Here is what you must do for Project 3:
Confirm publics, communications objective, and message(s).
Talk to Pierre. Hear what he has to say, then gently guide him toward your message or message. Draft a 5–7-minute speech.
Write and rehearse eight possible Q&A questions and talking points.
Compose an update to the SPCA blog that we can post following the speech. This will help us to convey our message to those outside the rotary club as well
as signal to the rotarians that they’re a valued part of our community.
Draft the Speech and the Stage Directions
You’ve reached out to Pierre about the topic of the speech but haven’t heard anything yet. You don’t have to wait long, though. Your phone rings. This time,
you’re pretty sure who it is.
Phone Call With Pierre
Smiling male executive on the phone
“Hello there! I thought about what you shared with me and I’m game. I love your ideas! Thanks for putting so much thought into this. We want to get everyone
at the rotary club excited, and I know you’ll write a great speech.”
“I can’t wait to see it. We should get together sometime. Maybe coffee. You folks at Parabolic have been so helpful.”
“I’m so glad—”
“See you soon, then!”
You hang up, a little dazed but happy. You text Carmen to let her know the good news. Carmen writes back immediately.
New Message: Carmen Amaya
Pierre is a character, isn’t he? I got the intern at the SPCA to send me footage of him speaking at a couple of venues. Let’s just say that his zest for life is not
matched by his skills in oratory. He flails a bit and doesn’t quite seem master of his physical person.
To make sure Pierre presents in a polished manner, add some stage directions to the speech as you’re drafting it. Nothing fancy, just some guidance to help
him make the best use of the space and any aids he’s using. Keep your notes light; Pierre seems open to anything, but we don’t want to insult him.
You concur that the SPCA president could use a few prompts to keep him on target. You’ll write the speech first, then insert some stage directions.
Speechwriting in strategic communications is an art, and a talented professional can make a career specializing in it. When you write a speech, you write for
the ear, in relatively short sentences that can be easily understood. It helps to read your words aloud or to recruit a friend to listen or even read your work to
you. You may find that something that looks brilliant on paper sounds odd when spoken aloud. Two consonant sounds might jar with each other or aurally
turn two words into one. For instance, chocolate tea might register as chocolatey; you might decide to try chocolate infusion instead. Also be mindful of style
conventions that don’t make sense to the ear: if you write Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the proper noun followed by the acronym
will sound strange. You’ll want to pick one or the other.
Be mindful of tonality as well. In Project 2, you developed the ability to write in the voice of the SPCA. Here, you’ll want to consider not only that voice, but
Pierre’s style of expression, which you know fairly well at this point. Also look at the rotary club website. How does the club express itself? What words,
phrases, and ideas convey its essence to visitors? You’ll want to keep all three voices in mind as you write your speech.
Other elements to consider are humor, which can be highly effective, and the use of appeals. To what will the rotarians best respond in the middle of their
busy week? What will set the SPCA apart from the other organizations seeking their support? Remember, your audience members will be eating lunch, so
your words need to compete with their gustatory delight.
As you write, consider not only your message, but the use of ethics in speechwriting. It can be easy when you’re in the throes of authorial inspiration to
overstate a point or exaggerate an organizational accomplishment. You may be tempted to avoid addressing anything controversial. No matter how much
you may want to omit an inconvenient bit of information, this will backfire. Your publics need to know that you have enough respect for them to be
“Pierre just called me raving about the speech, so good work. Now we have to get him ready for questions. I would count on 10 minutes for the Q&A and the
questions running the gamut. Although these small crowds tend to be polite, you never know what will be on their mind the day of the speech. Remember
that the rotarians may want to know about anything going on in the world—or in our community—that touches on SPCA-related topics in addition to anything
covered in the speech itself. As funny as this sounds, writing and rehearsing Q&As is good preparation for crisis communications, where you have to imagine
the worst and anticipate all kinds of queries from your publics.”
