Talk has never been cheap. In digital times, its value is increasing exponentially. After all, as The Cluetrain Manifesto stresses: Markets are conversations. Word of mouth or word of mouse can break or make a career, product, service or company brand name.
This isn’t new. Back in ancient times, talk came with a high price. Saying the wrong things in the wrong way cost Socrates his life. On the other hand, the right words uttered on board ship helped make Odysseus a hero. What is new is that in this era of declining trust in institutions, people are putting more trust in what others like them are saying.
The following excerpt is a chapter from Robert L. Dilenschneider’s new book titled: The AMA Handbook of Public Relations.
Obviously, the goal is to say what will help a career or a product or a brand name, and in a way that maximizes its echo in a world that, thanks to the Internet, operates virally. This chapter presents recommendations for how to achieve that goal and minimize disasters such as putting in play the wrong echo.
Talk Not Just Talk
When Bob Berkowitz, principal with The Dilenschneider Group, coaches global leaders in public speaking, he advises them about the importance of strategic planning and execution—or what he refers to as the “responsibility to control messages.” Leaders err on the side of caution. Fools on the side of spontaneity.
Unfortunately, many Millennials may wake up one day and realize that by their ramblings on social networks they have become the economy’s fools. Since the 1970s, when counterculture’s emphasis on personal self-expression and self-disclosure became something good, verbal restraint has been viewed as inauthentic. However, the public aspect and the viral quality of digital media, including the wide availability of cheap digital tools, make the cult of the “unedited me” dangerous.
The old-fashioned reality is that being able to be candid and confide, as parents always said, is a luxury. That’s why human beings hunger for those few authentic, intimate relationships that are possible and are devastated when they end, as with divorce or death. The role of psychotherapists, executive coaches, and attorneys is to provide (for a fee) that guaranteed privacy and safety—or rented intimacy.
This chapter demonstrates how to talk in a strategic manner without coming across as excessively guarded or evasive. There are phrases, body language, and facial expressions that establish quick bonds with others and yet insulate the speaker from verbal recklessness.
What kinds of messages does talk transmit? The number is infinite. At the top of the list is the raw data on which those listening will make decisions about the speaker. They decide on the speaker’s integrity, social class, education, confidence, expertise, worldview, and more. Also, what’s being transmitted could include unique positioning and packaging of information, insight, and inspiration. It’s those qualities of a message that can land the job, account, or political win, or bring unexpected success to a new product or service. During Campaign ’08, the Obama team understood the power of a fresh message custom-made for trying times.