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How Gary England Throws Down the Seven C’s of Communication

gary england

Oklahoma is known for its fickle weather. On any given day, the dress code could call for T-shirts and shorts or jackets and scarves. That makes meteorologists in the Sooner State huge local celebrities.

For over 40 years, Gary England was the chief meteorologist at KWTV in Oklahoma City. The New York Times dubbed him the “Weather God of Oklahoma City.” He was also known for his colorful commentaries and one-liners. Take a look.

I had the honor of working with him. I always respected his ability to put public safety first, while also injecting a charming sense of humor during severe weather. I realized he exemplifies the seven C’s of communication, a checklist of basic principles to effectively communicate with audiences.

 1) Credibility

The first principle of communicating effectively is to establish credibility. During severe weather season, meteorologists are the viewers’ lifelines. People monitor the weather to decide whether to stay put or take shelter.

Gary’s knowledge about literally every Oklahoma county demonstrated his love for the state. His calm demeanor and accurate forecasts over four decades meant that when he said, “Take your precautions immediately and seek shelter,” people did. He owned his message, and viewers listened.

2) Context

Gary produced nearly 30,000 forecasts and he always spoke with simplicity. He was candid and provided background needed for context to keep his audience weather aware without complicated jargon.

3) Content

Another principle of effective communication is to have meaning behind each message. Gary did his homework, and no matter how crazy the storm was, his priority was saving lives.

He propelled his content through innovative vision. In the 1980s, he was the first on-air meteorologist to alert viewers of a possible tornado using commercial Doppler radar. He also contributed to the invention of the First Warning graphic. The map pops up in the corner of a TV and is now commonly used to show weather alerts without interrupting a program. Gary stayed on top of the game and ahead of competitors.

His ability to stand out gained the trust of TV viewers for generations.

 4) Clarity

When multiple tornadoes touched down in a single day in 2009, Gary described the seriousness of the weather event in a matter-of-fact way. He was calm under pressure and reminded folks to take shelter only when necessary. His demeanor helped people decipher whether the storm was an urgent threat or a just a warning.

 5) Consistency

His delivery and conversations with storm chasers were so consistent they led to the creation of the “Gary England Drinking Game.” Viewers playing the game had to drink every time he mentioned key phrases like his signature sign off, “We’ll keep you advised,” or frequently cited towns.

6) Capability of the Audience

Gary knew how to communicate on his audience’s level. His delivery was conversational, as if his viewers were his nextdoor neighbors. One of his catchiest one-liners was, “Jump back, throw me down, Loretta, it’s Friday night in the big town!” Although he would never reveal who Loretta was, his folksy style was relatable and memorable to his audience.

7) Channel

Gary had a legendary career in television. But he realized it is no longer the only way to reach a broad audience. He maintains a strong presence in the meteorology world. From videos to social media, his messages and personality live on

Selling up the Chain of Command

 

Sometimes the most important sale to be made is within our own organization.

For example, we all have ambition. Some of us ambition to be recognized, others to be paid more. Some ambition to advance a cause, others to keep their job. But few achieve their ambitions in isolation. We need to persuade others we are worthy of their support. And persuasion – like it or not – is selling.

Most frequently, those in the best position to support us are in our upstream chain of command. So learning how to sell to our boss, or their boss, is critical to achieving our ambitions.

Here are a few tips fresh from the sales bullpen you may want to consider applying to your upstream communications.

  1. Sell as you go

Unfortunately, it’s often not enough simply do great work, assuming others will notice and appreciate it. Reputation is like a campfire. It needs to be regularly stoked or it will gradually turn as cold as ash. [bctt tweet=”Reputation is like a campfire. It needs to be regularly stoked.” username=”candorpr”] In communicating with upstream executives or board members, reinforce the value of your work relative to what is important to them. As sales trainers say, “Sell benefit, sell benefit, sell benefit.”

