Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with Leslie Gold. Leslie Gold, HBS 1985, was the CEO of Bishop Manufacturing, a window manufacturing company with 165 employees. After 10 years of a successful stewardship, she sold the company to a Fortune 100 company and turned her attention to talk radio. She became “The Radiochick” and built a compelling brand in the nations #1 market. Within 15 months she went from being a complete unknown to amassing an audience of over 1 million rabid listeners. Leslie was the only woman headlining a morning-drive program in the market, and her show was later expanded to other markets and platforms. In business, Leslie used her persuasion techniques to defeat a union organizing effort, convince a bank to loan her 5M to purchase the company at 26 years old, and negotiate terms previously unheard of in her industry. In her tenure on air, Leslie’s listeners erupted in an organic outpouring of outrage at her firing, and their relentlessness forced her employer to reverse their decision. Throughout, she persuaded her devoted listeners to continually engage with her program in grandiose, humorous and very public ways to achieve the highest ratings in New York City.
Leslie is an earnest, compelling and insightful speaker. She can light up your next conference, staff meeting, training session or networking event
1. What is your blueprint/framework for the art of persuasion?
From my experience, there are several pillars of persuasion
– Storytelling. Persuasion starts with storytelling. There is no more effective way to be persuasive than to tell a well-crafted story, with an emotional arc, a controlling idea and an indisputably clear takeaway-which is the ‘moral’ of the story. You can move an audience of 1 or 1,000,000 with the right story. I changed the cash flow of my company by telling a story, and I defeated a union organizing effort by telling a story. Stories have power in them.
– Imagery – Scenic descriptions are the sights, smells, sensations and feelings from your story. The judicioususe of scenic descriptions allows your listener to mentally insert themselves into your story.
– Metaphors and Analogies. When you choose and use the right analogy you influence the associations made in your listener’s mind. Analogies are an excellent way to bringing your listener around to your way of thinking Laws – such as the “Three strikes and you’re out” sentencing laws have been voted in simply because the analogy used to title the law was so effective.
– Your countenance. Your voice, your posture and physicality, your cadence and your facial expressions all matter when it comes to persuasion. Handling your nerves is key as well. A few small corrections in this area can go a long way in upping your persuasion game.
2. If I am a complete novice in story telling (which I am), how would you provide a practical, concrete framework to tell the best stories?
Stories used for business don’t have to be about you, but they certainly can be, if appropriate for the situation. I start all my novice storytellers with this exercise: Capture a moment from your life that shaped who you are today. Just write down the title- such as “when my mother died” or “when I got caught for shoplifting”. Include one detail that conveys your feelings at the time and tell that story within 75 seconds. End your story with “And here’s what I learned.” It could be something you learned about yourself, parenting, business, the world. It doesn’t matter as long as you end with what you learned. When you can do this, you will have done a lot. You will have distilled your story to a listenable length, made a connection, got your listener to feel something, and left them with the moral of the story. That is your basic blueprint for business storytelling.
3. You’ve built an army of over 1 million rabid followers. How did you do that? What are the 5-10 things that you did to build up that following?
As a talk radio host for 15 years I built signature ‘bits’ for the air that were designed to capture the imagination of my audience. Everything done on the air was consistent with my brand, which at the time was comedic and edgy. That laid the groundwork, but that is not what turned the show into a juggernaut.- I learned later that what bound my listeners to me was the storytelling – I would tell a story about putting my dog to sleep the night before and listeners would sit in their car and cry like a baby. Or I’d tell the story about my father desperately trying to set me up with his podiatrist’s son, and listener would laugh so hard they would spill coffee down their shirt. I didn’t realize it at first but it was the storytelling that made my listeners feel so invested and connected to the show.
4. You work with corporations now- what specifically do you do with them?
Several things: I’m often brought in to speak to employees on how to Be More Persuasive. When I am addressing a group of women, such as a women’s networking group or an in-house women’s empowerment group, I do an address on Communicating while Female. Both of these talks get huge responses. In addition, I am hired to do workshops with companies to help “story-fy” their data, and I coach executives and professionals when preparing for critical presentations or pitches.
