Spokesperson Secrets to Build Your Brand celebrates the inaugural SPOKEies® Award winners. They share tips on how to prepare before speaking to the media & reporters and how to stay true to the core of the brand’s message.
Featuring: Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor at Travelzoo and SPOKEies® Award Winner in the Media Category, Mike McCormick, Executive Director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association and SPOKEies® Award Winner in the Non-Profit Trade Association Category, and Marc Goldman, Marketing/Sponsorship Manager of the Marine Corps Marathon and SPOKEies® Award Winner in the Corporate Sports Category.
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DOUG: Welcome to Spokesperson Secrets to Build Your Brand, I’m Doug Simon first Gabe Saglie is the Senior Editor at Travelzoo. He’s the SPOKEies® award winner in the Media Category. Randomly I worked with him last week as he covered the opening of the Lego and Castle Hotel that we were working on. Do you have a top tip to get us started?
GABE: Visit the Lego Land Castle Hotel because it’s a great place to be if your kids like Lego’s. Great to see you there last week. I think we’ve had some great tips out here this afternoon. I think of when I go into being a spokesperson for Travelzoo being relatable, being relevant, know your audience, and knowing the medium that you, that you’re speaking to as well. I mean even speaking to some to a live television broadcast is going to be a bit of a different conversation that, if I’m speaking to a print reporter, if I’m speaking to on a radio show I’m speaking to you know a vlogger for example. These are totally different media that require a bit of a different spin on the message points that you are trying to deliver. And the conversations you’re trying to have, so understanding the medium that you’re that you’re on at that moment I think makes that makes a big difference.
DOUG: That’s a great tip and we’ll do a deeper dive into that. We also have Mike McCormick who’s Executive Director and CEO of the Global Business Travel Association. He’s the SPOKEies® award winner in the Nonprofit Trade Association Category as disclosure we have worked with Mike in the past and he’s been right from the studio at D S Simon Media. So, Mike what’s your top tip?
MIKE: I’d say the biggest thing for us is commitment. You know you commit very early to a core message and everything you do both in terms of how you communicate within your membership outwards the media really ties back to that core message. We made a conscious effort literally five years ago to start a process of back to his core message that business travel drives business growth connecting back to the jobs and economy and really looking at it on a global basis. But that core message we’ve carried through is literally every single thing we’ve done for the last five years as a result.
DOUG: That’s awesome. Finally, very excited that we’ve got Mark Goldman he’s joining us via Skype and he’s the marketing sponsorship manager of the Marine Corps Marathon and SPOKEies® award winner in the Corporate Sports Category. Among the obstacles he dealt with getting nearly 20,000 marathoners to the starting line with the entire D.C. Metro shut down. So Mark can you share a top tip with us?
MARK: Well first of all greetings from the nation’s capital and oh-raw representation of the state’s Marine Corps glad to be here. Yeah with regard to how I approach our messaging and communications efforts it’s always starting with the audience in mind and considering how they’re going to receive the message. It’s far more important the message they received and the message that I am offering to them. So I’ve got to make sure that everything I do and the way I prepare the messages it will be received by the various audiences the way we want them to. So, I listened to them before I start to speak.
DOUG: On our last panel Patrick spoke about the need to be flexible and how important that was. When you learned that the D.C. Metro was going to be shut down, when you were to move 20,000 runners to the starting line. I’m guessing you might have had to alter some of the plans.
MARK: It was a complete upheaval operational plan that it had been in place for decades. And so we have many runners that participate year after year and have a routine. I mean when you’re a marathon runner you are practicing habit so that you can actually keep your plan on event day. And we were going to end this. There are also many thousands of people who were coming to town who had never been a part of the process and now everything that we had been talking about before Metro changed our plans. We had to undo all the education we had done. So, this was many tiered process to help get all these people on the page at the same time and convey a clear message. With so many different so many different elements to it.
DOUG: And what’s great about this group is even with so much great content across the whole panel there’s still an area we haven’t really taken that deeper dive and that’s how do you work as a spokesperson to different types of outlets and different organizations. Gabe you started speaking with that. Can you share sort of not just maybe the message, but methodology and sort of the preparedness that goes into depending who you’re speaking to?
GABE: Well I think being very prepared is actually key, so I use a lot of what I do, and I deal with more sort of leisure travel and inspiring people to travel sort of aspirational travel; where Mike deals with a lot more of the business side of the industry and there’s definitely a cohesiveness there but slightly different audiences and approaches. A lot of what I do is on live television. My background is in broadcast journalism, that helps. I was an anchor in TV station in Santa Barbara California, so I know that anchors like to sound oftentimes like they know what they’re talking about. So I go into these interviews I’m pretty prepared for pretty much anything you go in with a certain amount of talking points message points. But at the end of the day you have to be flexible enough in a medium like that, to really sort of go with the flow be able to respond to the questions, and the conversation sort of directions that the folks leading these conversations are taking. And I think the more prepared you are the more aware of what’s going on in the world around that’s affecting travel affecting people’s desire to travel. The more prepared you are to jump on conversations, no matter what turn they haven’t a day.
