Top Skills for an Interviewer

At some point we have all been in an interview as the interviewee. Perhaps you were interviewed for a job or for an article or a newspaper. Some interviews are great, you connect with the interviewer and feel as though you have gotten our point across. Other interviews fall short. You may feel as though you and the interviewer are speaking different language and you may leave the interview wondering what you could have done better. I have been interviewed more times than I have conducted an interview. In an effort to push through my comfort zone, I would like to become an interviewer. Watching those with this skill set conduct an interview is much like watching a great painter paint.

Lets break down the interview structure; the one-one-one conversation. The whole crux of an interview is to gain information about the respondent and their point of view in a manner that they feel comfortable enough to surrender their true thoughts. This holds true while interviewing a candidate for a hiring position, conducting a journalistic interview of your favorite writer, and when moderating a focus group for market research. The interviewee has information that you need for yourself or that needs disseminated to a larger audience. Your task as the interviewer is to get the information out, the truthful, usable information.

The Interviewers To-do List:

  1. Punctuality: Once the interview appointment is scheduled the interviewer should be ready to start at the agreed upon time. Do not be fashionably late.
  2. Prepare the Interviewee: Let the person or persons know what to expect. This could be the order of operations if there is a group being interviewed vs. a single person or simply how long the interview will take. Knowing what will happen will make the person being interviewed more comfortable.
  3. Environment: Select a location that will limit distractions. If the interview is over the phone or Internet, be sure to select a quiet place. The environment can have a negative impact on the interview. Dogs barking or doors slamming can be a detraction.
  4. Prepare Notes: You want to be prepared with questions to ask and notes on the background research you have done on the person and subject matter. These notes are to help you prepare and for reference if you need them but relying on notes to heavily can make you seem unprepared. You want to ask insightful questions about their vision, ideas, and goals. These questions are to be open-ended, but no so open or vague that the interviewer does not know how to answer. For instance, “Tell me about yourself” is very vague. Here’s a great question I was asked at my graduate entrance interview, “Can you tell us why you have selected Chatham University’s Master of Professional Writing program?”. As a person I usually choke when I am asked to speak about myself, it is not my favorite topic. But when asked about a program of study I find it easy to put words together. I can put a purpose to it.
  5. Let go of Your Ego: Even though the interview is a one-on-one conversation, the interview is about the interviewee, not you. As the interviewer, when you speak encourage the other person to talk about their story or experience. The words you use should always be taking the interview further, diving deeper into questions to gain more insight or information.
  6. Be a Good Listener: Practicing active listening will help you know when to dive deeper into a question or take the questioning in a different direction. Listening will also show that you are genuinely interested. There is no need to take notes during the interview, just listen. Asking the interviewee if they mind the interview being recorded will provide a method of going back and allow you to listen instead of taking notes. While they are speaking this is their chance to get the point across. Their answer to a question may help you select which question to ask next.
  7. Not-So-Awkward Pause: No one wants the uncomfortable pause but taking a slight pause rather than interjecting with the next question too quickly can allow time for the responder to add more information. Use the silence to draw out more information. Maybe they will add more info on the question or offer information on a new idea.
  8. Close the Interview: Too short of an interview may show your disinterest as an interviewer and too long of an interviewer may result in diminishing returns in the quality of information gained. Once you have finished with your questions, be sure to ask the interviewee if there is anything they would like to add; you may be surprised that they will offer information you did not think to ask about. Finally, be sure to thank your interviewee and be sure to help them exit the interview as you

Conducting an interview involves critical reasoning skills and imaginative thinking skills. Be aware of the details without losing sight of the big picture. Much like any other form of communication or writing, the more you are an interviewer, the better you will be.

10,000 Hours, or One Golden Hour?

10,000 Hours

Outlier: A person, situation, or thing that is different from others (Gladwell, M). In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells us that with the perfect combination of time and opportunity people can be successful. The magic number is 10,000 hours. If someone can put in 10,000 hours worth of practice at a given task, then he can become a master. Bill Gates and the Beatles are both outliers; they put in 10,000 hours, and they are considered masters in their field. Better than the rest and known for their success. In a time of crisis PR professionals don’t have 10,000 hours to work with, they have mere minutes.

