Why Business Leaders Must Convey Authenticity

The public has changed attitudes toward private sector leadership. Consumers expect responsible, ethical and empathetic business practices. While many business leaders believe showcasing sustainability and community engagement initiatives will meet expectations, consumers expect more. Stakeholders expect that executives behave and communicate with empathy and authenticity, both internally and externally.

Don’t believe me? Think of the recent wave of layoff announcements. As companies of all sizes announced the unfortunate news, what was covered in the media? Not only the news of the layoffs, but the analysis of how the terminations were delivered to employees.

Criticized for appearing too nonchalant, others are praised for being open and honest. The way executives communicate, on or off the record, is a direct reflection of their organization. Whether it’s an external presentation, social media post, or press interview, communications influence how a brand is perceived.  

This is where communications coaching comes in. A communication lead may be asking, “why would I need to train a c-level executive that doesn’t speak directly to the media?” Well, communication coaching goes far beyond key messages and best practices for interviews.  The training shows business leaders how to communicate efficiently and effectively to external and internal stakeholders.  

 Coaching can help even the most polished leaders understand the mindset of various public audiences. There are subtle nuances and risks that come with communicating. When leaders are excited about their mission, sharing the proper tone and message to investors, reporters, employees and the public is vital.

In the instance of layoffs, leaders need to understand that communication doesn’t end with a news release and media statement.  Their behavior and messaging before and after – both internally and externally – set the tone for the way the news is received.

Effective communication skills have always been a critical leadership asset, but 2023 has proven that the public is anxious to call out inauthenticity and isn’t amused by age-old corporate speak. Leaders and companies that invest time to sharpen authentic communication skills – internally and externally – will notice a positive difference in the way their organization is perceived.

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Don’t Just Present. PERSUADE.

“Yay! A presentation!” Said no one ever.

Whether you’ve presented to an audience hard-pressed to glance up from their phones or been presented TO by a version of the monotone high school economics teacher Mr. Lorensax, in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” – NO one wants to be there.

And I get it. After 20 years of leading presentation coaching, I can honestly say it’s never been harder to give or receive presentations. Here’s what you’re up against:

All of this “noise” competing for everyone’s time and attention. So I’m going to propose a radical idea.

STOP presenting.

Presenting doesn’t work because it is a passive act between the presenter and the audience. Talking and being talked AT. We are requiring nothing of each other.

Instead, I coach clients to start PERSUADING.

Think about it. Every presentation is (or at least SHOULD be) an exercise in persuasion: getting your audiences to know, think or do something differently as a result of hearing you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be presenting right?  (By the way, if your answer is “No. I just want to generate buzz or drive awareness,” that’s an email distribution, not a presentation).

To persuade, step away from the PPT slides (IF you use a PPT at all. Mind-blown, right)? And start with strategy. Think about this as a strategic opportunity to move your idea, business or reputation forward. What do you want to achieve by sharing this information? What do you want to communicate? And what do you want your audience to do as a result of hearing you (think of the calories you want them to burn)?

Speaking of your audience, who are they? What do they care about? What are the benefits to them if they do what you want them to do? Focusing on this is critical to creating persuasive content. Otherwise, you’ll be throwing spaghetti at the wall and just hoping something sticks.

You’ll be surprised at how having a clear strategy helps you engage with and persuade your audiences. Example in point: this TEDtalk by Michael Pritchard, inventor of the LifeSaver Water Bottle. I use this example frequently to help clients identify 1) what his strategy is and 2) how it informs every piece of information he shares and actions he takes to unite his audience in a compelling call to action – all within nine minutes (and all without PPT or jargon-infused language!)

Strategy connects presenter and presentee. It breaks through the daily barrage of information and persuades audiences to pay attention – and act. Persuasion makes everyone’s time worth it.

So stop presenting. Start persuading. To learn more about our PadillaPrep coaching curriculum, visit PadillaPrep.com or email [email protected].

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Your Guide to Improving Media Relations in 2023

Setting the stage for media relations success in 2023 begins with understanding the state of journalism. Reporters continue to be stretched thin due to outlet consolidation and are under pressure to produce more stories within shortened deadlines. When pitching media, be cognizant of the news cycle, making note of current and upcoming events, holidays and other observances that will take precedence. Media cycles can happen within 24 hours or less. It’s important to respond to a reporter’s queries promptly, be prepared with spokesperson availability and have supporting assets available to share for additional background information.

