What to wear on stage. Spoiler alert: whatever the hell you want*

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Some thoughts on appearances, class, gender, age and ethnicity…

I was recently delivering public speaking training to a group of high-performing young people who had been earmarked as future leaders. The aim of the day was to turn them into gun public speakers. Of the 14 or so participants six expressed their desire to become Prime Minister.

“Fine,” I said. “But take turns.”

public speaking workshop sydney

Notice anything? Nor did we.

At one point I showed them a TEDx talk to demonstrate several of the possibilities and variables of public speaking including storytelling, the importance of the opening minutes and the value or otherwise of taking on stage a prop.

Immediately upon asking for their observations, a young woman in the front row embraced her inner Joan Rivers and criticised the speaker’s appearance.

“Those colours are all wrong. People won’t respect her. She should wear…”

And so it went. So much for the sisterhood. I noted that the fashion police officer was of a gender, age and ethnicity that many people find easy to stereotype and limit. Her dress sense would be the least of her concerns.

For the record I had never noticed anything noticed anything peculiar or off-putting about the TED speaker’s appearance and I certainly hadn’t put her on screen to discuss fashion.

We took a turn in the course of our discussion towards an age-old question many inexperienced public speakers consider: What should I wear on stage / on camera? This is what I told the young fashion critic:

Where whatever you want. Where whatever makes you feel your best but be aware that no matter how you expect your appearance to be interpreted and appreciated there will always be some people in the audience who view you unexpectedly.

public speaking workshops

Suit and tie for this edgy young up and comer.

Offering myself as an example I explained to this neophyte that some audience members might be sub-conciously reassured to see a man walk on stage in a suit while the person next to them might be thinking: “Oh God. Not another man in a suit.”

In another mood I may present myself to the public in jeans, red loafers, argyle socks, spotted shirt and linen jacket in the hope that I will fit the bill as a hip, free-thinking cultural creative. I know, of course, that 50% of the audience will simply respond to my stylings with: “What a tosser.” Another quarter won’t notice what I wear. That’s showbiz.

Dressing up can make you look insecure. Dressing up can make you look supremely confident. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. So are most things – gender, class, age and ethnicity among them.

A lot of public speakers go to a lot of effort to appear as attractive as their genetic limitations will allow. Some members of the audience might take this at face value and find a speaker very appealing. Other audience members will note the speaker’s attractiveness and hold it against them. Others won’t notice a thing. (This final group is deeper than the rest of us.)

public speaking training

We guess she’s kind of pretty. If you like that kind of look.

All things being equal, being attractive is a big fat help to your career. There have been studies to back up this claim. That said; you can be Cate Blanchet or Benicio del Toro and for a few minutes have the audience in the palm of your hand as a result of your supernatural good looks. However the impact of high cheekbones and husky foreign accents will quickly diminish if you do not deliver the goods.

Similarly I have seen some unprepossessing speakers slowly take their audiences by the scruff of the neck due to their knowledge, storytelling and dry humour.

This is a politically incorrect piece of advice but generally speaking audiences do admire someone who is dressed up for the occasion and if you can throw in a little flair all the better. Of course this does not preclude the shabby and shambolic from having a place in the spotlight. Nor does it mean than you can prepare for a presentation by going shopping as opposed to doing research.

website developers

Have your tailors run something up.

I do like the old one level up rule which for men in particular this is very simple. If you can get away with wearing a T-shirt level up to a collared T-shirt.  If you can get away with a collared T-shirt level up to a short sleeve shirt. If you can get away with a short sleeve shirt opt for a longsleeved shirt etc.

To summarise: dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident on stage, secure in the knowledge that even the most conservative or outlandish of ensembles can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Such is life.

what to wear when public speaking

Is this woman (Lucy Perry) cool, credible and colourful or just plain attention seeking? Probably all of the above.

The bigger issue and harsher truth that I kept from my opinionated student was that your dress sense will be a minor influence on how people respond to you. Far more significant is the influence one’s gender, age and ethnicity. Once again this can play out in a myriad of ways. One person’s voice of experience will be another’s smug baby boomer. One person’s young go-getting woman is another’s inexperienced, entitled pain in the backside.

I’m not sure what the answer to all this is except to ignore it and do your best. And don’t bitch about other people’s looks, age or race. Content and intent however are grounds for comment.

What is vital is that you don’t rule yourself out as a credible speaker / interviewee / expert because you fear that your age, appearance, ethnicity or gender make you somehow implausible. Just get out there and give it your best shot, letting the critics carp. Often their response is more telling them than it is of you.

*Just be prepared for people to grumble regardless.


Digital marketing workshop feedback

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online marketing training


Last week Brett delivered Online Savvy to 15 or so souls from the age care sector brought together by Aged and Community Services Australia. Here’s some feedback:

Training was very specifically focused on the issues that community aged care organisations are facing. Concepts very clearly explained and workshop clearly structured. I [now] have a more in-depth knowledge of how to formulate/ revise our online marketing strategy. Some very relevant insights. Made all participants feel comfortable to ask any questions.