The Golden Hour

PR Professionals have a mere sixty minutes to handle a crisis. This one hour can make or break a company if handled incorrectly. In this time PR should notify news media, social media, internal publics, external publics, and lawyers. With technology at our fingertips, we demand information immediately following a crisis.

Court of Law vs. Court of Public Opinion

A PR professional must make an important decision when crisis arises, will the organization be scrutinized under the court of law or under the court of public opinion? We all know that under the court of law we are ‘innocent until proven guilty;’ however, in the court of public opinion, we are ‘guilty until proven innocent.’

PR Outliers

Johnson and Johnson

Most of you are probably familiar with the Johnson and Johnson crisis of 1982. Someone (still unknown) laced tylenol with cyanide and killed seven people in the Chicago area. Johnson and Johnson is still studied in books now because of the way they masterfully handled the situation.

Jetblue

In 2007, Jetblue left passengers stranded on a runway due to snow. Even though the crisis was due to weather, Jetblue took full responsibility for the incident and promised to take future steps to prevent future problems.

The NBA

After the owner of the Clippers, Donald Sterling, was recorded making racist comments the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, took quick action against him.

After the incident the NBA went on to create a “We Are One” ad.

Future Recommendations

  • Assess your risks before they happen.
  • Create a crisis plan (framework, teams and responsibilities, key messaging, procedures, internal and external contact lists, checklists).
  • Designate a spokesperson.
  • Create a sense of “we-ness” among internal publics (employees, management, interns, retirees, stakeholders).
  • Get information out fast, but always be accurate.
  • Never reveal assumptions to the media.
  • A crisis is interesting. Make it uninteresting by continuously providing information to the public.
  • Know your key message, and keep reiterating it to your audience.
  • Never turn a problem into a crisis. Fix the problem, but don’t make it bigger than it needs to be.

Crafting a Pitch, Selling a Story

A pitch is a brief message to an editor written with the purpose of selling your story. Sometimes called a query letter or proposal, the pitch is an art form in itself, a gateway to getting an editor to read your work and ultimately to having it published.

A pitch is necessary whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, creative or business prose.

A pitch is a brief message to an editor written with the purpose of selling your story. Sometimes called a query letter or proposal, the pitch is an art form in itself, a gateway to getting an editor to read your work and ultimately to having it published.

A pitch is necessary whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, creative or business prose—anytime you need to approach a publication from the outside. It bears some resemblance to a cover letter for a job but is much more specific to the piece of work at hand. No longer than 3-4 concise paragraphs, the pitch must make a strong positive impression in a limited number of words.

Steps to crafting a winning pitch:

  1. Understand the outlet. Before you set pen to paper or finger to keyboard to write your pitch, your first task is getting to know the publication. Understand its mission and tone, what genres of stories or articles it publishes, any authorship or word count requirements, etc. Luckily, these are often spelled out quite clearly on publication websites, usually in an area called “submission requirements.”Know that you must tailor your writing to an outlet’s editorial specifications. These might include whether the editor prefers to receive pitches with or without finished articles attached. Ideally, you would become familiar with these requirements not only before you write your pitch but also before you write the story itself.
  2. Entice and educate. As you begin your pitch letter, your first challenge is to entice the reader. This is the “hook” you’ve heard about before—the sentence or two that reels the reader in. It should contain the central idea of your story and be presented as a snappy lead. You should then inform the editor how you plan to flesh out the story from this extremely compelling beginning, with specifics on what you’ll include.This part of the pitch also works to convince the editor that your story is a good fit for his or her publication and audience. It’s important to demonstrate that you “get” the editorial vision and want to write for this publication specifically. For this reason, you should never use a template or an one-size-fits-all pitch.
  3. Establish your credentials. Next you need to prove you’re the one to write this story. Start with a brief 1-2 sentence bio. Then let the editor know how much research or writing you’ve done so far (including a word count of anything you’ve written) and what you plan to do to deliver a successful finished piece.You might also include how long you’ve been writing, any particular expertise you have in this subject area, a couple examples of your most recent pitch-worthy publications, and a link to your writing portfolio.
  4. Make it easy. Finally, the cardinal rule of pitching is to make a busy editor’s job easier, not harder. Mention anything additional you can provide, such as photographs or sidebars, and be sure to include everything he or she needs to be able to say yes to your story.

