Monthly Archives: July 2015

Straight to video: put thyself in the story

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Time to premiere (unleash?) another video. This cinematic masterpiece is aimed at public speakers and media spokespeople.

It’s all about the value of putting yourself in the story. World Vision CEO Tim Costello does this unfailingly. You should too. Watch and learn what we mean.

So much depends on your spokespeople’s ability to present persuasively. On their public speaking skills hinge your donations, members, staff and policy decisions. So…when was the last time you developed your messages and presentation skills?

media training australia

A book for our time.

If you want you and your team to be better presenters book a Speak Savvy workshop today. Call Brett 0414 713 802. And download our Speak Savvy the free eBook.



Lessons from seeing Al Gore speak.

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al gore talks in melbourne

The top-secretish venue.

Brett was rewarded for his contribution to the 2014 Al Gore’s Climate Reality Training Corps with a seat at a below-the-radar gig by the former US Vice President last Sunday afternoon.

Along with 150 or so rain-streaked true believers Brett sat and listened to a man who is no stranger to the stage.

The world’s leading climate change campaigner was upbeat when asked to assess the status quo ahead of the big shindig in Paris. Mr Gore brought to the presentation a sense of optimism which he said was based on political momentum he is witnessing and as he explained because he’s just plain decided to be positive because it’s easier that way. Content aside, here are Brett’s takeaways for public speakers as inspired by Al Gore

Notes – it is extremely impressive when a speaker speaks without them.

Structure – a simple structure always helps. Mr Gore used three rhetorical questions which he proceeded to answer.

Humour – especially of the self-deprecating kind works a treat. The bigger the deal you are the more this works. FYI – Al Gore is very funny.

al gore speaking style

Sisyphus had an awful gig.

Broad references impress an audience and connect with different people within that audience. Mr Gore was educated at Harvard. Perhaps that’s why he made comfortable reference to Sisyphus, the old Testament, philosophers, political pundits, his own books, recent articles on the Guardian’s website and his own interactions with people around the globe. He quoted philosophers, scientists, local heroes and people who have been dead a very long time.

Shout outs. Mr Gore referred to several people within the room that he knew. This not only makes those people feel good, it makes him look comfortable and ‘present’.

Displays of humanity work a treat. References to his own waistline, his thwarted political aspirations and his own state of mind made him very human and relatable – for a former US VP who sits on the board of Apple, is the son of US Senator, visits Antarctica with Richard Branson and elicits a quasi-religious fervour among his followers.

Stories shift the focus from you to the subject of your story. They illuminate, adding colour and movement. Mr Gore used swag of stories long and short to bring home his points.

Constantly assess your performance. When one of his answers to a question run a little long Mr Gore acknowledged this to the room in real time. Audiences appreciate this and it shows that while he was genuinely considering his answer, he was also aware that he is performing.

al gore in melbourne

Leave the lectern behind and be sure to be seen.

Be visible. Though he stood behind the lectern this was only due to a handheld microphone not working(!) He clearly would have preferred to have stood less formally centre stage for this small-scale, intimate and informal occasion. If you want to connect to your audiences don’t hide yourself like a bank teller.

Thoughtfulness. Though Mr Gore has no doubt presented to similar groups hundreds of times in dozens of countries he seemed to genuinely be pondering his thoughts for us on the night.

Conclusion: Of course everything Mr Gore does everything gets a warm reception less lights would not. That said, he would not be in the position he’s in today if he could not bring authenticity, passion and knowledge to every audience.

book for public speaking

For anyone who speaks to other people as part of their work.

Here are some other ways to be a better speaker.

Books for marketers: a quick review of Freakonomics

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Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner & Stephen D. Levitt

Recommended? Oh yes.

books for marketers

Read it. Think it.

Brett believes that Freakonomics should be mandatory reading for marketers. Sadly 98% of marketers, communicators, promoters and persuaders have failed to crack open a copy of Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics or the latest in the series: Think Like A Freak.