5. You are an expert with the media. What are the top 5-10 crucial techniques?
Know your material, and streamline it. Talk as if you are talking to one individual, not a group. Insert humor where you can. Control your nerves. Be authentic.
6. How did you succeed as a female in a male dominated industry?
I feel I did this twice, first as a young woman running a construction-related manufacturing company, and then later as a radio talk show host in the “shock jock” arena in the country’s #1 market.
First, I gave not a single thought to a “micro-aggression.” If the transgression is so small as to have the word micro in front of it, it’s not worthy of my time.
I didn’t let fear get in my way. Don’t misunderstand, I felt plenty of it. Especially as a 26-year-old woman owning and leading a company of 165 employees – 160 of them male. When I was terrified of making the wrong move, I used a mental trick. I would ask myself “what would I do in this situation if I wasn’t afraid?” That allowed me to detach from the fear and make a more clearheaded decision. Whatever I decided, that’s what I would do. I’d still feel the fear, but I’d execute anyway because I knew I had made the best decision I could at the moment it was required.
I don’t use watery words. Women are more likely than men to use words and phrases that (unfairly) undermine their credibility. Expressions like “I just want to say” and tentative verb phrases like “I think” or “I feel like” can make it sound like you’re hedging. If your verb needs an adverb, it’s too weak. I use strong, simple declarative statements when I want something, and it has made a difference.
I don’t provoke but I will fight back hard. When I owned my window manufacturing company, a competitor from another state got incensed when my company won two municipal bids, (fair and square) in what he considered hisgeography. I expected the response would be to compete aggressively in my “backyard,” but instead he sent the Teamsters from his plant to try to unionize my workforce. It was a dirty trick. After defeating the union effort (I used a story) I was relieved, but I wasn’t done. I intentionally bid the next large job in his area at cost to ensure it would go my way. The minute the bid was awarded to my company I called him. I informed him with a calm, steely voice that if he ever sent anyone to my plant again– even a flower delivery boy– I would make it my mission to underbid every large job that came up in his region…and I would take everybid because my cost structure was lower. I had no trouble with him after that. Funny thing, over the years of more fair competition between us, we became friendly and even cooperated together on a large project.
I use my sense of humor. It goes a long way in male dominated environments.
7. If we are interested in learning more about persuasion, storytelling or media techniques, what resources would you recommend?
I recommend Amy Cuddy’s book “Presence.” Seth Godin’s book “This is Marketing” has some excellent commentary on storytelling. And for shorter reads, Fast Company posts some good examples of successful business storytelling.
8. You’ve built a very strong personal brand. How did you do it? What steps did you take? What crucial tactics did you use?
Consistency is key- If you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being known for nothing. My radio show was called “The Radiochick Show” and as I mentioned it was both funny and edgy. At times it was outrageous. The show was always oriented to a male audience. Everything from the name of the show to the ‘bits’ we executed on air, to the guests I agreed to interview had to fit with the branding. When we had an advertiser, who was willing to pay for an in-show promotion, I made sure the promotional gimmick worked not only for their branding, but for ours. Often, that was challenging, as advertisers tend to avoid associating their brands with edgy content, but they wanted access to our large listening audience, which of course was there for the edgy content. For several years I hosted not only the radio show, but a TV show that sported the Radiochick name as well. The TV network did not initially understand the Radiochick branding, and forged ahead with promotional items that were girlish. I insisted that they pull them back. They were not happy about spending money on items that would never get used, but I was insistent. The disparity in branding would be very confusing and would dilute my brand.
9. Where can our readers follow you on social media?
For information on my speaking presentations, workshops or coaching go to www.LeslieGoldSpeaker.com You can also email me from that site.
For more general connections, FB https://www.facebook.com/theradiochick