Would recommend? Yes.

Zoe Angeli, Fronditha Care

Clear information and direction re what is important and where the focus should be in terms of effectiveness. Felt confident and able to go back to management with a plan for marketing direction and emphasis. Very valuable. I could ask questions without feeling embarrassed of any ignorance. Brett is familiar with the resource restrictions, both human and financial, in the not for profit sector.

Would recommend? Yes.

Suzanne Russell, Olivet Aged Persons Home





Hey CEO – is your website incontinent?

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Is your website incontinent?

Yep – your website is leaking this much good stuff. It needs a CEO to stop the flow.

 Not an everyday question yet a worthy one for any CEO who considers herself worthy of the acronym.

An incontinent website is one that leaks. The chief concern of online marketers is whether their website leaks money but websites can leak all manner of other things: bookings, support, donations, job applications, media coverage, membership renewals, corporate partnerships.

Anytime your website has the chance but fails to deliver these to you it is leaking. Chances are your website is downright incontinent. Let me explain it in human terms.

CEO websites

This guy is leaking your sales. And doesn’t even care.

Let’s say you employed a receptionist. Let’s say that that receptionist let phone calls go unanswered, greeted incomers with indifference, pointed people in the wrong direction and displayed no passion about your organisation. She’s a leak.

Let’s say you employed a lead salesperson (left). Let’s say that your lead salesperson held no knowledge of your products, knew nothing of how your product bested the opposition product and regularly wandered off in the middle of a transaction to check his Tindr account. He’s a leak.

As CEO you’d recognise that these people were not fulfilling their jobs and were indeed costing you money. (They’d also be costing you reputation and future business.) Action would be taken so your organisation could flourish. Well it’s the same with your website. Right now, it’s likely to be leaking money and donations, volunteers, job applicants, partnerships, bequests and clients. As CEO you need to stop this.

Last week Brett trained 15 or so communications people from various aged care service providers, some of them well-known, others small. One thing they all had in common was the need for their website to perform exquisitely for people considering placing themselves or their loved one at their nursing homes. This is a clear and reasonable objective.

nursing home website

Is this enough to persuade them?

Yet few of the websites featured well produced videos of the facilities, the staff or happy residents. It was possible for browsers – likely to be highly motivated and hungry for advice – to come to a website and be seduced by nothing more than a still image and some plain text. This is unlikely to satisfy a ‘shopper’ at a time when he is desperate for information and reassurance. This is utterly insufficient for somebody making a life-changing decision.

Every time someone comes to such a website and leaves without so much as making an enquiry, leave alone a purchase, the website has leaked money. The CEO must mandate action.

website development advice

This site is leaking students, money and reputation.

We recently looked at the course information page of an RTO (left). Entire diploma courses  were described with 50 or so words of text with no information about course structure, costs or future career options. We ‘met’ none of the lecturers or current students. We did not see the facilities or get a sense of the philosophy of the institution.

In a hyper-competitive world of vocational education it is unlikely that a prospective student will take it upon herself to call up the RTO and request more information. (Perhaps a nice brochure.) Instead she will do what we all do – Google away and find someone better. Once again we have a website leaking money and students and opportunity.

Every CEO – corporate, nonprofit or government – aims to measure the performance of her organisation through data analysis and reporting. While it is possible to measure customer satisfaction and the quantity of incoming telephone calls it is impossible to measure the money, bookings, support, donations, applications and partnerships that your current website is costing you. But we can guess…

Stop right now and take 10 minutes to assess your website. Write down five of your important, distinct audiences then visit your website and see how well these audiences people are catered for.

Can they find a part of your website that is designed especially for then? Does it have enough information to satisfy their curiosity? Does it answer the frequently asked questions regarding costs, structures, waiting times, quality of your service?

Do you try to seduce people with only words and still images or are there videos, eBooks and webinars? Do you charm and empathise? Do you illuminate and simplify?

Place yourselves in the audiences’ shoes and Google what they might Google – will they find you at all? Why haven’t you done this before?

website advice ceos

You shouldn’t even need these!

There are dozens of other ways your website is leaking. Whether it be potential email subscribers, media coverage, renewals, donors, volunteers or staff every leak is costly and makes your job more difficult. The right communications person recognises this and is willing to call a halt to proceedings and ask the question: “Are we doing enough to turn browsers into buyers or are we leaking?” That question applies no matter what you’re selling.

Websites are not brochures on the Internet nor are they tools at your disposal. They are 24-hours-a-day employees and they need to work for you as only they can – endlessly, at virtually no cost and in more roles than any human could ever fulfil. It’s time to performance manage your website and deal with its current incontinence.

A long time ago we created and edited the website for Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria. One day Gareth who then worked for us (now happily shivering in Canada) realised the website was leaking not money but volunteers.

great nonprofit website

A simple leak-stopping device.

