Say it out loud

Here’s my number one tip for writing scripts and speeches. It’s simple, powerful, and only four words long.

Say it out loud.

1. Say
2. It
3. Out
4. Loud

Four words. It’s such an easy tip. So simple. And so overlooked.

I get to write and edit scripts and speeches and dialogues for a living. And when I write for the spoken word, it mostly sounds decent — in my head.

Yeah, it almost always sounds fine within the quiet confines of my brain.

But then — I read what I’ve written out loud. And that’s when I find it.

What do I find? It’s always something. And I never quite know what it will be. For example, I might find that my mouth likes to say ‘everybody’ — but my brain likes to write ‘everyone’. And my tongue will stumble over the word ‘everybody’ and try to say ‘everyone’.

I might find something as stupid as a grammar issue. Or I might decide that I’m rambling nonsensically and need to strike a few paragraphs.

I never know until I read it out loud.

If you think you don’t need to try this exercise because everything sounds OK in your head, I challenge you. Give it a shot. It’s an eye-and-ear opening exercise, and I’m sure you’ll get something fabulous out of it — even if it’s only the satisfaction of knowing that you’re brilliant and you wrote a perfect draft that slides effortlessly off your tongue.

Coaching crisis Education video

Team Building & Crisis Communication Fundamentals

I hope you never experience a crisis. But when you do, be prepared.

Introducing Crisis Communication Fundamentals, my latest online course. It’s available now in the content library.

Crisis Communication FundamentalsI felt inspired to write this course because I’ve watched people struggle to figure out how to communicate when something unexpected and unpleasant strikes their organization. My aim is to reduce the panic that people can feel when something goes wrong.

When you take a little time to prepare, you’re on your way to learning how to communicate calmly, quickly, and confidently. My hope is that this course will help you drill on the fundamentals in a way that engages and inspires your crisis communication response teams.

You can take this course alone, or use it as a team building or class exercise. Watch the videos, download the exercise files, and complete each step-by-step activityIf you’re a PR or communication professor interested in the flipped classroom approach, try reviewing this course to see if it will work as part of your lesson plan. 

And even if don’t think you’re involved in crisis communication, think again. I recently published You Might Be in Crisis Communication — And Not Know It.  At some point, everyone experiences a crisis.

It helps to think through how you’ll respond; not just as an individual, but as an organization. Take some time to prepare. I hope you can prevent a bad situation from becoming worse — and that you’ll feel prepared to respond with confidence.


When making a surprise announcement, don’t say this…

You made a surprise announcement. You didn’t drop a bombshell.

I’m more than a little strung out when I hear those in the news media say something like, “Mr. Peacock dropped a major bombshell at Wince Country Club today. We’ll give you details after the break.”

Instantly, my mind goes to actual bombs. Wounded people. Deaths. Injuries.

Yes. That’s what dropping a bombshell on a golf course can literally do. And yes, the news anchor got my attention by using this phrase. But they tricked me. They used the figurative ‘bombshell’ term to basically hype a story about a longtime country club owner who announced that he would be selling his golf course.

That’s not a bombshell. That’s grim, ghoulish, and irresponsible journalism.

We’re a community. We’re a home to refugees from war torn countries. We are members of the armed services and aid volunteers, or friends and families with those who have served. We’ve been hurt by terrorists, or comforted those who have been harmed by terrorist attacks.

Continuing to use the figurative ‘bombshell’ phrase for non-violent situations shows a lack of sensitivity and empathy for a diverse audience.

You made a surprise announcement. You didn’t drop a bombshell.

Coaching crisis

Spin doctors gotta spin…

Public relations pros don’t like the word spin. Call one a “spin doctor” and that’s a low blow. A rude insult.

So how can we put a better spin on our profession? As a child, my mom gave me this piece of life advice: “Don’t call people names they don’t want to be called.”

However, she meant me to take this advice only in the context of oppressed people. It’s never OK to target an oppressed person with a rude name. However, calling privileged people names might be unflattering– but it also might be part of a strategy to elicit attention and needed social change.

