Susan Harrow shows CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors, speakers and socially conscious businesses how to double or triple their business by using sound bites effectively – helping her clients shine on Oprah, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, the New York Times, Inc and beyond. Author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul, Susan is a black belt in Aikido and helps young women 12-24 protect themselves with a new course in verbal self-defense. We talk #MeToo, #NotMe, messaging, PR, and how women can make their voices heard.
Melinda Wittstock: Susan, welcome to Wings.
Susan Harrow: I'm so thrilled to be here. I love your podcast and you're doing great stuff in the world.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, thank you so much. I'm really intrigued by you because you are this world renowned media coach helping people align their words with who they are. At the same time, you're a black belt in Aikido. I'm curious what the connective tissue is between those two things. I don't know a lot about martial arts and so I'm fascinated by how that informs your work in media and PR.
Susan Harrow: Well, I was actually teaching in a way while I was media coaching. One of the principles of Aikido, which is the Japanese martial art that I do, is no resistance. When somebody pushes on you, you allow their energy to go in that same direction and then you use that energy to redirect them and throw, which is essentially taking them to the direction that you want without necessarily them being aware of it. That's the same principle that we use in media training. When I'm prepping somebody for media, it's like, “Don't push back,” unless you really want to, unless you want the interview to be controversial, right? That's a whole other thing, but allow that hard question just to go by without resistance and then redirect the conversation to where you want to go. That's one thing that is connective in martial arts and media.
Melinda Wittstock: That's interesting. I assume, too, that there's a sense of confidence one gets from being a black belt in any martial arts. What are some of the things that you have to overcome, I guess, within yourself to succeed at that?
Susan Harrow: This is like the best/worst therapy I've ever had. I love and hate Aikido because it's so challenging for me. It's so … Everything that happens on the Aikido mat is like you're coming, not only are you dealing with a punch or someone “attacking you” and being able to deal with that physicality, not to flinch or recede or blink when you're under pressure. It's starting to become aware of your habits that you're doing unconsciously. That's, again, the same thing with media, suddenly you turn on the camera and I had one of my clients like all of the sudden she was twitching her shoulders, and blinking her eyes, and speaking in a different pattern. I'm like, “What's going on?” It's like, well, that was the stress fallback that happened.
In Aikido it's the same. We see what is stressing us so we can start to master that. “Oh, when I'm under pressure, I start to blink really fast. Let me see if I can control that and control my face, body, words, in a pressure situation and maintain my equanimity, and still get what I want without necessarily making the other wrong or not get what they want.”
Melinda Wittstock: You wrote a book “Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul” and I'm so intrigued by the title of that because I think all too often, we go through our lives doing and saying things that we think we should do, but they're not necessarily true to who we are. Often times, we don't really even necessarily know who we are, right?
Susan Harrow: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: Did the Aikido kind of help to get you into that sort of alignment so you could pass that onto your clients?
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Susan Harrow: You know, that's a great question. I think one of the things that happened and one of the reasons why I wrote “Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul” is because one of the biggest problems that I saw with women is they didn't know how to say no and they also didn't know how to toot their own horn in such a way that felt good. When I would speak to audiences I would say, “How many of you feel like you're prostituting yourselves when you're doing publicity,” and 99% of the room would raise their hands and the other one percent was lying. It was women didn't feel good even about being able to speak about their great qualities. I wrote the book for them to show them that you can get what you want and still be yourself no matter what self that is; introvert, extrovert, no matter what weight or size you are. None of that matters.
What matters is you being connected and loving what you do and flipping that around and asking yourself, “How can I be of service?” Really asking just two questions, which is: What does my audience need to know now and how can I help? Really, those two things are the guide for any woman or anyone doing business, but it's also a guide for any kind of networking, or meeting, or when you're meeting with a client, those two questions are really your guide to really giving yourself credit for whatever gifts you have. Does that make sense?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it totally does. We joked about the Aikido being kind of therapy and I think entrepreneurship is that, too. Right?
