Thursday, October 27, 2011

Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings

When you are planning a meeting with people from different cultures maybe you have already prepared by learning about the way people greet each other and other surface cultural differences. But chances are that your meeting might be derailed by some non-obvious cultural misunderstandings. Here are the top three problems I have seen in workshops and coaching people about intercultural business.

1. MEETINGS DON'T ALWAYS HAVE THE SAME SCOPE. This is probably the hardest intercultural issue for most people because they rarely if ever ask themselves what a meeting is for, yet this basic concept is the root of many conflicts. In the USA and some western European countries meetings are usually open forums where new ideas can be discussed -- even ones that have never been raised before -- and decisions are taken that will automatically be implemented later. There are significant variations to this approach in many other countries. In Japan, for example, decision making is by consensus rather than open confrontation so the decision is often taken before the meeting starts and scheduling a meeting can be one way to push for this consensus to be reached. Even within Europe expect significant differences, so that in Germany you would often be expected to submit written documents in advance and then discuss the documents in the meeting: free brainstorming would not be the norm. There is no way to make a complete list of the different approaches and there are also variations in organizational culture so the only way to be sure what a meeting is for is to discuss this with the other people either in advance or at the start of the meeting. Many people will be surprised that this is needed but be very pleased to have clarified the issue before the discussion starts.

2. BAD NEWS IS NOT ALWAYS SHARED IN OPEN SESSION. In cultures where people are "direct" communicators -- USA, Netherlands, Nordic countries -- it is very common for people to present bad news in front of everyone in an open meeting. Most cultures, though, favor "indirect" communication where it would be impolite to give bad news in front of other people to avoid loss of "face". In these cultures you would give negative information in one-to-one contacts during breaks, at lunch or dinner. For the same reason you would not openly contradict what another person has said or even correct an obvious error. Indirect communication is very common in societies with a strong sense of hierarchy, which is actually the majority of cultures on this planet. To deal with this problem the simplest way is to talk privately with someone else familiar with the culture of the meeting to find out how things are likely to be done.

3. A CLOSED ITEM DOES NOT NECESSARILY STAY CLOSED. Many people in the west follow a "sequential" style of meeting where decisions are broken down into smaller steps and each step is discussed and then decided -- the item is then said to be "closed". The understanding in the USA and a few other countries is that the closed item will not be discussed again and that what was decided will be done. In other cultures both of these assumptions can be wrong. Even within Europe you will encounter cultures where a closed item will suddenly be reopened later in the meeting, or perhaps even after the meeting. Where there is a very strong sense of hierarchy a decision reached in a meeting might be overturned later by someone more senior or simply following an informal meeting in a corridor.

Because of these deep and unexpected cultural differences, meetings between people of different cultures can be very frustrating and sometimes unproductive. It is impossible to list all of the possible variations in regional, organizational, professional and generational culture that can impact the way a meeting will work.  When you are meeting a group of people all from the same culture the best plan is to ask someone with local knowledge how things are expected to work. In the more common case where there is a multicultural team you need to agree on a common approach: before the meeting starts or before a new team starts to work together it is a good idea to first agree what sort of meeting you are going to have. Though once again you need to reflect on whether it is better to discuss this privately with people before the meeting or as the first item on the meeting agenda. Ask an expert for help if you are not sure which is the best way in your case.


Related posts about intercultural issues:

Why the Office Weasel Can Play a Useful Role in Hierarchical Organizations
Managing Across Cultures Three Non-obvious Issues to Watch For
Three Non-Obvious Ways Culture Affects Email 
Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings  
Culture, Innovation and the Curious Case of Pandora Radio.  

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching on intercultural issues.

All of these articles are based on lectures, workshops and webinars on intercultural communication and management created by the author. For more information about these visit contact me by mail at or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Three Timesaving Tips for Email -- Five Minutes to Boost Your Productivity

By following just three simple tips any email user can save time for themselves and everyone else, cutting the time you need to spend on mails and reducing stress. Anyone can learn this in five minutes.

By far the easiest way to make your emails easier to find, understand and act on is to put the heart of the message into the message subject. This means that people will see it even when they are only looking at a list of pending messages. Let's suppose that a webinar has been scheduled, the subject "Webinar" would be almost useless. Much better to write "Networking webinar scheduled for 11 January". This simple trick means that people are much more likely to open your message and read it. In some cases they may not even need to open it. For example, if I send someone a link and they answer with a short mail with the subject "Thanks for the link" I don't need to open it. Months later if you need to look for an email these clear message subjects will also help you to find them faster.

