Friday, November 03, 2017

A blog hiatus until year-end

After I took a blog and social-media hiatus in June, using a small portion of it to build up my queue of posts, I wrote, "I liked this catch-up approach so much I may try it again later this year."

Well, later has rolled around, and I'm taking another hiatus from now until the end of the year. I'll be back for the year-end roundup of the blog's most popular posts in the last week of the year, but otherwise won't be publishing. I'll be using some of the time to build great content for you in 2018. 

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Dan Slee)
Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

A priceless explainer on why you should skip "off the record" in interviews

Having worked at the highest levels of government and with media outlets around the world, I've participated in every variation of off the record: background, deep background, off the record, and of course, on the record conversations with reporters. But when clients today ask me--usually in training situations--how to actually "do" off the record, I tell them simply to avoid it.

Generally, I do that out of an abundance of caution. It's easy to screw up off the record conversations if you are not well versed in the practice, as did the executive I used to work with who would say to reporters, "This is just off the cuff," and then proceed, not having actually gone off the record. Many times, the source in question wants to voice an unpopular opinion without taking the heat for having his name attached, which is too bad but not worthy of off the record status. Others get quoted and blame the reporter for misquoting, a less complicated method that is still pretty apparent to those of us who do this stuff for a living. The motivation is the same: You want to disclose stuff, without risk. And while we're on the topic of tactics that do not work, sending an email to many reporters titled "OFF THE RECORD" doesn't hold them to anything, nor does saying into a microphone at a private luncheon "This is off the record." Email and microphones are not the channels of choice for off the record conversations, dears.

I stumbled across an even better rationale for avoiding off-the-record recently, from Benjamin Wittes, the editor of Lawfare, posting on Facebook. He wrote: 
Many years ago, when I was a young reporter at Legal Times, I got to know a man named David Margolis, who was a legendary long-serving career staffer in the Deputy Attorney General's office. David impressed the hell out of me because of his rule about talking to the press: He only talked on the record. If he was prepared to say it at all, he was prepared to have you quote him saying it. I respected that a lot, and as we kept in touch for many years over many sensitive subjects, he never wavered from that basic commitment. 
At one point, I asked him his "opinion" about a matter, and he blurted out: "Oh, opinions are like assholes; everyone's got one." My editor removed it from my story for reasons of taste, and David later called me when the piece ran and chastised me about it. "That's the best quote I've ever given anyone!" I had let him off the hook and he called me on it. 
I've thought about David's policy a lot over the last few weeks as I've tried to decide how public and transparent I should be. I'm not as pure on the point as he was. I have gone off the record a few time. But my bottom line is the same as his. There are enough people talking anonymously. If it's right and proper for me to be saying anything at all, it's better that I should attach my name to it. So that's what I'm doing. 
And that means something: if you don't see my name attached to something, if you see that sources said something, if you read about leaks, it's not me. When I talk, for better or for worse, you'll know it.

Go and do the same, communicators, and urge your experts and spokesfolk likewise.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Viewminder)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The weekend read

This week, I'm coaching scientists in The Nature Conservancy's Science Impact Project leadership program as they deliver talks in the style of TED about their research. We've been working on developing, writing, and practicing the talks all summer, but it's showtime this week. Applause all around! Let's have a round of applause, too, for my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Cue the cheering:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by dog97209)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tell It Better: Using stories to get more out of your negotiations

I've trained a lot of executives in using a conversational or "TED style" in their presentations, which incorporates lots of storytelling skills. But the skeptics among them think that storytelling equals showing off. When it comes to "real" business--like negotiation with a client, customer, or supplier, say--storytelling doesn't belong, they believe. Howard Baker once said, "The most difficult thing in any negotiation, almost, is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts." And that thinking has carried the day for a long time.

But what if I told you that storytelling can unlock what's on the mind of your negotiation partner?

In Harvard Business Review's The secret to negotiation is reading people's faces, it's acknowledged that many negotiations turn on emotional responses. But, as the author notes, "experienced negotiators know how to mask their true feelings...Or they’re able to convincingly fake an emotion if they think it will help them advance their own interests." She tested micro-expressions--those lasting just 1/25th of a second--and people's ability to read them.

The trick is to get your negotiation partner to give up some facial expressions, to give you a clue as to her thinking. And one of the tools the article recommends is storytelling. This is one case when your being talkative is going to help:
Negotiators have an easier time controlling their expressions when they’re talking. So don’t ask too many open questions. Instead describe what you want or share an anecdote about another negotiating partner who shared concerns similar to theirs and watch how they respond as they listen. Their guard will lower a little and you’ll be able to see their honest reactions to what you’re saying — knowledge to guide the rest of the conversation.
You're looking for those little involuntary facial movements when you watch their reactions. Use your storytelling to fish for insights the next time you negotiate.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by perzon seo)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.