People who were inspired to donate their time to the organisation after office hours were told on the website to call the next day. Gareth suspected that many good intentions failed to rise with the sun the next day so he created a simple web form allowing people to express their interest when they felt the inspiration.

In a month we had over 140 completed email forms; a total which dwarfed the number of phone calls the volunteer coordinator usually received in three months. Plugging leaks isn’t always so easy nor are the results always so dramatic but there is no excuse to not identify what your current website and online communications are costing you.

How many high quality job applicants are failing to submit their CVs because the employment section of your website fails to sell them on the idea of working for you above the competition? When we created the website for Inner South Community Health we were pleased that the client took the opportunity to promote its values, its benefits and supports for employees along with testimonials as a way to make sure people were encouraged to spend the time to apply online. Leak plugged.

online marketing course

The Internet isn’t just a phase we’re going through.

To dramatically improve your online communications book a place at Hootville’s online savvy workshop book your own anywhere anytime. Every day you don’t is another lost opportunity.

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Website developing advice

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website development tips

Many feel this Facebooker’s pain.

We recently saw a Facebook post in which a clutch of nonprofit communications professionals commiserated with each other over a shared experience: developing a website.

“Honestly,” some may ask. “There are a million websites. How tough could developing a site be?”

Let me put it into perspective. Have you given birth? To sextuplets? Have you climbed Mt Everest? On horseback? That’s the level of challenge we’re talking about.

But why, in a world with so many websites and so much advice is it so often so painful? We think the blame lies evenly between web developers and their clients.

Too many web developers promise too much and neglect to explain the mountain of work a website build entails for both parties in a bid to get the business. Then they try to minimise the development hours to maximise profits. Many developers don’t care about your search engine results or the user experience as they are long gone by then. They simply try to build a website that looks good, meets the brief, has some functions and doesn’t fall over. Few are great communicators. Fewer still come to the project from a marketing perspective.

The clients on the other hand are obsessed with cost, glacially slow to make decisions, start from a position of blissful ignorance and lack a clear vision of what they want.

how to choose a web developer

One’s quite enough thankyou.

Thus, in our longest ever blog post we present to you our advice on how to make your website development (relatively) painless and result in a site worth visiting. Please note – building a website is still on par with giving birth to a solitary child or climbing Mt Everest on foot. Everything here is based on our experience building sites for clients in the real world, for real money, with real deadlines.

Set your sites high: your website should be your best performing employee. Don’t even bother to develop a new website if it’s not going to be a dramatic improvement on your existing website.

Your next website should: take donations, payments, bookings, memberships and queries. It should act as a tour guide, giving visitors thorough tours of your facilities programs, staff and clients.

Your website should act like a spruiker drawing people to you via great search engine optimisation that lands you on the first page of Google. Suddenly strangers are calling.

Your website’s resources should act not just as a library or archive but be an instant demonstration of your authority and expertise. Get blogging.

A comprehensive media page with media contacts, spokesperson bios, media releases, key policies and platforms, imagery and video will help your website act as a publicist.

Many nonprofits struggle to recruit well. How well do you present your work culture to prospective employees on the employment section of your website? Are all the jobs listed and described? Are your benefits, policies and procedures there? Will I see testimonials – preferably on video – from happy existing staff members? Can I apply effectively online? Get this right and suddenly your website is an HR assistant.

When you build a website that is more than just a brochure on the World Wide Web it extracts more value from the time and effort you’re about to invest. It also justifies a greater investment in the first place. You will never hire an employee that can do as much for you. And your website does it for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the next five to 10 years. Keep that in mind as you hold your breath to assess the developer’s quote.

Consider a suite of websites. Rather than creating one website that captures everything you do consider creating a series of sites, allowing you to group and highlight one aspect of your business at a time. This is particularly important if you have a complex offering to the world. Some clients we had offered everything from child care to aged care, ESL classes to STD testing.

Like humans, Google would like to understand exactly what your site is all about and that’s difficult if your site contains everything from the 2005 annual report to the results of the recent car raffle. Spin off some big campaigns or services.

We followed this advice at Hootville by creating standalone websites for our six training workshops. We did this to maximise the search engine optimisation for each training workshop as well to give us the opportunity to promote the hell out of one particular service at a time.

Relax – six websites does not equal six times the budget if a common structure and design is maintained.

designing great websbsites

Maximise visual appeal to win hearts, minds and wallets.

Pictures tell 1000 words: we are highly visual animals and only becoming more visually-orientated in this online world. What we are trying to say is your website has to look hot. Taylor Swift hot. One Direction hot. Dame Helen Mirren hot. George Clooney hot. Puppies playing with kittens hot.

Invest in photography that will make your website shine. You probably don’t have that on hand so you’ll have to invest in fresh photography, stock photography or a combination thereof.

It is easy to mock the stock but increasingly there are images available that look like real people in real situations. Stock photography has the advantage of allowing you to know what you’re going to get before you get it. That said, authenticity is pretty hard to beat so if you can invest in a photographer to capture your essence your website will be the beneficiary.