The challenge is to achieve all this in 3-4 short paragraphs that exude confidence, not desperation. You’re much more likely to receive a response if the editor can read the professionalism in your pitch and gain an impression of you as a talented and reliable writer with whom he or she wants to work.

 

How to Tell Your Tale: Writing your Story for a Grant Proposal

Before You Start

In order to capture the attention of grant makers you need to tell a story that tugs at their emotional side. There are three tips to tell a successful story: 1) tell a story within a story, 2) every story needs a protagonist, 3) show you audience what the future could look like.

Your Story Template

A quick and easy tip to make sure you haven’t left out any important part is to follow this template: Tell how you connect personally with the cause (your story)-> tell about the current conditions of the issue your trying to get funding for->tell what has to happen to fix the current conditions->state how you can fix the problem->end with telling people how they can help… “the ask.” Now, I’ll show you how to use this in a real example. Say you are asking for funding to get after-school programs in your area for troubled youth. Here’s how to fit that in the template above: Tell how you personally connect with this issue->tell about the problems children are going through->state what kinds of things help people in this situation->explain the solution of after-school programs->tell your audience that funding is needed in order to help children lead safer, fuller, happier lives.

What is and What Could be

It is necessary that while writing your grant proposal story you create an outline of “what is” and “what could be.” This helps your audience realize what the status quo is, and why it needs to change. It evokes an emotional response, which is what you want because response means action.

How to do it

Take the example from above; a grant proposal to get funding for after-school programs for troubled youth. Here’s how you could outline your ideas with the ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’ theory: What is…Children with behavioral problems inside and outside of school, such as; poor schoolwork, school absences, irritability, and aggressiveness. What could be…Emotionally supportive environment for these children to help lessen these problems. What is…families that do not know how to deal with the child and their behavioral issues. What could be…Meetings at the end of every month with the parents to educate them on what they could do at home for their child’s emotional needs when not at the program. The blissful ending…Give children fuller, happier lives. These are only a few of the examples of ‘what is’ and what could be.’ You can make your list longer and then incorporate them into your story.

The Protagonist vs. Antagonist   

Any good story has a good guy and a bad guy. People crave to see good overcome evil, because the antagonist gives the audience one shared goal to work to overcome together. So, let’s take the example above and find the protagonist and the antagonist to incorporate into the story. The protagonist, or good, is the after-school program and happy children from it. The antagonist, or bad, is the issues these children are facing. So, by showing this the audience can decide to take action against the bad in the story.

The Ask

Be straightforward with your audience. You need to give them concrete numbers for how much money you are looking for and what it will break down to cover. Do not go around the issue if you feel uncomfortable asking for money. By putting a dollar amount to ask it allows your audience and grant makers to outline what it will be used for and is evidence for how you will address the issue at hand. Here’s an example for the ask for a grant maker:

“I estimate my need to get this project up and running for one year to be about 51,000 dollars. This would cover the cost of four one-hour after school programs at two elementary schools and two middle schools. Included in this is the cost to provide one mental health counselor at each program. Also, included in this is one-week’s worth of summer training for the other volunteers of this program. Additionally, it would cover books, crafts, toys, and snacks for each program. Lastly, it would provide one start of the year education program for teachers, staff, and faculty to get acquainted with the new program and know how to manage these children in their own classrooms. It is my hope to raise 20,000 dollars through other funders, so I am asking you to consider covering the remaining 31,000 dollars. I greatly look forward to hearing from you and in the meantime would love if you could send application guidelines or any other information that could be of use.”