Susan Harrow: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: We're constantly challenged within ourselves through all the different opportunities or challenges. Every day, is like a hypothesis when we're testing out new concepts, and creating new products, and making sure that the product is actually something that's desirable to customers. There's so many ups and downs along the way. Are there any areas where female entrepreneurs, do you think, lose confidence in being able to articulate their true purpose or their true North?
Susan Harrow: You know what I've heard most when I do consults? I used to do a lot of free consults when I … I have a course called Your Signature Sound Bites. At one point, I offered free consults. Pretty much everybody took me up on that. I got to do hundreds of these free consults. What most women said to me after our consult was when I asked them what was most valuable from the consult, they would say, “You believe in me.” I had never said it. I wasn't something that I said. I did not say, “I believe in you.” It was during the consult, I gave credibility to whatever their idea was or whatever they wanted to try no matter how scared they were. I think it was that faith in them that gave them then the faith in themselves that this was not a crack pot idea. That this was worth doing. Yes, there's going to be a lot of bumps and a lot of hard work along the way and they may have to steer their boat into a different water, but it was something that was worth doing and that they worth something.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I think that's so, so true. You do so many courses. I'm fascinated with all your work because you're also working with young women age 12 to 24 and figuring out how to help them really protect themselves in all these different situations that they're … Given the Me Too Movement, more likely than not to encounter, and how to stay safe. What are some of those things that you teach young women in terms of just how to stay in their power and avoid sexual harassment or worse?
Susan Harrow: The first thing is to use your voice. I think, actually, let me back up. The first thing is to be aware of your boundaries at all times of where people are in relation to you too close. You have the ability, if somebody steps too close to you, to move back. Often times, I think we don't know the choices that we have. We don't realize all the choices that are available to us. In boundary setting, it's not just putting up your hand and saying, “Stop right there,” it's also creating a distance if somebody's getting too close before that ever happens. Part of that is the awareness, and then being able to use your face, your eyes, your body, all in 100% alignment that says “yes” or “no”. You've got a full body “no” or a full body “yes” in any kind of encounter.
In True Shield: Verbal Self-Defense For Girls, we work with the 10 most difficult or dangerous situations that typically happen before a girl is even 12. It's something as simple as somebody grabbing your boob. Again, sometimes that happens so fast that it's already happened. There's still language and there's still things that you can do after the fact that something's happened. What we want to do is try to create that awareness before. Even a situation that I know that most women, probably you included, Melinda, have come in contact with or has happened, is that we are interrupted. Whether it's with our friends, whether it's at a party, whether it's in a business meeting, whether it's in a TV interview, one of the essential things to train in the course is, what do you do when you're interrupted? How do you stand up for yourself, stand up, speak out, be heard in such a way that other people can receive what you're trying to communicate?
Melinda Wittstock: I go back in my career and I remember creating sort of a, what was almost an armor around me. I was often the only woman in the room. In a way, it made me go very much into my masculine energy when I'm in my twenties. I just decided nobody's going to mess with me. I think there was a price that I paid for that, as well, because it was also not authentic. I'm a woman, right?
Susan Harrow: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I almost went overboard. Did you find that early in your career? You've been in this for a little while as well, right?
Susan Harrow: Oh yeah. I've always gotten in trouble for my big mouth. It's been an advantage and a disadvantage.
I was in high tech sales for what are called automated building controls. These are systems that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was like … I was at Lockheed. I was the only woman in the room and my boss was there, and it was a meeting there. I remember there were all these men sitting across from me and they ignored me. They acted like I wasn't in the room. I would say something and nobody would respond to me like I hadn't even said anything. I just remember being so puzzled and looking at my boss like, “What? What is going on?” At that point, I didn't know what to do because I was so baffled. That was my first experience.
