People love to connect with other people. We’re wired to pick up subtle cues from their words and body language, which enable us to quickly determine if they’re trustworthy or not. It’s how we forge lasting bonds and community.
When you’re building a brand, you want to convey your message in as trustworthy a way as possible. Enter the spokesperson. Or, even better, the founder stating what makes their brand special, whether it’s in a polished video, or a gritty, hand held moment streamed on LinkedIn or Facebook.
It dawned on me while working with a client last week that far too few of us know how to express our brand in spoken words. And even fewer know how to do it while fielding questions, interview style.
Here’s the story.
Ask the pitch pros
If you attempt to verbally convey everything about your brand – your USP, name, tagline, brand character words, founder story, etc etc, your audience is going to scatter like confetti in the wind. It’s time to edit.
It pays to learn from startup founders who need to pitch to secure funding. On a regular basis, these folks stand up in front of jaded, bored investors, and try to tell a story that will shake loose significant amounts of cash. I’ve seen hundreds of pitches – the good ones are pure magic.
If you want to learn how to verbally convey your brand quickly, watch a startup founder deliver a pitch to an investor.
If there are no pitch events in your community, do the next best thing – pick up Get Backed by Evan Baehr and Evan Loomis. This book extrapolates on the Guy Kawasaki’s famous ‘Ten Slides‘ lesson for pitches.
What you’ll learn is that there are anchors for every great pitch – the problem, the opportunity, the solution, traction, the secret sauce, the founder story, etc.
It pays to think of your brand in this context. If it can shake a dozing investor awake, think of what it can do in your next radio interview.
Practice… on video
When I went to pitch school as a creative director, the first thing our instructor did was record us giving our favourite brand pitch.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more horrifying than watching yourself pitch. I still get the cold sweats thinking about that video.
Record your brand speech. Like Buckleys cough syrup, it’ll leave a terrible taste in your mouth – but it helps.
But as G Gordon Liddy and some guy named Nietzsche said, ‘That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.” Today, I try to record every speech I give, every pitch I do, every workshop I hold. It’s still painful, but there is no better way to see your screwups.
Particulars you should note when reviewing your spoken brand story:
- How’s your pace and volume? Ideally, you should accelerate and decelerate, raise your voice and lower your voice. The idea is to keep your audience on the edge of their seats. Variety and surprise helps.
- What do you emphasize? And how do you emphasize it? Radio pitch people know what they’re doing when they repeat a phone number three times. Your key message deserves to be hammered home through repetition, through raising your voice, through wild arm flailing. Or heck, try all three.
- Is there too much, too little, or just enough? When I record videos (like the one above) I generally do about 4 takes – some have too much information and start to wander, some just tease the subject without giving a real ta-daaaah. The trick is practicing to ensure you deliver enough, but not too much.
Welcome feedback and changes
Video may be the most brutal feedback of all. But asking clients and colleagues their thoughts ranks a close second on the humility-o-meter.
Still, this gruelling ordeal can be turned into something productive, if not exactly joyous. Here’s how:
- Preface your talk by pointing out exactly what you want your conversation partner to listen for. Good points to watch for include: clarity of your selling proposition, memorability, persuasiveness. If you don’t lay out these criteria, you’re going to get people saying they didn’t like how you said ‘you know’ or ‘like’. Helpful points, sure. But not game changers.
- Write down the points for improvement, and then try the presentation a few more times. If you get the same critique from the second and third listener, make the changes. If you get critique points that are all over the map and never repeat, you may just need to practice, not rewrite.
Don’t be too shy to repeat
Most of us think that repeating ourselves shows weakness of thinking and originality. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Beware of speaking your brand in different ways for different audiences. Variety breeds confusion. Stick to re-ordering your talking points if need be.
A brand needs to be consistent. Speaking it in different ways only creates confusion. If you feel an audience really deserves a different take, perhaps re-order the sequence of your talking points.
Try it in an interview
The final test? Can you speak your brand in response to questions?
This involves a bit of nimbleness and freestyle thinking. You can’t just drone on from start to finish.
Once you have your brand speech down cold, though, you’ll probably be able to handle yourself with aplomb in an interview. Just watch out for overanswering questions, or not listening hard enough and simply blurting out soundbites.
Ready? Get out there and start speaking your brand!
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