Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why You Need Social Media Crisis Monitoring

Whatever your business, you probably need social media crisis monitoring much more than you think. It doesn’t matter if your business is low risk, it makes no difference that you avoid wrongdoing and it can even be irrelevant that you don’t even use social media – it can still cause you a crisis.  Not convinced? Here are the reasons why for each of these scenarios.

WE HAVE A LOW-RISK BUSINESS.  Some companies operate in such risky businesses that they are – or at least should be – always braced for a crisis and recognize that their social coverage is going to be mostly negative.  Military contractors, oil companies and drug makers, for example, should know that what they are doing is bound to provoke some reactions. But what about the others? You might think that a soft toy maker or the Red Cross have nothing to fear but this is not true. There is no such thing as a low risk company because everyone can have rogue employees, everyone can have accidents, everyone can be caught doing something wrong. If there is a wave of employee injuries it doesn’t matter if you make teddy bears or landmines you can still get into trouble. Look at all the issues Apple has had with subcontractors in China.

WE DON’T DO ANYTHING BAD. You don’t need to be engaged in any wrongdoing to get caught up in a crisis. Sometimes the crisis can be provoked by a rogue employee, a misunderstanding or an honest mistake. A few years ago Heineken was accused of sponsoring dogfights when a photo of a dogfight in a room decorated with Heineken banners started circulating on Twitter. Their explanation was that they had used the room the day before and just forgot to remove their branding (I’ll bet nobody at Heineken will make that mistake again).  In another case I blogged about here Stephen Fry tweeted to millions of followers his annoyance about an iPhone app. The maker insists that he must be mistaken, but the damage is still done.  This kind of no-blame crisis is much more common than you might think.

WE DON’T USE SOCIAL MEDIA. This is the case that surprises most people but it shouldn’t. You can get negative coverage on TV whether you advertise on TV or not and it’s the same In social media. Actually it is worse. If your company is getting negative social media coverage and you don’t have your own voice represented the you will find it much harder to defend yourself.   This usually affects small businesses like restaurants, where customers or sometimes even employees are tweeting or sharing negative comments on Twitter and Facebook. In one case a waiter engaged in a confrontation with a dissatisfied customer without the knowledge of the management; in another employees posted critiques of customers that leaked back to the people involved. It can also happen to larger companies that are not  truly engaged in social media.

Exactly how you monitor your social media reputation is up to you.  There are plenty of free tools that allow you to monitor all social media for your brand or other keywords. There are also more sophisticated paid tools that will give you a clearer picture and fewer false positives. You could even pay humans to do the monitoring, which could be useful in cases where your brand is not mentioned explicitly but is clearly implicated by another word or hashtag – like when the Red Cross beer tweet started a flood of tweets with hashtag #gettingslizzerd. Whatever you do, though, if you have some kind of monitoring in place you will be able to put out fires while they are still small enough to tackle, or at least have more time to prepare an effective response.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics contact Andrew Hennigan by email at, by phone on 0046 730 894 475 pr 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or through his website

Friday, November 20, 2015

Speaking: Talk About the Story, Not the Slides

As a child I recall being taken to see public lectures by explorers, mountaineers and other enterprising people. After all these years my lasting memory of these talks is how some people can do amazing things but be astonishingly dull when describing it.

Part of the blame lies in the style that they used. Every single one of them used a technique where they simply presented a sequence of slides and then described each slide.

"This is me putting on my boots".

"This is me eating breakfast".

"This is me on the summit".

Which is almost inevitably dull and uninteresting.

Once you make a decision to describe slides you are forced to adapt to the images and this simply doesn't work very well. Good talks are based on good storytelling so it is much better to craft your story first, and then to illustrate it with images, words, videos, props and demos that support that story. A really good talk would work without any slides at all, which is an added benefit if anything goes wrong with the technology -- you can simply fall back on a plan B. Knowing that you are not reliant on technology can be very reassuring for some nervous speakers.

By far the best way to create a strong story-focused talk is to start with the story, buts sometimes it's already too late for that because you already have a presentation. But it's not impossible to fix an existing presentation that is too slide-centric. Here are three ways to do this:

First of all go through the presentation and remove all of the slides that do not add any value. In business presentations it is common to have a slide on the screen at all times and when there isn't a useful illustration to fill in the gap with a generic stock illustration. This is not necessary and distracts from your message. It also wastes time searching for images, time better spent working on the story.

