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How to become notable and quotable with Shanita Akintonde, CEO of Shanita Speaks

By On Top of PR

On Top of PR podcast: Making your company notable & quotable with guest Shanita Akintonde and host Jason Mudd episode graphic

In this episode, Shanita Akintonde, CEO of ShanitaSpeakes, joins host Jason Mudd to talk about how you can sell your company’s sizzle. She describes how to build anticipation and brand loyalty for your company as well as ways to make your company notable and quotable. She provides examples of large brands selling themselves successfully and explains how you can do it for your company too.


Tune in to learn more!


Watch the episode here


5 things you’ll learn during the full episode:

  1. How to sell the anticipation of your brand and company
  2. PR best practices that infuse branding strategies 
  3. Big brand concepts to borrow as a PR pro 
  4. How to borrow those big-brand concepts for your own company 
  5. Time-tested traditional and nontraditional ways to ensure PR success


Additional Resources:

Additional Resources from Axia Public Relations:

Disclosure: One or more of the links we shared here might be affiliate links that offer us a referral reward when you buy from them.



[01:55] Selling the “sizzle”

  • “Sizzle” means consumers’ sense of wanting what brands can do, which helps get consumers to buy from a brand. 
  • It’s almost like the anticipation before a big, delicious meal. 

[04:00] PR best practices that infuse branding strategies

Shanita: “Being true to themselves as a brand and also being true to their consumers creates a perfect creme brulee because it allows for the authenticity of the brand to shine on the consumers in a way that lets them be their best selves.” 


[07:35] Big brand concepts to borrow

  • We can learn from big brands that PR pros need to focus on how they make consumers feel.
  • During the first few seconds of any form of media (ads, news releases, b-roll) consumers will determine if they’re interested in what you stand for as a company.
  • Brand loyalty is key, and not everything has immediate results, but long-term effects.
    • Examples: KFC and McDonald’s Happy Meals
    • Procter & Gamble
      • The Talk & The Look
  • Immediate connections to the brand – for example, jingles

Shanita: “Don't be afraid of a multimedia approach to getting the word out.”


Jason: “One thing that Mickey D's was also doing really well there, whether it was intentional or not, was you were associating it with fun activities where your heart rate was increasing because you're exercising and that creates endorphins and other positive feelings with the song or the jingle. So that's like the 1, 2, 3 knockout punch. I love it.”


[17:01] Time-tested traditional and nontraditional ways to ensure PR success 

Shanita: “It's not about what people are thinking about us in our brands, it's how we make them feel.”

Shanita: “The written word is so powerful; it's even more powerful in some cases than the spoken word because I can go back and revisit it and look at it and hold it close.”

  • Big, successful brands are able to “capture the lightning rod in the bottle”

Shanita: “Being notable and quotable is about changing the world.”

About Shanita Akintonde

Shanita Akintonde is a firecracker communicator propelled by love. Born in Germany and raised on the South Side of Chicago, this educator, author, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expert is president of ShanitaSpeaks, LLC, a media enterprise that energizes clients to lead, listen, and love better. Shanita parlays her vast integrated marketing experience gleaned from working on global brands like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and P&G, into messages that reach audiences ranging from South Africa to San Francisco; Houston to Hawaii; Baltimore to Boston; and Ottawa to Ohio, including from her No. 1-ranked podcast, “Marketing Insights.”


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- [Narrator] Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer.


- Hello and welcome to On Top of PR. I'm your host, Jason Mudd with Axia Public Relations, and I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for being here. I'm glad to be here and I'm glad you are too. Something new that we are doing actually, is we want to thank Audible for supporting our podcast and videocast and our audience with a special offer that you will find in the episode notes. So thank you Audible for your support of On Top of PR, and thank you for those who might want to explore that link and learn more about how you can get a free trial of Audible. To that end, we've got an exciting episode today. We are joined by Shanita Akintonde and she is with ShanitaSpeaks. And Shanita, welcome to the show. Shanita, welcome to the show.


- Thank you Jason. Good to be here. 


- Well, I'm glad you're here. We were just talking before we pressed record. We've been working on scheduling this for a while, but it has finally come together and we appreciate your patience as our show has just continued to grow and comes from having great guests like yourself today.


- Thank you.


- Yeah, so real quick, I want to introduce you. You are an international speaker, author, and educator who has recently retired. Congratulations on your retirement from education, and now you are focusing on your speaking and your authoring and still educating by those platforms, correct?


