Three things I learned from my radio debut

You never forget your first time

imageEspecially if you’re a control-freak perfectionist and incredibly nervous before it. I’m referring, of course, to my first BBC appearance – with Phil Gayle on BBC Radio Berkshire, although you’d be forgiven for thinking Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight based on my anxiety!

Twenty four hours on, and having listened to the interview via iPlayer, I’m kicking myself about a few moments, but glad of the experience and what I’ve learned from it:

  • If recorded, don’t be afraid to ask if you can give an answer again or remake a point. If live, try to get a list of questions, even if only a rough guide, ahead of the interview
  • Have “three must points” – per Nigel Morgan: three facts or themes that you must get across
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking questions asked off air will be asked when you’re back on

I failed spectacularly on my three must points! (software for professional services firms; converting contacts into clients and conversations into business; social media and social business intelligence)

And with the benefit of hindsight, I now understand that questions asked during records and weather updates were to help Phil think about direction he would take the interview next. It was naïve of me to think he was giving me a chance to practice my answer!

The experience reminded me of learning to drive. While 20mph feels slow to experienced passengers, as the learner it feels like there’s too much to take in and act upon.

Continuing the analogy, Phil was a good instructor – conscious to put me at my ease and explain what was going on in the studio – a perfect gentleman for my first time!

Photo Credit: Jem

[Update: If you decide to listen on iPlayer, the interview starts at around 2:03]

Why Websites Suck

imageClassic stuff from web usability expert Gerry McGovern

“There is one word to describe great web design: useful”

Gerry continues to explain what this actually means:
“There are always top tasks. Every website has a “book a flight”—it’s just that many have not discovered it yet. I have been doing this since 1994. The conversation with clients always begins this way: “We’re different, very complex, We don’t have top tasks. We have so many audiences.”

Classic organization-centric thinking. I have done hundreds of task identification projects the top tasks are always there. They are audience independent, geographic independent. For example, what’s the top task of a health website regardless of age, sex, income, professional, geography?”

We wrote about this topic when we reviewed the top 100 law firm websites, and Browne Jacobson nailed it with five top tasks taking pride of place in the centre of their home page. Gerry goes into lots more detail and the full article is well worth five minutes of your time to read.

The Wash & Go Test: What I learned from Hugh Dennis about Business

Hugh Dennis at CIMA Awards 2010Yes, Hugh Dennis… one half of Punt & Dennis, team captain in Mock the Week and star of Outnumbered.

But did you know Hugh Dennis started his career as a brand manager at Unilever?

I certainly didn’t, until, as a judge at the CIMA 2010 Awards, I found myself sitting next to Hugh Dennis at dinner.

Hugh was the guest speaker for the occasion, and shared with me some of his Unilever experiences and his view of how comedy is similar to marketing: Don’t include unnecessary details.

Hugh explained, in comedy, “if I start a joke with: There are three men in a bar, one with a hat… but then I don’t include the hat in the punch line, the audience will feel cheated”.

The same is true of marketing messages – the best received ones are those where you distil your message so that it includes only the key details, and you take everyone with you on the journey, in a way that they understand.

When shampoos and conditioners were first combined, “Unilever bombed” trying to explain the benefits of their product (Demensia?), while Procter & Gamble succeeded by explaining everything in the name: Wash & Go.

Similarly, Unilever failed to encourage us to “be chums with your gums” with Mentadent Gel, while Procter & Gamble succeeded with Crest by focusing on tartar, the physical manifestation of gum disease. “Crest Tartar Control” says it all.

(Hugh later confessed that he was the marketing manager who signed off on the Mentadent slogan, and seemed quite proud about it!)

The Wash & Go Test

So, from now on, we are planning to apply the Wash & Go test to all our products:

  • Is the message as clear and simple as “Wash & Go”?
  • Does the message include unnecessary details that don’t appear in the punch line?
  • Are descriptions of features and benefits too complicated the target audience?
  • Are the benefits you explain the ones that really matter to the audience?

Hugh never officially left Unilever. Strictly speaking, he’s an employee on sabbatical, who still holds onto the advice he received from his boss there: “the key thing is to appear clever at crucial moments” – great advice, regardless of whether you’re in business or comedy.