Second, simplify all of the slides, concentrating on key images and words. Resist the temptation to squeeze many images onto one slide and avoid wordy slides that speak directly to the audience. If you have written all of your messages on the screen people will read that and not pay attention to what you say. In academic presentations there are sometimes so many things on the screen that the audience can't even absorb them, never mind listen to what the speaker is saying.

Finally, adapt what you say about the slides so that they support the talk and not the other way around.
What you say about the images on the screen or the prop in your hand is important. You might need to provide context or explanation, but you don't need to describe what people can see with their own eyes, so if you are showing a picture of an ice axe that broke in an awkward place halfway up a glacier then you should be telling the story then show the axe; don't start by showing the axe and then saying "This is an axe". We can see that. What we don't see is the story.

Once you have a compelling story and the slides or props that support that story you need to practice the talk using a clicker to find the ideal moment for each transition. Somewhat counter intuitively it's better to start talking about something and then click to the image, and not the other way around. This keeps the attention of the audience on the speaker and also feels more natural. Showing the image first then starting the story leaves an awkward gap where people try to understand themselves.

But what is always most important is to work on the storytelling before anything else. This is the surest way to ensure that you are focusing on telling the story and not just on describing a slide show.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about public speaking, influencing and networking and other topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan by email at, by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or through his website

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Being Easy to Find; Why Checking Your Contact Info is Important

In an earlier post Five Things Every Startup Founder Needs to Know About Getting Media Coverage I mentioned that one way to get more media coverage for a startup is to make it easy for people to find contact information: every website should have some clearly marked contact details -- and not just a web form.

But it's not just websites. People sometimes forget to provide contact information on emails and even business cards. And sometimes it is there but it is wrong. Recently at a networking event someone gave me a business card. The next day I tried sending a message to the address on the card but it didn't work. I then went to the company website and that provided just the same address. It can happen to anyone. Adding a new email account to my phone recently I made a mistake in my own phone number, happily discovered and corrected very quickly.

But these episodes reminded me that sometimes you might miss opportunities simply because people have had trouble contacting you. You can minimize these risks by following these simple best practices.

TEST YOUR OWN CONTACT INFO. Take your business cards, website, letterhead, LinkedIn profile and website and test all of the contact info to make sure that it really works. Better to discover it yourself now than after months of lost opportunities.Actually try the email addresses and phone numbers because typos are very hard to catch just by looking.

MAKE SURE CONTACT INFO IS EASY TO FIND. Imagine for a moment that you are a potential customer or a journalist and try to find your own contact information using just Google. Can you get to an email address and a phone number with a simple search? And are these things clearly marked on your website? Be very wary of using webforms for initial contact because many people will simply not bother using them. The response is often late and unhelpful, if it comes at all. An email address is essential, and if you really want to be responsive make sure that there is a phone number, too.

HAVE ALTERNATE CHANNELS AVAILABLE. Always make sure that there are two ways to contact you. One email address might be broken, one mobile phone might be unreachable for some reason. There should always be an alternate if only to report that someone's inbox is full and you can't send emails. In these cases I am sometimes creative and find channels like Skype to alert people. Not everyone can be bothered. Some people have just an email address, a phone number or even a Twittername on their cards. This is risky in case that channel is not available for some reason.

Checking and testing contact information takes just minutes, but if it makes it easier for one customer or one journalist to contact you then it was worth it. Don't waste this low hanging fruit.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Communication Consultant Andrew Hennigan does lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about good communication, networking, influencing, digital marketing and culture. For more information you can email or call 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81. You can also find more contact info on his website, hopefully all accurate.

Friday, October 30, 2015

How to Network Effectively When You Are Unemployed

Many of these blog posts are inspired by questions that people ask me in lectures and workshops, some by questions sent to me by email and some from questions people ask on the popular Q&A site Quora. Most of the time if one person asks a question thousands more have the same problem so I put an answer here, too, where everyone can read it.

Just this week an anonymous user on Quora asked "Long term job seekers are advised to build a network but who would want to network with them?".  This is a very interesting question because it highlights two misunderstandings about networking and there is actually a fairly straightforward way to solve this problem.

First of all, you are not supposed to wait until you are long-term unemployed to start building a network. It can take years to build a solid network -- though much less to get started -- so you should be doing it long before you are unemployed. Network while you have a job, and even network while you are still in school. Done well, this network will step in the moment you lose your job and you will not be out of work for long.

