Sales Advice From a New Film and a SIPAward Winner

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I attended a film premiere last week of a movie called Puzzle, about two people thrown together to compete in a national jigsaw puzzle contest. Glasgow native Kelly Macdonald stars in the film and came to talk to us after. She has appeared in several films such as one of the Harry Potters and No Country for Old Men plus the award-winning TV show Boardwalk Empire.

In the film, Macdonald plays an American-accented woman living outside of New York City. When she spoke to us, it was, of course, in a thick Scottish brogue. My friend asked her how she masters such a change in accents.

She said that if she didn't learn to do that, she wouldn't have had many acting jobs over the years. But it does take a lot of concentration, and having a dialect coach on the set—as this film did—was a big help to her, she added.

It made me think of publishers. Really, what Macdonald is doing is responding to her audience's needs. She doesn't have to survey them or visit with them like publishers do. She's given a story to convey, and most aren't about Scottish women. So if the job requires you to speak a little differently, then you do it.

Longtime SIPA member EB Medicine won a first-place SIPAward this year in the category of Best Video Product for a video titled High-Risk Emergencies: Greatest Hits & Misses. About six weeks in, they had already sold close to 100 copies at $169 each. The video came about because almost one-fourth of emergency medicine residents—"our near-future and potentially career-long subscribers"—cited video as their preference in an audience survey.

With that knowledge, EB Medicine could then use their own insight to tackle a popular topic. "While it may not be clear to those of us outside the circle of emergency clinicians, each 'High-Risk Emergencies' video is a plain-language, peer-to-peer conversation in the vernacular and shorthand of the target audience," they wrote. "Every script and scene focuses on practical approaches... Clinician-viewers receive clear instruction, news they can use."

You could say that EB Medicine's most natural brogue might be a white paper or special report. But because success has to start with audience needs, they put their information in the form that would be most sales-worthy. Similarly, Macdonald mostly buries her wonderful Glaswegian accent.

Interestingly, Macdonald told us that she is getting a few more parts lately where she can use her natural voice. I can't recall if she did or not in Gosford Park, Robert Altman's great whodunit film from 2001. The comparison here might be that once EB Medicine has cultivated their emergency medicine resident community, they might be able to reach them in simpler ways such as forums and reports.

Macdonald was also asked about one scene where she had to act very emotionally, crying and such. What's her method? "Well, I'm 42," she said, "so I have been through enough in my life where I can summon some painful moments."

Of course, it was one of the most affecting scenes in the film, which although a little slow, I would recommend for its intelligence, humor and love of jigsaw puzzles. (My sister-in-law is an addict.) Hitting on our emotions works for films, and it also works for B2B purchasing according to a recent study.

"It's never been more obvious to us that we make decisions based on emotion, gut instinct and knee-jerk reactions," said Belinda Green, head of strategy at B2B agency Gyro.

Listen to your audience and show some emotion—two pretty good pieces of advice.  

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…