Whether you're selling a product, furthering a cause, or trying to keep your job in a time of organizational crisis, the following tips can keep you on the right path.
- Remember your audience. It's easy to fall into the trap of focusing only on what's important to you when telling your story. But it's more important to consider what other people will pay attention to and what will affect them personally.
- Keep your ears open and know when to speak. Transparency is important: be quick and forthcoming with information when asked, and listen - to the media, your constituents and the public.
- Know your way - or at least prepare as well as you can. Follow your talking points and your organization's vision/mission.
- Move forward and don't dwell on the past. Everyone makes mistakes. Don't fear failure. Not everyone will like you, no matter who you are or what you do.
- Don't talk down to anyone. There's a difference between being a leading, respected authority and being a know-it-all. If you're disrespectful, you'll soon see how word of mouth can spread like wildfire and cause plenty of damage.
- Don't shove your message out the door. Carefully consider what you're trying to say and how it's presented, even for things as simple as blog comments or email messages. The tone of your message, misspellings and grammatical errors can make a big difference in the way your organization - and you as a professional - are viewed.
- Arm yourself. Remember only a few talking points - for a short, time-sensitive interview, 3 at most. Too many and you'll forget what you really need to say. New to an organization? Create and memorize weekly bullet points and you'll quickly be able to rattle them off in interviews.
- Technology is your friend. Social media networks, email alerts and analytic tools help you listen to your audience and communicate more effectively with them - often at no or low cost.
- Control your message. In the case of a breaking major event, especially one with negative or sensitive aspects, you need to be the first to tell the story to the media and your supporters. If someone outside or your organization catches wind of only part of the story, twists it and blasts it web-wide before you have a chance to set things straight, odds are your job will become much more difficult in trying to clean up the mess.
- Care. Being invested in your message and organization for reasons other than a paycheck will help you convey the most important aspects of your story. If you don't care, it's probably time to look for a new job or career.
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