MIKE: For us is a little different, I talked about flexibility, all the work we had done leading up to last year when the travel ban was announced, when the electronics ban was announced, that was our version of flexible. We had to really change our message we to go back to our everything that we’re looking at everything that we’ve done talk to our members, and really separate out the ideology from the reality of what was happening to our industry and really be on point with the message we were delivering so it was still on message. But it was in a totally different context totally different political environment. It really changed how we had the tone, we had to take. But again bringing it back to our core message again in a way that our members could relate to understand and support.
DOUG: Right. And there are so many organizations that are challenge because there are the lovers and haters if you will, for anything just the intensity of feeling is great. Now, Mark for you, one of the advantages is that you’re with a group an affiliation that’s pretty universally loved today. What’s your take because you have different constituencies. You’re both working with it, and also that you’re talking to. How do you manage that a bit differently?
MARK: Well one, is like you said we do have different constituencies. And what’s interesting is while we represent the United States Marine Corps we are also an endurance event and so we have to balance our messaging as an event with that of the messaging and the intent of how Marine Corps communicates. So, there’s a lot of shared effort and collaboration there and make sure that while we are conveying the messages in an appropriate tone and an appropriate voice for the event that we are. We are still true to the culture and the messaging of the United States Marine Corps. Through the various channels that we will communicate we’re never losing sight that those that are really tuned into our message are the runners and the participants are those that have an affinity for the Marine Corps. So across the various channels however we’re communicating we always have that that individual in mind so that our messages are too finely tuned for them to receive exactly what we want to share.
DOUG: Great and we’ve got a social question that was submitted, and we were asked following up on your discussion of preparedness. This person would like to know more, and I hope everyone watching and wants to know more about how do you engage your organization in your overall messaging strategy?
MIKE: So for us I mean it really starts on every level. I mean we have we have 10,000 members globally but a thousand of those really commit on a volunteer basis in a given time. So, we’re really active we have great activists on board of directors, we have a lot of committees, so really it’s taking that messaging going back to all of them really you know constantly pulsing them on what we do everything from just short surveys to you know more extended interactions and studies. But you know all of that has to tie back to your message and you can never do it enough. It’s because you need that basis the support for your message to be genuine and to be heard.
GABE: Yeah for us we are probably our biggest challenge internally is the fact that we’re a global company. We’re in North America we’re in Europe we’re in Asia-Pacific. And to create that common thread comes down really to having that core message and that core desire to inspire travelers no matter what corner of the globe they happen to be. And then internally to make those channels really not only open them up but have them be streamlined and very effective is probably one of the biggest things that we are embracing at the moment. So, we have a very travel savvy very diverse employee base, globally with different perspectives, and different backgrounds. And it really comes down to day to day almost communication whether we have a conference calls web X calls you know surveys we’re doing much more of those internally as well. It’s amazing the kind of information and insight and even direction that you gleam from being able to tap it really from top to bottom your entire workforce.
DOUG: And Mark about how about your engagement within your organization and your key opinion leaders if you will and influences that you’re trying to reach?
MARK: And you know one of the important things about conveying information about the marathon is that there’s so many different stages to the participants experience or what we call the runner journey. From you know, when they’re considering participation the event through registration through their training, to their participation. And there’s many different elements to that and information that they need to know. So, for us on the communications side we are in constant contact and planning with the different divisions that are preparing for Marine Corps Marathon. So we are always building our messaging and scaffolding to our key point by backing up a couple steps and giving the basis for the information that we’re going to share to the various audiences that we might be speaking to or letting them know the process that we arrived that why this information is going to be you know new or different and what they need to know so it’s not just you we didn’t just arrive at that particular example you used earlier and we didn’t just say hey Metro is undergoing construction and everything is different. We’ve backed up and gave our thought process and got the audience in step with us so that when we finally delivered these are the changes they knew not only the process we went through and why we arrived at these decisions and how it’s the best possible outcome and so we try and apply that against everything even if it’s not as significant as that Metro announcement a couple of years ago.
DOUG: Great. And another question that we’re getting through social media and the CommPRO feed is how fulfilling is it to be a spokesperson and being able to represent your organization and then be rewarded for it as a SPOKEies award winner. Anyone want to jump in my thoughts like that?
