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preparing key messages

3 Ways to Get the Most from Every Industry Event

Around the globe, executives arrive at meetings and conferences armed with glossy slide decks, laundry lists of talking points and FAQs. And all of it will likely go ignored.

 

Like you, all executives are confident their presentation has been reworked and honed. But is yours a distinctive and memorable story regardless of whether it’s a big or small event? What about your team and colleagues? Are you sure? No weak links? You likely have your doubts and at least one of these questions can be answered with a NO. 

As everyone juggles their day-to-day job while scrambling to prep for the next event, a big opportunity is more than likely being missed.  There are broader opportunities each conference offers, beyond being on stage and necessary networking.  

Conferences are an ideal setting to deliver a clear and consistent message about your firm and business. This isn’t limited to the exec serving as panelist or delivering a speech. In many cases, colleagues attending the same conference, tell dramatically different stories about your company’s value proposition, and ultimately, they are not delivering the right key messages to clients and prospects. This is more than worrisome; it’s a waste of time and money and could damage relationships or connections your firm has worked hard to nurture. 

At these moments, when everyone is busy writing talking points, making sure their schedules are filled, ensuring everything that needs to be presented is already sent, handouts have gone through compliance, one may pause. Has anyone taken the time to prepare properly and ensure that everyone is on the same page? Is everyone aligned and prepared to deliver consistent messages? Sending or handing out papers and PowerPoints is not the solution. Who is monitoring your team’s quality control? Here are three tested ways to ensure that each brand ambassador is given the tools to enhance your firm’s brand and purpose:

1.     Ensure consistent messages are in placeIn many cases, lots of people, some of whom you’ve never met, are working to make sure that everything and everyone is ready for this event. Whether it’s your own or a trade conference, each business unit, product specialist, sales person is working on their own interpretation of what they need to do and say. Yet, the biggest piece is missing – common threads that run through the firm, each business and purpose of every product or service.

Looking at the whole picture is an absolute necessity. There are endless messages, talking points and supporting facts in front of everyone. Has anyone looked at all of it together? There are usually dots that need to be connected. There are opportunities missed because the whole puzzle isn’t being looked at and pieces are missing or are not being put together in a cohesive way. 

2. Be brief and make an impact. Since your firm is sending you and your colleagues to an event to represent the brand, you are relatively confident you know what you are talking about. In fact, you can talk about every detail of every part of the company, the industry and the history of your life that brought you here today, until you can speak no more. Please don’t do this. After the third, maybe the fourth sentence, whomever you are talking athas stopped listening. Think about how many people your audience will listen to that day and possibly the next. Your brief, to the point conversation should stand out and can be retold. 

3.     Everyone is there for a reason. One of those reasons is not to socialize with colleagues. Some of the people within your group might be new to the organization, have never been to a conference or simply do not know what to do while they are there. Whether it’s manning a booth, networking or sitting for the long lunch at a table of 10, everyone should still be on. They should know what to talk about in these situations to both represent the firm as well as making the most of everyone’s time. 

This additional preparation does take time and commitment. Yet, the results during the conference and after are very different. The outcome is that you, your audience and new contacts will feel and see that every minute and dime were well spent overall.

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4 Reasons Why Those Who Aren’t on LinkedIn Should Be

4 Reasons Why Those Who Aren’t on LinkedIn Should Be

The Investment and Wealth Advisor Edition

Obviously, if you are reading this on LinkedIn, you understand the value of this site for making new business connections while also following what your current and former colleagues are doing, such as changing jobs, hiring new employees or someone who just sold their business and may need financial advice. 

Recently, I was working with a wealth advisor client and we chatted about expanding his brand locally and nationally. We talked about LinkedIn and he said that due to his firm’s compliance constraints and the effort to manage his profile and connections, LinkedIn was a waste of time. 

Not so. Below are valid, prospect leading and business growing uses for this social

media outlet. Of course, there are other reasons, but here I am focusing on those that apply to investment advisors and wealth managers, as well as anyone who relies on increasing contacts and building professional relationships. 

  1. When I started my practice, one of the best pieces of business advice I received was to expand my reach beyond my first connections. They will be less likely to require my services. Most new business will come from second-tier connections. LinkedIn is the perfect professional venue to do just that. Used the right way, you can also tap into third-tier connections.

  2. By following posts of current, or prospective clients, as well as industry peers, you can have timely knowledge of situations in which you can help or simply have reason to reach out to them and expand that relationship.