- That is correct.


- Yeah. OK, excellent, excellent. So our topic today is “selling the sizzle.” I love that. How to make brands notable and quotable. So thank you for joining us today, and why don't we just dive in real quick and, and tell us kind of your vision for what we're going to cover today as far as “selling the sizzle.”


- Well, thank you again, Jason, for having me. I'm thrilled. As I like to say, I'm elephant-ear elated and popcorn-pleased. And being that I am in the Windy City, popcorn is a big deal here, especially a place called Garrett's Popcorn. So if you've not had the caramel and the cheese combo, I'll send you some Jason, it's to die for.


- [Jason] Oh, I'm going to hold you up for that.


- You better. No problem, no problem. But to talk about what we are here to discuss today, which is selling the sizzle, I am a foodie, as you notice, I used like just now three different food analogies with popcorn and I'm talking to you before we got on camera about some things. The idea of selling the sizzle is really the anticipation of a good meal and the fact that when we, whether we are hungry at the moment or down the line after we get a sense of, of the sense of smelling the aromas from coming from the kitchen or the barbecue grill or wherever it is, there is something that whets our appetite. And so what I've done with this particular topic is parlay that sense of anticipation, that sense of wanting to what brands can do to attract their consumers and to hopefully get them to remain loyal to them.


- Very nice. I like that. I liked the illustration and analogy to food. Yesterday I was at a meeting and they, the person when they invited me to the meeting, they said, "Hey, you have to order your meal ahead of time, so what would you like?" And I was like, "Lunch is my favorite topic. I'm happy to dive into that." So, and then as you were talking about food, I just checked my watch or my phone. I'm doing intermittent fasting, so I checked to see, I've got two more hours. So by the time we're done here, I'll have just enough time to figure out what I'm going to do for lunch, so ...


- Yes.


- Yeah. And so this episode airs several weeks after we record it, so just for the record, today is Aug. 18 as we'll talk about some timely topics and different things, I want our audience to understand that it's Aug. 18, 2022, when we're originally recording this. OK, so let's talk about PR best practices that infuse branding strategies.


- So here is the wonderful thing about public relations, and I will answer you succinctly in two seconds, Jason. Public relations to me is a convergence of all the things that are happening in our culture, whether it be from a media platform, landscape music or entertainment, politics, community, dealing with things big and small as I like to say. And so when you look at the brands that do it the best, meaning infusing branding practices into their public relations practice, the ones that that really stand head and shoulders amongst the competition are those that, that do what my great-grandmother would call “from the rooter to the tooter.” Meaning they understand from a base level who their constituents are, who their consumers are, who their brand loyalists are, but they also are very confident in that they know who they are. They understand without any type of quavering or quivering or sizzling in a negative way, the fact that they need to remain true to their brand. And we'll talk more about that in the broadcast today. And I think the marriage of those two things, being true to themselves as a brand and also being true to their consumers creates a perfect creme brulee because it allows for the authenticity of the brand to shine on the consumers in a way that lets them be their best selves. So two quick examples. I do a podcast called Marketing Insights and I recently completed a two-part version on the LGBTQ+ community and talking to brands about how they don't want to just use June, Pride Month, to be the only time that they amplify the voices of members of that community or those who love them. And one brand that does it very well is Oreo. Oreo has very specifically and very intentionally in my opinion, taken their packaging, taken their product, and placed it literally in the hands of consumers, but in a way that shows their real intention again, to be connected to that demographic. And one simple way they've done it from a branding perspective is how they put certain colors on the packaging. And we have to stay away from only thinking, stamping a rainbow on a package is enough, but it does work. So they have done that, but they've also branded the particular cookie product itself with the word proud. Things like that allow us to see and feel and touch, right? What it is that brands are really committed to. I'll give you one more example and I'll talk about this brand more as we go through today, but the second is Disney. Disney, interestingly enough, just had a recent sort of debacle with members of the LGBTQ+ community from an employee standpoint, but Disney being Disney, y'all, they fixed it. So it's all good now, but from a branding perspective what Disney has done very well is they understand the importance of what people feel when they come to a Disney theme park. Whether in Orlando, which I recently just returned from, celebrating their 50 years. Or California or Paris, wherever Disney is and you've been Jason, you know, you’ve got to ride the teacup. I don't care how old you are because we understand the importance of how people feel and that connection to branding.


