5 Ways Reality TV Can Improve Your Messaging

I watch the Real Housewives of New Jersey. There. I said it.

I stumbled on the show when I zapped to Teresa Guidice overturning a table during an argument at a restaurant.


Thinking this might be interesting, I pulled Darlene, my wife, in on it. Years later, I’m no longer embarrassed to admit watching the show. Apparently the 2.8 million other viewers of the most watched show in its time slot aren’t either.

Some consider reality TV a guilty pleasure. Others criticize it as the lowest form of culture. Andy Denhart, journalist and TV critic, says Reality TV is important because it forces us to think of how we’d respond to what we’re watching.

Whatever your view, you can benefit from applying Reality TV story telling techniques.

When you watch any of the Real Housewives series, you quickly realize the cast members, houses, clothes, cars and toys are actually far from the “reality” most of us know. Much of what the “real people” featured in these shows do isn’t all that real.

Yet people still tune in. Why?  Reality TV leverages these five fundamentals of story telling:

1. Focus on The Big Idea. Succinct messaging conveys the essence of the show. For example, Survivor: Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.

2. Engage Your Audience. American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice and other shows encourage the audience to vote. Viewers become attached to contestants in the way we used to connect with sitcom stars.

3. Touch Emotions. Teresa Guidice and other villains like Vienna Girardi from the Bachelor, The Apprentice’s Omarosa and Scott Disick of Keeping Up With the Kardashians generate controversy to keep us interested and create a buzz.

4. Concentrate on Key Target Markets. Ever notice the shows feature a cross section of characters from multiple market segments that can buy stuff from sponsors? We relate to one or more of the characters and compare others to people we know. It leads to emotional buy-in among loyal viewers and allows sponsors to pitch us on their products and services.

5. Make it Memorable. The introductions, music, quick video cuts and editing combine to make a lasting impact. We remember the meltdowns and the dumb things people say or do. We feel bad for the jilted and those sent home. Even when someone loses, they often win from their “almost” celebrity status.

Enjoy your favorite show and improve your messaging by using the story telling techniques of Reality TV.

Vote Now: Who’s your favorite Reality TV Villain?



Four Ways To Stop Misusing “Reply To All” and “cc:”


When I complain about the misuse of “Reply To All” or “cc:” in emails, heads nod in agreement and glaring examples are provided. It happens regularly because we don’t answer some basic but key questions.

Four Questions to Answer Before Responding To Emails:

1. Do I need to respond?

You don’t need to respond all the time. Sometimes you are just being updated or “kept in the loop.” Use judgment when deciding whether or not to respond. I’m not saying you can ignore emails. Simply use discretion to save everyone time.

2. What happens if I don’t include each person?

When you are writing an initial email, decide how each person will use the information. If it’s not obvious that they need the email, don’t cc: them.

When responding, you also don’t need to hit “Reply to All” if your response isn’t useful to  each person on the email string. If you have a quick clarification or constructive feedback that involves only the sender, you probably shouldn’t cc: everyone.

I realize some readers might feel the need to cover themselves by including more people on emails. But you’re also wasting people’s time by unnecessarily creating cluttered email strings.

3. How would you handle it if you were having a face-to-face conversation?

When multiple people are emailed via the “To” box, you should “Reply to All” unless something is confidential to only the original sender. Think of what you would do in a real conversation. If someone said something to you and another person at lunch, would you respond by whispering in that person’s ear? Probably not. You’d likely talk to both people. Do the same thing in an email.

4. Does everyone on this email need the information to do their job?

When three or four people are working on a project and your response impacts them, remember to hit “Reply to All.” Forgetting to do so frustrates everyone who is left out and stifles productivity. The converse is also true. Don’t add people to the recipient list unless you’re sure they need the information to do their job.

You might think these tips are obvious or common sense. Take a quick look through your Inbox and Sent folder. You’ll realize it’s not as obvious or common as you think.

Do what you can to change things. Start asking and answering these four questions and improving your email communications.

Email me  your favorite or should I say least favorite examples of people misusing the “cc:” or “Reply to All” and I’ll send you more tips on making the most of your email communications.

It’s Not Complicated. More Communication is Better.

I love AT&T’s “It’s Not Complicated” commercial where an elementary school girl tries to explain why more is better than less. After struggling to make her point, she finally just says: “We want more. More. When we really like it we want more.”


It’s memorable and makes an emotional impact. The ad also rings true for most of us when we buy. We tend to want more for less more often than not. And if we had to explain why, we might stumble as much as the girl in the ad too.

But what happens when we’re on the other end of the spectrum? We grow frustrated when our own customers or clients push back about price, scope, offerings or perceived value. It’s natural to do so and to think that the price or scope or something must be wrong.

How you respond to internal and external customers who seem to keep asking for more will dictate your level of productivity, profitability and personal growth.

