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60-Second Elevator PR

Has your PR elevator gotten stuck between floors?

[see also How's Your ROM (Return on Messaging)?]

Copyright 2003 Jeffrey Geibel, All Rights Reserved

"Let's get the word out" is the oft-used comment by hard-charging CEOs who want to gain market mindshare (and sales) for their companies. Unfortunately, there are too many words out there - such as content-free press releases and customer case studies that do little, if anything, to clarify your competitive position or business solutions. In an over-communicated world, highly focused and brief messages that target your prospects' known hot buttons do a far better job of attracting your sales prospects and other interested parties (investors, etc.) That's what is meant by the term ‘60-second elevator speech.' Here's some tips on how to develop one for your PR effort, and keep your ‘sales elevator' going up, rather than down, with your public relations messaging.

If there is one challenge in today's ‘instant messaging' world, that is shared by both companies and individuals alike - it is getting someone's attention long enough to get your message across and then determining if there is any interest. In sales, this is called ‘qualifying the prospect', in public relations, ‘making the pitch', and in job hunting ‘getting the interview'.

The most effect technique has been shown to be a short statement that clearly communicates what you offer, and by implication, who would be mostly likely to be interested. The common expression for this is the ‘60 second elevator speech' - which assumes that you just got on an elevator with someone you want to influence, and you have 60 seconds between floors to make your point. That won't happen unless you know exactly what you want to say, why you want to say it, and then keep it all very brief.

Unfortunately, in the public relations realm, your would think that the elevator got stuck between floors. The vast majority of material that is disseminated is anything but brief and focused. In many cases, it is impossible to tell, (unless you are very knowledgeable of the industry and the players - in which case you wouldn't typically be reading the PR materials) what the company's competitive distinction is - or why they were selected by their customers over their competitors. This is perhaps the most important aspect of reaching out to a prospect and in most cases, it is only given passing mention, if at all. And that mention is usually about six to eight paragraphs deep into the text - far beyond the point at which most parties have stopped reading.

This need not be the case. By observing a few simple rules in the development and structuring of your messaging - you can greatly increase the probability that it will be understood and comprehended - and all in context. Here are a few guidelines to use in reviewing what you now have, or are thinking of creating:

Keep all introductory material very brief - in other words, one page or one email screen. Most people ‘scan read' and if the item is short, chances are they will scan most of it. If it is too long - they will usually click off.

The first paragraph is the most important - it should say it all - don't waste this valuable real estate. This is perhaps the most-violated rule, along with the use of the words "industry leading..." If you lose them in the first paragraph, you won't get them back. In the Internet world you are only one click from oblivion.

Maintain the ‘big picture' vs. ‘specific distinction' balance - neither too vague nor too specific. You have to make some assumptions about the knowledge base of the reader of your material - in other words - what is the context in which it will be used? The best way to do this is to have a specific prospect profile in mind, and then write for them. One size does not fit all.

Give the reader the option to drill down - and be sure to have more content if they do. Don't assume they want a lot of detail up front - but be sure to point them to where it is if they want it.

Skip the history lesson - no one really cares - put it at the end, if at all. You have to make some assumptions about your audience. If they need a history lesson on the industry or your company, then have a separate document for that. Don't waste that space in your specific sales messaging. Remember, no one uses a resume in a 60-second elevator speech.

If you want them to take action - remember to provide the contact information to do so. Quote the sales director who can take a call (not the CEO) and add an email address.

© 2003, Jeffrey Geibel, All Rights Reserved

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