Many haven’t even heard of the series which has sold in the millions, inspired a global community and placed authors New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner and University of Chicago professor of economics Steven D. Levitt as the popularisers of behavioural economics which studies why we really make the decisions we make. It deals with the meta factors behind the way we behave, spend, eat and use our time.

This isn’t a marketing book but there is much to be gained by marketers in learning how to see the world from an economic perspective. It’s rational and results-driven. The first two books in particular are full of case studies looking at social phenomenon with a data-driven economic lens:

  • can we improve under-performing students by paying them for good grades?
  • do politicians get more votes by spending more on campaigns?
  • how do we really turn around crime-ridden neighbourhoods?
  • do cops-on-the-beat reduce crime?
  • how can teen mums break the cycle of poverty?
freakonomics review

Steven and Stephen.

Levitt and Dubner crunch data in an allegedly value-free exploration of these and other challenging scenarios.  This is pop economics. Who else would analyse hundreds of sumo wrestling bouts to uncover endemic corruption? The writing is distinctly funny and free-flowing, without pretension or jargon. Bonus: this book will make you smarter.

Often the data crunched seems to be obscure or disconnected. Most controversial is the claim that the significant drop in inner-city crime in some American cities was not the result of more police on the beat or crime-tracking software but the impact of legal abortions decades earlier.

The books’ references are broad – everything from the Bible and David Lee Roth to stomach ulcers and Churchill. Competitive hot dog eating features prominently.

marketing books

Cashing in? Who cares? Great cover.

Gripe: the third book in the series: Think Like a Freak reads like a bit of a moneymaker but is still worth a look if you enjoy Freakonomics parts one and two. For the truly devoted there is also a podcast.

The authors are smart but happily not politically correct. In a society where so many social problems stubbornly persist despite the billions of dollars thrown at them we should cast aside political correctness and progressive orthodoxies to discover what really works. We need to “think like freaks”. After all, the bad guys already do.

Freakonomics website Freakonomics podcast


public speaking trainer melbourne

The foul-mouthed bear? Ted Turner? Big Ted?

Check out our review of Talk Like TED.


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Media training tip #218 is all about examples

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Hootville Communications media trains hundreds of media spokespeople, public speakers and people who need to sell for a living.

We are yet to meet one person who cannot be improved by heeding this simple advice. Are you ready?

Provide examples. 

That’s it.

About 60% of media and public spokespeople offer no examples. Of the remaining 40%, half provide lame examples and the other half deliver their example too late.

Examples demonstrate your authority and authenticity. They add colour and movement and are harder to argue against than your generic comments. Not all examples are created equal. To be effective your example must be:

  • understandable to the audience but not too obvious;
  • relevant to the audience – mention geographies, companies, products or politicians;
  • specific – talk about the rise in academic performance in one school;
  • authentic – from your own experience;
  • sympathetic;
  • well rehearsed.

Check out this video:

media training australia

Who needs ‘Go set a watchman.’?

If you want to be a better speaker download our free eBook Speak Savvy.

It’s full of practical tips to make you more effective in front of people or journalists.

PowerPoint advice. 90 seconds to happier audiences

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Everybody complains about PowerPoint but nobody ever does anything about it. That’s why Hootville created this 90-second training video. It aims to reduce the hours of suffering audiences endure due to thoughtless presenters who should know better.

Every single person in your office who uses PowerPoint can spare the time to watch this so please share it.

public speaking advice

It all starts with knowledge.

And if you really want to be a knockout public speaker read this blog post where you can also download our free eBook: Speak Savvy.


Free media training. Conditions apply.

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media trainer melbourne

We’ll set it all up – no pressure, no pressure.

Brett is looking for two lucky souls to each receive an hour – exactly one hour – of free training.

We are seeking one PR / media relations person and one media spokesperson. The catch? The lucky souls will be part of two experiments. We want to see how radically we can improve people’s performance in 60 minutes.

