Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Enemy is Listening: Minimizing the PR Fallout of Poor Email Security

Back in the second world war German radio transmitters sometimes had a plaque saying "Feind hört mit!", or "The enemy is listening!", a constant reminder that radio traffic is easy to intercept.

Today you might write the same message on your email client, because email messages are notoriously insecure, often ending up in the hands of people who should not have them. Sometimes they are simply copied to a memory stick and removed from the building by an insider. Other times they are extracted remotely by hackers. Less commonly they are obtained from a lost device and occasionally by intercepting wifi traffic. Whatever method is used the result is usually the same: embarrassment.

There might be people who steal emails simply to read them, but the greatest hazard for most organizations is that the contents are posted on public websites and discussed in media. High-profile hacks have revealed internal emails of Sony Pictures, the US Government and many others. At the very least these leaks are a PR disaster, but sometimes they can cause actual financial damage.

Guarding against email leaks is extremely difficult. Good information security can protect against external attacks, procedures can minimize internal leaks and encryption can protect content in many cases. But any message that can be read can be leaked. The best way to minimize the risk of embarrassment is therefore to avoid writing embarrassing details in emails. Even if the facts of some business you intended to be confidential are leaked, the cost to your organization is much greater if the language is also disrespectful, flippant or offensive. Many of the emails from the Sony leak were made much worse by the tone and choice of words.

That's why you might want to add a "Fiend hört mit!" sticker on your laptop or your smartphone, and every time you write an email ask yourself how it will look in the New York Times and on Twitter when it leaks. Sometimes just a little tweak to the wording can make a major PR catastrophe into a minor embarrassment. Never write an angry email (I wrote about this two years ago in Three reasons for not writing angry emails), never write more than you have to and stick to the essential facts. And if your business is especially sensitive turn instead to encrypted messaging or face to face meetings.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

You can contact Andrew Hennigan to discuss lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on email and other topics through email at and by phone on 0046 730 894 475.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Making the Most of PR Opportunities for Your Startup

Reaching out to media, building relationships with journalists and creating a credible platform for the founders are all important for a startup hoping to get positive media coverage. They are important but they take time. But there are also some simple actions that anyone can take to ensure that they are not missing any opportunities that come by.

Everyday there are people writing about new trends, new technologies and new ideas. Very often they reach out to a number of startups in the field, hoping to find a founder who can give them a useful insight or a valuable quote. Responding to these inquiries is simply routine for companies big enough to have a PR department or a PR agency. For many lean startups it's the founders who have to take care of this role. So how can they do it better?

Be Easy to Contact. One interesting test you might want to try one day is to ask a person unfamiliar with your business to find your media contact information. This should be very easy to find on your website and it should include at least an email address and a phone number. Web forms are a very bad idea because you never know if anything will happen. Usually when the only option is a web form I just ask another company that is easier to contact. If you have provided an email address and a phone number then make sure that they are monitored. Never post an email address if the mails just pile up unanswered.

Respond Quickly. Once you receive an email from a journalist always respond immediately to say that you saw it and that you intend to respond. At this point you could also clarify what they want and the deadline. This fast confirmation is important. Often someone will contact several companies and simply use the ones that respond first. Wait too long and you miss the opportunity.

Give Usable Quotes. When media asks for a comment they are usually looking for something that they can quote. Quotes should be original so don't ever use a line from your website or brochure for a quote. People can and do check. Try to keep the tone conversational. Imagine that you are simply talking to someone. Don't use the peculiar, stilted language of the cheap brochure; try to sound human.

Don't Just Talk About Your Product. And don't just pitch your product. Sometimes general comments about a class of product, an industry or a trend can be the most valuable part of an article. This establishes you as a thought leader and makes it more likely you get asked to comment in future.

Deliver on Time. But most important of all, if you promised to deliver a comment by Tuesday you have to deliver it on time. Be just one day late and you might miss the window for that article. Much more seriously, you also ensure that you are not going to be asked next time someone needs a comment for an important article where you could have been quoted as an expert.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about startup PR and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan at, on 0046 730 894 475.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Speaking: When a Content Marketing Strategy Beats Hard Pitching

Many conferences and events are undermined by speakers who insist on trying to sell from the stage. Very often this is banned or discouraged. even when it is allowed it is still a very bad idea.