It can actually be helpful to call a privileged group of people unflattering names. A powerful person or group may pout of at least make a show of feeling offended — but their elite status means that a rude name can’t really hurt them.

Calling PR pros “spin doctors” can’t hurt us. It can, however, remind us that we need to take responsibility for an industry-wide tendency to manipulate words and media in a way that can be an abuse of power.

Let’s engage in a thought experiment (based on a real-life example!) that examines the kind of tactic that earns PR practitioners that nasty ‘spin’ label. Let’s say a student receives a stern lecture from her PR professor for using the word ‘spin’. The prof scolds the young woman in front of class, rebuking her for daring to use that inflammatory word.

The bold young student counters:

“But isn’t ‘crafting an articulate post-crisis positioning statement’ just spin for the word ‘spin’?” she might ask.

The annoyed professor responds: “No. No it’s not. Don’t be impudent. The word spin is offensive. Just don’t let me catch you using it, ever.”

The student is effectively censored. The professor has the power. The student doesn’t. She cannot realistically continue a meaningful or instructive dialog, for fear of grade backlash. The student simply learns she can no longer use the word ‘spin’ in front of this professor. But the real lesson she learns from this exchange is not lost on her …or the other students in class.

In class, the students have learned not to say ‘spin’ to this particular professor. Behind his back, they call him “Dr. Spinning.” He’s the PR pro who is unaware that he’s spinning ‘spin’, and unaware of what one group of key stakeholders think of him.

If you were the PR prof, how might you have more responsibly answered the young student’s question?

Blogging Education Presentation social media

Why sign the photo release?

Stock photos pretty much suck. Perhaps they had their time and place, but their moment has passed.

After a few years of looking at your friend’s photos on Instagram and Facebook, your eyes have been accustomed to seeing real people doing real activities. In contrast, stock photos of people faking their emotions doesn’t quite resonate with you anymore.

We know cheese when we see it, and we don’t like it.

Over at WebInkNow, the wonderful writer David Meerman Scott blogged about browsing the web to research senior living centers for his father. The facilities that used stock photos of elderly people on their websites didn’t speak to Mr. Scott. He preferred sites that featured the images of real people.

Naturally. I seriously prefer real people to stock photos, too. No question.

However I also decline to routinely sign photo releases. I recommend that others decline, as well. Nursing homes and day care facilities will often try to slip in a photo release in the stacks of papers you must sign for a parent or child to enter their programs or receive needed services. If you don’t sign, they will often try to pressure you to do so.

Don’t do it.

The stock photo models make money for their work. Why don’t your parents and grandparents? Why don’t your children?

Many facilities are learning that stock photos aren’t cutting it anymore. They want to use your child’s image. They want an image of elderly parents and grandparents.

And they want to use them for free.

Is exploitation of free labor really the way to go? How is exploiting the image of your loved ones demonstrating client care? And if it’s all so innocent, why slip in a photo release in the middle of umpteen other forms that need to be signed strictly for the care of the client?

I suspect nursing homes and other facilities rely on our naivety about paid creative work. This is becoming an all-too common abusive practice, worthy of education and discussion.

fun social media

What can you do in 30 seconds?

Throwback Thursday…

In 2005, Merv Griffin said he wrote the Jeopardy! theme song in under a minute. “That little 30 seconds has made me a fortune, millions,” he said.

How much exactly? Somewhere between 70 and 80 million.

And that was ten years ago.

Let’s pretend it took you 30 seconds to click through and read this post.

Is it possible that I just cost you a couple million?


It took me under a minute to write this. Wonder how much I’ll make…

Coaching crisis fun

Why bother with a cover-up?

People in Washington say it’s not the initial offense that gets you in trouble. It’s the cover-up. They say you should admit what you did, get the story out, and move on. What this overlooks is the fact that most of the time the cover-up works just fine, and nobody finds out anything. I would imagine that’s the rule rather than the exception. My advice: take a chance. Lie.

-George Carlin

Is George Carlin right…again? If an internal investigation reveals that your organization has done something awful or embarrassing, should you really lie? Or try to cover it up?