Similarly any great website will utilise high-quality, brief videos. Use them to provide testimonials from clients. Use them to give a tour of your school or aged care facility. Use them to allow prospective students to meet their future teachers. Video works.

how to find a website developer

Meet with prospective developers and gently quiz them.

Questions to ask your prospective website developers:

How long have you been developing websites? Call us ageist but don’t hire someone without real experience in developing websites and managing projects. Your nephew is NOT the right person for this job. Nor your niece.

best CMS for nonprofits

Used & recommended by Hootville

Do you have a preferred content management system? We’ve blogged about this before but all our websites are developed using WordPress as the content management system (CMS). The CMS is the software that allows one to build and update one’s website. It’s the system through which you will add words, pictures, new pages, navigation. Many developers are very attached to just one content management system and we do not present ourselves as experts on all of them. We will say this however – we have never needed to do anything for any of our clients that WordPress would not accommodate. No matter what you want your site to look like, whatever you want it to do, someone working from their mother’s basement has created the technology that will work beautifully with WordPress. For every problem someone has published an answer.

WordPress is so sophisticated it is actually simple to use. We regularly meet nonprofits that use antiquated, second-rate CMSs which makes simple updates so frustrating and time-consuming that they rarely bother.

Warning: if your prospective developer says that they have their own special content management system that they and they alone have developed, pack up your possessions and back out of the room slowly. That is a deal breaker.


website developers nonprofit

Page one baby. Page one.

How will you ensure that we get good search engine results? Ultimately search engine optimisation (SEO) is your responsibility but there are many things a developer can do to create a strong foundation for great Google results. This might be beyond developer’s skills or interest. It will certainly add to the time they will need to devote to your site so don’t be surprised to be presented with this is an optional extra.


What features would you recommend? As noted at the top of this (outstanding) blog post your website should be hard-working with features and functionalities to lighten the load for the humans in your organisation.

Unless you are particularly web-savvy you need a developer with ideas suggestions and the ability to communicate them.

A good developer has thoughts on what you might need. He or she should not be prescriptive but they should have ideas and recommendations. Don’t expect them to be au fait with every plug-in / app you mention – there are too many to be familiar with them all.


website development tips

Something sexy seemed appropriate.

Do you provide the graphic design for websites? While you may have to supply some key aspects of your website’s aesthetic such as logos and colours, it is desirable that the developer work with a graphic designer with whom they have worked before. This makes the process smoother.


Do you provide copywriting? Usually our clients provide the words to their website. Usually these words are not optimised for websites in terms of search engine results, objectives or tone. If a developer can recommend a copywriter or editor it may lift the quality of the user experience. That said, be sure that that person is the right one for you. Unlike graphic design it is easy for you to hire your own gun copywriter and have them work with the developer.

website develop advice

The bone structure of a great website.

Can you help us develop the sitemap? A sitemap maps how your content / information will be categorised. It’s crucial if you want your site to be logical and predictable to visitors. Some developers are very passive and work with the sitemap provided by the client. This is unlikely to be the best possible sitemap.

As always, you want your developer to suggest improvements to your sitemap. These suggestions might be small – suggesting you create a section called Publications in which all your newsletters, annual reports, brochures will reside rather than have them scattered across the site.

The suggestion may be a smarter way to present the array of services that you offer, perhaps grouping them according to audience or geography. An experienced developer who cares about the user experience can come in very handy.

Do you work alone? There are some very clever clogs out there but it would be unusual for one person working alone to develop a great website for you. He or she properly needs a team of people to deliver you a great site. That said, you need one person who can take responsibility for this long, complicated undertaking.

How long will it take? We generally take between 12 to 16 weeks to build a site. Certainly it is possible to develop a website faster but that takes a firm commitment from both client and developer. Do not think that you make yourself a more appealing client by suggesting a six or 12 month timeframe. This immediately suggests to the developer that you are not urgent or serious and creates the real likelihood that you will be placed on the back burner.

We all know that we leave things to the last minute, so by giving yourself 52 weeks to develop a website you’re really saying let’s do nothing for 40 weeks and then have a rush to the finish line. You need your new website now so get on with it.

how to find the right website developer

Great trainers are hard to find.

Do you provide training so we can update our own website? A good developer should be able to provide training for your people so that you can take over the day-to-day running of your site. We go to great lengths to avoid creating dependency with our clients which is another reason we use WordPress. It is so simple clients are able to make 92% of the updates themselves and choose between us and 100,000 WordPress-savvy developers for the remaining 8%. Once again, if your developer tries to lock you in to working with them for the rest of time fake a severe illness, change your name and leave town.

We mentioned at the outset the blame for website development lies equally with client and developer so…

Here’s how to be a perfect client thus placing 100% of any blame at the foot of the developer:

Go the whole hog: have you ever eaten at a new restaurant, found the service to be perfunctory, the food mediocre, the experience unmemorable and then returned six months later to see if it had improved? Of course not. Who has time for that? It’s the same with your website – it needs to impress people from the first visit.