Then, I had a second experience when I was in corporate. I was a consultant for [inaudible 00:19:41 Directory, the Yellow Pages for 10 years in HR. My boss had myself and another consultant in a meeting where we were supposed to speak up and talk about changing and bettering a process in HR. We had this meeting and they asked for feedback and I spoke up and he told me afterwards, “Susan, don't ever speak up like that again. Nobody really wants to hear what we have to say.” I just remember being like so … Again, that was such bafflement to me. I'm like, “Well, you're saying one thing, but us girls should just keep quiet.”
To me, that is really ingrained in a lot of women. We are taught to be pathologically polite. That's one of the things that I want to shift. In training girls 12 to 24 for the True Shield Verbal Self Defense program is to have them understand, and all of us women have to understand, because I think even people my age still … This is still challenging to be able to find ways to speak up and be heard. It's not necessarily about turning on a masculine energy, it's about strategies, and techniques, and reading a room, and understanding how to manage the energy of yourself and others to use specific ways that people will allow you to speak and engage without you having to push your way into it like a bull in a china shop.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. I just didn't even know any other different way back then. We were talking about girls in your twenties kind of coming up in the corporate world. Back then, there were no real role models.
Susan Harrow: I didn't know anything either. I didn't know how to do it either.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. It really chaffed with me, that thing about talking and not being heard, like that invisibility. I suppose in that period of time, what was wonderful for me is I was a journalist way back then. I started out as an entrepreneur and then I became a journalist. What was wonderful about journalism, it gave me this automatic license to ask any question I wanted. What actually worked in my favor was being underestimated by all these dudes, right? I could ask some really …
Susan Harrow: Right. You had an advantage by being a woman because they already thought that you were ‘less than’.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I absolutely knew that to be true and just kind of worked a way around it to get past it. I think it's unfortunate when women, even now, feel invisible, like say something in a meeting and they're not heard. Is it something about the way we're saying it? To what extent is it us and to what extent is it just the environment that we're in? Or, is it both?
Susan Harrow: It's really both. I think even if you're super confident and have a really strong presence, it can still happen to you. I think it depends on the personalities and the people in the room. There are things that you can do to touch in that catch people off guard, even something as simple as if somebody doesn't respond, you can simply say something like, “I'd love to hear your thoughts on that,” or, “Did this land for you?” If somebody's ignoring you and not saying anything it's like, “Is this … Like a call on response to actually get something going to create that connection with someone and saying it in a way that's not really challenging or judgmental, just with equanimity. As if you're curious. One of the most important I think to be is to be curious. “I'm curious what you thought of that.” Or, “I'm curious why no one is responding to that.” “I'm curious. Did you hear me?”
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Any kind of series of questions like that where you're not attacking or judging. Now, there is a time to be a little more firm, that said. If somebody is interrupting you, for example, and you're entitled to say, “Wait,” or, “I'm not done.” A little bit sharper, and then you move into your conversational tone. It's called a pattern interrupt. That's why we almost might just say, “Stop,” or, “Wait.” That's a pattern interrupt. A pattern interrupt can be anything. It can also be, “Whoa.” You know? People are going to … It's going to break the moment. A joke is a pattern interrupt.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Susan Harrow: We can always use humor, too. We can use sound, we can use movement, anything to be a pattern interrupt is to shake up what's … Boom, boom, boom. Shake it up right in the moment. Change the energy. We have lots of ways of doing that. Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: What's been wonderful, just to watch like last year and into this year is the sense that women are really finding our voice. We're standing up individually, collectively, as the Me Too Movement showed, and of course, what you're doing with the Not Me Movement to prevent sexual assault.
Susan Harrow: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Melinda Wittstock: Really just standing in our truth. I'm so encouraged by that. Not being afraid, not letting fear stop us from saying what needs to be said.