  3. Writing an article or being in the press is an attention grabber once it’s posted on LinkedIn. These will be shared, commented on or “Liked” by your first connections, leading second connections and even third connections to notice you.

  4. LinkedIn is a great forum to connect or follow people who can give you advice and news on what is important to you or things you never knew you needed, like what I have provided you here.

When you come across someone who thinks that they know everyone they need to know, yet their livelihood relies on building their business and relationships, I encourage you to share this with them. They may reconsider and take some time to put their names out there and connect with those who are, or potentially, important to their business. 

Melissa F Daly has worked in financial and business communications for more than 20 years, with a special focus on key message development and strategy around critical issues. Melissa formed MFD Communications in 2011 after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. There, she focused on communications programs for its asset management (GSAM) and private wealth divisions as well as the firm’s political and lobbying activities. Prior to that, she was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based strategic communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services offer in the US, managing communications and special projects for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Before Brunswick, Melissa was responsible for marketing communications and media relations for Fred Alger Management, helping it rebuild after 9/11. At The Hartford, as Director of Communications, she was instrumental in building brand awareness around its new mutual fund family as well as being responsible for communications for The Hartford’s investment related products businesses. Early in her career, she worked alongside A. Michael Lipper as his namesake company’s Head of Media Relations. Melissa is often quoted in the press discussing a variety of business topics and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN serving as an industry commentator and Bloomberg calls her “a veteran Wall Street message maker.” Her experience spans across business sectors and continents.

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BMW CEO Crashes

This week we saw BMW’s new CEO Harald Krüger, collapse on stage. This is something many speakers and presenters fear but will rationalize that it will not happen to them. The chances of passing out on stage are slim, of course, but it can happen. The good news is that Mr. Krüger is fine and this episode is being chalked up to feeling unwell earlier in the day.

So, what can we do to prevent ourselves from falling over while on stage? Sometimes, we are just simply sick, but feel that the show must go on. If that is the case, we have to weigh the decision of whether or not to go on at all. If you feel that you must get up there, you may want to tell your audience that you are under the weather and sit rather than stand. Nerves and exhaustion can prove to be an unsteady mix.

But sometimes it may be that our nerves are getting the better of us, our minds race and lightheadedness sets in. Let’s discuss lowering those stress and anxiety levels.

First and foremost, be as prepared as possible. Practice your presentation to the point that you are very comfortable with it and the talking points are second nature. To be sure, “practice” doesn’t mean glancing at your notes. We mean that you should read your comments aloud so that you can reinforce what you will say. When possible, rehearse in the event space so that the amplified sound of your own voice doesn’t freak you out.

Some of us take our breathing for granted. This involuntary function can be controlled to help us get through our presentation. Take some slow deep breathes before getting in front of your audience. Most importantly, take a deep breath just before you utter your first words. If you don’t start on a full lung, you will be catching your breath and will sound nervous. When you sound nervous to yourself, you will perpetuate your own sense of unease, resulting in even more anxiety.

Getting ready for your presentation also requires some rest the night before. Of course, life and work get in the way of good sleep. When that’s the case, some of us turn to coffee, and then more coffee and caffeine. Too much of this can cause your heart to race and will not help you calm down. My personal preference is the shot of B-12 in Berocca and my good friend Red Bull.

If the fear of speaking in front of small or large groups causes you enough anxiety that you think that you may suffer a career-fatal crash, seek the right help, prepare and practice.

Melissa F Daly has 20 years of financial communications experience, with a special focus on key message development and media relations around critical issues. Melissa formed MFD Communications after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. At Goldman, Melissa focused on raising the profile of the its Asset Management and Private Wealth divisions, as well as the firm’s political activities. Prior to that, she was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based financial and strategic communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services business in the US, managing communications for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Melissa also worked at Fred Alger Management, The Hartford and Lipper in senior communications and media relations roles and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN as an industry commentator. Her experience spans across business sectors and continents.

 

 

 

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3 Reasons Your Company’s Message Isn’t Clear

Last week I heard a familiar statement: "Our message is so simple, I don't know why people can’t understand it.” But I could see why. I listened to their message and was left with little-to-no idea about the value of their product. I simply didn’t get it, and I don’t believe that this firm’s potential clients get it either. As we become more entrenched in our own industry, business, or area of expertise, we are increasingly comfortable—too comfortable—with how we talk about it. Because we understand our topics deeply, we often forget that the people we are trying to reach, whether through a press interview, marketing materials or a presentation, may not fully comprehend the subject. The result is a disinterested or bored audience. What is the cause?