Many nonprofits are presenting themselves to the world with a website that is third rate. It is time for a dramatic upgrade, so do not waste your time and money by opting for a site that is somewhat better than your current site.

Don’t kid yourself and tell the developer that you want a new site with some improvements and that you’ll get around to the rest of it in a year or two. You won’t. Your visitors need your site to be fantastic now.

And yes going the whole hog creates more work, more decisions and potentially more headaches. That’s showbiz.

Develop clear briefs: some of our prospective clients come to us with nothing in writing about what they want. Others seem to have borrowed a brief from NASA. Ideally you should have a draft site map, a list of features and functionalities, some key search terms for which you would like to rank well and a short list of exemplar websites that can be used as a guide. That’s a good start.

The exemplar sites do not need to be in your sector or even in English – they just have to embody some traits that you would like to see on your site. Note – this should be beyond simple aesthetics. Perhaps they have a fantastic homepage design you want to emulate. Maybe their booking system is A+.

Explain in writing the key audiences and priorities. Eg: “we target 18-24yo school leavers looking for vocational employment. We need the site to encourage them to book a phone appointment with our sales team.” This should influence design, copy and technology choices.

Spend some money: do not in your first telephone call with the prospective developer, ask her how much it costs to develop a website. At the very least, resist this because it makes you look like a rube. It is also a very difficult question to answer as the developer has no real idea as to the scale or size of your prospective site. It also signals to the developer that you don’t give a damn about quality only budget. And while we’re talking money – and yes we are biased – your website will be the best investment you ever make in a staff member so don’t scrimp.

If you have a tiny budget – anything with only four digits – be upfront with the developer. In all likelihood he or she is self-employed and doesn’t have time to waste on proposals that will amount to nothing.

website development melbourne

This is how you look to your developer.

Hurry up: nonprofits are notoriously slow at making decisions. They are collaborative by nature and very risk averse. Creating a website is the culmination of hundreds of decisions big and small. To run each decision – about the template, the features, the functionalities, the words, the imagery, the colours – past a dozen people at a weekly meeting is entirely unrealistic. 100% of our clients have promised us the materials we need to build their site by a certain deadline and 92% of them have failed. Another reason to hurry up? Your current site is bollocks.

Stop caring about everybody else’s opinion: decisions should be made by the smallest number of people possible, ideally people with some idea of what is possible from a website. Asking random colleagues, competitors and consumers for their opinions will simply solicit opinions – not knowledge. It won’t make your site any better. You don’t need 12 people debating whether a button should be green or blue.

website development advice

Bolt on this 3rd party donation technology to your site.

Do your own research on third-party applications and providers: this is a little technical but consider this: let’s say you drive a Honda. How nice for you. If you stop to think about it you understand that while Honda might make the panels for your car, the engine, the steering and the transmission it probably doesn’t manufacture the radio, the windscreen wipers, the tires and other lesser components that add up to your Honda. Honda executives had to choose the radio, the windscreen wipers, the tires from an array of third-party providers. As you drive to yoga in your Honda, you don’t care. It’s a Honda. It’s the same for your website.

Many third party providers can provide donation-taking technology. We love GiveNow. There are many email marketing options. We love MailChimp. You’re going to embed videos onto your new website (we hope) and we recommend using YouTube or Vimeo.  These are all third-party providers.

Choose the right third-party providers and you’ll provide your visitors with a seamless experience and your website editor with high functioning mental health. Choose the wrong ones and your website will be clunky to use in a nightmare to manage. Of course your developer will make recommendations but it’s up to you to independently research every choice. There are plenty of fora and sites on which nerds gather to bitch so you shouldn’t be short on information.

Stay in touch: the erstwhile client and faithful developer should talk twice or three times a week. More than that and you will be a pain in the backside. Much less than that and you risk being lowered on the list of priorities. Note: clients understandably judge a website based solely on what they can see from the user’s perspective. That’s the tip of the iceberg and developers work very hard behind the scenes to make a website look and perform as a website should. Some aspects of web development are simple but others can take painstaking hours. Visible progress can be slow, especially at the start of the project.

updating websites

Moss garden in Kyoto. Est 687. (Pre-internet.)

After launch: a new website is a bit like a well tended garden. For a while you can sit back and enjoy the view but if you don’t maintain it your oasis soon becomes a jungle. You might need to do some simple tasks such as raking leaves and watering plants but eventually you will need to prune and replant. Here endeth the metaphor. What we’re saying is you need to monitor your website’s performance, constantly add new content, kill the old, and ensure that the website is reflecting your status quo and meeting the expectations of visitors.

What your new website needs more than anything is traffic. There are two ways to do that: 1. Google and 2. email.

Of these two traffic drivers by far the more important is email. While Google will direct people to you once, email has more chance of bringing more people to your site more often for repeat visits. Whatever day you send out your email telling people that there is new and interesting content on your website will be the busiest day for your website. We promise.

