Tropic Thunder’s 4 Steps to Messaging Authenticity

In the movie Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey, Jr. plays Kirk Lazurus, a 5-time Academy Award-winning method actor who’s had “pigmentation augmentation” surgery to darken his skin for his role as an African American. Downey never breaks character, leading a cast member to question his authenticity. Lazurus defends himself saying:

“I know who I am. I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude!”

Have you ever been the dude playin’ the dude disguised as another dude when communicating? Whether it’s addressing your team, working with peers or updating your boss, are you seen as believable or insincere? Authentic or calculated?

The ability to communicate authentically is important to success as a leader, manager and team member. Authenticity inspires. Yet many presentations, meetings and discussions are perceived as self serving or promoting the status quo.

Sometimes it’s the words but more often than not it’s the delivery—our non verbal communication. When our spoken message and body language don’t match up, the audience follows the non verbal message every time.

How and why does this mismatch occur?

Some people say “I don’t want to look scripted so I’m going to wing it,” then their body language conveys discomfort and a lack of confidence. Others actually over prepare and come across as stilted, leaving the audience apathetic or uninspired.

Unfortunately, total spontaneity and traditional practice methods won’t produce authenticity. In both instances our nonverbal conversation makes more of an impact than our spoken words. Instead practice these 4 Steps to Authenticity:

  1. Convey your Big Idea in their terms.  Your audience will think “What’s in it for me?” so practice your answer.
  2. Craft stories that create connections. Keep their attention and thoughts on you by relating stories to them.
  3. Embrace your passion. Show them how deeply you feel about the subject. If you aren’t passionate about it, you can’t expect your audience to be.
  4. Listen and adjust. Practice how you will assess their body language. Think of how you’d adjust based on their responses both non verbal and verbal.

Preparation focused on them—your audience—leads to the authentic you.

Or as Kirk Lazurus said:

I don’t read the script. The script reads me.

5 Messaging Tips from ‘Entourage’

The ‘Entourage’ movie opened this week, taking the HBO comedy-drama television series from thirty minute show to full length film.

The story focuses on movie star Vincent Chase and his childhood friends from Queens, New York as they move through the highs and lows of Chase’s Hollywood career.

The series mixed music, sports and entertainment story lines together and showcased a long list of celebrity cameos. The movie follows the same path and in this era of binge watching could have passed for an entire season viewed in one setting.

Rather than review the movie, I want to focus on how ‘Entourage’ leverages the power of story telling and marketing to reach and influence audiences.

5 Messaging Tips from Entourage

1. Stir Emotions

You either love or hate ‘Entourage.’ Some criticize it as pointless, simple, chauvinistic. Others describe it as a story about friendship, family and remembering where you came from. Both groups were touched emotionally.

2. Make It Memorable

Whether it’s the guitar riff at the beginning of the theme song by Jane’s Addiction, creative product placement or the behind the scenes look at Hollywood, fans and haters both remember specific scenes, story lines and episodes.

3. Know Your Target

Series creator, producer and primary writer Doug Ellin built the story around and for guys. He developed main characters—Johnny Drama, E, Turtle, Vince, Ari— that his key target audience could relate to. Toss in creative story lines around supporting characters, cameos and the over the top Hollywood lifestyle to keep the target audience loyal.

4. Keep It Simple

The series didn’t veer from its main focus or big idea—friendship. The movie stayed true to the same concept. No surprises. No over reaching. No claims of artistic excellence. Still just a story about four guys who grew up together and remained friends.

5. Tell Stories

It all comes down to story telling. Whether you’re selling your company’s virtues, motivating your team or making a movie, your real story can resonate with your target audiences because it’s yours. It’s unique and authentic.

And don’t forget to pick a theme song.

Yah-Yuh. Yay-Yuh. Oh-Yeah.

Don’t Lie. But if You Do and Get Caught, Don’t Be Like Tom Brady

Photo courtesy of

Southwest Airlines should hire Tom Brady to do one of those “Gotta Get Away” commercials.