1. We’ll run the media spokesperson through four or five predictable media questions before, and then after, Brett’s training. The training will be identical to the Speak Savvy workshops enjoyed by our clients.

2. We’ll work with the PR person to package a strong story idea and refine the all important media pitch and media release. The training will be identical to the Media Savvy workshops enjoyed by our clients. Again we’ll be recording a before and after with Brett’s training in the middle.

The two one-hour sessions will be conducted separately.

Here’s the catch: the sessions will be caught on camera for us to create a short video encapsulating the experiment. We’ll also be asking the participants for their comments. The video will be used on our website and in various formats.

We’re after someone who is:

  • (for the media spokesperson experiment) a CEO or similarly senior individual with some media experience or intentions to be a media spokesperson with specific ideas about their next media foray;
  • (for the PR experiment) a PR person with less than five years experience with a specific upcoming media campaign.

Fear not – everybody’s dignity will be kept in tact. Whoever they are they will need to be:

  • happy to be recorded throughout the process;
  • willing to accommodate a rather regimented format (we want the experiment to be rigorous);
  • able to provide their thoughts about the experience on camera;
  • available to shoot in late July or first week of August in Prahran, Melbourne;
  • comfortable with our editorial judgement in regards to the final cut;
  • a good sport;
  • enthusiastic to be a part of the experiment.

So if you or your powers-that-be want to be a part of this email us. We need a brief description of the candidate, their upcoming media campaigns and of course tell us if they are after the PR or spokesperson training. Please understand that we will have to refuse all but two interested parties. Don’t delay!

eMarketers! Bribe your way to success.

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We believe that eMarketing is the best friend you take for granted. Of everything you currently do to communicate, email is probably your best option. Build your list! We think that bribes are the best idea you’re not using so we made a video about it.

eMarketing training

Build your database. Build your future.

More to the point (and far less fun) we wrote a little eBook about growing your database called Grow Up! which is full of ideas to dramatically grow your database. Download it now for free.

Facebook advertising, an introduction and our experience

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(Updated July 2015)

Oh social media – why do you tease us so? Twitter, Facebook et al promise so much to marketers but deliver so little. And it’s only going to get littlerer – fewer Facebook friends, seeing less of your content, engaging less with the content they do see and being influenced less by you despite all your efforts.

A super quick quiz about Facebook:

Let’s say you have 100 friends. (People who have liked your page.)

Let’s say you create a Facebook post, perhaps recommending this very article.

Q1. How many people do you think will see your post when they log on to their Facebook account? And by that we mean scrolling past it as they survey their Facebook feed.

Q2. How many people will engage with it by sharing it, pressing the Like button, clicking on some pictures or a link or leaving a comment?

Answer to Q1: between 8% and 12%.

Answer to Q2: less than 2%, probably less than 1%. Depressed already?

The bottom line is this – Facebook is making it harder and harder for your content to reach people – even those who Like your page. This is deliberate and in Facebook’s interest because it encourages you to pay to get more of your content to friends and strangers. Yep – it’s time to acknowledge that without spending money your Facebook impact will be small and diminishing.

There are various ways that Facebook will take your moolah in exchange for spreading your content to more people. Facebook continues to tweak its advertising offerings, terminology and back end interface but these basics should hold true for a while.

Facebook advertising advice

The boost button is for newbies.









The most basic option is to Boost.

It appears below your post and gives you the option to pay as little as $5 to display your post to more of your friends, their friends or to target an audience. Once your credit card is stored with Facebook, the process is seamless – a mere three clicks. No wonder millions of people a day use this service.

facebook advertising australia

Money well spent.

Does it work? Well, yes. Here’s how a boosted post compared to unboosted posts on the Hootville Facebook page. Have a look at that top post – Facebook has let it roam cyberspace. For money.


boosting a facebook post

Mr Zuckerberg appreciates your contribution.

So should you use it? Yes – on occasions when it’s important for you to get word out.