1. The Curse of Knowledge. Sometimes you can know so much, you lose perspective and forget that a lesser-informed person doesn’t understand what you are talking about. As a result, you tell your story in an overly complicated way as you present an idea.

Look for ways to streamline talking points and eliminate onerous phrasing. Choose words, examples and analogies that others can easily relate to or understand. When you take your shirt to the drycleaners, do you want to hear about the machinery and solvents used to make your clothing crisp? Or would you prefer the simplified version of that process, that your shirts come back clean and the environment stays green?

2. Jargon. Would you prefer that your doctor told you that you had tinea pedis, or simply that you have athlete’s foot? Pharyngitis, or a sore throat? Specific to every industry, there are words and phrases that are overly complicated to others. And not everyone in your industry may know all of the vernacular you are using.

As you think about your target audience, put yourself in their place and consider exactly how deep their individual knowledge of your firm or industry may be. Now assume that it is far less. Go through your talking points and pull out words that a novice would not necessarily understand.

3. Acronyms. My use for an acronym may be different than yours. Don’t believe me? There are 362 uses for "ACE" alone. Every industry and every business has a unique set of acronyms. Many firms even produce their own internal acronym lists for their employees.

Don’t make the assumption that someone outside of your four walls completely understands the meaning of acronyms that you may easily toss into a sentence. You can’t always eliminate them, but when speaking with an outsider, spell out the meaning of the acronym on the first reference.

The presumption that your audience knows exactly what your company does and the meaning behind your internal or industry phrasing will result in a lost opportunity to deliver a clear message. That may ultimately hurt your bottom line through wasted time in sales meetings, potential lost sales and missed opportunities with presentations and press interviews.

Melissa F Daly has 20 years of financial communications experience, with a special focus on key message development and media relations around critical issues. Melissa formed MFD Communications after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. At Goldman, Melissa focused on raising the profile of the its Asset Management and Private Wealth divisions, as well as the firm’s political activities. Prior to that, she was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based financial and strategic communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services business in the US, managing communications for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Melissa also worked at Fred Alger Management, The Hartford and Lipper in senior communications and media relations roles and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN as an industry commentator. Her experience spans across business sectors and continents.

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Grievances Should be Aired Behind Closed Doors

There’s a great read in today’s Wall Street Journal, Inside the Showdown Atop Pimco. This story has all the elements of what reporters want—and everything executives and their PR staff dread. There’s an adversarial relationship, drama and juicy quotes meant to be private, from a brand that everyone knows and wants to read more about. In particular, an argument between top executives was recounted in full detail, on the front page of the paper. Yikes. Given their roles, business leaders make news when they do something out of the ordinary. Simply because of who they are, the actions and words of high-profile executives are of great interest to others. Conflict like this is a journalist’s dream.

When this type of discord occurs in front of others it is difficult to know exactly who may be listening. Clients or other visitors may hear the disagreement. A disgruntled employee may be taking note. Someone may be on a call.

I have had the misfortune of witnessing many blow-ups among senior executives.  Some eruptions have occurred in the halls, on trading floors and even in the reception area of a publicly traded company. In each case, one could easily see the danger of those disagreements spilling out into the public.

We can’t control every leak to the press, but CEOs and heads of businesses must understand the importance of keeping private matters private. Don’t let rifts sneak beyond the closed door lest you want the rest of world to get a whiff of your dirty laundry.

The next time someone asks me “What makes a good news story?” I will point them to this Pimco piece.

Melissa F Daly has 20 years of financial communications experience, with a special focus on key message development and media relations around critical issues. Melissa formed MFD Communications after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. Prior to that, she was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based financial and business communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services business in the US, managing communications for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Melissa also worked at Fred Alger Management, The Hartford and Lipper in communications and media relations roles and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN as an industry commentator. Her experience spans across business sectors and continents. 

 

 

 

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Avoiding an Armstrong Moment

Recently Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, was forced to reverse an unpopular revision to the firm’s employee benefits plan. In an employee call, detailed HERE, Mr. Armstrong announced an adjustment to the company’s 401(k) matching program. Pretty straightforward although unpopular with employees, the change in itself should not have been a news event, let alone garner front-page coverage and hours of airtime, with “Armstrong distressed babies” generating more than 54 million hits on Google. All of this could have been avoided. During the aftermath, much of the conversation has been about the content of his comments and the subsequent apology. Had Mr. Armstrong mapped out and vetted his content, as well as stuck to a script, this self-inflicted PR bullet would have never been loaded let alone shot in such spectacular fashion.