- Yeah. Fabulous. So I also understand that you're going to share some big brand concepts or concepts from big brands that we all know that PR pros are encouraged to borrow from.


- Steal.


- [Jason] Steal? OK. Steal away.


- I say “steal” shamelessly, but still “steal” in a sense that we're going to be above, right? We're going to let them know we're stealing it. So here's what I say, everything is fair game, and back to my earlier point about public relations being a convergence of all these various touch points. What we can learn from brands like Disney as I just mentioned about how what we do as public relations practitioners needs to be steeped in the way we make people feel. We can borrow that or steal that from our advertising aunties and uncles. What we also can steal is this concept of the first few seconds of anything, whether you're looking at an ad or reading a news release or looking at b-roll, people are going to determine whether or not they're interested in what you stand for. And then lastly, I think, and probably most importantly, when we look at what our branding individuals also get is that there is something that is long-term, like extended. It doesn't have to be everything, meaning right now we have to get immediate buy-in. There's something that, that's the maturity of things, letting it mature and and understanding that brand loyalty, which is one of my buzz words, is so key. And we can borrow that from a public relations perspective so that we don't have to work so hard on the back end. So we kind of push our intentions on the front end, build up that loyalty using our PR practice skills and watch the long-term effects take place.


- You know, as a sidebar, you're reminding me that we recently wrote in our monthly newsletter called “60-Second Impact” about how KFC has uncovered some research that children begin to adopt brand loyalty preferences by the age 13. So they have started swinging low in the age to try to get kids, you know, the equivalency of like a Happy Meal-type experience. So they start to prefer KFC early in their consumer life cycle and they believe that will create a permanent, you know, brand loyalty to KFC. Have you heard about this?


- I've not heard about the KFC loyalty piece, but can I just say, having worked for McDonald's the brand on an agency side for many years and just also continuing to be a student of Hamburger University, what I'm happy to hear is, it's about time KFC, because McDonald's has long known, long known that when you get those babies. My sons, I have two sons, they're now 20- almost 26 and 22, soon to be. But when they were children – younger children, because they're always my children – but when they were younger they were under 6 and they could identify those golden arches and say "Happy Meal,” right? Yeah, they knew; I mean, they didn't say it probably that well, but I knew what they were saying. Right?


- Exactly. And I have similar stories with my children. I think, you know, obviously, if you put kids in front of a screen of any type, that's when they start to associate brands, you know, the brands of the show, the brands of the fast food or the logos they might drive past by down the street. So yeah, those are the first brands that kids start to recognize for sure. I'll make a note to make sure in our episode notes we put a link to that KFC article and for our “60-Second Impact” newsletter. Let's see. And so, did you have additional examples from McDonald's or-


- Yes, I can, I have an additional example, but I can also elaborate on a little bit of what I was saying about the sizzle and anticipation. The other thing that McDonald's has done very well, and I don't know if this was intentional at the front end or it just happened by, you know, the consumer reactions. But back to that Happy Meal analogy, not only do the children get excited, or in my kids' case example, when they saw the golden arches, they wanted that Happy Meal box because what that box represented both metaphorically and literally was a surprise. They knew that when they opened that box, in addition to the meal itself, there was going to be a toy in there. And so that is what this idea of “sizzling” is. And I mentioned the grilling of something.


- [Jason] Right. The anticipation is almost even better than the, than the actual product. So that's what McDonald's has again been able to do very well.


- Very nice. I like that. 


- You also had an example from Proctor & Gamble that you wanted to share?


- Yes. So Proctor & Gamble, and I say this back to my conversation about what we can learn and what we as PR practitioners can take from, I said steal, from our cousins here. Proctor & Gamble is a very fundamental case study on what can happen when you pay things forward and you really look at just building brand awareness and not necessarily only focusing on selling. What Proctor & Gamble has done, particularly in light of Black Lives Matter and other societal issues that have come up in recent times, is because they had been paying it forward prior to, they were just able to really build on what already existed from a brand loyalty base. And so their commercials, if you go back and take a look, the talk, there's one called The Talk, there's one called The Look. Really poignant and powerful messaging that just reinforces them. And I think moms and dads all around the globe really rewarded them with purchasing even more of their products.


- We'll put those links in the episode notes also to make it easy for our audience to check those out. All right, well we're going to take a quick break here and we're going to come back with more, including another McDonald's example, as well as discussing time-tested traditional and nontraditional ways to ensure PR success. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


- [Narrator] You're listening to "On Top Of PR" with your host Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted adviser to some of America's most admired and fastest-growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social, and web strategies for national companies. And now, back to the show.