Parabolic Radio Episode 205
To learn about messaging off-the-cuff and facing tough questions from all kinds of audiences, listen to a lively dialogue between Bob Ludwig, Assistant Vice
President, Media Relations, UMGC and David Reel, Maryland Director, Quantum Communications.
“Always Be Prepared”: The Art of the Q&A, With a Side of Media Relations
“For Pierre’s speech,” continues Carmen, “think of a range of questions the audience might ask, both benign and potentially unsettling, and both pertaining to
the content of the speech and completely unrelated to anything Pierre will cover. Come up with six questions and prepare a few talking points for each
question. This is your chance to help our president respond honestly, accurately, and gracefully to anything that comes up.”
“As always, remember the context of the speech. This is a group of people as anxious for dessert as they are for information. Your talking points should
address questions accurately but not be notes for a novel.”
“Once you’ve written your questions, go over them with the other junior account executives in a discussion topic I set up on the Parabolic discussion board.
After you and your peers have grilled each other, you’ll add two more questions as well as revising your original six. Have fun and see what you learn!”
Carmen heads off, leaving you to write your questions and talking points. Questions should be based on the values and interests of your publics, the subject
of the speech, and topical items of interest. Refer to all your notes, from the situation analysis and from Project 2, to uncover possible questions and
answers. Review SPCA policies and position statements. Also scour the news. You would ideally do this the morning of the speech as well as beforehand to
uncover potential bombshells and breaking news.
If some of your questions are not answerable through research, use your imagination to compose the talking points you think would be appropriate.
Discussion: Q&A Rehearsal
Once you’ve finished drafting your questions and talking points, visit the Discussions area to consult with your colleagues. Choose two of your six questions
—one neutral and one challenging—and enter each question in a separate post. Do not include your talking points.
Then, choose two questions your peers have posted and write responses to those questions as if you were Pierre addressing a live crowd. If possible, choose
one neutral question and one challenging question. Respond to follow-up questions and ask follow-up questions in the posts you created once you receive
answers from your peers.
This should be a lively session, and it will set you up well to fine-tune your Q&A prep sheet.
Now that you’ve experienced the bumps and thrills of an almost-live Q&A session, add two questions to your Q&A prep sheet along with talking points so that
you have eight questions in total. Your Q&A won’t cover every possible query the rotarians could conjure, but you no doubt thought of a few additional
questions—and answers—while engaged in the discussion with your colleagues.
Your Q&A prep sheet should now contain eight pertinent questions with thoughtful, succinct, and well-stated talking points.
Next, you’ll compose an update for the SPCA blog to be posted just after the speech
Step 4: Compose a Blog Update
Conference attendees smiling and talking informally in a hotel lobby
Morsa Images / DigitalVision Collection / Getty
You’ve written your speech and Q&A prep sheet. Now, you’ll compose an update to the SPCA blog to be posted after the event. This kind of communication
serves a few purposes. In this case, it broadcasts your call to action to a wider audience. Second, it lets your publics know that the SPCA is active in the
community—and transparent about its activity. Third, it further engages the rotarians, who will be reminded of the call to action and will experience a thrill in
seeing themselves mentioned on the blog. Finally, the blog itself is a way to signal to all publics that the SPCA is an organization staffed by regular people—
maybe even fun people—who want to share human interest moments and show a more relatable side of the nonprofit.
Think about how to best tell the story of the rotary club event on a blog. Do you want to use text, images, video, links? If you repurpose any statements from
the speech, do you need to massage them for this less formal channel? Describe or sketch any media you want to use. Text should not exceed 400 words
and may be as short as a line or two if it accompanies an image or video. Note any permissions issues or constraints you anticipate around your update.
Step 5: Revise the Speech and Q&A (Submission)
You’ve written your speech, Q&A prep sheet, and blog update and are now preparing to send these documents to Carmen. Just as you’re giving everything a
last look, your phone rings.
Phone Call With Pierre
Smiling male executive on the phone