After the Story

If you feel comfortable enough you can take your story and turn it into a video to use on other funding websites. You can take all of this information and pair it with visuals and statistics so that you are able to target both an audience’s emotional appeal and logical appeal. Since a video can be easily shared among social networking sites, although it may not reach the right audience first, it can make it to them at some point.

Building Community to Build Money: How to Crowdfund Effectively

What is Crowdfunding?

Simply put, crowdfunding is raising small amounts of money by a large amount of  people for a project, and it is all done online.  This may be a simple concept, but doing this successfully is not so simple. I want to provide you with the necessary steps for a crowdfunding campaign and provide effective examples so you can reach your crowdfunding goals.

“Crowdfunding isn’t about collecting money. It’s about making something happen with a crowd of people who believe in something. Normal people, not rich people with a lot of power, just people like you and me.” -Jozefien Daelemans (Editor-in-Chief, Charlie Magazine)

Crowdfunding is all about your ability to create a community of peers that believe in your idea. It is about putting yourself out there and believing in your own ability and getting others to believe in it as well. Confidence is key.

You Need to Crowdfund, Now What?

Choose a Platform

There are many different crowdfunding platforms. Do research and choose the site that best fits within your project’s category. Different platforms will fit better with different types of projects.

Some Common Platforms

GoFundMe: Personal or professional projects

Kickstarter: Creative projects

Indiegogo: For artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians

CircleUp: Companies looking for backers

YouCaring: Personal expenses

CrowdRise: Emphasis on global citizenship and the influence of social media

Use Multiple Channels 

Once you’ve chosen a platform you will need to market yourself. Utilize social media and connect your campaign to different social networking sites. Encourage friends and family to share your campaign.

Set a Realistic Goal

Just remember S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-frame) when coming up with your goals and objectives. Your project should have specific objectives that relate back to a broader goal in mind. You should relay this information to your audience.

For example: A goal could be to provide after-school reading programs in elementary schools. To obtain that goal one objective would be to improve the reading level of 100% of the children in the program which will be judged on a weekly basis. The goal is very broad, while the objective provides a narrow framework of what this goal will achieve.

Money Explanation

Your audience will need to know what there money will be used for. It is a good idea to break down the project for them with different costs for each part. Let them know the ‘what’, the ‘how much’, and the ‘why.’

For example…

What: After-school reading program

How much?: $5,000

Why: One-hour of free after-school programs provided each day of the 180-day calendar year

Put Together a Video

This should be the more emotional aspect to your campaign. It should have a visual aspect and can include music as well. You should mix emotion with facts. The video should end with your pitch to the audience. Tell them what your project is and ask for their financial help. To be able to crowdfund it is imperative that you feel comfortable asking people for money, sometimes that is easier said than done. Tell your audience how their donation will help you reach your goal. A video can be easily made for free by using apps on your phone or laptop!

https://youtu.be/oaeKqtcJWv0

Make it Personal

Usually when taking on a project there is a personal reason that pushes you to do so. Be real with your funders. Tell them about yourself, by doing so you give your campaign a voice and add a human element. By telling about your dream, other people might have a connection with you or share the same dream or passion, this will help you get their support.

Provide Perks

You might hope that your funders will just give from the heart, but they may be expecting something in return from you. Give them a small gift or promise them something if your project happens.

For example….Small donations will receive a T-shirt and large donations will receive a tote filled with small gifts. Or promise large donors that their name will be put on a bench as a sign of acknowledgement once the project is fulfilled. Be creative, and provide follow up thank you letters once your project is able to get started.

Don’t Forget About the Ask

I mentioned this above if you decide to make a video, but you cannot forget to provide a written ask to your audience as well. Remind them you need their financial help.

For example…’With one donation you are allowing us to move one step forward to provide children the help they need to improve their reading skills and have better confidence in the classroom. Our goal is set at $20,000 to cover program cost, volunteers, and resources. Every little bit helps!’

