Tips for Being a Great Podcast Guest

Tips for Being a Great Podcast Guest

Productive Passions featured an interview with Lisa Elia on March 8, 2024.I had the pleasure of being a guest on Christy Tagye’s podcast, Productive Passions. We talked about many aspects of communication and public speaking and the importance of shifting your mindset to set you up for success and greater inner peace as a speaker and in other aspects of your life, and more.

You can listen to it on:
Apple
Podbean
Spotify
Amazon Music

 

If you’re going to be interviewed for a podcast, here are a few quick tips.

1. When you book the podcast, ask if there are some topics or questions that the host wants to cover. Even if you are provided with questions or topics, know that podcasts can move in a lot of directions, so be ready to talk about a variety of topics.

2. Listen to the podcast to get a feel for the interviewer’s style, the format and tone of the show, and the types of questions the interviewer asks. Some podcast hosts or their producers hold pre-calls to connect with their guests and talk about what they will discuss, but not everyone does this. Listening to several episodes of the podcast and researching the host will help you to feel like you already know them. This is the same advice I give people who are preparing for media interviews.

3. Consider who the audience is and what you want to share that will engage them or help them. Use words and phrases they will understand. If you’re addressing an audience within your industry or that’s on the same level as you in terms of business, you can use more sophisticated language and industry terms. If not, simplify your language and define terms that might be unfamiliar to them.

4. Know that podcasts generally have a more conversational, free-flowing cadence than most news interviews. You should prepare and rehearse responding to questions and speaking about your work and the ideas and stories you want to share, not aiming for verbatim memorization.

5. Don’t get too attached to your content. You might not have the opportunity to share everything you had hoped or planned to. Make peace with that.

6. When the podcast is released, share it with your network. Podcast hosts appreciate that, and this could make other podcast hosts more interested in working with you.

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Communication Matters logo; newsletter by Communication Expert, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Investor Pitch Coach Lisa Elia
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Communication Expert, and Founder of Expert Media TrainingThis post was written by Lisa Elia, a media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert, and speaker. She trains clients around the world for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, panels, investor presentations, and promotional videos, and provides executive and team communication coaching.

With more than 25 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E!, and many others. Clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between as well as athletes, celebrities, and other public figures.

 

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Lisa, click here.

Communication Tips for Spending Holidays with Family

Communication Tips for Spending Holidays with Family

Communication Tips for Spending Holidays with Family

The holidays are coming up and they can be stressful for a lot of people. Go in with a plan to handle challenging people and situations, especially if you’ll be spending holidays with family. 

Keep in mind that just because you’re related to people doesn’t automatically mean they’re “your tribe” in terms of the way they see things or how they believe people should be treated. Maintain your values and avoid getting sucked into others’ drama. A brief pause before responding can do a world of good!

Remember that this moment is not your entire life. Maintain the parts of your routine that make you feel centered, calm, and confident. Exercise, meditate, get outside, and review your vision for your life to relieve stress, increase your energy, and remind you of the life you’ve created for yourself.

Know that not everyone needs to hear your opinion on everything. Make a choice. Is it worth giving up your peace of mind to prove a point, even though it may put your body into a stressful state that can harm your brain?

Be empathetic and curious, especially during disagreements. When you aim to understand other people’s perspectives, knowing they’re not necessarily about you, it’s easier to remain calm and open.

Use the “kind, true, and necessary” test from radio host Bernard Meltzer:

“Before you speak, ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”

If you expect to see someone who tends to insult you, plan how you will respond. Avoid trading insults. If you don’t want to escalate the situation, here are a few ideas:

“I don’t agree with your characterization of me. Let’s get back to enjoying our time together.”

“I’ve got a good handle on/I’m quite happy with (fill in the blank).”

If you want to confront the person who is insulting you regarding their behavior, do so privately. Hashing it out in front of everyone else will probably make them uncomfortable.

Decide in advance what your boundaries will be. Instead of answering questions you find intrusive, reply with a response such as:

“I’ll let you know when I have something to tell you.”

Refer to these tips for spending holidays with family as needed and enjoy them as much as you can!