2. KEEP YOUR MESSAGES SHORT.  Long emails take much more time to read, they are less likely to be read and you are much less likely to get the response you expected. Writing a shorter email may take you a little more time but the overall time to get the reaction you would like will be much shorter.  Write a first draft then go back and delete all the information you don't really need. Make sure also that the most important information is at the top and if you link to something summarize briefly what the link contains. Never attach a file unless you have to. When you are sending a photo you need to attach the photo file, but when you are sending a text beware of attaching a separate text file because people are much less likely to open it. Cut and paste the text content into the body of your message instead.

3. CONSIDER CHANNELS OTHER THAN EMAIL. Many emails are not actually necessary but they fill your intray and make your phone beep continually. Very often they can be replaced by some other form of communication. Consider instant messaging, social media pages, twitter, text messages, telephone, paper letter and even face to face contact. By moving some of your communication into other channels you can very often save time for people at both ends, but be careful to choose the appropriate tool for each person. Some people prefer text messages, some prefer voice mail and some prefer to communicate through Facebook or Google+. By choosing well you can sometimes get a quick answer from someone who might take a long time to respond to an email. I have met people who rarely get a chance to answer emails but can easily answer a text message; others can best be reached through Facebook.

There are many other ways you can use email more effectively, but with these three ideas you can already make a big difference and save the time you spend writing mails and waiting for responses. They work best when everyone uses them so share this note with your friends and colleagues so you benefit, too. Finally, note that there are some cultural differences in the way people use email so if you are writing to people from a different culture you should also read Email Across Borders -- Three and a Half Secrets of International Email.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Choosing Pronounceable Brand Names: Learning from the Cuil Story

Recently I wrote a detailed note about the process of discovering and selecting brand names that are search engine friendly -- Branding in the Age of Search Engines.  What this note did not cover was the issue of pronounceability  which is a problem so complex it would not fit into a single bullet point but is critically important for businesses.

When the Internet search site Cuil closed last month I was not surprised. I believe a number of factors contributed to this closure, but one of them is certainly the fact that they had to teach people how to pronounce their name. The founders explained that it should be pronounced like "kool", which they said was an Irish word meaning knowledge, though language experts disputed this.

You might think that making a pronounceable name is a no brainer, but there are actually several separate issues you need to think about, and Cuil got all three wrong.

1. CAN NATIVE SPEAKERS MISPRONOUNCE IT?   Unless you are not yourself a native speaker in your own market I assume that you can judge if a candidate brand is pronounceable or not. Just try it yourself and ask a few friends. Ideally everyone you ask should be able to pronounce it in the way you intend, but be prepared that there might be alternatives. If any of these alternatives sounds bad or silly you might consider using another name for your list. Occasionally a customer mispronunciations actually improves a brand, so you  don't need to change it. Wifi, for example, is officially pronounced like HiFi -- where the "i"s are read like "eye", though many today say it more like "wiffy", which to many is actually an improvement. Champagne producer Moet & Chandon has also learnt to accept without complaining the pronunciation "Mo-ay" even though the correct way would be more like "Mo-ett". Cuil broke this rule completely since nobody at all could pronounce it without help.

2. DOES IT SOUND TOO CLOSE TO ANY UNFORTUNATE WORD?  Even if everyone can pronounce your brand perfectly I would still advise caution if it is too close to any word that has negative or ridiculous connotations. This might be hard for you to do yourself, but ask a few friends -- though enemies would be better -- if they can think of any funny, snarky or nasty headlines featuring your candidate brand. Some names are just too easy to ridicule, while others just don't rhyme with the right words or don't echo other cultural memes. Google, for example, is a real challenge for wordplay jokers. Cuil broke this rule, too, because it was just too tempting to write, as TNW did in September 2011 "Cuil not so cool anymore".

3. WILL IT SOUND GOOD TO SPEAKERS OF OTHER LANGUAGES?  Assuming you are hoping to succeed in global markets, you should be careful to check that the name doesn't sound or look terrible to speakers of other major languages. I have seen software tools supposed to do this but I have never seen one that works. I suspect they are made by people who do not really understand how language works. There is no substitute for just asking a sample of people from around the world to comment on how they would pronounce the word and how it sounds to them. You'd be amazed how many brands mean something unfortunate in other languages and this can impact your business. I mentioned this before in the article about offensive trademarks.  It is extremely unlikely that you can find a brand that everyone in the world can pronounce in the way you intended, but as long as there is an acceptable pronounciation in each market this is not really a problem. Twinings Tea, for example, gave up trying to get people in Italy to pronounce it the English way and just used the normal Italian pronunciation in their TV ads.  Cuil got this wrong, too, since the official pronunciation, but not the spelling, of Cuil would also have been thumbed down by French speakers.