But let's assume that for some reason you missed the lecture about networking in your university. You missed the workshop about networking organized by your company. Now you are out of work and you are starting from zero. How do you build a network in these circumstances? As the anonymous questioner asks, who wants to connect to someone who is unemployed? 

There are, actually, plenty of people who would connect with you even if you don't have a job. Networking is a long-term game and you should not be connecting with someone just for what they do now but for what they could do in the future. Plus your old school friends, former colleagues and neighbors are all likely to connect with you.

And all the others will probably be happy to connect with you, too,  if you give them a reason. You might be unemployed but you don't need to be inactive. While you are out of work use some of your time to volunteer for professional organizations, local startup communities, the local chamber of commerce, the local TEDx team, local charities and anything else where you might be able to contribute with your skills.

When you volunteer for any non-profit you are surrounded by other people who see you not as long-term unemployed but as a valued member of their team. They will be happy to connect with you. Some are perhaps employed, some are consultants and maybe some are looking for work, but all of them have something in common.

Volunteering also looks good on your CV and gives you a chance to demonstrate what you can do. If I am looking to hire an event organizer and I see someone who is organizing successful events for a non profit I am more likely to hire them than many others.

And what if you live in a small town with no voluntary activities? Actually pretty much any town has something, but even if there is nothing then you have another option: be the person who creates Smallville Startup Weekend, TEDxSmallVille or whatever. As the founder you get more recognition for your leadership skills and you get to network with everybody. And what if you have no leadership skills? Start leading and the skills will come pretty quickly. 

Being out of work is no excuse for not networking. Get out there, do things and connect with the other people who do things. In some ways being out of work actually makes it easier, because you have more time for these activities than many people with a full time job and a family.

More about professional networking

There's much more about professional networking in my book Payforward Networking, available in paperback and Kindle editions.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Andrew Hennigan provides lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about networking, influencing, speaking and other communication topics. To book a session email or call 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81. You can also find out more at

Monday, October 19, 2015

How a Media Relations Hack can Improve Your Emails

When you are preparing replies to questions from journalists your media training person will teach you to reply in complete statements. So if the question is "Do you think that social media is just a fad?" an answer like "No" might be technically accurate but is unusable for the journalist. You will get much better results if you reply "I do not think that social media is a fad". This is easier to quote in video and much easier to use in a written piece.

This same technique can also be used in email threads to make communication more effective. When someone sends a message like "Will you be able to help with the pitch coaching at the next startup event?" you could just reply "Yes". This has two disadvantages. First, the sender has to re-read their message to see what you replied to. Second, restating it as a complete statement means that the other person can see if you understood correctly. For this to work it is best to use your own words, not a cut and paste from the original message.

There's an additional benefit. Many people today read their emails on a phone that displays the first two lines on the first screen. Done correctly, the central part of your response should be visible there.

Why does this make email more effective?  It saves time for the reader and it reduces misunderstandings. Often what wastes time is needing to have additional cycles of email to settle a simple question.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Andrew Hennigan provides lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about effective email plus networking, influencing, speaking and other communication topics. To book a session email or call 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81. You can also find out more at

Payforward Networking

Learn how to network effectively online and in real life in my new book Payforward Networking. Find it here: Paperback editionKindle edition.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

How to Share Content on Twitter Effectively

Every day millions of twitter users share links to articles. Probably about as many bots do the same    But many of the humans do it so clumsily that they barely outperform the bots.

What I see way too often are tweets that just give the title and the link. Even worse is when people post a clickbait tweet like "you won't believe this!"  This might have worked in 2010 but today most people are smart enough to see through that.

So how should you share an article to be respectful to your audience and actually add value to the Twitter community? Here are three best practices.

Summarize key points. Rather than  just writing "awesome article" you should try to extract some useful learning. Describing a recent article in Fast Company I could have written "Interesting article in Fast Company", which isn't terribly helpful. I could have written "Article about phones in Fast Company", which again is very uninformative. In the end I chose to tweet "Not answering your phone could hurt your career says @abmarkman in Fast Company. Good advice.", which summarizes a key point and maybe helps someone decide if they would like to read more.