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Communication Matters logo; newsletter by Communication Expert, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Investor Pitch Coach Lisa Elia
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Communication Expert, and Founder of Expert Media TrainingThis post was written by Lisa Elia, a media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert, and speaker. She trains clients around the world for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, panels, investor presentations, and promotional videos, and provides executive and team communication coaching.

With more than 25 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E!, and many others. Clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between as well as athletes, celebrities, and other public figures.

 

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Lisa, click here.

How to Be a Great Panelist

How to Be a Great Panelist

How to Be a Great Panelist

Serving on panels at events is an excellent way to increase your visibility and establish credibility as a thought leader. The best way to make the most of an opportunity to serve on panels is to prepare well, even if you know your subject matter very well. These tips provide a simple plan you can follow.

Great Panelists Prepare.

1. Research the event, the audience’s reasons for attending, the moderator, and the other panelists. This research will help you to feel more confident and prepared and provide more relevant information and thoughts.

Questions to Ask About the Audience:

        • Who are they? (Ask for as much demographic and psychographic information as possible.)
        • Why are they attending/watching?
        • What do they care about?
        • What are their concerns or desires?

2. Prepare responses to questions you believe you will be asked. Some panel bookers will provide a list of questions you may be asked, which is helpful. However, it’s best to prepare for the conversation to veer off in other directions. Check the news the day before or the morning of your panel and consider your thoughts on how current events might affect your work/organization and/or the audience.

3. Prepare some points that you can share, and keep in mind some anecdotes that will be relevant and entertaining.

4. Rehearse introducing yourself, talking about your work/organization, and responding to questions you anticipate being asked. Avoid trying to deliver your content verbatim. Instead, rehearse from a set of brief bullet points you create to remind yourself of the points you want to make.

Actively and Positively Contribute to the Panel Discussion.

5. Add to the discussion when possible. Answer the moderator’s questions fully and, when appropriate, mention relevant data, studies, and/or ideas that will deepen the conversation. Add to other panelists’ points if you have something useful to add. Do this judiciously, however. It’s best to avoid the appearance of trying to take over the panel or diminishing the value of other panelists’ input.

6. Be respectful of other panelists. Don’t interrupt them, and if you disagree, do it kindly.

7. Include the audience in the discussion. When you respond to questions from the moderator, alternate looking at the audience and the moderator. 

8. Share inspiration, advice, and humor. After listening to speakers and panels throughout the day at an event, people want some spark. You can provide that. As much as possible, leave the audience with something to think about and feeling good.

Would you like more help becoming a great panelist?

Lisa Elia, the author of this article and founder of Expert Media Training, coaches clients to prepare them for panels. She can assist in developing clear message points and responses to questions that strategically position them and/or their organizations if they don’t already have them prepared, and provide specific recommendations and feedback to elevate all aspects of their communication. She also teaches clients a preparation technique to manage nervousness and increase mental focus. She believes that, as with any public appearance, being prepared and having the right mindset vastly improves the client’s performance and increases their enjoyment of the experience.

To arrange a free consultation, call us at 321-821-3088.
Or, you can email us at team@expertmediatraining.com

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Communication Matters logo; newsletter by Communication Expert, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Investor Pitch Coach Lisa Elia
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Communication Expert, and Founder of Expert Media TrainingThis post was written by Lisa Elia, a media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert, and speaker. She trains clients around the world for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, panels, investor presentations, and promotional videos, and provides executive and team communication coaching.

With more than 25 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E!, and many others. Clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between as well as athletes, celebrities, and other public figures.

 

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Lisa, click here.

Investor Pitching: Setting Yourself Up for Success

Investor Pitching: Setting Yourself Up for Success

INVESTOR PITCHING: SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article for Women Founders Network’s blog because I had successfully coached several entrepreneurs to wins in their fast-pitch competition over the past few years. My article on “Setting Yourself Up for Success with Investors” is provided below, and I have prefaced it with some recommendations for pitching to investors during times of economic uncertainty.

With the current economic slowdown, the investor landscape is becoming increasingly competitive, so you need to be even more prepared and polished than before. Supply and demand have shifted because less money is being invested overall by venture capital (VC) firms, private investors, and angel investors. This means that they have a greater advantage and may expect more from startups.

Investors will want more assurances and proof that companies seeking funding are operating leanly, pivoting when necessary or possible, and planning for what could be an uncertain path over the next few years.

