Hyped Up On Headlines

Article after article scrolls by on the screen. Then, in a flash of brilliant copywriting, a headline catches your eye. You’re hooked. You must read on.

If you are a storyteller or a person who just likes a good story, you are well aware of the power that a well-written headline has. It is the power to entice, to persuade. It is a call to action. It is a reason to believe. Once you start down the path the headline opens up for you, either you’ll truly enjoy the story or feel like you’ve been robbed – of your time and your sensibility.

That’s what headline hype is all about. It is an inflation of the facts of the story to get your attention. Stories “grab headlines” because the details are such that the media editor can manipulate them into something that interests a wide audience. Headline hype has been the way the media has worked for so long that doing anything different simply does not work.

Now, with the advent of a fractured information feed, headlines become even more important. There is an abundance of media to choose from and the only way to delineate between those things that interest you and those things that you could not care any less about is the headline.

Is this putting too much pressure on the headline writer? I don’t think so, because good writers and good editors make their hay in the headline – we buy the story because of the headline.

So, the next time you scroll through your news feed, think about why you chose the story you’re reading and how you feel about the story. It may just be a bunch of hype.


The secret to “Going Viral”

In a brillant post on the topic of writing copy that will go viral, Seth Godin captures lightning in a bottle. And it will change the world as a result.

There are so many people out there right at this very moment making a living by selling a service to an organization or a nonprofit to create content that will go viral for them. They claim to be “experts” in knowing what will be hot, trendy, and will catch on with the masses. But what they are selling is akin to snake oil. If these sales people, marketers, PR guys and gals, and advertisers where truthful with themselves, they would know that the secret to getting something to “go viral” is that there is no secret.

To paraphrase Godin: Don’t set out with the intention to create viral content. Instead create content that makes a real impact – an impact that must be shared.

Godin is talking about creating content that connects with a person’s passion and experiences. Designing and drafting content with these two things in mind is fundamental to the success of any communication. It is imperative to know the audience you are trying to connect with, but other than that, the framework for content creation should be as free as possible. Otherwise, you will fall into the trap of creating content that is expected to catch on, but instead sinks to the bottom of the interest pile like a lead balloon.

Always be mindful of your audience, and as Godin rightly points out, the rest will take care of itself.

Finding clarity of purpose at the ballpark

There is a point in everyone’s life when they realize that what they are doing is either the absolute right thing for them or it isn’t. It is what some would call a pivot point. Others call it a moment of clarity or an epiphany.

I believe that moment happened for me recently while at a baseball game. I was sitting in the stands talking with an old friend about a dream he has had for starting a business. The idea and the product are sound. There is a lot of upside to this idea.

As he started talking about how he would design and construct the product that was the cornerstone of this grand business dream, my mind began churning in a different direction. I was concerned with how to craft the perfect message that would resonate clearly and with the greatest impact for the intended target audience. And I was also thinking what exactly that intended target audience would be. I was putting the pieces together for a comprehensive Public Relations plan that would increase awareness of his product. It was easy to do and from his reaction to my ideas, I knew I was hitting the nail squarely on the head.

In that moment, it felt good to know that what I was doing was the exact right thing for me. In all honesty, this hasn’t been the case for some time.

A year ago, my professional life was thrown for a loop as I faced a turbulent storm that blindsided me. Today I can say that I have survived the turmoil, righted the ship, and came out the other side to a brighter future.

As I sat watching the ball game and talking about dreams, reality set in. I knew that the path before me was the one I am uniquely prepared to take. Knowledge like this provides clarity and assurance and it is energizing.

My hope is that each of you reading this has a similar moment in your lives. If you have had a moment like this, when and where was it? How did it change you?

The road to you

It’s often said that the journey is more important than the destination. That is an interesting thought to ponder as a new year and a new decade dawns. There is a tendency to reflect on the places we’ve been, the things we’ve done, and the people we’ve come to know. As I sat with my wife and some of her high school friends recently, I couldn’t help but wonder how they came to travel down the path they were on.

In high school, we all had our best friends. Some of us still have those people in our lives and the relationship has grown over the years. For others, that is not the case. As often happens, people who were once close drift apart because of circumstance, situation, location, or any other variety of reasons. It happens. But what is interesting is to consider—upon meeting up with that person again years down the road—who this person is now, how s/he came to be this person, and is this person now compatible within the scope of your life as it is now?

That was what I was thinking as I sat there looking from my wife to the people sitting around the table. I had known some of them in high school, and throughout the years since then. They all had their stories to tell. Some were married. Some were divorced. Some worked almost nonstop. A couple had careers that seemed uncharacteristic.

However, they were all there for that brief moment, even as they continued to chart the next step in their journey through life. They stopped for a brief moment to reconnect and then they all went their separate ways into the brisk night.

As I think about the New Year and its potential, I think that more and more people will use social media tools to stay connected, although I’m not certain how “real” that connection will be. Although most of the people at the table were friends on Facebook, they were all on different paths, which after the meet up, would lead to many various and sundry encounters apart from any with the people at the table.

It is often said that the journey is more important than the destination. What has your journey helped you to discover about yourself and where you are headed?

Tiger plays a bad lie

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

I first heard about the “serious injuries” to Tiger Woods Thanksgiving weekend when my wife asked me if I’d heard the news.