Lectures, Workshops & Coaching

For one-to-one coaching, lectures and workshops on this topic see or contact me at or by phone on 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Related posts on Branding and Reputation Management:

Choosing Pronounceable Brand Names: Lessons from the Cuil Saga
Five Simple Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation
Branding in the Age of Search Engines
Why Having Accounts on Photo Sharing Sites Is Good for Your Image
Sign Up Now: Joining New Networking Sites Boosts Brand, Reputation

Friday, October 14, 2011

When Bot Talks to Bot: Why Too Much Twitter Automation is Pointless

Every day I get followed by Twitter accounts that are obviously using some sort of autofollow tool triggered by a keyword in one of my tweets. I know that they are autofollows because it is clear that the account has no interest in my content and it is unlikely I would be interested in theirs. Most use a crude keyword trigger so that if I were to tweet that I hate carrots I would be followed by carrot vendors, which is clearly pointless. Mostly these accounts are also just broadcasting a sequence of prefabricated tweets, something I can verify just by sending an @reply to see if there is a human who can respond. Usually there isn't.

At this point I am not going to follow back this kind of account and most other thinking humans would do the same, but out of curiosity sometimes I look to see who *is* following them. Very often the accounts that follow autofollow bots are other autofollow bots.  So what is happening is that one bot is tweeting to another bot and there are no humans in the loop to read any of the tweets. There are plenty of good reasons for not using Twitter in this way, but surely the most compelling for bot herders is that it is mostly pointless.

Serious Twitter users almost always use some sort of automated tools to handle part of the work. Many use tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite so that they can monitor several accounts at the same time. These tools also allow you to schedule tweets in advance. This is a function that you can use to take care of simple chores like remembering to send out a link to a new blog post or a reminder for an event at the right time. They are also useful when you want to tweet the same link at different times to cover different time zones. Scheduled tweets work well when there is a human ready to answer @replies or questions addressed to the account. It is poor practice to schedule tweets when there is nobody available to engage with users. In a similar way some other tools like If This Then That can be used as productivity boosters without negative effects. For example, you could setup a task that tweets when you have a new video on YouTube, saving five minutes of manual work.

Other automated features are much less useful.  One especially pointless one is the tool that pads out your stream with news taken from other sources via an RSS feed. If the feed is taken from sources in your own organization then I can see some value in it, but when you take it from news organizations that provide the same information directly then you are adding nothing; I would follow the original if I wanted to and all it tells me about you is that you don't have anything to say therefore you are not a good follow.

But the most pointless form of automation is the automatic Direct Message, where your robot sends an automatic direct message to people who follow, mention or retweet you. Nothing annoys people more than a meaningless auto DM and it makes many people click the unfollow button. Once again the only users who won't mind getting an artificial insincere robotic thank are other bots, so you will end up having your bot thank another bot, with no human in the loop.

See what I mean?  Pointless.

Extreme automation will save you from having to do any work. It may even get you thousands of followers, but it will not influence anyone, except perhaps to make people think that you just don't "get" Twitter as they unfollow your bot.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing
For lectures, workshops, personal coaching and writing about this and other topics visit, email me at or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One Tool to Rule Them All: The Magic of If This Then That

Most social media and social networking sites allow some limited interaction between different channels. So, for example, you could link your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts so that all your tweets go into your LI status updates. Using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck you can also schedule actions across several platforms at certain times. And there are many tools that allow you to setup automated responses, like the annoying direct messages some autofollow robots send when you follow their account.

If This Then That goes much further and has created what is effectively a new One Tool To Rule Them All, a deceptively simple utility that allows you to setup "tasks" so that actions in one channel -- twitter, a blog, weather, stock prices, emails, your mobile phone and so on -- can trigger an action in another. You can, for example, setup an automatic email whenever it rains in a certain location. You can auto-archive a photo on dropbox when you have been tagged in it and much more. You can arrange for a Tweet to be autogenerated whenever you upload a video to your YouTube account.  And in the US you can also connect other channels to your phone. In effect you can connect together all your accounts in ways that just weren't possible before.

Conceptually If This Then That is simple, elegant and symmetrical; whatever complexity there might be under the hood is well hidden from the user.  Visually it follows the trend to simple, clean interfaces you see in sites like and while creating tasks is very simple and entirely visual. The design also works well with mobile browsers, allowing you to manage your tasks from anywhere.Already it offers an impressive range of channels and I expect this list will grow and they will eventually offer support for non-US phone numbers.