To summarise:

Be ambitious for your new site – it is your window to the world. Give it the time, money and attention it needs to be a knockout.

Select your developer well. As with romantic relationships, your fate is predominantly in their hands.

Dive into the digital world. There is no shortage of advice, information and reviews out there. Become an informed client to get the best result.

Employ your website. Think carefully of the role your website fills, the tasks it can complete and the business objectives it can help you achieve.

Peruse some of the sites we have developed. If you like the look of them you know what to do. Call Brett and arrange a meeting: 0414 713 802.

online marketing training

Websites, SEO, social media and email marketing.

Get the skills you need to make the online world your own at our Online Savvy workshop.

And please – share this post with others if their website act needs improving.


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Books for marketers: The Small Big

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the big small marketing books

Expand your sphere of influence with this little book.

The Small B!g: Small changes that spark big influence by Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein and Robert B. Cialdini.

Recommended? Should be mandatory.

We were initially sceptical about The Small B!g. It seemed like just a moneymaker for co-authors Martin, Goldstein and Cialdini.

Not only was the title was annoying (that stupid !) the promise seemed ambitious. Can tiny differences in the way we speak, write, present, pitch or behave really yield such positive results for marketers and persuaders?

However its authors have rare pedigree. Cialdini is the author of Influence and Yes among other best-sellers which justified the pre-flight purchase. By the time of my arrival I was a smarter communicator. (Or it might have just been the high-altitude wine and crackers.)

If you are a marketer, fundraiser, public speaker, copywriter, salesperson of any variety you need to read this. It will make you richer, more successful, more influential. What’s more, it will make you reconsider how you communicate.

There are 52 pithy chapters in this upbeat book each highlighting a small change to business-as-usual that can yield great results. Chapters are short and sweet, referencing scientific experiments proving the hypothesis. Some readers, like us, might find the experiments less than scientific in nature.

Can two groups of 21-year-old sociology students really represent the population more broadly?

review the big small

Co-author Robert Cialdini. Warning: this man is enviably manipulative.

Indeed too much of the advice in The Small B!g is based on twee, artificial, campus-based social experiments. You know the deal – a researcher fed one group chocolate chip cookies and another group salty crackers before giving them all 20 hypothetical dollars to give away to random strangers before drawing a long bow and declaring that feeding people sweet foods makes the more philanthropic than savoury.

We are far from the only grumps to have had enough of ‘experiments’ that are supposed to inform the way we market and live. Many social experiments have recently come under criticism for not being replicable – one of the fundamentals of science but we digress

Many of the findings in The Small B!g are counterintuitive. Why would any marketer chose not to highlight the full range of benefits on offer? According to the authors, science tells us that consumers devalue your offering when confronted with a litany of benefits. They subconsciously “average out” the benefits diminishing the perceived value of their favoured benefits by considering the lack of appeal of the least favoured benefit. Perhaps throwing in those extra steak knives isn’t so alluring after all.

There’s a lot to learn in the books 250 or so pages. Concepts such as the “peak-end effect”, “duration neglect” are worth knowing. There are chapters on creating greater customer loyalty, staff motivation, creative thinking and negotiation.

Every fundraiser should read chapter 40 titled: How can the small act of unit-asking make a big difference to your appeals? It’s one of the chapters that contains real world evidence.

If you face a challenge of getting people to turn up to their appointments (community health services, VET providers et al) turn straight to chapter 8: What small bigs can persuade people to keep their appointments with you?

If you’re tired of chasing people for overdue payments (tell us about it) you can learn from the often-told story of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs cunning copywriting approach which led to the collection of over $1 billion unpaid tax revenue. That’s just chapter 1.

We read an awful lot about leadership these days – most of it amounting to little more than a picture and a quote. This book can give people techniques that will help on a daily basis. It is very practical. Whether it lives up to its promise of small change / big impact remains to be seen.

The Small B!g certainly gave us pause for thought and will influence some of our upcoming copywriting and Facebook advertising.

freakonomics books for marketers

Read it. Think it.

The Small B!g shares a sensibility with another book we’ve reviewed here: Freakonomics. Put simply, the authors believe that people’s behaviour is not set in stone but instead can be influenced by the triggers you pull, buttons you push and incentives you offer.

The Freakonomics series, like this book, will have you excited at the possibilities that thoughtful adjustment to your words, presentations, work habits and interactions can make, whether that be on a personal or global scale.

And don’t forget our review of Talk Like Ted.

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2016 media hit target reached by mid January.

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What’s your target for media coverage in 2016?

getting media coverage

Nice hit. Could have been yours.

United Way Australia wanted to double its coverage to 120 or so media hits. This is ambitious for a tiny organisation, that’s complex to define, with no dedicated publicist and no particular media profile. Very ambitious.