Mr. Armstrong has a history of just speaking what he thinks, and he seems to lack empathy when he goes off the rails. As you may recall, last year he abruptly fired a staff member while on a company-wide conference call, HERE.

If you are prone to making off-the-cuff, inflammatory statements, you are best suited to being well-rehearsed and scripted. We also recommend an objective sounding board to run through your statements beforehand.

Even if you are a thoughtful person who does not tend to make outlandish remarks, you are still better off being prepared and seeking a gut check from a trusted advisor who will offer an honest perspective and thoughtful feedback.

Simply, prepare remarks in advance and read through them with someone who can flag a statement that isn’t clear, contains inaccurate information or may come across as insensitive. Seek honest feedback, not just things you want to hear. Then stick to the script. Practice and rehearse until everyone is comfortable with the content and the delivery. If you are on a call, it’s ok to read from a script. If you are presenting in front of an audience, bring your notes. Don’t change up the language or decide to wing it.

The resistance to this approach has been that an executive may sound stilted or like he is reading. But with the right preparation and practice for a smooth, comfortable delivery of a script, that does not have to be the case. Even so, honestly, would you rather sound like you are reading from a script—or sound like a jerk?

Melissa F Daly has 20 years of financial communications experience, with a special focus on key message development and media relations around critical issues. Melissa formed MFD Communications after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. Prior to that, she was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based financial and business communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services business in the US, managing communications for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Melissa also worked at Fred Alger Management, The Hartford and Lipper in communications and media relations roles and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN as an industry commentator. Her experience spans across business sectors and continents. 

 

Speaking From the Seat of Your Pants

Last week, during a live interview on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart" Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, was asked an open-ended question about issues with the material used in the company’s pants.  After a long preamble, he said that Lululemon pants, “won’t work on some women’s bodies.” Cringe. Ok, not all pants fit all people. We know this. But there are more elegant ways to explain fit and function without alienating your own customers. Mr. Wilson insulted everyone who he thinks shouldn’t be using his product.

We often write about the importance of being prepared for press interviews, such as here, and answering the tough questions, here. It’s not like this is the first time that topic has come up for Mr. Wilson, or any other Lululemon executive. Given that the firm has been under fire for problems with their pants for months, the company should have had talking points that considered all of its stakeholders.

As you prepare for an interview or presentation, it’s always important to consider your audience beyond just those in the room. Key messages and talking points around topics, sensitive or not, need to address whomever may hear or read them. This includes investors, competitors, employees and the media, to name a few. And yes, Lululemon, your current and potential customers must be part of this exercise.

An outsider’s point of view also helps the process. Drafting key messages and talking points is a difficult exercise. Word choices become critical and all audiences must be considered. Working with an external resource who understands your business, or listening to the most cynical person in the room, is a necessary “gut check” to understand whether or not concerns are addressed.

Finally, it’s important to have a broader perspective than just your business at this particular moment in time. One must consider that just getting through the interview or presentation is not enough. Anticipate reactions to your comments so that you are not left with your pants down.

As a follow up to his statements, Mr. Wilson very appropriately and quickly issued an apology and said he is “sad,” here.  Well, not sad for what he said but for the repercussions of his statement. In short, he apologized to his employees, not to those who may have been offended. We can discuss how to say I’m sorry next…

Melissa Daly has worked in media relations and financial communications for more than 20 years. Melissa formed MFD Communications, a strategic consulting firm, after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. Prior to that, Melissa was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based financial and business communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services business in the US, managing communications for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Melissa also worked at Fred Alger Management, The Hartford and Lipper in communications and media relations roles and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN as an industry commentator. Her experience spans across business sectors and continents. For more, please visit mfdcommunications.com.

Um, You Look Great But You, Uh, Sound Terrible

Last week we clicked on a video to watch a senior financial industry executive being interviewed about his area of expertise. He looked great. He had on a nice suit with a shirt that was not white. He smiled broadly; his posture was perfect. And then he spoke. First words out of his mouth? “Uh, uh, uh, uh, um, uh.” And every sentence afterwards was generously peppered with “ums and uhs.” By all appearances, Mr. Executive was “media trained.” He was trained on how to prepare his body language and his clothing for his interview. However, he was not trained on how to effectively prepare the content for his interview. Mr. Executive’s inability to tell a story, and to string coherent thoughts together, canceled any of the headway made by his confident appearance. More, because the content was so jumbled, the interview was a waste of the executive’s time. The clip lost its value as an effective means to deliver any message, and the firm lost the opportunity to promote this clip more broadly and reach an audience beyond the initial posting.