After Patriots management decided against appealing the NFL’s DeflateGate punishment, Ron Borges of the Boston Herald reported this week:

“[Coach Bill] Belichick never believed [Brady’s] story, from what I was told,” Borges said. “Because they all know. Why do you think all those retired quarterbacks, the Troy Aikmans of the world — Troy Aikman is about as nice a guy as I’ve ever met in football — nobody’s backed [Brady]. Nobody, not a single guy. Why do you think that is? Because they hate Brady? No. Because they’re not stupid. They know nothing’s done with those balls that the quarterback doesn’t want done.”

Just like Fox Sports cuts to Mike Pereira to interpret the NFL Rules, I’ll provide the breakdown from a PR perspective.

PR Rule #1: Tell the truth. This one is as easy to understand as offsides or illegal motion. Pick your favorite sports media gaffe that resulted from an athlete being less than truthful. Lance Armstrong. Manti Te’o. A-Rod. The list could go on. 

The media has been taught to  ‘get the story, get it first and get it right.’  When a sports star lies, someone will prove it and make the lie as big of a story as the original issue.

But let’s say you can’t help yourself and still tell a big lie? What then?

“I would never, you know, uh, you know, have someone do something that was outside the rules.”  Tom Brady, January 22, 2015 press conference.

PR Rule #2: When caught lying, apologize and tell the truth. Here’s what Brady should say:

“Right before the Super Bowl, I was asked a question about the air in the footballs from the AFC Championship Game.

I wasn’t completely truthful with my answer. I was worried about my team and the upcoming game but still should’ve been clearer.

I was asked by an equipment manager how I liked the footballs. I told him I liked them with a little less air. I shouldn’t have said that and take responsibility for it. I apologize to my teammates, Patriots management, the NFL and most importantly the fans.”

Brady and the Patriots legacies are tarnished. Continuing to lie won’t change that. Their only call is to learn from the mistake, be transparent and move on. And in the future play by both NFL and PR rules.

What’s the Big Idea?

From Get Where You Want To Go

Ever wonder why those car ads have so much stuff crammed into them that you can barely read the print?

Or wish that a salesperson would stop blabbering about all the features and benefits their product has to offer?

Worse yet, ever sit through a presentation that includes what seems like a hundred PowerPoint slides being read to you by the speaker?

We have all probably been there in some way, shape or form.

big ideaThe problem arises because the advertiser, salesper- son, and speaker all neglected to focus on one big idea.

Instead, they made it about them rather than us and gave us more information than we wanted or needed. It’s kind of like the casual acquaintance you run into who goes on and on about their kids when you ask how they are doing. All you really wanted was the quick thir- ty second update. Not a breakdown on school, sports, height, weight, friends, favorite food, and so on.

We’re bombarded with messages from the time we wake up until we crash at the end of a long day. We can’t afford to spend more time processing information unless we are sure we need it. We remember creative messages that are memorable and make an emotional impact. We relate to them and they are focused on one main idea.

Think about ads or slogans that you probably couldn’t forget if you wanted to…

Can You Hear Me Now?

Got Milk?

Choose Your Healthcare As If Your Life Depended On It.

Try to remember the last time a salesperson made just the right pitch…

Or you thoroughly enjoyed a presentation or speaker…

The presentation or pitch was focused on you and on one big idea that you still remember today.

The next time you are creating an ad, making a sales pitch, preparing for a presentation, or writing an email, improve your message by asking yourself:

What’s the Big Idea?

Tell Your Story: 8 Messaging Musts

An excerpt from Get Where You Want to Go

Here are 8 Messaging “Musts” to help tell your story:

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 2.29.08 PM1. Drill Down–Focus on key target markets with the greatest potential.

2. Simplify Your Message—Commit to one big idea.

3. Make it Memorable—Touch emotions and capture people’s attention.

4. Focus on Less and More: Less talking, more listening. Less graphics and copy, more white space.

5. Admit Weaknesses–People usually know or figure them out anyway.

6. Make It About Them—Speak their language, in their terms.

Click Here to Read All 8 Messaging Musts 


Will Batman Save Your Messaging?


Six Tips From The Caped Crusader To Help Tell Your Story

Channel surfing one weekend morning, I came across an episode of The Batman TV series produced in the late 1960s.