If This Then That solves many everyday problems and lets you automate chores that used to be done by hand but without writing any code. At the same time it adds a whole new layer of functionality on top of all the channels it supports. Perhaps it will not be the first choice of people who use Facebook only for games, but for more engaged users and social media professionals it is already a must-have tool.  I suspect that Facebook, Twitter, Google and others will rush to add some sort of similar capability to their products, but I also suspect that the smaller, more agile If This Then That can maybe be quicker in adding more channels and working with partners to enable extra capabilities.


Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Detect Facebook Scams & Hoaxes Using A Simple Google Search

Every week there is a new wave of Facebook scams and hoaxes. Sometimes it is a warning that you will have to pay for Facebook if you don't click on a link. Other times it is the promise of seeing who viewed your profile, if you click on some link. There are others promising the Secrets of Farmville -- if you click on a link.  This week one of the most popular Facebook scams is the one announcing that Apple is giving away free iPads in memory of Steve Jobs, you just have to click on that link. But click on any of these links and bad things happen.

So how do you recognize which Facebook messages are genuine and which are tricks? Since I have worked in PR most of them are obvious to me. A company like Apple wanting to get news to customers never sends it by a chain letter or a Facebook wall post you have to share with friends; they are more likely to post it on their website, send out a release to the media.  But for everyone else, is there a simple way to detect them?  Yes there is, and all you need is a search engine like Google.

To test a possible scam or hoax take some key phrase from the message you have received -- like "Apple has decided to give away 1000 limited edition iPads", type it into your search engine and then add the word "scam" or "hoax". Click "search" and look what comes up. If your message is not genuine you will find that the returns are from websites dedicated to exposing scams and hoaxes. When you see a page of warnings you can be sure it is a fake and delete it immediately. And if you have friends who are very trusting and sometimes fall for these tricks you could send them a copy of this note.

You could probably detect most anyway just by applying the old rule "If it sounds too good to be true it probably is", but this method is not foolproof because it isn't always easy to know what is possible. You should also be very wary of anything "viral" -- that invites you to pass it on to your fiends -- but again a small percentage are real campaigns. The search method is much more dependable and the results are usually very clear.

UPDATED 12 October 2011 to add this note about "I Am Cleaning Out My Facebook Friend List"

Since this was first posted there has been another wave sweeping across Facebook: the "I Am Cleaning Out My Facebook Friend List" viral wall post.  If you check this with my google litmus test you will discover that this is not really a scam. It is instead an annoying viral question that does no serious harm except make people worry, waste your time and waste electricity.

This viral question is phrased so that people believe that if they don't click on "yes" they will be unfriended. In fact the yes button simply adds another 1 to the count of people who have said yes, but then it posts the same question on the pages of all your friends. This question has spread virally in this way to over a million users.

In a case like this the best thing to do is to contact the person who posted the message on your wall and ask them about it. Most likely they will say that they just clicked on yes and never meant to ask the same question to you. Then you should delete or hide the post and forget about it.

Technically this is just a viral question so Facebook does not intervene, but in this case I think they are wrong because it is both an irritating waste of everyone's time and causes unnecessary worry to many people.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success

When someone has a great idea -- a new product, a reorganization, a cost saving move or whatever -- what often happens is that they make a presentation to the decision maker in a meeting. This is actually one of the worst ways and makes rejection much more likely because it doesn't take into account human nature. Rarely do decision makers decide in isolation; usually they are influenced by the opinions of others. If everyone else in the room is shaking their heads as you speak this is going to have an impact on the final decision.

For this reason in workshops and one-to-one coaching I always combine practical speaking and presenting techniques with the essentials of influencing strategies and tactics, based on research in applied psychology and some tested methods that have proven very effective in the past.

But suppose you don't have time for a workshop right now. What can you learn in just five minutes reading that will help you become an effective influencer?  Here are three things you really need to know to influence your way to success.

1.  GET PEOPLE USED TO THE IDEA.  You might be thinking that it is best to keep your idea secret until the last minute when you make the presentation to the decision maker. This is actually the worst way because of a quirk of human nature. People are normally suspicious about things they are hearing about for the first time, but after a while they get more used to it and are more likely to accept it. They need time for reflection, to discuss with other people before they can say yes. This means you need to make sure the decision maker hears about your idea before you present it. For more about this see also The New Facebook Effect. and this note about using leaks.