Of course you’ll have to convince your bosses to allow you to boost, with no guarantee of exactly how many people will see the post.

Ideally you’ll have a pool of money which you can spend $5, $10 or $20 at a time at your discretion, reporting on the results as you go. Life is too short to have each boost approved.

But boosting is for newbies. It allows you to reach more of your friends and their friends but it allows less targeting of potential audiences and less crafting of what they see. Thus let’s talk about Facebook advertising proper.

Finances: Facebook lets you set a daily budget which can start at a few dollars. Based on your budget Facebook displays your post to the people you target (more on targeting below).

It’s an auction system so as with real estate, the more popular your audience is with advertisers, the more you will have to pay to reach them. Targeting Double Bay Sydney’s brides-to-be is more expensive than targeting Alice Springs’ residents who have expressed interest in lawn bowls because more advertisers are seeking the former.

Of course it’s more complicated than that. Facebook wants to show people ads they will be interested in so if your ad has a high click through rate (more on CTR later) and relevance score it will be shown more often, more prominently. You can decide how much you are willing to pay for each display or (as we do) let Facebook decide.

choosing facebook advertising options

You probably want all of the above don’t you?

Desires: Facebook also allows (forces) you to decide what your desired result is: getting people to click through to your website, engage with your post, become your Facebook friend etc. This step is early in the process and is confusing for new players.

The top three should meet most of your needs. Facebook displays and deploys your post differently to achieve your goal.



There are three aspects to Facebook advertising:

facebook advertising

Everyone’s at it!

1: creating the post or ad you wish people to see comprising the copy, the images or video, your choice of call-to-action button etc. AKA as the creative. It can take only minutes to create your ad (Facebook guides you through) but take the time to consider the images you show and headlines you write as they will impact on your results. Monitor the stats and make changes accordingly. Keep monitoring and tweaking. This is not ‘set and forget’.


What we learnt about Facebook advertising content from weird belly fat products.

facebook ads that work

Promoting specific tips and advice work for us.

Here are two ads that worked well for Hootville which we confess were inspired by those ubiquitous belly fat advertisements.

We tried some generic ads: “Visit for lots of advice and help.” sort of thing with no great results. We then tried some posts which were more specific to greater effect.

They were not promoting Hootville as a whole but offering very specific targeted advice and assistance – copywriting tips, story-pitching tips etc. They had an intriguing image (hamsters anyone?) and a bold, conspiratorial tone like those belly fat ads.

Suddenly each action (having people like our page) was costing less than 50c. Are you willing to pay 96c for two appropriate strangers to like your page? Would it be worth $500 to gain 1000 followers who you then attempt to keep interested? That’s your call but it’s cheaper than stamps and unlike direct mail, by the time you’ve spent your 70c you already have a ‘relationship’, albeit tenuous.

Our advice – always try two similar posts with different images and / or text to see which works best. A small change of text or image can make a big difference.

2: targeting your audience:

advertising on facebook

Given that Facebook knows everything about us, the targeting options for advertisers are a little underwhelming. You select gender, geography, age, interests etc. Advertisers targeting off-Broadway locations are at a big advantage as they will generally have to pay less and expose themselves to fewer irrelevant people.

At each point you will be told the approximate size of your prospective audience. As with all marketing, you want to find the right audience for your particular message – casting too broad a net means more people will see your post but that your conversion rate will fall. Throw too tight a net and you will lessen your potential.  Above is how we targeted one post.

You can also create custom audiences – say of people who have visited your website and target a certain ad to them. Brilliant. This is called retargeting and explains why the ads on your Facebook page are from the airline / hotel / university / musician your were Googling.

3. displaying the ad – involves choosing whether you want your ad to appear in just the Newsfeed or on the right hand side column, on desktop devices or mobile devices too. We prefer the Newsfeed option as there is less visual competition. All these will make a difference to the impact your ad has in terms of CTR and cost per action. Play around and see what works.

facebook advertising

The ad (on the left) was a HUGE success due to pinpoint targeting and exquisite timing.

