Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners

Dr. Relly Nadler
: Welcome to Leadership Development News, profiles and practices of top performers. I’m Dr. Relly Nadler, my co-host Dr. Greenberg is with us and will be on the line in just a moment and between Cathy and I we have helped thousands of leaders and executive to perform in the top 10%.

We always want to bring you we’re interested in, as far as learning goes and perhaps some cutting edge information that going to help you develop your leaders in your organization.

This week we have Karen Friedman who is a leading international communications expert and has worked with executives on 4 continents. She is a former award-winning television news anchor and reporter with breaking coverage of local and national events and has aired on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America and Nightlives. She’s a pro at what we are doing here. She now leads Karen Friedman Enterprises Inc. which teaches executive, spokespeople and celebrities across the globe how to make the most of every interview, their appearances, meetings, and presentations. She has a couple of websites, the first one I’ll give you now is and she is also the author of the book, Shut Up and Say Something which will be the focus of our conversation.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I am very excited to have Karen on the show today for a number of reasons. I love to learn, I love to hear from people who are really experts in their field.

I am pretty tongue-tied about what to say about somebody that has this level of expertise, but Karen’s methods development was first recognized when a US delegation led by former First Lady Hilary Rodham-Clinton., asked her to provide media and political training for women in South and Central America. Karen continues to council key opinion leaders across the world and has rolled out training programs in numerous countries including China, England, Singapore, Malaysia, Uruguay, Argentina, Columbia, Trinidad, Canada and Puerto Rico. Since Friedman launched her firm in 1996 clients have been relying on Karen for her know-how to communicate clearly and effectively, doing a wide variety of challenging situations including nationwide awareness campaigns, manufacturing shutdowns, justice department inquiries, product launches and recalls, investor and community meetings, employee presentations, chemical spills, and layoffs in the drug approval process.

So, you can see we are dealing with someone who is truly a leader in her field. Karen is frequently quoted by publications such as The New York Times, The Wallstreet Journal, Harvard Business Review, and she is a professional speaker who has repeatedly received numerous, top rated, speaker awards. She is the author of, Shut Up and Say Somethingbusiness communications strategies to overcome challenges and influence listeners.

She has a lot of articles on leadership and communication techniques, which are regularly published in business magazines, but you can also go to her site and you can pick them up. Her monthly communication video is just outstanding. She provides lots of tips for viewers and she just has a terrific site. I cannot tell everybody strongly enough to go to the site, it’s You can also go to which I love. She has authored Speaking of Success, with several best-selling writers including Steven Covey, of course, he’s the author of Seven Habits, and Ken Blanchard, another one of our friends who has been on the show, who is the author of One Minute Manager. Jack Canfield, of course, the creator of The Chicken Soup Series, and if I keep talking about Karen we won’t hear from her, so, Karen welcome to the show!

Karen Friedman:  Thank you very much, I should hire you as my PR person.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Love to. I’ll grab a suitcase and run your way. We are from the same hometown.

Karen Friedman: There you go, I know.

Dr. Relly Nadler: One thing we always do at the start of our show is talk a little bit about who have been some of your main influences and as a communication expert. I’d be interested to know, who do you point to who maybe helped you be such a communication expert?

Karen Friedman: Well interestingly, I spent 20 years in television, as a television reporter. So, that was my first life, and my second life has been, actually, we just hit 15 years since I launched the firm. So, when you talk about influencers, you won’t be surprised what I’m going to say first, you might be surprised what I’m going to say second. The biggest influencers are my clients, they are the 10s of thousands of people that I had wonderful opportunities to interview over many years as that television reporter, but the biggest influencers in my life, bar none, without a doubt, are my parents. I’m not a 10-year-old kid so you’d say, why your parents? When you’ve obviously had a career and grown up and I think what it was is my parents continually taught me to chase my dreams. It was such a wonderful lesson because it’s a lesson that I pass on to my children, and maybe one day when they are asked the question that you’re asking me, they’ll say the same thing. The bottom line is, and really for anybody out there that’s listening, it’s do what you love, do what you’re passionate about, do what it is that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning because when you do that, it never feels like work. That’s what I was taught, and that was probably the biggest influence in my life, professionally.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: So, Karen, I’d love to know, as I’m sure our audience would, how you made this bridge between being a TV anchor, because that’s a very specific field, and being who you are now, which is a speaker, an author, and a teacher of communication techniques?