2. BUILD SUPPORT. Identify all the stakeholders of your proposal and take some time to win some supporters and to neutralize the opposition. Give the supporters talking points they can use to promote your idea and use the people who are neutral to practice your pitch. Don't forget also to talk to the opponents. Sometimes they are only opposed to one part of your idea so you can rework it to make it more acceptable. In the worst case your opponents will at least reveal some of the arguments they might use against you, so you can prepare a response. It is in this part that you really need a strong network. For more about this see Three Keys to Networking.

3. TEST YOUR PITCH.  While you are evangelizing the idea and building a support network you should also be preparing and testing your pitch, Try it on friends first but try it on a few non-friends, too, who are more likely to see flaws. This doesn't mean you need to organize a formal presentation; it can be enough to just mention one day what you are thinking of and listen for the replies. When you have worked out the most effective way to pitch the idea then it is the time to make your presentation.  If you are presenting to a very senior person then check out also tips for presenting to the C suite.

If you have done all three steps and your idea really has some merit then you have a much greater chance of getting a yes decision. But when it doesn't work reflect on why it went wrong. Perhaps the idea simply wasn't good enough, or perhaps your influencing strategy failed, this time. Learn from the experience, reinforce your network and master the art of building support for your ideas because this will make a difference next time.

Workshops on Speaking & Influencing
This note is based on content from the lecture/workshop Speaking, Persuading and Influencing: Using Communication Skills to Achieve Results. Visit or contact Andrew Hennigan at or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81 for more details. 

Related Posts on Speaking and Influencing
Selling Your Ideas Influencing Your Way To Success
Three Simple Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Speaking
Writing and Speaking Lessons from a Primatologist
Nine and a Half Tips for Presenting to C.Suite Executives
Seven and a Half Things to do When Someone Asks You to Present Their Slides

Friday, October 7, 2011

Five Simple Ways You Can Expose Internet News Hoaxes

From time to time a clever hoaxer manages to fool the media with a fake press release, normally backed up by a fake web site.  Usually people do this simply to make a point, a tactic used very effectively by the culture jamming group The Yes Men.  More recently it was used by Taradeep Gill, a Canadian Web Developer frustrated by having to make websites compatible with older versions of the Internet Explorer website. To shame people into updating he issued a press release in the name of a non-existent company called Aptiquant that was alleged to have conducted a study showing that browser usage correlated with intelligence, with Internet Explorer users having the lowest. Sent through PRWeb, the release was backed up by a fake company website.  Some major media outlets were fooled by this hoax -- I will not name names to avoid embarrassing them -- much to the surprise of Gill.

At first I was surprised that such a amateurish release fooled major media but I have heard that some legitimate releases are also written just as badly, so I assume that everyone checked the company website, which looked superficially credible. It was, in fact, mostly copied from a real company website. So how could a busy journalist or editor detect a hoax like this?  Here are five simple techniques that would expose virtually all hoaxes.

STEP 1:  GOOGLE THE SUBJECT.  When you Google a company you would normally expect to see more than just the company's own website and perhaps the news release you have on your screen. Real companies leave a much deeper and broader trail, with pages on various websites, and especially on sites that are not easily faked. For example, I could create a fake company website and also create fake profiles for employees on LinkedIn, but I could not create fake pages on media websites or company registries. Compare the suspect company with a real one to see the difference.

STEP 2: USE GOOGLE TIMELINE TO CHECK HISTORY. Hoaxers rarely if ever create a fake trail that goes back several years because this would mean creating now some web pages for a hoax planned many years in advance. Thanks to an amazing Google feature called Google Timeline you can see the history of a search term visually. A real company will have likely have a trail going back a long time even if it is a young company; a fake was probably created very recently. To use this feature first search for something on Google, then on the results page click on "More search tools" in the left menu and then "Timeline".

STEP 3. CHECK WEBSITE REGISTRATION ON WHO IS. Since hoaxers usually create a fake website just before it is needed you can also look up the domain name registration data at "Who Is", the official registry of web domain registration at Network Solutions. This will give you the date and also the name of the person who registered the domain., Be extremely suspicious of very recent dates because a real startup will usually register their domain early, long before they go public.

STEP 4: CHECK COVERAGE ON GOOGLE NEWS. Another clue is in Google's handy news aggregator, Google News, which will show you which other media have covered the company. For an established company you would expect to see a broad coverage, not just in one or two outlets. Be suspicious also if only very small media have covered a story. It could be that they have not fact checked the news. But also be wary if a single major outlet has covered it because sometimes even the best get fooled.