The next time you think your customers are crazy, unreasonable or flat out asking for too much, remember:

  • It could mean more about their buying mindset than your price, quality or scope of services.
  • You tend to do the same thing when you’re the buyer.
  • They might not be convinced of or completely understand the value of what you bring to the table.
  • Sometimes you do need to change the scope, improve your offerings or adjust the price. But in many instances you need to help your internal or external customers realize what’s in it for them. 

Ask open ended questions. Listen. Clarify. If their concerns are clear and legitimate, show them how you will improve. When they misperceive the situation, communicate your value in their terms.

And next time you start acting like the girl in the commercial, remember it won’t be long until you’re on the other end of that conversation.

Remember: Everybody Wants More For Less

Sometimes I forget that we all want more for less pretty much all the time.

It’s natural to grow frustrated when we think we’re doing good work for clients and they push back on price or scope.

We need to remember that it’s not totally about our scope or pricing. It’s more about how we as buyers think and feel.

The next time you think your client is crazy or asking for too much, remember:

•It’s more about their buying mindset than your pricing or scope of services.

•You (and I) do the same thing when we’re the buyer.

•Our jobs exist because of our customers.

Now if I could only practice what I preach!

What are your least favorite stories about customers asking for more?

Brochures and Websites Don’t Sell. People Do.

New technology leads to better data and more sophisticated analysis.

Sales processes evolve with an increased focus on understanding customers and prospects.

Universities offer majors in sales and sales management.

Yet far too many so called sales people, particularly those in healthcare referral source marketing positions, still think that brochures, websites and other marketing items are what sell their products or services. Or they don’t realize that buying someone food is not marketing.

How can this be? It seems obvious to true sales practitioners that customers buy solutions from people. They don’t buy based on a brochure  or a website. I’m not talking about purchasing a piece of furniture, item of clothing or grill set from Amazon.com. We can buy things like that with a couple of clicks online. But when someone has a pain point and needs a solution, they aren’t going to buy based on a leave behind or from a website.

I’m not minimizing the importance of marketing collaterals, websites, mobile marketing, social media or traditional media vehicles. Each can be important to a true integrated marketing strategy. I’m talking about selling to prospects and up-selling existing customers.

Marketers trying to close business need to build and maintain quality relationships. They need to make it about them–their prospects and customers. Ask open ended, fact and emotion based questions. Shut up and listen. Needs match. Deliver what they promise. They need to show that they are there for customers and prospects, not just trying to hit their numbers.

Brochures and websites can be part of the process. But without real Pre Call Prep, ongoing relationship building, asking questions, actively listening and matching needs, those “nice” and “cool” brochures, websites and other marketing tools won’t make much of an impact on the bottom line.



Leadership and Communication Lessons from the NBA

The San Antonio Spurs are headed to the NBA Finals and it looks like Lebron James and the Miami Heat will be joining them.

If that ends up being the case in a week or so, the teams’ supposed contrasting styles will be discussed. I think the similarities in  how they prepare, lead and communicate are more significant than the differences.

The Spurs Tim Duncan and Miami’s Lebron James are the cornerstones of their franchises. Both take a disciplined approach to just about everything on and off the court. Both are known for their deliberate practice towards continuous improvement during and after the season. Duncan and James are also disciplined when it comes to messaging. The  Spurs standout avoids interviews as much as possible while Lebron keeps his PR team happy by staying on message again and again.

Gregg Popovich has been San Antonio’s head coach for 16 seasons. The team has made the playoffs every year and won 4 NBA titles. Popovich also avoids the camera and can be a reporter’s nightmare. During this year’s conference finals, he answered two different questions with the same one word answer: “Turnovers.” Popovich is demanding yet loyal. He makes an impact on his players’ lives beyond basketball.


Miami’s head coach is Erik Spoelstra. If the defending champions close out Indiana, this would be his third straight NBA Finals appearance. Spoelstra will talk about his players a lot, making a point of praising role players and defending his stars. When he’s asked to talk about himself, he doesn’t say all that much. Like Popovich, he understands his role is to privately push and pull the players to get the most out of them. When the team wins, it’s because of Lebron and the guys. When they lose, maybe it’s the coach’s fault. He doesn’t care.


Two winning organizations. Two franchise players. Two coaches who get it. Only one will bring home the NBA championship but both provide leadership and communication lessons that can help us all.

Your 3 Step Plan to Healthy Communication


Photo courtesy of http://blog.arkadin.com/
Photo courtesy of http://blog.arkadin.com/

A recent Kaiser survey asked Americans how they thought the Affordable Care Act would impact them. 57% said they didn’t know enough about the law to say.

In an eHealthinsurance.com poll of small businesses with less than fifty employees, 56 percent believe they are required to provide insurance for employees under the Affordable Care Act beginning in January of 2014. Yet these businesses are exempt from the new healthcare program.