Sometimes when you are sharing a short article or a blog post you can list some or all of the key points, like the time I blogged about how to avoid presentation disasters. I could have written "How to avoid presentation disasters" bu chose instead to include the three main points in the tweet.

Mention the writer: In every post sharing an article you should try to at mention the writer. This is respectful to the author and it is actually helpful to the reader because it helps them to find interesting accounts to follow. As a side effect you are very likely to get a response from the writer -- at least a favorite and likely a retweet -- because few people think of this.

Always add some extra value: Apart from summarizing key messages and identifying the author you can also add value by taking the message of the article and adding your own interpretation that adds value. For example, you might share an article with a note explaining that you think the same idea is applicable in another situation. Make sure you actually read the content first and add something that shows that you are human.

There is a general rule with sharing. The less effort you put into it the less return you get. Automated sharing and zombie-like sharing stuff you have never read is easy but will never get you an audience or help build your network. 

Lectures, Workshops, Writing and Coaching

For lectures, workshops, writing and one-to-one coaching about social media, digital marketing and other communication topics you can contact me by email at, by phone at 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or through my website

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Five Ways to Avoid Speaking Disasters

Writing in the Guardian, Athene Donald describes Eight Common Conference Disasters. Some of these, like the time a swimming pool leaked into the auditorium below, are hard to guard against. But for most of the others careful speakers can at least mitigate the impacts, and sometimes avoid the consequences altogether.

Here are five ways that speakers can and should prepare to minimize the risk of catastrophe.

Check Your Own Laptop. If you plan to use your own laptop at an event make sure that you test it at least the day before. Don't wait until you are on stage to discover there is a problem. Run through the entire presentation to make sure that everything works as you expected. Make sure, too, that you also know how to connect your laptop to the projector. Practice this operation with a projector at least once and stick a note on your laptop to remind you which key you need to press to send the video to the projector. Be especially careful to test that animations and videos run correctly on the computer you will use.

Have a Backup Copy of Every File. If you had planned to use your own laptop and it fails at the last moment you can always borrow another computer, but make sure that you have a key with a copy of the presentation file on it. Keep a special key for this purpose and carry only the files needed for the presentation. This will avoid your private files all being listed on the screen while you look for the file. Keep the key separately from the computer but just in case you lose both always have another backup copy of the presentation somewhere you can access it online -- perhaps on GoogleDrive or DropBox. For smaller files you can even email it to yourself.

Test Onstage at the Venue. At the best-run conferences speakers have a chance to test all the equipment on stage before the event. In some cases this speaker practice is mandatory but in any case you should always do this. Apart from identifying technical problems it also reduces your nerves by getting you more used to the stage, the sound of the microphone and so on. It's also your chance to ask if lights can be moved, monitors placed in a better position and  so on. If the organizers have not planned any sound check time it doesn't hurt to ask. There's no reason why they shouldn't let you try everything before the doors open to the public.

Always Have a Plan B. In any case, always have a plan B for every eventuality. If a key video doesn't work make sure you have an alternative image sequence you can use. If the computer fails be ready to switch to another. And if the problem isn't going to be fixed quickly either ask for a break or fall back on a computer-less alternative. Remember that little more than a generation ago nobody needed Powerpoint for a lecture. Be prepared to deliver at least your key messages using just a whiteboard or a flip chart. You can have specific notes for this situation if you have some hard-to-remember data to present, but you should be able to deliver the key messages of your lecture with no support at all. Practice this at home. In addition to sparing you some hideous embarrassment it will also calm you nerves to know that you are ready for everything.

Influence Organizers to Improve. Many events are organized very efficiently by professionals and more or less immune to disasters. These are the conferences I prefer to speak at. Others are not so well organized and in this case I recommend speakers to use their influence to change this. If there is no speaker practice time in the schedule ask for it. If there is no technical expert standing by to fix technology problems suggest that they find at least a volunteer to help. If the equipment is very poor make a note of lobbying for better next time. You can't control all of the circumstances but you can at least push the balance in your favor.

Some disasters -- like leaking swimming pools -- are very hard to plan around, but most of the really common presentation disasters could easily have been avoided by preparing, testing and redundancy. Ultimately its your own reputation that is at stake so it is worth making this effort to make sure that you are the unruffleable speaker that continues through anything, rather than the unfortunate person whose presentation was essentially lost to PowerPoint gremlins.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about speaking and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan by email at, by phone at 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or 0730 894 475 and through his website