As PR pros, there are many ways we can be helpful when working with journalists. Here are three ways you can start the new year off above the fold:

Build Authentic Relationships

According to Muck Rack’s State of Journalism 2022, the average reporter covers four beats and 51% publish more than five stories each week. The easier you can make their job, the better chance you have to successfully grab their attention and build a strong relationship. Strive to make it on a journalist’s “short list” for the first opportunity to position your subject matter expert and secure an interview. Do your research before pitching to ensure it’s a fit for the reporter/outlet and confirm the availability and preparedness of your spokesperson. Not taking these steps may jeopardize your relationship and credibility.

Connect and Collaborate

Don’t be afraid to connect “old school” by picking up the phone – it may turn into your breakthrough moment with a reporter. But again, be sure your story angle is appropriate for their beat. “Collaborations are always most effective when PR professionals understand our format, editorial content style and audience prior to pitching,” according to a journalist surveyed in Cision’s State of the Media Report 2022. 

Capitalize on Trending Topics

Newsjacking – injecting your ideas into breaking news stories or trends – will continue to be an effective way to garner earned media opportunities that drive results. Keep an eye on daily trending topics and identify angles to proactively pitch your industry expert who can provide an interesting POV – one that ties in how the company or product can address a current challenge or trend. According to Muck Rack, 71% of journalists polled in 2022 said addressing a subject connected to a trending story makes the story shareable.

It’s no secret that the media landscape is crowded. Authenticity, collaboration, and timeliness remain crucial elements for building strong relationships with reporters and securing more great media coverage for your subject matter experts and spokespeople.

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A Reason to Celebrate PR Measurement

Did you know that November is Measurement Month? If you answered “no,” don’t feel bad – you’re probably not alone. Measuring PR effectiveness is often overlooked, misunderstood, or just plain frustrating, even for seasoned professionals.

Decades ago, before this crazy thing called the internet changed the world, PR measurement was pretty straightforward. We (literally) measured the amount of coverage a story took up on the page and calculated the equivalent cost for an advertisement of that size. These days, between websites, blogs, social media, podcasts, newsletters and more, it can be much more confusing to measure the “value” of earned media coverage.

Back in 2010, the Barcelona Principles—established by the Association of Measurement and Evaluations of Communications (AMEC), the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the Institute for Public Relations (IPR)—made clear that when we talk about the “value” of PR, we shouldn’t look to an advertising equivalency dollar amount. A number of updates to these principles have been rolled out over the years, but the foundations remain the same: paid media and earned media function differently. Thus, they can’t be measured in the same manner.

So, what should you be measuring? Impressions? Total number of articles? Social media reach? Sentiment? The hard truth about PR measurement is that it simply cannot be one size fits all.

In order to determine what to measure, you have to first look at what your goals are for your business with your earned media placement. Impressions may be a great KPI for your company if you’re looking to raise awareness; however, if you want to see how your media coverage stacks up against your competitors, share of voice might be a better metric. If you’re looking to understand how the media is covering your business, key message pull-through might be the best KPI to track.

There are numerous tools and services out there in the marketplace available to help you track your PR results. Some boast dashboards that pull in social media metrics alongside media coverage, while others tout their AI capabilities for measuring things like tone and sentiment. AI has come a long way, but it’s still no replacement for human eyes and minds. All the tools in the world won’t help if your team doesn’t have a good understating of what metrics to track and why they matter to your business. There’s still no substitute for having a real person to review coverage for accuracy and synthesize metrics into meaningful takeaways that will matter to your leadership team.

Padilla’s Media Relations Consultants, an internal group of earned media experts, recently rolled out new agency best practices for PR measurement. This new set of standards and practices enables us to provide our clients with the best possible council around PR measurement, including access to tools that allow clients to see their PR results alongside their paid, shared and owned media campaign data, giving the entire team a better understanding of how different programs of work all function together to meet business goals.

If your team is struggling to measure the effectiveness of PR efforts, reach out—maybe next November you’ll be as excited to celebrate Measurement Month as Padilla is.

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