MIKE: I mean I have the benefit. I’ve worked in the travel industry my entire career. I love the industry. I hope I project that. I mean I’m really proud to represent my organization. And so for me it is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. I feel it really is you know truly a great benefit in my career to be able to do this so it again. But it’s a lot of work to do it.
DOUG: A lot of work right now is how much of your job is spent as spokesperson versus your day job because I know that can be different. Gabe obviously for you it’s probably a higher percentage. Spokesperson world so what does that break down for you and Mark will also let you weigh in.
MIKE: Well we play a lot roles in the association world. You know you do, as an executive director you have a lot of hats. You’re you’re working on the business side. You’re working internally, you of course member relationships, your board directors, you know actively working with them as well. So this is a part of it and we’re also very active on the hill we’re active in Brussels on political issues and lobbying. So you really have to fit it into a broad array of things that you’re responsible for and always make sure you’re giving it and consciously giving it the right amount of attention.
DOUG: That’s something the Atlantic health systems folks were talking about. It’s very easy when things get busy to let that piece of the puzzle slide and suddenly you’re behind in catching up and you know Patrick and Meredith were also speaking to the point about how the communication piece has to be integrated from day one on the project especially if you are limited in resources and, in fact who isn’t, because you’re trying to maximize our life from every dollar spent.
MIKE: Well that’s a great point too. I mean we have great communications effort and it goes hand in hand and you have to be that constant pulse, has to be there even when the issue isn’t you know first and foremost, in the media you know especially when you’re working with national global media. It’s a constant pulse you have to be doing it every day consistently to be effective.
GABE: I echo Mike. I mean first of all I do love this industry and I think that if you love the industry you’re in and you love the company you’re working for… I’ve been with Travelzoo for 12 and a half years that shows it’s a little tough to be an effective aspirational spokesperson if you are Jasso-so about the folks you work within the company you work for. So embrace a company be a you know, I’m a member of Travelzoo, I book travel through our website, I’m very familiar with the content and that’s what inspires me to speak about and to sort of and to share with the world.
DOUG: In our influencers media study that we conduct every year at D S Simon Media journalist by 84 percent to 16 percent said they preferred to book an interview with an in-house spokesperson and one of the biggest fears of in-house corporate communicators were and concerns was the level of preparedness and really the depth of knowledge when they go to a third party expert. Sure if it stays on script they might be okay, but if someone asks them a different question they clearly just don’t have the background and understanding and no efforts are holding their breath like “oh my god please don’t say something that’s going to become a problem.” And you know Mark for you obviously and your it seems likely to be extremely fulfilling what you’re working on what you’re representing and can you share that and also in context of the SPOKEies® awards and gaining the recognition for that. From my understanding I would believe that within the military environment recognition is pretty important.
MARK: So I have been in the back camp in an agency, where I served a communications role for several clients. I can speak to the great benefits of being in-house. We just touched on and being there every day and understanding the ups and flows and backgrounds behind decisions and being able to craft the messaging from the ground up because you’re part of all the internal workings. For me with the marathon to be a part of something that is just so wholly positive for all the people that are a part of it whether they’re running in memory or in honor of a loved one ,or for a charitable cause, or because they’re reforming their own health, or just trying to best the distance of twenty six point two miles. It is a very positive experience. And then to do it alongside the United States Marine Corps means a lot to people. So when I see the role as a spokesperson, is the storyteller and bringing everybody onto the same page. I am you know out there crafting the messages across various mediums for the many months leading up to the event and then also speaking at the event start line, and trying to make sure everyone has similar shared view of of the day, and of the experience that they’re about to take in. And that’s one of the key parts of what I think is so valuable of being the spokesperson, is that you can help craft that shared understanding and that community awareness of what it is that you were speaking about. So I find that to be incredibly important for the long lasting and enduring vision that people have of our event when other people turn around and speak on our behalf and other people become ambassadors for the experience. You know I hope that they will take from it the messaging and the understanding that we’d conveyed to them.
MIKE: The award itself is really a reflection of your organization. You know it comes back to use a spokesperson your just that, right? You’re on point. But it’s really about the everything behind that. The everybody in your organization, your membership, your leadership, you know everybody needs to be in synch to really effectively deliver the messages, and to the point that you’re making too. It’s always great when you see others take your message and repeat it back to you. The best moment we had after years of hard work was when we had a reporter from The New York Times come back and repeat our messaging back to us, as if they were you know articulating to us about the business travel drives business growth. And we said we’ve arrived. Now we know we’ve crossed that point and a lot of it again. It’s just all of that. It’s the everything behind the scenes all that work all that time to really put that forward and it’s you know it’s an organization’s commitment not just an individual.