  1. Think like they think

As a dad, I had to teach my kids how to buy a gift for their mom she would appreciate, as opposed to gifts of interest to them. It’s not much different in business. Whether delivering a strategic plan, a business case, a status report, a presentation or just an idea, know what is important to the audience with whom you are communicating. Gift wrap your information in a manner they will appreciate and appreciation will be returned.

  1. Speak with candor

Don’t be a “yes” person. Executives cannot trust someone who only says what they believe another wants to hear. Instead, be straightforward, authentic and tactful in all communication.

  1. Anticipate objections

A mistake of many persuaders is the failure to anticipate objections. I have seen many great ideas shot down because the presenter was unprepared to answer an unexpected question. As a part of your communication prep, take time to anticipate objections and formulate your response to each.

  1. Understand it’s always about numbers

Don’t be fooled. The pool of funds available for any endeavor is limited. Every person in your chain of command has numbers for which they are responsible to monitor and achieve.  So don’t just report activity or progress upstream, also report results – how your activity has measurably moved the proverbial needle. Tie what you do to the numbers valued by those in charge.

Several years ago, I provided an update to my boss. The project had come in over budget, but we had exceeded client expectations. Expecting a pat on the back, I was surprised instead to be criticized for the overruns. His words were, “Excellent work in our company is expected. You still have to bring the work in on budget.” That was the last time I took upstream communication for granted.

Stoke the fire. Regularly.

 

What Raising Dogs Taught Me About PR

I’m a dog person. (Wo)man’s best friend has stolen my heart forever. I’m active in my local humane society and rescue organization as a volunteer and donor, and my family adopted two dogs into our home. I’ve learned a lot while trying to keep my furry kids happy, safe and alive. Some of those lessons apply to our clients at Candor.

1. It’s a 24/7 Job

dog with chew toyOne of the first lessons I learned as a dog parent is I have to be willing to get up in the middle of the night for emergency bathroom breaks. Every dog parent knows the sounds that wake them from a dead sleep faster than any alarm and send them racing to the door so the dog doesn’t mess up the rug again. In PR, a client crisis can happen any time, so I’m always prepared to jump into action. I monitor the 10 p.m. news and wake up thinking of new ideas for story pitches. The passion for the job carries well past 8 to 5.

2. Equal Attention

two dogs sittingMy husband and I recently adopted a second dog. I quickly learned the importance of giving each one equal attention. It is impossible to pet one dog without the other nudging impatiently. This lesson matters at Candor. We make sure each client gets our full devotion, so nobody feels left out.

3. Multiple Personalities

Odin and RubyMy Lab, Odin, is a couch potato who wants nothing more than to cuddle and watch TV with me. My German shepherd, Ruby, is constantly perched, watching the back door and waiting for me to throw the ball a million times. They have completely different personalities and needs. The same holds true with our clients. Some prefer text messaging, while others need formal email communication. Working in a PR agency requires intuition about what makes people tick. My job is a lot easier once I get to know clients’ needs and personalities.

4. Rewards Matter

dog with chew toyEverything is easier when treats are involved. My dogs always listen to basic commands. But if they are learning something new or being made to do something they’d rather not, they need an incentive. When Candor is working with new clients, sometimes there is skepticism about a certain tactic or strategy. Once the client starts seeing results, the PR lightbulb goes on, like a pup who realizes what it takes to get a reward. Some of the best days are when I know a client has seen the results of what we can do and they get excited for next steps. This process allows us to build trust.

5. It’s Messy

dogs with torn up toyI gather toys. I pick up pieces of toys. Sweep up hair. Clean the nose prints off windows. As a dog parent there are a myriad of messes. As a PR pro, cleaning up takes the form of adjusting messaging that went awry or developing a brand new strategic plan to get company goals back on track. This is when the fun really starts. I get excited when a company engages our firm for a brand or website audit. It’s a lot easier to notice the gaps or areas for improvement when you are on the outside looking in.

I’m fortunate to have found two passions in life: helping clients communicate their stories, and coming home to slobbery dog kisses every day.