I loved George Carlin. So cynical! So smart! And so funny!

My clients know that I don’t recommend a cover-up. Admit your mistakes. Show remorse. Take responsibility. Repair the damage.

However, I take Carlin’s point. Most of the time, lying and covering up worked pretty darn well for the rich and/or powerful in 2014.

I’ll take Carlin’s cynicism one step further:  is it even worth the time and energy it takes to cover something up? You might as well be brazen about your misdeeds and atrocities. People might be outraged for a few days, but they’ll quickly move on to something else.

After a while, the public may even like your organization a little more for giving them a reason to feel smug, self-righteous, and morally superior! Your misdeeds gave them a fun little outrage high. Eventually, they’ll make excuses for you or even defend your actions.

So why even bother to cover-up any of your organizational wrongdoings, ever?


Our hearts and thoughts are not with you at this time…

Enough with organizations offering generic sentiments and abstractions.

Be specific. Give me something concrete, or don’t say anything at all.

Let’s say I’m on a company’s email list. It sends me an email telling me to enjoy a happy and safe holiday weekend. It generously tells my family to have one, too.

And then 100 other brands send me something similar. And post it on their Facebook wall. And send it out as a tweet.

What’s the net effect? How am I supposed to feel about brands bombarding me with generic messages of good cheer?

  1. heartwarmed that a brand went out of its way to tell me of its fond wishes for me and my family?
  2. irked that I have to wade through hundreds of pointlessly bland well-wishing to get any work done?
  3. weary to realize that latching onto any holiday (or tragedy!) with a benign message reveals desperation?
  4. depressed to be reminded by a faceless corporate entity that my family is dead?
  5. all of the above? None of the above?

If a company has nothing specific to offer but hopes, hearts, prayers, wishes, and dreams — it’s really not offering anything I value from our corporate relationship. An organization isn’t a person: it doesn’t have feelings. It can’t hope I have a happy day. It can’t send its thoughts and prayers to those who are affected by tragedy. It can’t be “pleased to announce” or “proud to accept”.

However, it can make special offers that meet the theme of a holiday. It can send relief funds to help victims of a tragedy.

Enough with organizations offering generic sentiments and abstractions.

Be specific. Give me something concrete, or don’t say anything at all.


fun Presentation

How well do you welcome?

Your “Welcome” mat may be a visual cliché. You may think it’s de rigueur — but is it really making your audience feel welcomed?

We’ve reached a point where merely saying or writing “welcome” doesn’t even mean anything. It’s too generic to be useful or inviting.

That’s why you don’t see many websites with a welcome page anymore. A welcome page gets in the way of the content.

Why not skip the “Welcome” session at the beginning of your event, too? After all, they don’t mean much.

Think about it for a sec. If people have assembled for an event, your signage tells them the name of the show. Your brochures let them know what’s going on, where. Your event app keeps them aware of any late breaking changes in the schedule or speaker line-up.

Why welcome?

Might it be more welcoming to jump right in? How many “Welcome” sessions have you already skipped this year because you know that nothing important ever gets communicated in the opening session titled “Welcome”?

What else might you say or do other than a traditional welcome? What might be more welcoming than a welcome?

Education social media video

Yes, But It Was Only a Quiet Two Million

YouTube 2 million

Back in 2007, I quickly tossed up a YouTube instructional video. It took me about a half hour to make the 4:46 minute video.

Today, the video will reach its 2 millionth view.

But it’s not a viral video. It’s not hip or trendy. It didn’t get a big spike in viewership and then go away. It was meant to be helpful, and at least a few hundred people a day still watch it.

And I still receive a ‘thank you’ for posting it almost every day. Those thank-yous have often been real day brighteners for me. 

Thanks for watching. And thanks to the 4K+ who “liked” it. Thanks to the thousands of friendly commenters — I understand that’s a rarity in YouTube comment land!

And thanks to new clients who hired me — just because they “liked my style” or “liked my voice” on the video! Who knew?

It’s a different world than it was in 2007. What tiny little thing will you do to today that might quietly ripple into 2020 and beyond?