Preparing for a broadcast, webcast or print interview should be very similar to preparing for any presentation, big or small. The reality is that content matters. Crafting and practicing specific language is critical. Interviewees who know their messages cold don’t have to search their brains for the right words. It’s this frantic search through the corners of the mind that causes people to “uh” and “um.”

A media training session that focuses solely on appearance is shortsighted. The tactics for looking good on camera can be learned through a quick Internet search or HERE. But truly effective media training should be conducted by someone who can understand your content and can help you work through the appropriate talking points. Once you know what to say, you can work on how to say it, and then you can think about where to put your hands and what color tie to wear.

Preparing the right way for interviews with the press will ensure that you are focused, your answers are clear and you are confident. The decision to be interviewed was made because it will get you in front of the right audience. Do you want to use that as an opportunity to demonstrate you know your stuff or that you simply know how to gesticulate?

Melissa Daly has worked in media relations and financial communications for more than 20 years. Melissa formed MFD Communications, a strategic consulting firm, after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. Prior to that, Melissa was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based financial and business communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services business in the US, managing communications for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Melissa also worked at Fred Alger Management, The Hartford and Lipper in communications and media relations roles and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN as an industry commentator. Her experience spans across business sectors and continents. For more, please visit mfdcommunications.com.

Entrepreneur Interview: Melissa F Daly

Entrepreneur Interview: Melissa F Daly

What does your company do?  MFD Communications is a strategic communications consulting firm. We specialize in developing, refining, and delivering content through media, client presentations and materials. As we work with our clients to refine messaging and content, we can create and implement a media strategy to better position the firm and its executives with target audiences. Simultaneously, we will assess and improve materials and presentations so that they accurately reflect what needs to be communicated. We also provide media training and presentation coaching sessions that will enable you to deliver your key messages with confidence and clarity. We focus our attention on capturing what needs to be communicated and then help refine those messages so that the content is easier to understand, quotable and ultimately has an immediate impact and makes a lasting impression. Read more:   http://businessinfoguide.com/entrepreneur-interview-melissa-f-daly-mfd-communications/#sthash.rWtaTpfm.dpuf

What does your company do?

MFD Communications is a strategic communications consulting firm. We specialize in developing, refining, and delivering content through media, client presentations and materials. As we work with our clients to refine messaging and content, we can create and implement a media strategy to better position the firm and its executives with target audiences. Simultaneously, we will assess and improve materials and presentations so that they accurately reflect what needs to be communicated. We also provide media training and presentation coaching sessions that will enable you to deliver your key messages with confidence and clarity. We focus our attention on capturing what needs to be communicated and then help refine those messages so that the content is easier to understand, quotable and ultimately has an immediate impact and makes a lasting impression.Read more: http://businessinfoguide.com/entrepreneur-interview-melissa-f-daly-mfd-communications/#sthash.rWtaTpfm.dpuf

Praise for Dimon’s Mea Culpa Strategy

Praise for Dimon’s Mea Culpa Strategy

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NEW YORK, May, 18 2012 (Bloomberg) -- One veteran Wall Street message maker has something for Jamie Dimon may be short on these days: a compliment. Melissa Daly, who worked at Goldman Sachs and merger specialist Brunswick Group and now runs the eponymous MFD Communications, says she’s a fan of the under-siege bank chief’s strategy of mea culpa on overdrive.

“The easiest thing to do right now would be to hunker down, keep journalists at arm’s length and decline to comment,” Daly wrote on her blog today in a regular commentary called, naturally, “The Daly Dose.” “It’s commendable that the executives at JPM appear to want to set the record straight, admit to faults, show their pain and demonstrate that they are not infallible.”

Pressed for more, Daly offered that a key point in fighting off the Dimonfreude engulfing Wall Street and the Beltway last week was reshooting the “Meet the Press” interview to answer questions about the $2 billion loss. “He wasn’t arrogant,” Daly said. “He was eating humble pie in front of Washington, and in the public eye.” Read More: http://go.bloomberg.com/political-capital/2012-05-18/praise-for-dimons-mea-culpa-strategy/