PART 1: ADJUSTMENTS TO MAKE TO YOUR INVESTOR DECK AND YOUR PITCH

When marketing anything, including marketing your company to investors, think about the goals, needs, challenges, and fears of the people you are addressing. The more you understand the perspective of investors, the more you can tailor your pitch and deck accordingly. Aim to address the most important questions and objections that are in their minds during your presentation.

Here are some adjustments to consider making to your investor pitch deck and your presentation:

Be ready to talk about how recent economic variability has affected your industry and, if you’re currently operating, your business. Also, plan to discuss how you will adapt your business practices to suit the current economic climate.

Budget for a long enough runway to carry your company through a possible downturn or slow economic growth period. 

Show that you can conserve cash and demonstrate extreme fiscal responsibility. Founders that have built their companies through bootstrapping know what it feels like to spend their own money. They have a personal connection to it. In this current environment, startups would be wise to do the same with investors’ money even in the planning and pitching stages.

Adjust your projections to reflect any anticipated decrease in demand for your product or service unless you’re in a sector that has been unaffected or positively affected by economic uncertainty. For some businesses, basing your projections on data from respected economic analysts or institutions can provide added credibility.

Be specific when talking about your marketing plans. Many startups are too vague when talking about marketing strategies. In periods of economic uncertainty, investors will want to see that you’re very carefully thinking through how you will attract and retain customers who may be more reluctant to spend money than usual.

Emphasize the strength and resilience of your team. If you, as a team or individually, have a brief story about overcoming tough times or finding a way to turn a bad situation into an opportunity, work it into your pitch. Many investors place great stock in the character of the founder and team when deciding whether or not to invest in a company.

Express flexibility regarding terms and your openness to greater input from investors. Because of the current economic climate, some investors will want to provide more guidance than usual to investee companies to help protect their investments. Investors may expect more frequent communication from you regarding progress and reaching milestones.

PART 2: SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS WITH INVESTOR PITCHING

Preparing to pitch to investors can elicit a mix of excitement, fear, and confusion. Getting clear on what investors want, gaining a deep understanding of the details of your business, and creating some new habits will help you to deliver the best investor pitch you can make.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing entrepreneurs in my business and as a volunteer coach for Women Founders Network’s WFN Fast Pitch competition.

Over the past three years, the people I have coached for WFN have all ended up in the winner’s circle: Sashee Chandran, Founder and CEO of the innovative tea company, Tea Drops, who won first place in 2017; Sabena Suri, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of the gifting company, Box Fox, won second place in 2018; and Paris Sabo, MD, Co-founder and COO of the natural oral care company, Dr. Brite, won second place in 2019.

While their companies and offerings differed greatly from one another, there are several things these three women had in common and several things we did in our work together. Here is advice you can use to achieve similar success with your investor pitches.

EMBODY THE 4 Ps – Be Passionate, Problem-solving, Prepared and Perseverant

An entrepreneur who embodies the 4 Ps will not only impress investors but will be more likely to succeed in almost any endeavor. You will need a genuine passion for your business to drive you through the process of preparing your investor deck and preparing yourself to pitch to, and work with, investors. You will also need to be able to passionately describe what you do, which is part of the preparation process I put clients through.

Your ability to solve problems will be tested throughout the process of preparing for investor pitches and in your business, in general. If you’re not naturally a person who sees obstacles as opportunities, this is a time to focus on shifting your mindset. In your investor pitch, you can demonstrate how you solve problems as you talk about certain aspects of your business. Investors like to learn how your mind works.

Preparation is the key to a great investor pitch! In my work with Sashee, Sabena, and Paris, we worked on everything, from their investor decks to word choices and nonverbal communication, to responses to typical and challenging questions investors might ask. Each of these women stuck with it and did the work they needed to do, which leads to the final “P”.

Perseverance is essential in business. You will inevitably face challenges as you prepare to pitch to investors and throughout the fundraising process. Your ability to keep going is necessary for success.

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS INSIDE AND OUT

Investors will expect you to “know your numbers”, such as your cost of goods, profit margins, customer acquisition cost, burn rate, and more. If you have ever watched ABC TV’s Shark Tank or attended Women Founders Network’s Dolphin Tank or Fast Pitch events, you will hear the same questions asked over and over again.

