Great leaders are always associated with memorable messages – and this is no coincidence. It’s because the key measure of success in any presentation is message transfer.
Here’s how it worked for Richard Branson and Anita Roddick:
Anita Roddick – Media Exposure For Free
Anita saw opportunities to promote her messages everywhere – including staff T-shirts, shop windows, walls and even delivery trucks.
She grew The Body Shop by rejecting conventional marketing. She crafted memorable slogans and made bold public pronouncements that manifested a brand identity.
She liked to be provocative and took strong positions on issues. For example:
“Educate rather than create hype.”
The Body Shop got a lot of publicity through their social activism. They stood for something – and got press attention as a result. For example, Anita Roddick was a vocal opponent of animal testing, and that crusade became one of her biggest calling cards.
As a result of her unconventional stand on world issues, The Body Shop got an enormous amount of attention from the press.
Business was a means to drive social and environmental change, as well as make a dollar. Her messaging created financial success as well. The Body Shop was sold to L’Oréal for almost $1 billion in 2006 and Anita pocketed $200 million. Her message about business was:
“Find new ways to push the limits of business and make it a force for positive change.”
She said, “Knowledge, unless it goes through the heart, is dangerous”. It was through her genius as a communicator that Anita Roddick was able to inspire people, create change and give people things to believe in.
Her ‘key to leadership’, however, is my favourite. She said:
“Leadership is communication.”
She said that the most important tool you’ve got as a leader is communication.
“Make it bold and enlivening and passionate – if you can’t communicate, you’re just not there.”
Another technique she used was repetition. That’s right, repetition.
You’ve got to keep talking, and keep on communicating your message over and over – and over! I remember her take home message from a leadership session in Sydney:
“When you are exhausted from repeating yourself, and you think everybody else is exhausted from hearing – repeat it again! You’re probably just starting to get your message across”.
Richard Branson – Nervous, But Doesn’t Mind
Richard Branson is another master of the message. Even though he says ‘uhm’ and ‘ah’ when he speaks and is often busy popping champagne or jumping from a hot air balloon, he always delivers short, catchy messages.
Whether it’s Virgin Money, Virgin Atlantic or any business in the Virgin Group, journalists always get a clear message. He is a genius at getting the media to come to him so he can deliver messages about his business.
Branson had great success with a transferable message a few years ago. When he launched Virgin Home Loans, he received a huge amount of FREE publicity by appearing on TV shows. In between stories about space flights and balloon records, he casually sold his new business. Vivid Message number 1:
“Well, we’re launching this business because you told us you felt the banks were ripping you off with fees.”
Followed by more chatter with the show’s host. Then an engaging example:
“When I fly into big cities I notice that all the big buildings are owned by the banks.”
Implying the banks are making too much money from you. Then Vivid Message number 2:
“A Virgin mortgage can save the average homeowner $30,000.”
Branson’s conversational style shows that his preparation involves getting real clarity about his messages; not trying to script an entire conversation.
I heard people repeating these messages (virtually word for word) the following days. They found the ideas so compelling they did Branson’s marketing for him, by passing on his messages during general conversation! This is Word-of-Mouth Marketing and is the most powerful of all forms of marketing. (Tip: This rarely happens if your message is too long.)
So, Branson is a master at leveraging the media using messaging. Great. However, there is an interesting aspect about his example. Sir Richard Branson gets nervous in front of the camera and when speaking in public. He’s spoken about his speaking anxiety publicly and written about it in his autobiography.
But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t bother him that public speaking bothers him (if you get my meaning). This is a good way to reduce the impact of public speaking anxiety. You know it’s there, but you don’t add a layer of frustration or drama over the top of it.
Yes, perhaps there are physical symptoms, like pounding heart, shaking or blushing. But instead of getting lost in those symptoms, you focus your attention on delivering your message or explaining your ideas, and the anxiety dissolves a little.
You might be surprised how many successful speakers still get nervous. However, it’s not a big problem when you realise that it’s not a big problem.
So, keep your eye on the public speaking prize – craft compelling messages and you’ll have twice the impact with half the effort.