Susan Harrow: What's really been wonderful about the Me Too Movement, and I'm glad you brought that up, is that now we see, hear, feel how widespread this is. We all kind of knew that this was going on, but to make it visible and to make it tangible, to make it touchable, to make it real, this is the magnitude of what's going on. I think it's really, super important. I think what just happened with Tony Robbins the other day about him demeaning the Me Too Movement and saying that it's encouraging victimhood is another issue of that where people's … What has ever happened to them has been dredged up and that maybe they haven't been able to move beyond it or they're digging it into their neural pathways. I think that's the way … I'm not going to speak for Tony Robbins, but I think that's where he was going with that. Let's not stay in that place of, “I have been victimized,” and let's move on from that.
That's the spirit of when I created the Not Me Movement is to talk about our experiences when we have had a positive experience in deflecting harassment, rape, verbal abuse, whatever that is where we've created a time where we are powerful and then join together for that. Right now, we're joined together in that we've all had this experience in one way, shape, or form, and to varying degrees of severity, right? Now is the time to shift into now that that point has been made, and it continues to be made and that's really important to keep that point going. Now, we want to shift into, what kind of strategies can we use to protect ourselves, and to speak up, and to have these situations handled in a more granular way for us, because the laws, and the mores, and the behaviors are going to take a while to change so what can we do in the meantime? Be responsible for your own thoughts, your own words, your own deeds, and learn how to protect yourself both verbally and physically. Because the laws, and the companies, and the government isn't going to be protecting you for the most part, you know? In an ideal world, yes, but it's going to take a while for those things to catch up to what's going on in the culture today.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I love this idea, really, that in a way to celebrate our success in averting these things, it's interesting, the victim piece is curious. It's a tough one to talk about, isn't it?
Susan Harrow: It is.
Melinda Wittstock: In a way, it's very easy to feel like, if you have been a victim of something like this that you're being dismissed, that your suffering is somehow being dismissed, if not acknowledged. On the other hand, you don't want to stay in that victimhood. I know this, personally, having gone through a marriage that had a lot of verbal abuse in it for a long time feeling like a victim, and then having to get out of it to the point of forgiveness. To be able to move on and to kind of like, I joke, deserve to reconstitute in a way.
Susan Harrow: That's a great phrase, by the way, reconstitute.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Susan Harrow: You had to reconstitute.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, and just leave all that behind. I kind of understand. I can see the nuances of all of it, but it's … I know you're a media and PR professional so often the media doesn't really deal in nuances and yet, that's truth. That's an interesting thing when you have … This is kind of a curious segue, but it just came to me. When you have clients that are attempting to articulate a truth, but that truth has so many shades of gray and subtleties, how do you help them get that message across?
Susan Harrow: It is like taking war and peace and shifting it into haiku. It's a whole other language.
Melinda Wittstock: Wow.
Susan Harrow: It's another language. Because … You know, when we talk about the medium is the message. It's different for radio, TV, and print. TV is the shortest, radio you might have 30 to 45 seconds max, and then print you have a little bit more latitude, or a podcast, you have more latitude in a podcast to expand. We have to take the medium into consideration and then the sound bites are what I call modular, from 10 seconds to 45 seconds or 30 seconds. We have to make the modular. We have to work within the form. Where you can tell the story with all these different shades is like in a speech. I have all these clients who are speakers and they're used to telling a story in 45 minutes. I have had speakers like that and I'm like, “Okay, we've got to take the 45 minutes and put it into 45 seconds or put it into the 10 seconds.” That's a huge challenge. It's a whole different medium and structure.
We want to be able to savor the nuance and put some of it in while moving the story forward. My sweetie is a screen writer and he has a hard time reading novels because they're so meandering. Screen writing is so tight. It is like a poem where every line means something. I remember him, just the other day, saying to me, “Oh my gosh, page after page. There's all of this meandering in this novel. I just want to know what happened next.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Susan Harrow: I totally get that. Media is like, “What happened next?”
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Susan Harrow: When you have a story that's nuanced, it may be you're in a speaking engagement or in a keynote where you have the latitude to have that. Media just is not the place where there's a lot of room for subtlety [inaudible 00:32:10
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. It's so important though for women in business and entrepreneurs, executives, innovators, leaders, to really have a strong personal brand, to get their messages out in this noisy marketplace where there's so much noise and infobesity, I call it.