STEP 5: GOOGLE THE PEOPLE:  Fake releases and fake websites always name a contact person simply because you might need to call someone. Another effective detection technique is to Google these people. Unless they are using the real name of a real person you should be able to check on the credibility of a name just by googling it. If the only reference is in the suspect press release then it is almost certainly a  hoax. Even if there are also a few profiles on social networking sites it might also be a fake. Look instead for those things that are hard to fake. For example, in my profiles it says that I am a board member of the French chapter of the IABC, something that can be verified on the IABC website.

In theory it should be possible to make a detection-proof hoax that would pass all of these tests, but to do this you would need to start years in advance of the planned hoax date, preparing a solid trail for the fake company and the fake people.  This means that you can detect any reasonable hoax simply using readily available search tools. Unlike company registration sites this approach will work for companies anywhere in the world. But if you ever do find a hoax that is undetectable using these five steps just let me know and I will find another way to detect it. There is always a way because the only way to make a perfect signature on the web is to make the real thing.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Five Simple Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation

When people hear about you for the first time very often they will Google you just to see who you are. If they don't like what they see this could reduce your chances of being called to interview for that dream job, getting a chance to pitch your business idea to a wealthy venture capitalist or whatever it is you are trying to do.

Luckily fixing your online reputation is much simpler than most people imagine because the average busy person is not going to read pages of Google results and other web pages. In my experience most people are content to look at just the first page of the Google search results and rarely click on any link unless they see a problem.  And to fix this first page for most people it will be enough to follow these five simple steps.

1.  GOOGLE YOURSELF. REGULARLY.  Don't wait till someone else does it, Google yourself and look at what comes up. You need to come back every month or so to check on the results, partly because new stuff is being indexed all the time and partly because Google changes their algorithm from time to time to stop search engine manipulators gaming the system. Normally you only need to worry about the first page but the first time you do this I suggest you also go a few pages deeper to make sure there is no content so negative you can't afford to have even on page 20. If your name is extremely common try Googling your name with your profession, your town or some other qualifier.

2. REMOVE OR HIDE NEGATIVE CONTENT YOU CONTROL.  If you see any content you don't want others to see that is controlled by you -- like your own Facebook page -- then you should either delete this content or change the privacy settings so it is not findable. Be especially careful with Facebook because changes to privacy settings mean that once-private pages can suddenly become public. If the problem is that someone else has tagged you on a party photo then remove your tag from that photo. Yes, you do have this option.

3. PUSHDOWN OTHER UNWANTED CONTENT BY CREATING NEW; GOOD CONTENT. Pushdown all of the other returns that are either irrelevant or negative by creating new content that Google will recognize as high ranking. Essentially Google values most content on important sites, so an article about you on would rank highly, but is rather hard to get. But luckily there are many high ranking sites that welcome you to create profiles: these are the social networking sites, Create a profile for yourself with your real name on LinkedIn, Facebook, GooglePlus, Zerply, Viadeo and so on and these will appear at the top of Google results.

4. ASK FOR REMOVE OF NEGATIVE CONTENT ON OTHER SITES- If there is negative content on sites you don't control and you are not satisfied with pushing it down onto page four then you should consider asking the owner of the content to remove it. If this page is owned by a friend a polite request is usually enough. If that doesn't work then contact the owners of the site who you can find through the "Who Is" resource at

5. PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL BRAND BY REGISTERING DOMAIN, ID ON NEW SITES. Finally, you can protect your personal brand for the future by registering your real name as ID on new sites that emerge, just in case they become important later. If you try to ask Twitter now for the account @MarcoRossi it is probably taken, but when a site first starts you can have anything. For the same reason it is also a good idea to spend a few dollars to register the domain name Google also ranks content on this domain more highly so it is a good choice for a personal site. For more about this see How Joining Networking Sites Boosts Your Reputation.

These are the five basic techniques that will clean up and improve the online reputation of most people, brands, companies and organizations. There will be some cases that are more complicated -- like if your name is the same as that of someone famous or infamous -- and in these cases you will perhaps need professional help.


If you have any problems fixing your search results or you are just too busy to do it yourself then contact me to ask about fast, inexpensive remote coaching options. I can provide personal advice by mail, chat, phone, videoconference in small manageable blocks of time. See for more details.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing
For one-to-one coaching, lectures, workshops and writing on this topic see or contact me at or by phone on 0033 6 79 61 42 81.  