The Riddler holds Robin hostage to trap Batman. While searching for Robin, Batman opens the trunk of the Batmobile to use the Mobile Crime Computer which connects to the Bat Cave’s main computer and provides the information to solve the riddle.

Holy Al Gore! Batman created the Internet!

The typical story begins with a villain committing a crime, such as stealing a fabulous gem or taking over Gotham City. Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara either press a button on the Bat Phone or use the Bat Signal to reach Batman. The scene then cuts to ‘stately Wayne Manor’ where Alfred the butler answers.

In this particular episode, Batman uses the Bat Gauge, the Emergency Bat-Turn Lever, the Bat Ray Projector and of course the multipurpose Bat Laser.

It all made me realize Batman is the Caped Crusader of Messaging. Taking a cue from the Riddler, answer these questions to tell your story more effectively:

What’s the Big Idea? Having witnessed the murder of his parents as a child, Bruce Wayne swore revenge on criminals, an oath tempered with a sense of justice. The series revolves around this big idea.

Who’s your target? The show targets kids and parents with a Good vs. Evil theme and moral lessons like the importance of homework, using seat belts and drinking milk thrown in.

Their Why or Your What? The Bam! Boom! Kapow! during fights. Da na na na na na na na na na na Batman! The booming narrator’s voice. Sappy? Maybe. Memorable? For sure. Make your messaging about your customer’s “why” more than your “what” and “how.”

Less or More? The Riddler’s ?. The Joker’s smile. The Penguin’s umbrella and top hat. Crisp visual imagery conveying one idea helps tell the story.

Can you keep it simple? Everything is labeled in big, bold letters. Laughing Gas.The Universal Drug Antidote. Detect-A-Scope. Everyone knows what’s going on. The simpler, the better.

What’s Your Story? Each episode follows the same storytelling path. The teaser. The introduction of the villain. Commissioner Gordon, Chief O’Hara, Alfred. Robin’s phrases. Batman’s life lessons. The fight. The music. The villain gets the upper hand but loses in the end.

Cue that booming voice: Will you implement Batman’s messaging tips? Can you tell your story in a more memorable way?

Wise or Woeful Holiday Marketing?

Santa Carrying Shopping Bags

Interpreting Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

The National Retail Federation (NRF) announced that total sales during the post-Thanksgiving weekend dropped 11 percent from last year.

Cyber Monday sales increased 8.7 percent, which pales in comparison to last year’s 18.7 percent increase from 2012.

So was the season’s first major shopping event a bust? Was marketing by major retailers off the mark? Actually, the opposite.

Big-time retailers ranging from Target, The Gap, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s adjusted to what customers wanted, with online discounts prior to Black Friday and extended Cyber Monday deals. Why?

The allure of post-Thanksgiving weekend has diminished somewhat and the retailers wisely adjusted to meet customer wants and needs.

You can and should do the same for your business. Here are four ways to achieve your holiday (and any time of the year) sales goals:

  1. Know Your Customers ─ Everyone thinks they know their customers. Peak performers in any industry admit that they need to continually learn more. Regardless of the size of your company and budget, you can and should do market research. It can be informal, in-house research or more in depth quantitative studies.
  2. Do Your Messaging Drill Down ─ Each of your target markets has their own unique wants and needs. You need to communicate to each market differently. Your core message remains the same but needs to be tweaked for each audience.
  3. Make It About Them ─ National retailers realized that while they (the stores) love Black Friday, their customers wanted the chance to buy online when and where they wanted to. The adjustment was made and the NRF projects overall sales this holiday season to be up 4.1 percent to $16.6 billion.
  4. Tell Them Again and Again ─ Once you’ve completed the first 3 steps, you need to tell each target audience their story again and again. Use any messaging means possible. Social, traditional, in person, online. Tell a clear, consistent, creative story until you are sure it resonates with each target audience.

The overall numbers are promising ─ and serve as another reminder that listening to customers can mean the difference between naughty or nice holiday sales.

MASSolutions President & CEO on Johnstown Live

Dave Mastovich, President & CEO of MASSolutions, spoke to listeners of Johnstown Live about marketing and branding for organizations of any size.

Click these links to hear clips from his radio interview.