If you take a step back to look at your business the way an investor would, you will feel clearer on how important the numbers of your business are in helping them to make a defensible investment decision.

In working with Sashee, Sabena, and Paris, each of them worked diligently to find the answers to my questions about certain numbers that were important in telling the stories of their respective businesses.

STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF AND YOUR BRAND

As you look around and see what other successful entrepreneurs are doing, it’s easy to think that if you simply copy them you will achieve the same results they have. It is not that simple. It is important to polish your presentation skills. However, if you stray too far from your natural way of communicating, you will probably feel extra nervous and appear stilted or inauthentic. 

Sashee, Sabena, and Paris did exceedingly well at mastering their material so they could deliver it naturally and with heart. I believe this is part of what led to their success in the competition and subsequent endeavors.

DEVELOP AND EDUCATE YOURSELF CONSTANTLY

Continually refine your presentation skills so you will be ready for the next opportunity. After our work together with WFN’s Fast Pitch, Sashee worked with me to prepare her for the Tory Burch Foundation competition where she won first place and $100,000, and appearances on HSN where her product sold out.

One thing I tell all of my clients is to read and watch the news regularly. Then, consider how world events or changes in your industry could affect your business and how you can adapt or even thrive as a result of current events. If you want to become great at pitching to investors, read and listen to podcasts about pitching to investors, business, and your industry. Become an expert in your field, if you’re not already.

All of these actions will leave you better informed, more confident, and more insightful about your business and the world of pitching to investors.


 

Lisa Elia, Founder & Lead Media Trainer & Presentation Trainer at Expert Media Training®This article was written by Lisa Elia, Investor Pitch Coach, Media & Presentation Trainer, and Founder of Expert Media Training. Lisa has coached clients to raise millions of dollars at all stages of investment, including IPOs. She has volunteered as a pitch coach for WFN’s Fast Pitch competition and donates time to other organizations that empower entrepreneurs. She brings to her work experience gained during decades of working as a high-level publicist and a speaker who has spoken to thousands of audiences over the years.

For a complimentary consultation, call 321-821-3088.

Or, email team@expertmediatraining.com

5 Words to Remember to Communicate Effectively

5 Words to Remember to Communicate Effectively

5 Words to Remember for Effective Communication

When working with clients to develop their messaging, one question I ask many of them is, “If you only had two minutes to spend with someone, what advice would you give them that would change their life?” If you ask yourself this question at various times, you might come up with a variety of meaningful messages that you want to share.

I posed this question to myself and this is what I came up with years ago. It still works and it suits most business situations. It can also apply to many personal situations, too.

Be CLEAR.

 

Communicate with Love, Enthusiasm, Appreciation, and Respect.

 

Communicate! Don’t just say the words; be fully present and focused on the person or people you’re talking to. “C” could also stand for “commitment,” because your commitment to your business or mission should emanate from you.

Love. Express your love for what you do, the people you help, or the possibilities you’re creating through your work.

Enthusiasm. Describe your business or your mission with enthusiasm. Why is it exciting to the people you are addressing?

Appreciation. Explain your appreciation for the challenges faced by the people you’re helping; then share how they will appreciate the solution your product or service provides.

Respect. Respect your audience, their intelligence, and the time and attention they are giving to you.

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Communication Matters logo; newsletter by Communication Expert, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Investor Pitch Coach Lisa Elia
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Communication Expert, and Founder of Expert Media TrainingThis post was written by Lisa Elia, a media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert, and speaker. She trains clients around the world for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, panels, investor presentations, and promotional videos, and provides executive and team communication coaching.

With more than 25 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E!, and many others. Clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between as well as athletes, celebrities, and other public figures.

 

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Lisa, click here.

Quick Tip: Eliminate Fillers to Communicate More Effectively

Quick Tip: Eliminate Fillers to Communicate More Effectively

Eliminate fillers, such as “um, “like,” “you know,” and “I mean,” to communicate more clearly and confidently. You will appear more self-assured, polished, and prepared if you use fewer filler words.

The overuse of fillers detracts from your message. Quite often, people focus more on your filler words than your actual message. Furthermore, people might wrongly assume that your overuse of fillers means that you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re lying, or that you’re nervous.