Related posts on Branding and Reputation Management:
Choosing Pronounceable Brand Names: Lessons from the Cuil Saga
Five Simple Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation
Branding in the Age of Search Engines
Why Having Accounts on Photo Sharing Sites Is Good for Your Image
Sign Up Now: Joining New Networking Sites Boosts Brand, Reputation

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Professional Networking: Five Network Sites You Should Be Using for Your Career – And How

According to there are more than 500 popular social networks and new ones are emerging all the time -- Google+, Dribbble, Zerply, Diaspora, and many others. Nobody can be active on all of them and even maintaining a presence on more than just a few is impractical, so which of these networks do you really need to be on?  Luckily there are just a few that are either essential or very useful for professional networking, plus there are a couple more that are likely to be important in the future. Here they are: the five networking sites useful for your career and what you should be doing on each of them.

LinkedIn:  ESSENTIAL. Everyone should have a profile with a photo.

The world's number one professional networking site with more than 100 million accounts, LinkedIn has become the place where people expect to find everyone and if you are not there it looks strange. Just having an account is not enough. There should be a medium-length profile and a photo. The photo is important to identify people where there are several with the same name and helps reassure people you are real. If you have time you can use the Groups feature to build relationships, too. My LI profile is at

GooglePlus: IMPORTANT. Create simple profile with photo and watch for interesting people.

Launched to the public in September 2011, GooglePlus is a rival to Facebook that has a much more professional look and feel. This is a good place to have a profile because it looks like you are keeping up to date and because it will soon be a major player in professional networking thanks to integration with other Google products. Through GooglePlus it is also easier to engage with influential people than in many other networks and the level of trust is higher because of the real name policy. My Google+ profile is at

Facebook. NEEDS ATTENTION. Either hide your personal profile or clean it up.

Most use Facebook for personal conversations but an increasing number use it also to stay in touch with people who can help in their career. This is much easier thanks to the introduction of features that allow you to address your posts to people in specific categories or to subscribe to people who are not "friends". If you plan to use Facebook for work-related networking make sure you remove or hide all the photos of you with beer in your hand before you allow access. If you plan to use it only for private conversations then make sure it is not visible in anyone in a search. Even if you use Facebook for private things you should still let your friends know about what you do and what you need; maybe they can help. My Facebook profile is at

Twitter: VALUABLE EXTRA. If you have time, create profile with real name and use to engage.

Twitter can be an excellent tool for discovering and engaging with people who are useful in your professional life (see How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking), but it only works if you have time to follow tweets and to respond to people. If you don't have time don't bother -- dormant or automated accounts are ineffective -- and never mix private and career tweets; if necessary have separate profiles. For your professional Twitter profile use your real name and a recognizable photo of you, not your cat. My Twitter profile is at

Zerply: RISING STAR. Create a profile with carefully chosen tags

One of the new wave of networking sites, Zerply has a very simple, clean, interface that appeals very strongly to digital natives, contrasting sharply with LinkedIn, which has a more "corporate" look. Zerply is new and not yet a household name, but creating a profile is very easy and simply being there demonstrates that you are in touch with new developments. This site is most popular today with people who find the look and feel of LinkedIn old fashioned -- often people who are younger or work in the startup community -- and also people who value good design. Creating a profile is very simple but choose your "tags" carefully because they are the key to being found. My Zerply profile is at

There are many other networking sites. Some are popular in local regions -- Viadeo in France, Orkut is Brazil -- and some are designed for a specific audience. Creative people are often on while software coders are often found on The best way to find these regional/market sites is to ask someone who works in the area or Google successful people and see which sites they use.

For some general guidelines about professional networking see also Three Keys to Successful Networking.


This post is based on content from Professional Networking; How to Plan, Build and Maintain your Network, available as a 60-90' lecture or half-day hands-on workshop. Visit . Personal coaching is also available to help people develop their network or improve their online reputation. See contact Andrew Hennigan at or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81 for more details.

Related Posts on Networking:

How to Separate Work and Private Networking
Involuntary Networking: Why First Street is Fascinating but Scary
LinkedIn Etiquette: How to Approach People You Don't Know
Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success
Professional Networking: Five Sites You Should be Using
How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking
Sign Up Now: Joining New Networking Sites Boosts Your Reputation
Zerply: Three Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Sideways
Three Keys to Networking


Monday, October 3, 2011

I Hate the Way I Sound on Radio: Practical Tips for Politicians, Entrepreneurs & Sportspeople

If you are a rising politician, the founder of a interesting startup or a successful athlete sooner or later you will be hearing your own voice on the radio. Most likely you are not going to like the result, especially at the beginning. All the time I hear people say "I don't like the way I sound", "I hate the way I sound" or "do I really sound like that?". It's not just beginners, too. Not so long ago even Biz Stone, billionaire founder of Twitter was tweeting  "Listening to myself on Weekend Edition with NPR's Scott Simon. Do I really sound like that?".