Still, we recognised United Way Australia’s media potential when we trained them on December 16. They had some projects on the ground, a fresh approach, a range of experts on staff and a passion for childhood literacy. The day was divided between Media Savvy (to gain more media opportunities) and Speak Savvy (to train spokespeople to make the most of each media interview).

You know that ambitious media target for 2016? It’s already been hit.

Since our workshop on December 16 United Way Australia has scored hits with ABC Radio National Breakfast, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian. Oh – and 139 local papers nationally.  Hits with Lateline, Daily Telegraph and other News Corp publications are en route. Opinion pieces have been drafted, new media relationships have been forged.

What would that be worth to you?

So what’s behind the spike in coverage?

  • Recognition that media coverage could help United Way Australia in its mission.
  • Realisation that what they knew and what they had to say was media-worthy.
  • Courage to get into the media fray.
  • Prioritisation on how time would be spent.
  • Strong opinions backed with real world experience.
  • New skills and perspective from our training along with regular use of our free follow-up coaching.
media training melbbourne

One day, much coverage.

We may have created a media monster. Good.

You should be getting more media coverage too. No more excuses.


Lessons from Jim Carrey’s 90 second Golden Globe speech

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Golden Glpobe speech by Jim Carrey

His speech was as immaculate as his tux.

Mathematically speaking, giving a short, sharp speech, such as an introduction, should be much easier than giving a whole speech. But it isn’t. Actor, comedian Jim Carrey nailed his 90 seconds in the spotlight at this week’s Golden Globe awards.

Critics described it as his best work in years. There are lessons for anyone who presents. The video is below but first, here’s why  it’s so damn good:

1. He doesn’t waste time at the beginning. Just two syllables, “Thankyou” by way of introduction. It’s as if he was midway through a thought and just started speaking it into the microphone to share it with the audience. That’s very TED. Yes he does give his name and credentials at the start but’s that really part of his act.

2. His approach, his tone is self-deprecating, knowing and tongue-in-cheek. This approach almost always works but gets triple points in an environment which is self-important and self-congratulatory.

3. It’s very funny – and everybody loves funny. Note: not everybody is a globally recognised comedian however much of Carrey’s humour in this instance stems from his approach. (See point number two.) For people who take humour seriously – at 20 seconds in Carrey uses an exquisite turn of phrase when he describes sleeping as “well-needed shut-eye”. Later he uses the phrase “No sir”. It is hard to explain why these phrases make his speech more funny but they do. Exquisite.

4. He absolutely connects to his audience when 40 or so seconds in he reveals his naked ambition and desire for self-fulfillment in a room of highly ambitious and presumably unfulfilled celebrities. They understand him and he shows that he understands them. Coming from one of their own, they are only too happy to have a laugh at themselves. Note – I am yet to meet an audience that doesn’t actively enjoy having a laugh at itself. You won’t either.

5. Jim is not afraid to pause. You might use a pause to let a laugh slowly fade or to emphasise an important point. Great presenters pause.

6. There is also a generous amount of eye contact to people in all parts of the room.

7. He is also wearing an exquisitely tailored tux and one hell of a beard.

Watch it yourself.

If you want to be a better public speaker investigate our Presentation Savvy workshops which are available anywhere anytime on request.

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PR pros should expand their media diet

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pr tips for publicists

As niche as it gets.

Many of us have pledged fidelity to a healthier diet in 2016.  One secret to a healthier physique is to broaden one’s diet. You know – by consuming something beyond carbohydrates and Barcardi Breezers.

Professionally speaking, some of us have pledged to gain more media hits this year. One way to a healthier media profile is to broaden one’s media consumption.

This bizarre magazine on the left- focussing on the lifestyles of Japanese construction workers – got us thinking about the many off-Broadway media opportunities that exist for publicists.

Brett will train dozens of publicists this year and he’ll ask most of them for their media consumption habits. Some folk don’t wander beyond beyond commercial TV and FM radio – the media versions of empty-calories. Oh dear.

If you are to be a savvy publicist you need to deliberately expand your media consumption so you can familiarise yourself with new media opportunities.

Do you read the tabloids? How about the Weekend Australian including all its supplements? Ever grab a copy of the Australian Financial Review? You should as there’s some good reading there. If you’re an ABC devotee you need to turn the dial to the commercial powerhouses. Don’t worry – you just need to listen long enough to be familiar with the program, the segments and the presenters.

Many PR folk are comfortable with local media but count themselves out of state-wide media opportunities and still fewer feel they have something to offer national media outlets. Au contraire! Tip – don’t count yourself out; let the journalist say “no”.

Radio remains under-utilised in general. Hint – radio offers the most opportunities and is most likely to say: “Yes” to your pitch. And don’t forget weekend programming.

Ask yourself: Can I find ABC Radio National on the radio?

If not, you may wish consider a career change (management perhaps?) If yes, ask yourself:

How many programs on that network can I name?

There are some specialist shows about religion, foreign relations, books & arts,  music, philosophy, regional life along with many general programs. RN is a sea of tax-payer subsidised opportunity. Big audiences too!