Pause when you need a moment to gather your thoughts and before responding to questions. Do this in EVERY conversation you have and you will get used to those moments of silence, which are actually helpful for listeners who are taking in the information you are delivering.

While some people might advise you to simply stop using fillers, it’s often more effective to replace a behavior you want to avoid with a behavior you want to exhibit. Replace fillers with silence.

The best way to become a great presenter, public speaker, or media spokesperson is to elevate your communication skills on a daily basis.

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Communication Matters logo; newsletter by Communication Expert, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Investor Pitch Coach Lisa Elia
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Communication Expert, and Founder of Expert Media TrainingThis post was written by Lisa Elia, a media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert, and speaker. She trains clients around the world for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, panels, investor presentations, and promotional videos, and provides executive and team communication coaching.

With more than 25 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E!, and many others. Clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between as well as athletes, celebrities, and other public figures.

 

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Lisa, click here.

Quick Tips: How to Avoid Spreading Misinformation

Quick Tips: How to Avoid Spreading Misinformation

There has rarely been a time when clear communication was valued and needed as it is now.
 
Each of us can help stop the spread of misinformation and disinformation.
 
1. Check the sources of articles or other pieces of content before sharing them. Consider the outlet and the background and expertise of the author or creator of the content to determine whether or not they are trustworthy sources.
 
2. Avoid sharing snippets or quotes that remove the context of someone’s words. 
 
3. Avoid gossiping. 
 
There are many more in-depth articles about how to evaluate the factual accuracy of various news media outlets and how to evaluate information. Here are two articles you might find helpful:
 
 

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Communication Matters logo; newsletter by Communication Expert, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Investor Pitch Coach Lisa Elia
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Communication Expert, and Founder of Expert Media TrainingThis post was written by Lisa Elia, a media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert, and speaker. She trains clients around the world for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, panels, investor presentations, and promotional videos, and provides executive and team communication coaching.

With more than 25 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E!, and many others. Clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between as well as athletes, celebrities, and other public figures.

 

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Lisa, click here.

We're Ripping the Tape from Our Mouths

We're Ripping the Tape from Our Mouths

When I was a child, my family lived in Geneva, Switzerland for a few years for my father’s job at DuPont. When I got older, my father told me that there were times that he was in meetings with people he had reason to believe were Nazis, which incensed him. He’d served in the U.S. Navy in WWII, so this must have added another layer of outrage for him.

I’m writing this today because I believe many people in business have shied away from expressing our views on politics and social issues publicly to avoid alienating people with whom we do business that might hold beliefs that differ from our own.

I feel as if recent events are compelling us to rip the tape from our mouths as we can no longer hold back. If I speak out on behalf of racial justice or any other cause that supports greater equality and respect for ALL people and it offends someone, I am not the trainer for them.

We each have to find our tribe. My tribe consists of people who love people and are anti-racist. Period. 

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Communication Matters logo; newsletter by Communication Expert, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Investor Pitch Coach Lisa Elia
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Communication Expert, and Founder of Expert Media TrainingThis post was written by Lisa Elia, a media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert, and speaker. She trains clients around the world for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, panels, investor presentations, and promotional videos, and provides executive and team communication coaching.

With more than 25 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E!, and many others. Clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between as well as athletes, celebrities, and other public figures.

 

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Lisa, click here.

Transparency, Clarity, and Compassion

Transparency, Clarity, and Compassion

We are living in a time of the greatest uncertainty that many of us have ever experienced. For most people, much of life beyond the present day is a question mark. Opacity and a lack of communication lead to mistrust and frustration.

The people who deliver clear information with genuine caring stand out and attract our attention. They represent the beacons of light, warm hearths, and steady presence that we crave at times like this. One doesn’t even need to have all the answers if a bit of direction, comfort, and confidence is conveyed. Some understanding of what lies ahead, even if it’s challenging, helps us to prepare.

Now more than ever people are seeking transparency, clarity, and compassion from politicians, business leaders, and others. What is needed is order in a time of chaos, calm in a time of crisis. We can also give this to the people in our lives.