Karen Friedman: Well, first of all; my first passion, yes, was television. I wanted to be a reporter from the time I was fourteen years old, and I did that for a long time but remember that the jump, or the leap or the bridge as you put it, there was 15 years in between this. So, when I left my last stop was at ABC TV in Philadelphia and when I left there honestly, I loved what I was doing but it was just time to make a change.

It was many years in television at stations across the country, ending up in Philadelphia at ABC. From the time I left ABC until today, that has been 15 years. When I left ABC I still loved television, but the truth of the matter is, to be completely blunt, I felt that I was stagnating. I felt there was just more to do and I wanted these new challenges. So, when I started my own firm, you know 15 years ago, I couldn’t have written that book at the time. Because if I wrote the book, it would be a very different book. I didn’t have the experience that I have today, I didn’t have the depth, and a lot of it is what you learn inside companies working with executives, hearing their problems, seeing how they tackle things and then providing guidance from your own area of expertise.

So, that bridge if you will, looks a lot different today, you know what I mean, than it looked back then. What happens is, and I will tell you and I have been asked this a lot so I have thought about it a lot. One of the things that you might find interesting, even though what I do today doesn’t have anything to do, per say, with being that TV reporter and anchor, here is what becomes very helpful. As that television reporter, you are forced to constantly think on your feet, condense complicated information, make connections, through a camera with people you can’t see or hear. What do you do when you get caught off guard? All of those things end up playing, big time, into what I do, what we do today when it comes to coaching professionals and business people. Because they struggle with that. I used to think, it’s so easy – you just say it. The two of you, for example, being on the radio, it’s a skill set that you learned, that you develop. For most people, out there, it’s not that easy. It’s not as easy as it is to someone that does it every day.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You know, one of the things that strikes me when you’re speaking, is how we all have to create bridges, every day, in our communication style. I’d love to hear more about the kind of work you love to do now, and what type of client you work with, to satisfy their needs, for being effective and clear, with the various kinds of communication that I explained in the bio, you know, product launches, recalls, investor-community relations, chemical spills. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Karen Friedman: Yeah, obviously what I love to do is, I love to see, as cliché as this may sound, I love to see the light go on in people’s eyes. When they reach those, so-called, “ah ha moments.”

So, for me its guiding them, it’s helping them to use the words that you used, Cathy, in the beginning of the program. Tailor what they need specifically to them, and then watch them gain the confidence when you provide the strategies and you provide the techniques to help them overcome challenges that seem so daunting to them. So, that’s the first part of your question, what I love to do.

I also love probably some of what the two of you love, which is speaking at conferences, running seminars, doing keynotes, breakouts and facilitating, and all of that. All of those things that I love to do, but as for the kind of work that we do, that went to the bio that you read, we will work across many industries and, in a nutshell, what we do is help companies and spokespeople communicate more clearly and more concisely. We help them understand who that audience is, whether it’s one or one thousand, what those people care about. How you put yourself in their shoes and speak in a way that makes your message relevant and meaningful to other people. So, thus the title of the book, how you really say something that might be impactful and powering, influential.

So, to be more specific based on what you were talking about with chemical spills and that type of thing. I’ll give you a couple of examples that might clarify what it is we do. So, let’s say we are working with a pharmaceutical company, that’s launching a product. We might work with investigators, researchers, medical spokespeople, and brand managers, everybody involved with that product from inception through the approval process, to help them explain complicated information to very specific audiences, including the FDA. How do you explain the product, how do you explain the mechanism of action, how do you field those tough questions, how do you marry messages into your answers without sounding like some robot you see on a Sunday morning talk-show? It’s not just pharmaceuticals but think about technology, think about energy, think about the space program, think about all of these incredibly tough subjects that people are asking to explain in two minutes or less, so its everything from helping people deliver presentations, doing media interviews, we do a lot of speaker training programs. Helping your clients manage an issue that, in our case, has ranged from sex scandals to accidents, to chemical spills, to tainted goods. It’s not just the verbal delivery but it’s also developing, honing and fine-tuning that message.

So, one of my colleagues is the one sitting in a room with you saying, okay, who’s listening, what does that mean to them, how does it affect them, how does it benefit them, how does it impact them, what do they need to know? What’s the “so what?” The bottom line is, you have to be able, anybody we work with, to sit in their seats, or stand in their shoes and really say to yourself, “Alright, if I didn’t know what I know about my world and my business and I was reading the newspaper this morning or I was listening in that audience, what would I care about,” and make it personal and make people feel. Because if you don’t make them feel, you don’t make them care, and if you can’t make them care, they won’t listen to what you have to say. That goes to the heart of everything we do.

Listen to the entire interview above.


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