What works much better is to take a content marketing approach. Instead of simply trying to sell your product or service try instead to give a useful talk on a topic related to your business -- something that is useful for the listeners without a direct commercial message.

This works because most people do not want to hear your sales pitch -- if they had wanted that they would invite you to pitch at your company -- but they will listen to an interesting talk. Say something relevant and people will listen, they will remember you and they will have a more favorable opinion of you, your company and your products.

You are also much more likely to be asked to speak again. Perhaps the original speaking slot came as part of a sponsorship deal and the organizers had no power to veto weak ideas. But by delivering a product pitch you just guarantee that you will always have to pay to speak. Speakers who are interesting are invited back, they are invited to new events, they get asked for comments by journalists.

If you are not sure what to speak about ask a few friends what they would like to know more about your business, look at the trending stories in the news and perhaps ask the organizers if they have any inputs. Maybe there is an overall theme that you can connect with, or maybe in their research for the event they actually polled the attendees to find out what they want. Delivering an interesting talk that is closely aligned with the theme of the event is the surest way to get a reputation as a desirable speaker.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about public speaking and other communication topics contact Andrew Hennigan on 0046 730 894 475 or

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How to Become a More Eloquent Speaker

Not everyone who attends speaker workshops and coaching is aiming to become a TED/TEDx speaker or start a new career in politics. Quite often they just want to be able to speak more eloquently in one-to-one conversations, in meetings and anywhere else where success depends on an ability with words.

Speaking eloquently, finding the right words at the right time, is a skill that anyone can learn and this learning can be boiled down into just three key activities.

Building Passive Language Skills: When your brain is transforming thoughts into words it relies on ideas, words and phrases that you know already. Only very rarely will anyone coin a new expression in real time. To ensure that you have these raw materials handy in your memory you need to read and listen to quality content. Listen to TED and TEDx talks, listen to talk radio, listen to audiobooks, listen to live speakers and attend panel discussions or debates. Don't just listen to people on your side of any argument. There are good speakers on all sides and listening to a broader spectrum of styles is more useful to you than living in an echo chamber. You will also learn many useful ideas, words and expressions through reading, so spend some time reading quality longform journalism. Use downtime in your schedule to read another article from the Atlantic, Aeon, New Yorker and other quality sources.

Develop Active Language Skills: Just having plenty of words, ideas, phrases and structures in your memory doesn't automatically make you a good speaker just like having a piano doesn't make you a pianist. It helps, but you need to practice using these mental resources so that when you need to speak the idea you have in your head is translated into words effortlessly, in real time. There is only one way to practice and that is to speak. Never miss a chance to speak in front of an audience, never miss a chance to have conversations with interesting people and never miss a chance for a complicated conversational opportunity where a group of quick thinkers are all sitting round a table. If your own job doesn't give many speaking opportunities look for non profits where you can volunteer, join the local debating society or maybe get involved in local politics. If you aren't having conversations with people you are not honing your speaking skills.

Prepare for Predictable Surprises: Finally, having both strong passive and active speaking language skills is not the whole story. Those people you see speaking who seem to be able to talk without preparation and always find the perfect comeback in milliseconds are almost certainly preparing. You can and should prepare in advance for unplanned speaking opportunities and conversations. Everyone should be able to present who they are and what they do without any warning. And if you are known to be working on a project you should be able to talk about that without warning, too. Make a list of the things you might be asked to speak about and prepare at least an outline of what you would say. For one-to-one conversations and meetings you can also anticipate conversations and prepare in advance. Scan the news headlines every day because that will suggest topics likely to come up in a general conversation. Spend a few minutes thinking about what you might say about the issues of the day. And monitor the social media "undertalk" to see what the people you are going to meet are likely to talk about. You get valuable clues from social media about what they have read, what they think is important and what they think about them. Be ready to talk about these topics, checking the background with Wikipedia just in case.

Build your passive language skills by listening and reading, develop your active skills by practicing and prepare in advance and your speaking can only become more eloquent.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about public speaking and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan on 0046 730 894 475 or