Remember…Raising Money is Just the Beginning

A crowdfunding campaign is like a part-time job. You need to be in constant communication with your publics, even if you have raised enough money for your project. The individuals that helped to fund it will want to know how it’s going and what is happening along the way. Don’t forget who got you to where you are. A successful first project can lead you to further success in your endeavors.

Sharing is Caring: The Power of Storytelling in Non Profit Campaigns

A Future of Sharing

How would you feel if I told you that sharing something as personal as your health and sicknesses on social media could someday help track the spread of disease? You might say that’s a little crazy, but would you do it if it meant keeping others healthy? Would you want others to do it if it meant keeping you healthy? Patrick Tucker thinks that soon the CDC will use our ever-posting social media habit to determine where illnesses are and where they’ll spread next, making Minority Report a thing of the present.

Although we’re not yet there, some health non-profit organizations have utilized this same idea of sharing personalized stories during campaigns, so people can talk about personal experiences and connect with others to spread information about certain diseases.

March of Dimes: Share Your Story

The campaign, ShareYourStory, by March of Dimes brings to life a safe online community in which the “neighbors” are families who all share in one particular struggle: a sick newborn. Members of this virtual “neighborhood” are able to share the struggle  they are having, offer and receive support, and spread information.

“ShareYourStory is home to all of us who have not had that picture-perfect pregnancy, who struggle with little ones in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or forever hold their child in their heart. It is where I found hope for the future,” said community member Lauren Wilson, from Hawaii.

The shareyourstory campaign easily connects to social media platforms so that they can be circulated to an even wider array of people. By using avatars and enabling videos and stories, the campaign to improve the health of babies becomes human, personalized, local, and gives the families a way to see the faces of the people that they connect with on a daily basis. The dedicated website, shareyourstory.org, brings families to a blog forum where they can post and react to others’ posts. Yesterday, for example, twenty members posted and commented on each others’ stories, questions, and messages.

The Power of Storytelling

Stories are so powerful because they withstand the tests of time. They spread from person to person, community to community, through families and friends; they change, but what is at the heart of a good story remains the same. By using storytelling as the main mode of communication in a campaign, organizations are able to tap in to human emotions and create common bonds.

Each campaign uses the very powerful tool of empathy. This is something that needs to be employed more in our health systems in order for patients and physicians to have a strong trusting relationship. Now, don’t confuse sympathy with empathy. Where sympathy leads to disconnect, empathy drives connection by staying out of judgement and communicating to a person that he or she is not alone. The problem with sympathy is that it always tries to show people the “good” in something bad. Health care providers need to be able to deter sympathy and understand this difference.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it” ” -Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird.

If physicians can step in to their patients’ shoes, then they can start treating patients as individuals instead of just another number. Interacting with patients not only helps create bonds, but allows physicians and healthcare providers to learn about individuals on a personal level. When a patient sees that their physician cares for them as a fellow human, it allows space for open dialogue between patients and physicians which leads to better, personalized care.

American Diabetes Association’s campaign, This is Diabetes, uses the hashtag #thisisdiabetes, to encourage individuals or friends and family to post their own video of a personal story and struggle they deal with from the disease. What this campaign encourages is spreading awareness about parts of the disease that many people would not be aware of otherwise and what kinds of crippling effects diabetes has on other aspects of a person’s health and the other lives that disease touches.

The National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society‘s, Together We Are Stronger Campaign uses similar tactics to inspire individuals living with MS to share their story through video and offer insights. It connects people together with different ways of dealing with the disease, educating people on the disease, and coming up with new ideas for a cure.

‘Empathetic Storytelling’

I call these campaigns  ‘empathetic storytelling,’ since they connect humans on a common health issue and provide support. They reverse the negative connotation that comes with the idea of spreading disease. Instead they spread information about a disease through words and symbols. By spreading words, instead of sicknesses, the information that is shared and reshared can help the listeners prevent their own risk of developing a disease, or even find a treatment.