Susan Harrow: What do you call it?
Melinda Wittstock: I call it “infobesity”.
Susan Harrow: Oh, that's funny. I like it. Infobesity.
Melinda Wittstock: There are so many empty information calories, right?
Susan Harrow: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: They're too hard to discern what's true, what's not true. We've got all this sort of fake news going on right now. We have all this stuff happening. On a … From a perspective of being a thought leader and standing out with a uniquely differentiated message and building that over time is part of what an entrepreneur has to do to succeed, but it's not easy. What are the, I suppose, the most important tips that you could provide. For women who have taken the lead into entrepreneurship and they're building their own thing and they may be at the early stages, or they may have made a million bucks, but now it's time to scale and they've really got to scale their personal brand as well. In either of scenarios, what are your top three go-to pieces of advice when it comes to just developing a really resonant personal brand?
Susan Harrow: Yeah, I think the first thing is that everything you do, say, are, and think needs to be in alignment with your brand. Your website, your products, they all need to feel like you. What my friend, Carolina, who's a brand expert talks about personal branding for the CEO and personal branding for the company. They have to connect. Whether you're the face of the company and whether it's just you or you have an entire company, that feeling or that alignment needs to be consistent through all mediums. I work with thought leaders in a seven step proprietary process so you might just want to hear even just three things, but they're actually seven steps.
I think that the first thing is like … I'll run through the seven steps and then I want to tell you a story about one of my clients and the problem with this. The first things is presence. It's your … It's what you bring to the table, your past experience, who you are. That's what you had asked me about too, a while ago. When you're in a room, are people going to interrupt you? Does it matter who you are? It does, because some people have the presence of coffee girl and other people have the presence of Maya Angelou. A friend and I were talking about Maya Angelou. Nobody would approach Maya Angelou and try to give her a hug. No way.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Susan Harrow: We were talking about that, we were like, “Do you think people would want to hug … No.” She's got like, “No, do not touch me,” right? The second thing is sound bites. The third is opinions. This is one of the most important things, is to establish your opinions, your style, and your stature. Four, is originality. That's how you package yourself. Five, is controversy. Are there things that you stand for, things that you stand against? Statistics, which is what is happening in the world; the facts, the case studies, the statistics, and then the research. Do you have our own original data, or have you somehow used someone else's data in a new way, or explained it in such a way? Those are the seven steps.
I have a client who's a doctor and she wanted to do speaking engagements and then she says, “I'm not sure what I'm going to speak out.” One of the first things I asked her to do is, “Well, what do you feel strongly about? What do you have opinions about?” When you say, “How do you differentiate yourself?” First way you differentiate yourself is with your opinions. It doesn't just mean like, “Oh, I think this is wrong, I think this is right,” it's like development of how you think about the world. Then you want to package that. When I wrote “Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul”, I have an opinion. You can't do that. You can sell yourself without selling your soul. Maybe people didn't believe that you could. I was going against the fact that you can be yourself and still be successful no matter who or what you are and no matter what. You can be authentic and successful no matter how different you are from everyone else.
Melinda Wittstock: That's such …
Susan Harrow: Make a stand on that, you know?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Susan Harrow: Now, it's much more common. When I wrote the book, I think it was 2009, there was no such thing as conscious entrepreneurship. By the way, my editor didn't want me to … I said, “I'm actually … She goes, “You're not writing a lifestyle book,” and I said, “Actually, I am.” She goes, “You're writing a marketing book.” I'm like, “No, I'm actually writing a lifestyle book because I think that the way you treat the mailman and the dog is the way … Is important in how your run your business. I think it is all important.” That is a very long sound byte on branding.
Melinda Wittstock: It's a very good one as well. It's very, very good advice. I'm curious, Susan, how you got into this to begin with? What was the thing that made you want to build and run Harrow Communications for all these years?
