations experience creating programs for Fortune 500 companies like American Express, Avon Products, BISSELL Homecare, Charles Schwab & Co., Dyson, Liz Claiborne, Microsoft and Target.
- Patrice Tanaka, co-chair, chief creative officer and whatcanbe ambassador, CRT/tanaka. Prior to leading the acquisition of her former agency by Carter Ryley Thomas, Tanaka led PT&Co., to become one of the nation’s most highly-regarded, independent public relations firms. During that time, the agency won 180 industry awards for its breakthrough campaigns.
- Brian Ellis, executive vice president, whatcanbe director, CRT/tanaka. He is a 20-year veteran of CRT/tanaka and a member of its executive management team. He serves as the strategic leader of CRT/tanaka’s whatcanbe laboratory, where he is charged with helping existing clients and new prospects explore the possibilities of “whatcanbe” through the agency’s unique creative intelligence planning and programming model.
Brian led off with a fantastic two-minute drill to gather creative ideas. I’m going to start using this when we’re brainstorming new ideas in staff meetings.
Then Ellen shared ways to diffuse negativity in the creativity process. How many of us have heard “It’ll never work” or “We’ve done that before” or “We don’t have the budget?”
Don’t give up when you receive these kinds of negative responses, Ellen advised. Use them as a means of starting the conversation. “Why do you think it won’t work?” “What did we do before?” “What is our budget?”
Then take the feedback you receive and demonstrate why your idea will work, how you can do it within budget and how your idea is a fresh version of something you may have done before. Offer to try your idea as a pilot project or scale it back to reduce anxiety about cost or scope.
Take-away tips for increased creativity:
- Get focused
- Start with smaller teams
- Gather lots of ideas then build on the best
I’ll update with the slide deck when the link is available. Thanks, PRSA, CRT/tanaka and Thomson Reuters for the great free professional development.
Media training at the Attorney General’s Office went well today. Great group with thoughtful questions and lots of interaction!
1) Be prepared. Recognize when you have a hot case and know what you’ll say if asked about. Write your three key points and stick to them.
2) Know your role. Media relations at the Attorney General’s Office presents some unique challenges. Our attorneys are allowed and expected to discuss legal issues but it’s easy to blur the lines between speaking about your client’s case and speaking on behalf of your client. Our public affairs team can help by working with the public affairs staff for the client and determine who will speak about which issues.
3) Be creative. Sometimes you can’t answer reporters’ questions due to attorney-client privilege or special rules governing communication during litigation, but you may be able to say more than you think. We can always discuss legal timelines, the law itself or information that has already been filed in court.
4) Lean on your public affairs staff. If you’re worried you’ll say too much about your case, you can always work with our public affairs team to determine what questions might be asked and how you’ll answer them. Worst case scenario, you can tell us what can be said about the case, and we’ll handle the media calls. In fact, if you’re expecting a lot of calls during an important case, public affairs can handle all of them.
5) Be accountable. Don’t forget to let us know when you’ve spoken to the press. Every staffer at the AG’s office who speaks to the media is required to alert top leadership and public affairs so we’re aware of the hot stories and prepared to answer questions ourselves.
What are your favorite media relations tips?
One of my favorite media/PR songs is Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry.”
And at the AG’s Office, we find ourselves in the middle of our fair share of juicy stories.
I’ll be presenting “Media Relations for Managers– And a refresher for the rest of you” tomorrow at the Attorney General’s Office.
We’ll review the Washington State General’s Office Media Policy and see how it played out in some of the war stories I’ve experienced at the Attorney General’s Office.
We have a pretty liberal policy at the AG’s office compared to other government agencies. It’s a testament to the trust we put in our attorneys.
We provide basic media training to new attorneys at the AG Academy. I’ll be presenting to the very few new hires we’ve had over the last two years in early October.
Then we offer yearly training to anyone who is interested. We’re available nearly 24-7 to help people though–and we will provide specialized training to various divisions on request.
It seems to be a healthy mix–and my media relations pros and I are happy to talk our attorneys through anything that comes their way.
I’ll post more tomorrow.
I listened in to a great Webinar on crisis communications today during lunch, thanks to www.ragan.com. What a great reminder of how every crisis contains an opportunity.
Today’s call took me back to one of the most painful crises I’ve been involved in to date. Back in 2004, in a debate over health care policy, an 81-year-old Senator I worked for used a racial slur in an old time metaphor to describe a white member of the House with whom he disagreed. I’d never heard the metaphor but I sure knew he was in trouble with the racial slur!
The Senate Majority Leader called me right around 5 p.m. “Senator XX just called Rep. XX a “n@#$r in a woodpile. And Rep. XX has already alerted the media.”
First I thought I was going to throw up, then I googled the metaphor to try to figure out what the heck the metaphor referred to– apparent our generation might have called our antagonist a “snake in the grass.”