Reaching and influencing individuals across the country is certainly a challenge. On the other hand, the story is so big that an array of mediums exist to tell it and we are ready to talk about it.

Small businesses are one of the key target markets of the Affordable Care Act’s communication efforts. Yet it appears many small business owners do not understand how the act impacts their companies.

This blog post isn’t really about the Affordable Care Act. It’s about the importance of strategic messaging and planning for healthy communication.

Whether you need to reach millions, thousands, hundreds or just your own family members, you can improve your communication with this 3 Step Plan:

  1. Plan, plan and then plan. Spend as much time planning for the communication of the idea, event, product or service as you do in planning to create, develop or produce it.
  2. Accept that how you think it should be isn’t how it really is. Just telling someone something a few times doesn’t work. Using only a couple of mediums—“We have it on our website and we tweeted it” or “We sent a press release and some emails plus bought some TV ads”—doesn’t cut it. Repeat your message in multiple mediums.
  3. Pick your favorite cliche and live by it. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Less is More. Make It About Them. Unfortunately, people often don’t adhere to these principles. Some say they do but then can’t help themselves. Clarity. Brevity. Focus on your audience and what they can take away, not on your jargon or corporate speak.

Follow your 3 Step Plan for Healthy Communication. Be disciplined. Start now.

6 Things To Do With Emails

This is the first in a series of three posts based on content from presentations made to college seniors.

While preparing a speech for a group of college seniors, I focused on the importance of a lifelong thirst for knowledge and achieving positive, incremental change. The end result was a presentation with three key themes:

  •  Success, like beauty, should be in the eye of the beholder. You decide what you want to do, how you want to live and what you want to achieve.
  • Potential employers need to know what you are capable of and how you think. Use the Seinfeld PR Approach and tell your story. What you think is nothing can be interesting to others.
  • People will want you on their team if you are organized, efficient and get things done.

For this post, here are some tips to improve your organizational skills.

6 Things To Do with Emails:

  1. Act–Act on it immediately.  If something can be done in less than 15 minutes, act on the task immediately and complete it.  Then, it’s done and off your ‘to do’ list.
  2. Tickle–If a task requires action within two weeks, place it in your ‘Tickle’ folder along with a due date. Your ‘Tickle’ folder should be reviewed two or three times each week with actions taken based on priority.
  3. To Do–If the item needs acted on within the next week and you can’t work on it immediately, put it in your ‘To Do’ folder.  This folder will contain multiple items  and  must be reviewed every day to stay on top of your main priority items.
  4. Delegate–Delegate or forward the email to someone. Provide specific timelines and action items for the person assigned the responsibility. Follow up as necessary on the progress.
  5. File–If it is important but not actionable immediately, create a folder and file it as soon as possible.  If you can’t file things quickly, at least file multiple items once a week.
  6. Delete–You need to get rid of emails if they are not relevant now or won’t be within six months.  Enjoy deleting. It should be a liberating experience.

The key is to touch the email once and then have a plan for it. Use these 6 Things To Do with Emails to become more productive and gain peace of mind.

Quit Achin’ to Be and Make Something Happen

MAS_SocialNet_Logo_500x500Sounds of Marketing
Achin’ to Be—The Replacements

Public speaking ranks as one of our biggest fears. People also dread writing and “putting ideas to paper” or to computer/tablet screen. Creative solutions are put off because of the crisis of the day.

Why do we spend more time worrying about how others will respond to an idea than on the idea itself?

Well she’s kind of like an artist
Sittin’ on the floor
Never finishes, she abandons
Never shows a soul

When we finally begin working on something unique, we are afraid of what others might think. The little voice inside our head convinces us that we’ll bomb. No one will like it. The idea will get shot down. People will laugh.

Well she’s kind of like an artist
Who uses paints no more
You never show me what you’re doing
Never show a soul 

But we should consider the consequences of not offering our ideas, not taking a chance. Keeping quiet and playing it safe might seem better in the short term but in the long run?

She closes her mouth to speak
And closes her eyes to see

The promotion went to someone else. The salary isn’t what it should be.  Every day it’s the same old, same old. Frustration mounts and begins to show. Facial expressions paint you in a negative light. Comments are misinterpreted as complaints.

She opens her mouth to speak and 
What comes out’s a mystery

You were hired or promoted for a reason. Someone thought you were the right pick. Now they wonder what might have been. Unrealized potential. Missed opportunities.

Thought about, not understood

Sadly, the downward spiral leads to even lower self esteem.

She’s achin’ to be

You know what you know so put your ideas out there. Be creative and tell your story. Listen to what others say and watch how they respond. Take what makes sense and tweak your ideas. Ignore the rest, believe in yourself and wait. Someone will get it.

Or not.

Either way, taking the chance is better off than just achin’ to be.

Achin’ to Be Video