Recommendations for Empathetic Storytelling For Health & Nonprofit Campaigns:

  • Utilize multiple channels and social media networks
  • Appeal to emotion, but don’t go too far (Think about the dog shelter commercials, how many times do you change the channel as soon as you see a sad dog come on your screen?)
  • Stories don’t always have to be sad, share some hope for the future
  • Mix words, pictures, and videos
  • Share your own story, this connects you to your audience
  • Create a powerful hashtag
  • Provide useful information (an audience needs to know about the cause in order to participate in the campaign)
  • Be cohesive and consistent, all the channels or networks you utilize should include the same information, hashtags, and look (branding, colors, etc.)
  • Try to stay away from medical jargon, in a health campaign it may be easy to use scientific words, stop and think about your intended audience (what is their knowledge, or lack thereof, on the topic)

 

 

Story Building | Developing Messages That Stick

From the dawn of our time, communication has been shared through storytelling. The world’s first infographics cover cave walls dating back 40,000 years. History has been passed down through generations from our elders to our young through stories that can be easily remembered. With the evolution of technology, is the art of storytelling still effective in the 21st century marketplace?

Tell Me About . . .

Many times, a company will tell a prospective customer about the features and benefits of their product or service. How “this or that” is better than a competitor’s. We are the best and you need this. The process in the approach is illustrated as:

storybuilding_beforecycle

Here the company controls the brand and markets to the customer, and in turn the customer base grows the company. Today’s audiences know the features and benefits, they are looking for engagement. What has caused this change in the audience’s buying process?

Tell Me How . . .

Traditional buyers were driven by the rational triggers of product and price. Buyers today are triggered by the emotional side of the product or service. These new dynamics come into play in response to technology and the social media influences that guide the buyer. As you can see below, the company and the customer share the role of brand ambassador and the “living, breathing” brand drives the company.

storybuilding_aftercycle

This updated process illustrates StoryBuilding, which engages the customer by creating a REAL EMOTION. Customers are focused on the experience. They are looking for an active relationship with the brand. A true WOW experience they can share!

4 Characteristics of a Sharable WOW Moment

Wow… Okay, how do we achieve “wow”?

Start with emotion, not features and benefits

The customer wants to feel emotions. The stronger the emotion, the more likely they are moved to share their experience with others, and in turn extending the reach of the brand.

This man’s dog is part of him, part of the family. Love them back by feeding him tasty Cesar’s! If the spot opened and closed on the features and benefits of feeding your dog Cesar’s (real meat, essential vitamins for a luxurious coat) would you remember let alone share with your friends?

Develop a Character

Not many people will identify with a product alone, but include a character and the connection begins to form. In 2010, Reaktor Design’s packaging for Friele Coffee aimed at personifying their coffee by focusing on people from the country that the coffee beans originated. This package design helped to draw customer’s closer to the region by identifying with the human aspect presented in the image.

frielecoffee

Other examples of this approach can be seen with the Geico, Aflac, and past Apple commercials. A gecko, duck, and the PC/Mac characters all make memorable brand ambassadors that are much more fun to share than “100% arabica beans”.

pcmac

Add a Little Tension

Using unpredictability pulls people in for a closer look, they’re uncomfortable and looking for a solution.

This commercial does a great job of building to a moment that you didn’t see coming. A happy ending that catches you off guard and you can’t help but want to share. This is also a perfect example of our last element in producing a sharable moment.

Protect the Reveal

Below is one of the most powerful messages I have seen in a while. Watch and I think you’ll understand the power of Story Building.

This message was revealed at the very end of the commercial, in a powerful and memorable moment. This video went viral, spreading Argentina’s organ donation message globally.

Caring is Sharing

How does your messaging measure up to these pieces? Are you building stories with your customers that are shareable across social media? An emotional attachment to your brand will go far in growing your audience exponentially. We all love a great story, provide one in terms of your brand and build a lasting relationship with your growing population of brand ambassadors.


Special thanks to Stacy Infantozzi, Marketing and Advertising Consultant for her contributions and research.

Sources:
YouTube.com
Cesar’s Dog Food
Reaktor Design
Adweek
John Lewis Department Stores
Fundacion Agentina De Trasplante Hepatico