When you get all three aspects – creative, targeting and display – correct the results can be glorious. We recently promoted an online petition that was aimed at the greyhound industry in light of the live baiting revelations. We were able to target women interested in greyhounds. Not just dogs – greyhounds.

We had the ad running within minutes of the ABC-TV 4 Corners report and the momentum was irresistible. It was the nation’s #1 story, people wanted action, people talk about this sort of stuff on Facebook, it was a simple request – thus we got these results.

facebook advertising guide

How sweet it is. No other form of advertising can do this.

The average cost to have someone click through to the petition was just 5c. That’s cheaper than shouting out the window.

And of course each person who signed was then an email contact of Animals Australia who were behind the petition.

After seeing these staggering results maintain themselves we repeatedly extended the campaign.  best money we’ve spent this year. (We sent Animals Australia an email outlining our results suggesting they throw big money at it but received no response.)

Note – over the course of a year many nonprofits would be able to take advantage of some similar outrage to create a voice for change and build databases and relationships. Opportunity will knock. Be ready.

The stats page or “How do I know if I’m doing OK?”

social media advertising

You are the master of all you survey.

Administrators of Facebook pages that are advertising have access to the stats which reveal all. It can be a little overwhelming at first but here’s what to hone in on:

You know that you’re doing Facebook advertising ‘right’ when you have a paying a low cost per engagement. “Engagement” might be for a viewer to click through to your website or download your app or like your Facebook page.

If this is costing $1 per action you may wish to review your advertising. If it’s 25c per action it may be a very cheap investment indeed. Keep in mind a stamp today costs 70c + plus printing and handling.

The click through rate is another key indicator. It measures the percentage of people who having seen your ad, click on it. The higher the click through, the more attractive your ad is. Less than 2% is a concern. Above 10% and you may be a genius. You will be amazed at the different CTRs to the same ad you receive from men and women even when all other targeting is identical.

Alternatively you can run differently designed ads (as above) to the same audience and compare results. You might (indeed will) find that a differing image with the same copy can yield very different results. We wrote another blog post on this monkey experiment.

This is GOLD for marketers who can now stop, amend or double-down on any ad or sponsored post at any time. Try that with off-line advertising. take a gamble on your hunch.

More observations:

You must invest time to monitor results and tweak accordingly. We find that monitoring more than a few ads at a time to be complicated but that may be our simple mindedness.

facebook advertising help

Rejection? Oh yeah – we know how that feels.

Facebook has to approve each ad or post which can be annoying. You may be surprised to find your post or ad not approved – especially when you see the deliberately false and misleading advertising they do allow. They do not like too much text – they want images and would prefer videos. This usually take 5 to 10 minutes.

Video – early results show that audiences respond more to video.

You aren’t nearly as influenced by your peers as experts claim. Let’s say your pal Colin likes our sponsored post. You might consequently see a post in your Newsfeed saying more or less: “Hey – Colin just liked this post from Hootville. Check it out.” You probably won’t. Thus targeting friends of friends may not yield results but try it yourself and see.

The image accompanying the ad is VITAL. Hamsters got us results. Media trainer Brett de Hoedt in front of a PowerPoint slide – not so much.

Results very quickly flatten out. Initial results based on small exposure of your ad may be thrilling or depressing but within 36 hours results tend to plateau for good or bad. Whatever the current cost per click and click through rate will remain largely unchanged. This means that you can quickly cease a misfiring campaign or invest more in one that is working. (Try that with print.)

facebook advertising help

One is pleased with one’s high CTR.

Warning: this stuff can be addictive. Creating the right ad and matching it to the right demographic is fun for marketers. Testing variations is interesting as it lets you scientifically gauge your instincts.

You may find yourself, staring at the columns of reporting, updating, tweaking and feeling like a Wall Street wolf. You may soon scream: “CTR up to 8% – I am the Facebook Queen!” to co-workers. We dare you.