The Costs of Doing It Yourself


The Do It Yourself (DIY) movement is part of our culture. The DIY Channel focuses on do it yourself projects at home. In the workplace, saving money by doing tasks “in house” is appealing. Employees think they can score points and increase job security by showing how they reduced costs with their own DIY activities.

When it comes to Marketing, PR, Communications and Selling, many companies subscribe to the Do It Yourself (DIY) approach by:

• Having “creative” work attempted by in-house staff who are not creative professionals.
• Failing to augment internal Sales Training & Coaching with outside expertise.
• Thinking that writing and sending a press release is doing PR.
• Lacking the confidence to have others involved in developing strategic goals and initiatives.
• Ignoring market research by thinking they already know what they need to know.

But how much are we really saving? What are the costs of doing it yourself?

“Your Time” Cost
Decision makers often don’t accurately assess the value of their team’s time. While these are sunk costs incurred anyway, that time could be spent elsewhere. Estimate the time you and your team will spend on the DIY project and put a real dollar value on it. Your DIY out of pocket savings might not match the value of your team’s time.

“Opportunity” Cost
You don’t have the experience and talent of the experts, so it will take you longer to finish the work. The more time it takes to complete a project, the more the value of that activity is reduced. Your competition might be first to market and exploit an opportunity.

“Quality” Cost
Unfortunately, the end result of DIY activities is often a lower-quality outcome. Think of what you and your company do. When your prospective clients follow the DIY approach, is their quality as good as yours?

“Brand” Cost
Your personal brand and your company’s is impacted by just about everything you do. You risk hurting those brands if the DIY approach leads to a lesser-quality outcome.

“Leadership” Cost
When you have the confidence to utilize an outside expert, you show leadership. Strong leadership involves informal and formal guidance of others—inside and outside your organization.

Sometimes doing it yourself can work. Just make sure you have done a true analysis of the many costs so you can evaluate whether or not there really is a DIY ROI.

Coaches Need Coaching on How to Communicate

5 Ways to Win Over Your Target Audiences


We learn about winning and losing at an early age. Our first experiences of both are often through sports, as a fan, casual observer or player.

We are influenced by our early teachers and coaches, subconsciously forming our own views of leadership, management and communication. Coaches, players, parents and fans have opinions on what coaching is or what makes a good coach.

Some level of expertise in the sport is an obvious prerequisite. Time management is crucial because coaches have a limited amount of time with their players. Motivational skills are important to coax the most out of different team members. Leadership and accepting responsibility are other necessary traits.

Yet the area where most coaches fall short — from youth sports to high school, college and even the professional ranks — is the lack of consistent, effective communication.

5 Ways Coaches (and You) Can Win Over Target Audiences

Identify and Understand. Coaches have to reach and influence multiple audiences. For example, high school coaches should target parents, media, alumni, students, players and local businesses. Average coaches typically ignore or neglect a few while successful coaches focus on each group. Where are they coming from? How can you reach them?

Admit You Are Selling. Average coaches sell the audiences they think are important.  Successful ones admit they are selling all the time. It doesn’t mean being manipulative or caving in on every complaint. It means explaining both your big picture vision and your tactical approach.

Communicate clearly, early and often. Tell target audiences your message. Tell them again. Then tell them a few more times. Don’t assume they heard or understood the first time. Remember, they’re busy living their lives. the VCR. Not the outdated video technology but rather be vulnerable, compassionate and respectful in your communications.

Hold yourself and your target audiences accountable. We all fall short on our responsibilities at some point. Communicate when you recognize you were off your game and point out constructively when others are off theirs.

As a coach, I’ve struggled at one time or another in each area. I’m guessing most youth, high school, college and professional coaches have as well. But the peak performers in sports and the workplace strive to improve in each area over time.

One of my favorite examples of a coach forgetting about his target audiences is NFL coach Dennis Green’s infamous Monday Night Meltdown. Green lost his cool when the Arizona Cardinals allowed the Chicago Bears to come back after being down 20 points. He’s now remembered by many (including his key target audience of Cardinals fans) for this memorable (and profanity-laced) YouTube clip.

What’s your favorite coaching communication miscue? Let us know on the MASSolutions’ Facebook page.