So what, if anything, can you do about it? Here are some practical ways you can deal with this problem.

1. GET USED TO THE SOUND OF YOUR VOICE. You've been listening to yourself in a way since you learned to talk, but when you hear yourself naturally you don't hear the same sound other people hear. This is partly mechanical; you hear yourself partially through your bones and the outer ears affect the way your voice goes from your mouth to the ear so the sound really is different; at the same time there is a muscle reflex that switches your ears to a less sensitive mode when you speak, changing the quality*. It is also partly neurological because your perception of sounds is altered by subconscious brain functions that filter out some sounds like accents or fillers. This is actually a feature since it is the way your mind allows you to focus on things that matter. This effect is very easy to deal with: you just have to listen to recordings of your own voice until you get used to it. Maybe the first time it sounds odd but after ten listens it will already sound much more like you, even though nothing has actually changed.

2. PRACTICE SPEAKING TO A MICROPHONE.  Once you have become used to the natural sound of your voice the next problem is that you are maybe uncomfortable about the fillers -- um, ah. eh and so on -- that you use without realizing it. You may also make distracting noises like clicks and pops that you never noticed before. This is perfectly normal, too. If the presenters and actors you see on TV never make these sounds it is because they are trained performers and have practiced away all these issues. You can do the same. Just imagine that you are being interviewed, record some answers and listen for things that you find annoying. If you are really serious about becoming a great speaker you should consider buying a handheld digital sound recorder like the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder. These are high quality portable sound recorders like the ones used by professional journalists and should not be confused with the cheap message dictation recorders that are virtually useless except as memory aides. If you have zero budget right now you could also practice with your computer and sound recording/editing software like Audacity, which you can get free from the Audacity download page.

3. AVOID TRYING TO DO FUNNY VOICES. Maybe when you are with friends they all laugh when you do your Vladimir Putin imitation, but when you are being interviewed on radio it is safest to stick to your normal voice, all the time.  When professional comedians do funny voices they are building on years of practice and when someone like Ricky Gervais is talking in a comedy club everyone is expecting that they will suddenly switch to a ridiculous voice. When anyone else tries it they may still laugh -- but this time they are laughing at you -- but most likely they will just be puzzled and think you are an idiot. This is partly because you just haven't practiced enough -- standup comedy is very hard -- and partly because of the context. For the same reason you should also learn to avoid irony and sarcasm because there is a risk that your words will be interpreted literally.

4. BE CAREFUL IN LOUD ENVIRONMENTS. There is a natural tendency to speak more loudly in an environment where the background noise is very loud, maybe even to the point where you are shouting. This can easily happen at a political meeting or a stadium. This works when you are trying to order a drink in a very loud club but can be a problem when there is a journalist with a microphone in front of you. First of all, if the background is loud they will put the microphone close to your mouth so that you don't need to raise your voice to shouting level. Also they are almost certainly using a directional microphone that picks up only the sound in front, so all the yelling in the background is much quieter on the recording than you perceive it. If you are still shouting hoarsely it will sound like you are shouting in a quiet room and sound strange. Just talk at a normal level without stressing your voice.

5. CONSIDER VOICE TRAINING.  Finally, if you think that your voice is too scratchy or squeaky then you should consider voice training. Most people believe that some people are born with radio voices and some people are born sounding like Donald Duck, but the reality is that this is trainable: anyone can improve the sound of their voice by learning some basic techniques. Singers, actors and radio/TV presenters all master these techniques and you can, too. If you live in a very small village in Antartica where there are no voice coaches check out the singing teachers because they can also do this kind of coaching.

Once you have mastered the art of speaking into a microphone and feel comfortable about the sound of your voice you will be much less stressed in interviews and then you can focus more on what you are saying, but that's another story and I will come back to that later.

And to answer your question, Biz, yes, you probably do sound like that but you don't need to worry because that's the way everyone has always heard you and it didn't get in the way of your career.

* For much more detail about why people don't like their voice a great resource is the Quora answer Why do so many people hate the sound of their own voice when a recording of it is played back to them

Related Posts on Video, Audio, Photos
Three Simple Ways to Make Video Event Streaming More Effective
You Don't Like the Way You Look in Photos? Here Are Five Things to Try
I Hate the Way I Sound on Radio Practical Tips for Politicians, Entrepeneurs
Recording Audio Podcasts: Five Best Practices for Fast, Professional Results
So You Hate the Way You Look Sound in Video? Here's What You Can Do About it
Recording Video Interviews Three Non Obvious Practical Tips

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