ABC NewsRadio. See two questions above.

And you do pitch to AM / PM and The World Today, right? Right?

pr training workshop melbourne

Introverted accountant type people love to read.

Do you pitch to / consider trade publications? Some of these babies – such as Australian Human Resource Institute’s HR Monthly or the CPA’s In The Black are HUGE within their industry and might be the way into the hearts and minds of the right people. Is reaching any particular profession important to you? Every major profession has a dominant publication or website.

Free glossies: Every major city has a number of free glossy weekly magazines usually servicing more socially upward locations. They revolve around real estate but there’s editorial too.

Other magazines that are rarely considered are the membership magazines that come from insurers, automobile clubs such as the NRMA, unions, government departments supermarkets, frequent flyer and other loyalty programs and in-flight magazines. If none of these hold promise for you, quit today.

Did you ever call up radio news rooms? Not radio programs – aim for the poor suckers who put together the news. The news bulletins are the most listened-to minutes of the radio hour and – we promise – the most likely media opportunity to get you a Yes. Stations that have no news-based talk radio content may still feature you as part of their news bulletin. Huge opportunities are calling out for you on the hour every hour.

What about big online brands such as Mamma Mia or Mumbrella? These have big readerships and outsized influence with traditional media. Are there any significant bloggers or social media stars relating to your sector?

What about podcasts? Are there any podcasters who talk about your issues? Pitch to them. You’ll make their day!

What about writing opinion pieces? Thanks to publications including The Guardian, Daily Mail and Huffington Post Australian editions there is a dramatically increased appetite for opinion pieces from experts and people with insights. PS: another reason that opinion pieces are so popular is that they are cheap for publishers.

Public radio has some significant players. Melbourne is blessed with Triple R (all manner of specialist talk shows) SYN (youth affairs) PBS and 3CR (big on politics, Indigenous affairs, arts). Some of these smaller players may be a way for you to rack-up some air miles for inexperienced talent.

media training melbbourne

One day, much coverage.

If this little blog post helped you be a better publicist imagine what a magical day together could do. Join us in Melbourne on January 28 at Media Savvy. More media coverage or your money back. Book your own anytime, anywhere.


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new marketing savvy workshop website join the internet

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marketing workshop in melbourne

Visit our Marketing Savvy website for all the details.

Finally something worth looking at has hit the internet. We speak of the standalone website for Marketing Savvy. The workshop is available to anyone, anywhere anytime but we’re also staging a public session in Melbourne on Tuesday February 9 2016. Join us super quick and we might just double your coaching.


Public marketing and communications training workshops in Melbourne

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Hootville announces new dates for four more public workshops in Melbourne aimed at marketers, communicators and media spokespeople.

If you run an NFP, government authority or small business this is for you. And yes – you can book a workshop for your own organisation anytime and yes, we will be bringing these to Sydney in 2016.

media training workshop

The worm awaits.

Earlybird bonus: the first four people to book for each session will have their follow-up coaching period doubled. That can mean two years of free coaching.

Media Savvy is for publicists and all those who desire a share of the media spotlight. Thursday January 28, 2016. What’s regular media coverage worth to you? (One earlybird place remaining as of December 21.)

Marketing Savvy is for marketerssalespeople, one-person businesses and CEOs.  Tuesday February 23, 2016. Get to know your own brand, your audience and your marketing options. (Earlybirds remain as of Dec 21.)

Online Savvy for those who manage websites, eMarketing and social media; Tuesday March 1, 2016. Because the internet isn’t just a phase we’re going through. (One earlybird place remains as of Dec 21.)

Speak Savvy media training for media spokespeople; Thursday March 3, 2016. Learn to inspire, persuade as well as inform. (Earlybirds remain as of Dec 21.)

This is the same training delivered to the Australian Swim Team, Al Gore Climate Reality Training Corp, Australian Conservation Foundation, Landcare, WWF, Berry Street, Australian Red Cross, Fundraising Institute of Australia, Sustainability Victoria, Finance Sector Union, St Vincent Institute, Australian Climate Commission, Netball Australia, endless local governments and hundreds more organisations.

Trainer Brett de Hoedt delivered a half-day marketing session to members of Vicsports in November 2015. Here’s some of the feedback:

“A fabulous session.”

“I could have listened all day – engaging, informative and entertaining!”

“I laughed so much and learnt a great deal also and you cant get better than that!!”

“What an informative and interactive session you delivered yesterday!”

“Loved your presentation.”.

“Learnt so much.”

All workshops feature:

  • practical, actionable, proven advice;
  • endless Q&A;
  • follow-up coaching;
  • tantilising early bird offers;
  • small classes, delightful venue and supportive colleagues;
  • comprehensive notes;
  • a culture that is energetic and challenging;
  • a range of fees to suit you.

We rarely offer public training workshops, so take advantage of these opportunities. Of course you can always email or call 0414 713 802 to request a private session.

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