I headed up from the basement to the second floor of our building where the leadership offices were housed–Crisis Communications 101 running through my brain. Apologize, apologize to the African American Community, tell them what you’re going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
When I arrived upstairs, the Senator was steaming mad. He didn’t use a racial slur. The Representative wasn’t even African American. And the Senator wasn’t sorry for pointing out the guy was a pain in the neck.
The Senator wasn’t a bad guy. He was truly interested in expanding affordable health care in Washington –and he was a demonstrated moderate who worked across the aisle to do great things for our state. In all fairness, his antagonist WAS a “snake in the grass” on the issue in his mind–and he really couldn’t understand how he’d managed to offend an entire race.
We spent the next couple days answering media questions, meeting with the NAACP and other African American leaders and fending off calls for his resignation. Ultimately, the Senator agreed to issue a public apology from the floor of the Senate–And the state’s only African American Senator, who’d worked closely with the Senator on a variety of health care measures for the poor in Washington, graciously accepted his apology with a hug.
After the crisis subsided, I stayed in contact with the new people I’d met and cultivated friendships that last to this day– underscoring the fact that a crisis handled with grace and humility can turn into an opportunity.
It’s easy to show your employees how much you value them when times are good. You can invest in their futures through great professional development opportunities. You have funds for internal conferences. You’re able to provide merit increases and promotions for your hardest working employees.
But now, times are tough. Raises have been replaced by RIFs (reductions-in-force). Professional development is replaced by pay cuts. Conferences are replaced by coffee clubs because the office can no longer afford to spring for free coffee.
Robert J. Holland over at Ragan.com today discussed Deloitte LLP’s fourth annual Ethics & Workplace Survey, which reports that as many as one-third of employees admit they will look for new employment when the economy recovers. Take a good look at your team. Can you afford to lose one-third of them? I know I can’t. That much talent and good chemistry would be very difficult to replace.
The good news is that there’s still time to make a difference. Nearly half of the employees who said they’d bail revealed their primary reasons for leaving were lack of trust (48 percent) and failure to provide transparent communication (46 percent), Holland reports.
Just as you work to cultivate personal relationships through trust and honesty, you need to work just as hard to build and maintain your workplace relationships.
Holland offers the following communications tips:
- Be real and trust employees with information. Employees can read the newspaper. They watch the evening news. They know what’s going on and can guess how it impacts your company or government agency. Don’t sugarcoat the truth when you communicate with them. Provide them with the truth about how your agency is weathering the latest budget storm and what that means to them.
- Be available and promote all-way communication: Leadership on all levels must be accessible, reaching out to employees and soliciting their input. At my office, Attorney General Rob McKenna hosts an internal social media-type site where employees can provide anonymous input on budget solutions or any other topic. His e-mail address is available for staff across the agency to contact him. He takes time to visit all the divisions in our office face-to-face to discuss their ideas and concerns– and he encourages managers across the office to do the same. As Holland notes, you can build trust and control the rumor mill by increasing transparency and dialogue.
It all boils down to respect. While it may be a while before any of us can afford to reward our employees as we’d like, it doesn’t cost a dime to give them the gift of respect by treating them like adults, earning their trust and providing them the information they need as valuable members of your team.
One of my favorite writing coaches, Ann Wylie, recently posted a new article on her Web site – Chain reaction: Write web links that work – where she suggests embedding links in your text distracts readers and damages your ability to clearly communicate with your audiences. So how do you handle the desire to share additional resources while keeping your readers focused on your message? Ann offers three tips:
1. Choose your medium: The Web is great for delivering chunks of information but not so great for conveying complex information, she says. Choose the medium that best suits your end goal.
2. Place links where they’ll do the most good. Some prefer to list links at the bottom of their page, Ann says. Others run side notes. On the Attorney General’s Web site, we use a combination. On our Heath Care Lawsuit FAQ site, we include links to relevant documents at the top of the page as well as throughout the document. When we file new lawsuits, we’ll include links to court documents at the bottom of the news release and embed them in the document. On other pages, such as our legislative agenda page, we link to copies of the bills at the beginning of the narrative and provide bill status, upcoming hearings and other information in the side bar.
3. Make your page “context-independent, self-contained.” Your Web page, blog post or article should stand alone. People should be able to understand your point without having to click on every link you’ve provided, Ann says.
Great advice, Ann. I’m already planning on making some changes to our site, but as you can tell from this post, my hyperlinking habit will be a hard one to break. What do you all think?
PS: Don’t miss a fantastic opportunity to see Ann for just a fraction of her regular conference price! Ann will be joining the Puget Sound Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and presenting a half-day seminar on Writing for the Web.
When? 9 to Noon, Aug. 11
Where? Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma, WA 98402
Register online or call 206-623-8632 by August 9 for the lowest prices:
- $95 PRSA member
- $145 Non-member,
- $75 Student
Prices increase by $10 per person at the door.
- Continental breakfast, snacks & beverages
- Entrance to the Museum
- Discounted parking