Susan Harrow: I did not have a business plan. I am like … I am of the believe that you … I have something in my office that says “Show Me the Next Step”. That's what I ask for every day, “Show me the next step. The next little step.” What should I do next? What should I do next? What should I do next? Do I have kind of a grand plan? Yes, but even with True Shield Verbal Self Defense For Girls, I was just talking to a gal the other day who I wanted to hire to do my sales and eventually run the training teams of the coaches and everybody who I'm planning in the future to have, like a whole team of trainers, which doesn't exist yet. She's like … She started asking me all these questions about the structure of the company. That's the new part of my company. My other part I've been doing for 28 years, right? I was like, “Structure? Company?” It's like, I'm like growing it on the fly. I'm like, “I'm going to hire you and then we're going to grow this part, and then you're going to grow into that, and then I'll figure out the systems for this, and then I'll put this in place.”
No, have I been about that? Yes. Do I know how to do it? No. Will I get help when I'm at that stage? Yes. When I started licensing this program, I didn't know anything about the legal documents. My mentor turned me onto his law firm who's Bill Gates' father who did the legal documents. Well, I didn't have any idea what those would look like. Each one of those steps, I take it as it comes. If I looked at the whole thing of everything I needed to do, I don't think I would move one inch.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Susan Harrow: I set out what I need to do in the near future and then sort of back it out. Back out how long is it going to take me? What do I need to do? How do I move that down to a to-do list? What can I delegate? I sort of track backwards.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Two really important points there, I think. One is, not allowing ourselves to get overwhelmed. If you start out any business … I think all my businesses, I've started with the concept of, “Oh, how hard can this be?” If I really had thought it through, there'd be so many things that would keep you from doing it. You can have your North Star, your ultimate mission, but have these kind of near term milestones along the way that kind of keep you sane and stop you from being in overwhelm, I think is so, so important. What's next for you? Where do you go next? How do you see Harrow Communications evolving and your work evolving in the next five, ten years? What's the big vision?
Susan Harrow: Well, the big vision … I mean, my big vision is for women to … My motto is “speak your mind, stand your grand, sing your song”. I really … I've been working with women all these years and then I wanted to bring the True Shield program to girls. Now, I want to expand it back out to women so I actually just pitched a book title to my agent and have a whole plan to sort of develop that book into courses and programs for women, and a team of trainers, and licensing it countrywide and then worldwide. Even though True Shield is still a new program, it's already in one other country outside of the United States. It's on its way to going to Dubai. You know what I mean? One, little thing at a time.
For me, I was just in conversation brainstorming with a very smart internet who's multi-multi-millionaire who's super smart. We were just sort of brainstorming all of my next steps around the book. The book is the basis of this new movement of verbal self defense for women and girls. What are all of the, what we were just talking about? How to back out and back into what does the company look like to support that to get this out there? My grand vision is for every women to be able to speak her mind, stand her grand, and sing her song. Be able to speak up in situation, be able to speak up for herself and others, and stay safe. No only stay safe, but know how to not just speak up for herself, but know how to protect herself both physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. All of those things.
I do think that it takes practice and it takes the practice physically and verbally. That's the key and that's why I still do Aikido because it's a daily practice, and then my work in media training and marketing strategic planning is also a daily practice for me, and earing the issues of women and what comes up in order to be able to be that entrepreneur to be able to accomplish her goals.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that's beautiful. Susan, how can people find you and work with you?
Susan Harrow: Prsecrets.com. I have lots of free things on the site. Go under Free Goodies or just go to prsecrets.com. There are also … We talked just for a minute about the Prevent Sexual Assault Vault. There's actually training videos on there right now, all free, for you to start speaking up for yourself in different scenarios. I just tried to pick some common scenarios that you can start to do some of that training right now before my book is out, before the actual book comes out you can still start your training right now.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that's wonderful. Thank you so much for that generous offer and it was a delight to talk to you. Thank you.
Susan Harrow: You too.
Melinda Wittstock: Thank you for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Susan Harrow: Thank you for inviting me. I so appreciate it.