I told her I hadn’t. But when I initially learned more about the story, I figured he just hit the accelerator instead of the brakes and that was why he hit a fire hydrant and a tree, wrecked his SUV, and was taken to the hospital.

Now, as the days have passed since the initial incident was reported, we know Tiger Woods has had “transgressions.”

Many a sports reporter has written that these actions by the world’s most well-known athlete will not affect his image. I beg to differ.

For starters, the way that this was handled by Woods and his PR team (if he even has one) was absolutely atrocious. Instead of the laser-like focus he has exhibited on the golf course, when it came to his carefully managed public image, he and his team faltered at the most inopportune time.

In a Public Relation crisis situation, the goal is to mitigate the negative perception of the brand. The way to do this is to tell your story first in an honest manner and to provide information in a transparent way as the situation allows. Tiger Woods did not do this, and as a result, ceded control of the story to someone else. Simply put, his brand took a brutal hit.

Having said that, I agree that what occurred is a private matter to be handled within his family. It is very apparent that there are things he and his wife need to work out. Regaining trust is a hard thing to do. It is even harder if you don’t have control of your own messaging and someone else is telling your side of the story for you. Until Tiger can recapture the controls of the runaway tabloid train that is now his public life, I don’t know if he’ll ever have the time needed to rebuild his personal life.

I know I’ll never look at him the same way again.

More than just X’s and O’s

As I sat there and watched the back-up QB for the team I support toss a long ball down the field into the hands of a streaking receiver, I wondered about the communication underpinnings that made that thing of sports beauty possible.

If you follow the NFL religiously, or even if you’re just a casual fan, you’ve probably heard that quarterbacks need to feel comfortable and trusting of their receivers, otherwise they won’t throw them the ball all that often. Instead, the QB will look to someone he trusts to deposit the ball (this is often called a “check down.” Bills fans are keenly aware of this, especially this year). There is a reason for this, and I think a lot of it has to do with communication.

Take Peyton Manning, for example. He had a good relationship with his receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. He could throw up the ball with the faith that one of the two would be there to catch it when it came down. They worked at this, but the simple act of trusting the guy will be there where you put the ball takes communication, too.

On the opposite end, you can see when a quarterback and receiver don’t have good communication. Take T.O. and Buffalo’s Trent Edwards. It is painful to watch. There’s just no chemistry between the two, which is a direct result of the fact that there (more than likely) isn’t good communication between them.

This isn’t just the case in football, though. Communication is at the core of every sport. In baseball there is the nonverbal communication between pitcher and catcher. In NASCAR it’s interesting to listen to the radio communications between driver and crew chief.

So, the next time your favorite team has a big play, take a moment to think about how much communication went in to making it a success, or how a lack of communication caused the other team to collapse in that instant.

What is your favorite example of communication in sports?

Fully-charged review of Thom Singer’s “*Batteries Not Included: 66 Tips to Energize Your Career”

This is my first “official” book review, and it’s taken me a little longer than I had wanted to get it written and posted. The book I’m reviewing, had I read it prior to this review, would have encouraged me not to procrastinate. But alas, that was not to be.

batteries_cover_webThe book, “*Batteries Not Included: 66 Tips to Energize Your Career” is authored by nationally recognized professional speaker Thom Singer. It is a part of New Year Publishing’s “Airplane Book Series,” meaning it “is designed to be read in a coffee shop or airplane.” However, I think it is much more than just a book to read while on a flight to your next destination and then never considered again.

Each of the passages in the book make you think. And if you want to get the most out of the book, that’s exactly what you’ll do as you read it—think about how what Thom writes about is impacting your life and how his advice can help to change that impact into a positive. That’s what is really great about this book. It looks at normal, every day situations that come up, both at and outside the office, and puts a positive spin on them. That is, I think, Thom’s underlying goal in this book, to demonstrate to the reader that as life runs your batteries down, there are simple, positive ways to recharge them and get the most out of life.

There are so many good passages in the book that exemplify and underline this point that it is hard to pick just one to talk about. However, tip #25 “Make an Impact” is a prime example that really speaks to how Thom communicates a message of positive action to his readers.

The tip begins with a very powerful statement: “You have the ability to impact the world around you.” Simple. To the point. But not always something we hear and acknowledge about ourselves and our place in this world. Each and every one of us has the ability to impact this world we live in, some how, some way.

Making an impact in this world. Think about that for a minute. It’s a big thing to tackle, right? Well, not really. Keep reading tip #25 and you see that Thom lays out a very simple way to break down the big into the small in order to then build up the big again.

Here’s what I mean. He writes: “Decide today that you are going to do more with your everyday life. Start small. Look at your current daily activities and find was to put a little something extra into how you tackle the little tasks. Become that person who is known for having that extra spring in their step, regardless of what they are doing. Leave the whining and complaining to someone else.”

In other words, take control of your actions, embrace the tasks you have, and always be bold.

In life, we often wonder why things don’t always go our way. Maybe what we should do when those thoughts enter our minds is to realize that we need to recharge our batteries so that we can tackle the things that are challenging us. Thom Singer’s book is the charger. Read it and your batteries will be charged and you’ll be ready to take on anything that is thrown at you.