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Communication Matters logo; newsletter by Communication Expert, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Investor Pitch Coach Lisa Elia
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Communication Expert, and Founder of Expert Media TrainingThis post was written by Lisa Elia, a media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert, and speaker. She trains clients around the world for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, panels, investor presentations, and promotional videos, and provides executive and team communication coaching.

With more than 25 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E!, and many others. Clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between as well as athletes, celebrities, and other public figures.

 

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Lisa, click here.

Reputation Management and The PPP Loan Disaster

Reputation Management and The PPP Loan Disaster

Reputation Management and The PPP Loan Disaster: How Some Large Companies and Banks Alienated Small Businesses — An Opportunity to Make Amends

Update 4/23/20 — Since yesterday, more of the large companies that received PPP loans have vowed to return them, including Kura Sushi, Sweetgreen, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and DMC Global.

Update: 4/21/20, 3:00 PM — Steve Mnuchin said in a press conference that large companies will have to return the PPP loans they took or prove they meet the criteria to receive them. Harvard University will also have to return its $8 million PPP loan. More funds were approved for PPP loans for small businesses.

Update: 4/20/20, 6:30 PM — There are now class-action lawsuits filed against Bank of America, Chase, US Bank, and Wells Fargo.

4/20/20 – When the U.S. Congress approved the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) to allow the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to distribute $350 billion to small businesses in March, the criteria seemed to be clear. This was meant for businesses with fewer than 500 employees, most of which would have greater difficulty accessing funding to see them through the coronavirus pandemic than would larger companies.

On April 17, it was announced that Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (Ruth’s Chris) received a PPP loan for $20 million, Potbelly Sandwich Shop (Potbelly) and Shake Shack each received PPP loans for $10 million, despite each having at least 10 times the 500-employee limit for the loan and reporting annual profits in the multi-millions. As public companies, their financial statements are publicly available. Understandably, there are lots of enraged small business owners who did not receive PPP loans because funds were exhausted.

After I wrote the first draft of this article on April 19, it was announced that Shake Shack had returned the $10 million PPP loan they received. The company issued a statement that explained that they had initially based their eligibility for the loan on the fact that each of their locations had fewer than 500 employees. However, when they learned that other companies who could use the money more, they decided to return the loan and secure funding elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if other companies follow suit.

What Were They Thinking?

With no public statements issued to date in response to the backlash from Ruth’s Chris or Potbelly, people are left to speculate as to why these large, well-funded public companies, would apply for PPP loans in the first place. One might venture to guess that this was a decision made only with financial security in mind and without consideration for the potential damage to the companies’ reputations, let alone the damage to other small businesses that could not survive without a PPP loan. Such decision-making is very short-sighted.

The Damage is Already Occurring.

Some people view the actions of these companies in this way: there is a shortage of bandages and while some small businesses are bleeding out right now, some bigger businesses are stockpiling the bandages in case they need them in the future. You can read the angry comments on social media posts with hashtags like #boycottruthschris and #boycottpotbelly. There are also negative Yelp reviews about what people are calling a “corporate money grab”.

Banks Are Also Being Blamed.

JP Morgan Chase (Chase), the bank that issued the loans to Ruth’s Chris and Potbelly, is also receiving some blame from small business owners that believe these large businesses received preferential treatment in the PPP loan-decision process. Some are asking why these loans were approved and question whether the bank favored companies that owed them money. Chase is now experiencing its own reputation-management issues as #boycottchase is used in many social media posts from incensed small business owners that are demanding transparency about the bank’s loan allocation process.

Wells Fargo is receiving similar vitriol on social media with #boycottwellsfargo hashtags used by disgruntled small business owners that applied for PPP loans early only to be later notified that funds had run out. A lawsuit has been filed against Wells Fargo that alleges that they reprioritized the applications to serve larger companies before smaller ones.

Decisions Made Solely Based on the Bottom Line Can Backfire.

When a business makes a decision solely on financial gain and without thought to the effects of that decision on public perception or actual harm to others, there are often disastrous consequences. This is never truer than during times of crisis. Companies, or individuals for that matter, that appear to be overly opportunistic at the expense of others are judged especially harshly. At times like this, actions and optics are extremely important.