DOUG: And I believe we had one more social media question. And after that we’ll get your final thoughts and wrap up the show. So questions being asked I guess sort of for me, what inspired this opening and how we finally win in 2018?
DOUG: What the SPOKEies® really came about was some anecdotal data we came across when we were media influencers survey that there was this tremendously increased demand for in-house spokespeople compared to using third party experts. And we were starting to think. So what can we do to shine a light on that? It was being rated much higher for authenticity, much more willing to book them for interviews, rate it as way less likely to make a big blunder that could get—every checkbox that you had was leaning in that direction. Yet as we saw from campaigns out there, it wasn’t even weighted Seventy five twenty five percent in favor of. And sometimes it would go the other way. So that combined with the political environment when some has suddenly spokespeople were really out there we kept it away from politics. Importantly, really made us think hey we really need to find a way to credit and recognize the people in-house, who are doing a great job and really making things happen for their organization and being truthful being authentic, bringing that kind of value to hopefully raise the idea. And if by doing so it happened to help our business grow a little bit. That was going to be OK too. But to what Danielle was saying earlier, it’s sort of like mission driven, and let it go that way and let’s see what happens, and I have to give great credit to my team here at D S Simon Media also to Fay Shapiro at CommPRO who really caught early on and thought “This is a cool idea” and partnered with us to bring that awareness to the public and help work with this and make sure the interface work, helped get the judging involved. We had an awesome panel of judges so that’s really well. So let’s get a final thought from each of you leave the audience with some brilliant thing that take place right away. So who wants any volunteers for that?
GABE: I’ll say thanks so much for this SPOKEies® was obviously a great honor. And surprising, maybe actually sort of re-look at what I do day in and day out I sort of took for granted that I was in that organization and that I was given this platform. But as Mike said so eloquently, really you’re right you’re sort of what bubbles to the top in some cases, and you’re out there delivering a message that’s really a cohesive network of ideas and perspectives that is your co-workers and the people that you work in it day in and day out. Maybe really sort of read and reassess and sort of appreciate all over again the position that I’m in. I’d say that when it comes to being a great spokesperson just believe in the message that you are delivering. Live it, breathe it, embrace it, and be relatable understand that you’re talking to people who are actually paying attention and want to better their lives by listening to the information you’re delivering. And so keeping them foremost in your mind and in your message is going to make it that much more effective.
DOUG: And if you don’t believe in the message, fight it internally don’t just go out there with something that everyone is going to see through because I was mentioning earlier it takes so much hard work to maintain trust and build credibility. And it goes away like that.
MIKE: I’d say don’t be afraid to make mistakes and sense of luck when you’re out there be yourself right. Bring yourself to it, people are looking for genuine voices. That’s what’s going to rise above in this environment. It is about the message but it’s also about just being you and people see that they’re not looking for perfection. You know on camera, in your voice, they’re looking for the again the consistency and that authenticity. And if you have that, people relate to it and they accept it and you will get your message through but it’s you know in these times there’s so much messaging and just you know it’s an avalanche right that comes at everyone every day. So to rise above you need to really pay attention all those details.
DOUG: That also gives you a great foundation to tell you through when you mess up and something bad not so bad. But if you’ve built that trust then people know that you’re trying you’re making an effort and you’re working on it and that can really be a difference maker. And Mark let’s wrap up with you. And also credit and praise for all the great work that you do, it’s so important.
MARK: Thank you. The SPOKEies® as an award is the recognition of this as a skill and a craft and I appreciate that. You know everyone is out there talking all day, every day. But you be able to be authentic and to be genuine and to be sincere comes from having a depth of knowledge, and a passion and an understanding, not only of the information you want but the end goal. And then being able to convey that in a way that is trustworthy and believable comes from you know your commitment your understanding of what it is that you represent and what your mission is. So you know I appreciate this award so much and I appreciate what it stands for and it’s the recognition of a skill that often is and isn’t recognized unless perhaps someone misses the mark or some shining like this so thank you for bringing light to this.
DOUG: I appreciate that and I’m going to be throwing it back to Carolina to wrap things up, in a moment I’ll tell you it seems like she’s been in two places at once today. It’s amazing. But before I do, I want to thank you the audience for tuning in. Ofcourse our great panel of guests are amazing. Thanks for watching. To our social media live platform on more than 20 different social channels. I want to thank Fay Shapiro at CommPRO, On-stream Media handled the streaming, the fantastic team here at Simon Media and our production studio right in midtown Manhattan near Madison Square Garden. We’ve a great team to put the event together including Carolina Osma, Michael Farr, Michael O’Donnell is handling the streaming services, Tameeka Henry, Mike Bako, as well as Chad, Constantine, Brian, and Jason. Thanks for watching.