March 2018

Monthly Archives

  • Taking a Stand

    As an organization or individual professional, when should you take a public political stand? What are the risks and benefits? Who will you alienate or support by your statements?

    If you haven’t done clear branding work, these questions will be tough to answer. Branding is not simply developing a logo. (That’s just an outcome.) Branding means defining who you are as an organization, figuring out who you serve, and understanding why you do what you do.  Your brand should support your mission–it’s your organizational promise.

    Taking a strong stand on a controversial political topic is risky, but depending on who you are as a business, it can be one worth taking.

    In response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day 2018, Dick’s Sporting Goods took a stand on gun control that helped define who, exactly, the retailer wants to serve. They banned assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, and they increased the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21. Then they publicly urged elected officials to raise the minimum age for gun purchases; ban assault-style firearms, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks; require universal background checks that include relevant mental-health data and previous interactions with the law (requiring a database of prohibited buyers); and close the private-sale and gun show loophole.

    They drew a line in the sand. Dick’s decided who their target audience should be: athletes and outdoors people (young and old), including responsible adult gun owners who use their guns for hunting or sport. No doubt, some customers will decide to stop shopping at Dick’s to show their support for the National Rifle Association’s stance on gun control; however, my bet is that more customers will decide to shop at Dick’s to show their support for stronger gun control laws that safeguard innocents.

    Personally, I never really thought much about the difference between Dick’s and their competitors like Big 5 Sporting Goods, Pacific Outfitters, REI, and others, but now, I would go out of my way to shop at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

    Taking a strong stand on a controversial political topic is risky, but depending on who you are as a business, it can be one worth taking. When it comes to sharing your organization’s position, be sure to consider all your audiences, both internal and external. Talking to your internal audiences before you make a public announcement allows you to do two things: 1. assure that you have consensus within the organization, and 2. provide employees and other internal stakeholders (e.g., board members, community partners, etc.) with the information they need to support and magnify your position.

    If you’d like help developing your branding or deciding how to share your message, give us a shout.

  • The Art of Interviewing Others

    If you need to interview someone for a blog post, news story, book research, or another professional endeavor, here are some helpful tips.

    Get Clarity on Your Goals

    To save time and get the most out of your interview, be sure you understand exactly what you hope to accomplish with each interview.

    Do Your Homework

    Before you interview someone, learn what you can about them and their area of expertise as it relates to your interview, as well as some personal facts. This will allow you to tailor your interview appropriately and relate better to the person you’re interviewing.

    Prepare Your Questions

    Avoid questions that allow a yes or no answer. Start questions with How, Why, Can you explain, or Will you describe. Your early questions should be softballs,  easy for your interview subject to answer. Allow a little time to build rapport before you ask the hard ones. I recommend against sending questions ahead of time. Certainly, share the topics to be covered, but sharing questions early allows your subject to provide canned responses, making the interview boring for everyone.

    Check Your Equipment

    Whether your interview is face-to-face, via video chat, or on the phone, make sure your recording and communication equipment is charged and ready.  Test it early enough that any technical difficulties can be fixed before the interview is scheduled.

    Start the Interview in Control

    Take a deep breath and focus. Calm your body.  Straighten your back and walk in as though you were born to do this interview. Remember, your interview subject may be nervous, too. The best thing you can do is to exude a calm, friendly, competent demeanor. As you begin the interview, you can put your subject at ease by matching their body language and verbal style. If they are informal, be more relaxed. If they are formal, keep it there.

    Set Expectations

    Remind your subject what your goals are and how long the interview should last. If you haven’t already, note the proper spelling of the subject’s name and ask for their title.

    Listen Actively and Allow Some Lulls in the Conversation

    If you can, record the interview electronically, so the only notes you have to take are ones about things that catch your attention–an unexpected comment or a moment of hesitation that may benefit from a follow-up question. You can have your prepared questions close at hand to get you back on track, if necessary, but it’s best to listen closely and go where the interview takes you.

    When your subject appears finished with an answer, pause before jumping in with the next question. Many times, that slightly uncomfortable silence will encourage an interview subject to keep going, to share a little more. Many times, that slightly uncomfortable silence will encourage an interview subject to keep going, to share a little more.

    Repeat Key Points, Especially if They’re Technical

    To be sure you fully understand a key point, ask your subject if you can repeat it back to them, especially if you’re gathering complex information about a topic you don’t know very well. This will show your subject you’re listening and if you stumble in the retelling, you know what your next question should be.

    Follow the 80/20 Rule

    Allow your subject to talk 80 percent of the time. It’s fine to share a little about yourself or interject some humor or comments that show you’re engaged and interested, but remember not to talk too much.

    Redirect if you Must

    If you’re pressed for time, don’t be afraid to gently interrupt and redirect your subject back to the topic at hand with a comment like, “I’d love to hear more about that another time, but since we only have 15 minutes left, could you tell me more about _________?”

    Don’t Write the Story Before You Hear It

    Be open to ideas that don’t conform to your preconceived notions. If an answer doesn’t fit with your worldview or your understanding of the topic at hand, ask for more information. It’s okay to courteously push a little. You could say, “That’s interesting. Some people think just the opposite. Can you share how you came to your conclusion?”

    Always End With This Question

    When you’ve asked everything you can think to ask, always end with, “What should I have asked that I didn’t?”

    If you’d like help becoming a better interviewer, get in touch! If you’d like to receive a little communication inspiration straight to your inbox, subscribe here.