Appearing to exhibit corporate greed and using public funds meant for companies that truly need it to survive or appearing to favor your big-money clients can have high financial costs. Unless they do something very soon, these companies are likely to lose revenue from boycotts, reputational damage and, possibly, experience reduced stock valuations based on decreased revenues and negative media and social media coverage.

When Many Companies Are Giving, No One Likes a Taker.

With so many companies giving money, resources, and time to help others during this pandemic, anything that could be viewed as corporate greed seems especially egregious by comparison. As people share positive stories of companies quickly reconfiguring their facilities to manufacture much-needed equipment and products, donating money, food, hotel rooms, and other items to help our first responders and ordinary citizens to get through this pandemic, no one wants to support businesses that appear to be taking advantage of the situation.

There Is an Opportunity to Repair the Damage, to Some Extent.

While some people will never forgive these companies for their actions, there is an opportunity for them to repair their reputations and move forward with a demonstration of greater sensitivity to their fellow humans.

Here is a simple, three-step plan that Ruth’s Chris and Potbelly can follow: 

  1. Give the money back.

To some, this may seem extreme, but large companies that received PPP loans and return them immediately could repair damaged reputations and may prevent boycotts and future sabotage from an angry public.

  1. Issue a heart-felt apology with action steps.

The apology should include specific actions the company is taking to make amends and provide help during the pandemic and, possibly, thereafter. Shake Shack’s fast action in returning the funds and the company’s public statement about their initial reasons for applying for the loan and then returning it serve this purpose.

  1. Include public affairs/public relations professionals in decisions that involve public funding.

There is a long history of U.S. citizens expressing outrage over the use of public funds to prop up large companies. The decisions companies make in these situations are NOT solely financial. They have major repercussions. Companies should be proactive and include the right team members to offer different perspectives on the potential consequences of their actions so they can make better decisions in the first place.

The Banks Should Also Take Quick Action.

Chase and Wells Fargo should be transparent about their PPP loan application process. When I asked a representative of Chase on April 17 if they processed the applications of larger companies first, she said that they did. The SBA had indicated that these loans were meant to be processed on a first-come-first-served basis, so this was not the response I was expecting.

Chase and Wells Fargo can easily clear up any allegations of unfair treatment to small businesses by doing the following:

  1. Publish the loan numbers of the companies that received funding in sequential order.

They would not have to release any private information about the companies to do this.

  1. Explain how they came to the conclusion that these large, public companies should receive the loans that they did.

This is especially important given the fact that they are public companies with other sources of funding and they do not appear to the funds to keep their operations going and their employees paid during the pandemic.

  1. Be transparent about PPP loan-processing procedures going forward.

They should share a concrete plan that will ensure transparency and adherence to SBA rules regarding the allocation of PPP loans going forward.

  1. If they are in the wrong with their practices, they should issue a heartfelt apology.

Doing this before the truth is revealed when public records are shared by the SBA would be the best course of action.

Will it Work?

Doing nothing will surely lead to further damage to the reputation and, most likely, the bottom line of each of these companies. Some people will never forgive these companies for their actions and will do everything they can to destroy their reputations and businesses, but some will forgive them if they do the right thing.

Quick action, such as that taken by Shake Shack will put the company back in many people’s good graces. Many Americans like stories of growth and redemption, and they can be understanding when people admit to a mistake, especially when it was due to a misunderstanding. Some people hang onto their grudges, so there is little one can do about that.

The banks will have a more difficult time regaining people’s trust because people take their money and, thereby, their survival very seriously. In any case, repairing or minimizing damage and setting the course for a better future is always a good strategy.

Lisa Elia, the author of this article and founder and lead trainer at Expert Media Training, provides services crisis communication services, media training, presentation training, investor pitch coaching, and other communication services.

For a complimentary consultation contact our office at 321-821-3088.

Or, email us at team@expertmediatraining.com.

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Communication Matters logo; newsletter by Communication Expert, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Investor Pitch Coach Lisa Elia
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer, Presentation Trainer, and Communication Expert, and Founder of Expert Media TrainingThis post was written by Lisa Elia, a media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert, and speaker. She trains clients around the world for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, panels, investor presentations, and promotional videos, and provides executive and team communication coaching.

With more than 25 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E!, and many others. Clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between as well as athletes, celebrities, and other public figures.

 

To arrange a complimentary consultation with Lisa, click here.

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