- Welcome back to On Top Of PR. I'm your host, Jason Mudd, and we're going to continue this conversation here. We're going to explore time-tested traditional and nontraditional ways to ensure PR success. But first, we want to talk about one more example from McDonald's.


- Yes. So as I mentioned, I wear two hats when it comes to McDonald's, not only from the advertising marketing perspective when I worked for them in different agencies, but as a parent, as a mom with my kids growing up, and also myself as a kid growing up. I mean, who didn't love McDonald's, especially like their ice cream cones? But here's the example that I want to give. When we look at public relations as an aggregate as a whole, we know that as public relations practitioners, the advantage that we have, one of them is that we have what is built into us and built into our DNA is that we have the, the credibility in a different way than our advertising colleagues. But one of the things that we can borrow from our advertising colleagues is this idea of that immediate connection in six to eight seconds. And so what they have in advertising are what are known as jingles. And I bring that up because I want to say to all of you listening, public relations folks, don't be afraid of a multimedia approach to getting the word out, in addition to our, you know, our news packets, our news releases and things that we've been talking about, but using sound, using music. And I say that because as a kid growing up with McDonald's, and this is me talking about myself, don't ask me the year, we don't have that much time on the video broadcast today. But as a kid growing up, we played something called Double Dutch Jump Rope in my neighborhood.


- [Jason] Sure, yeah.


- And we sang songs to the beat of jumping. Now what I didn't realize is that they were jingles and that was my first introduction to advertising. I just knew it was rhythmic. So we would say ♪ Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish, Quarter Pounder ♪ ♪ French fry, I see Coke, Thick Shake Sunday, and apple pie ♪ That is the menu for McDonald's essentially. We were saying it, we were singing it, it was embedded here. And so as public relations practitioners, what can we do that we embed, not just here but here for our audiences –


- [Jason] In your mind and heart, yeah.


- That is what's going to connect people to our brands. So I just want to toss that out as one last example from McDonald's, or as we called them, Mickey D's.


- Well one thing that Mickey D's was also doing really well there, whether it was intentional or not, was you were associating fun activities, right? And where your heart rate is increasing because you're exercising and that creates endorphins and other positive feelings with the sound or the song or the jingle, right? So that's like the 1, 2, 3 knockout punch. I love it. That's right. Excellent, excellent. So we're going to talk about time-tested traditional and nontraditional ways to ensure PR success. I also know that we probably want to talk about some ways that brands can be quotable, and I don't want to miss our opportunity to make sure we're clear to our audience of what those opportunities might be. So, but let's first talk about time-tested traditional and nontraditional ways to ensure PR success.


- Sure. So I am an author of some books, as you heard Jason say, one of which I'm a contributing author to, is called "Leading From The Heart." My chapter in this book talks about, as I talk about in a lot of my writing, if you all know me or you will know me hopefully after this broadcast, is a woman called Lucille Jones. And Lucille Jones is my maternal great-grandmother. I talk about her in the present tense even though she passed away in 1987 because she's still with me and we converse on a regular basis. She's the one that I get a lot of these time-tested tips that I share in my podcast, on video interviews like this, my writings, et cetera. Because what she taught me with her third-grade education from a rocking chair on her front porch with the water tobacco stuffed in her cheek and that spit can right across from her that she hit every time with perfect, I mean perfect, precision, are things that I want to share with you. And that is, as I mentioned a moment ago, it's not about what people are thinking about us in our brands, it's how we make them feel. And the wonderful thing about public relations is that we can do that in so many different ways. The written word is so powerful, it's even more powerful in some cases than the spoken word because I can go back and revisit it and look at it and hold it close to my heart as I do with books. So know that. The second is, when we are thinking about that sizzling that we've been talking about, what my Great Grand would do is go in her kitchen and stir a pot of greens or make a sweet potato pie and inviting a piece of that pie or eating those greens, the endorphins that Jason was talking about, were just like electric shocks. We want people to have that experience with our brands. And I know that may sound a little bit lofty or for some it may seem a bit out of place, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that those brands that are successful that we've been talking about, the McDonald's of the world, the Disney's of the world, the Proctor and Gambles of the world, they are able to capture that. It's like capturing the lightning, what is it? The lightning rod in the bottle. That's what we should be aiming for. Last point, Leo Burnett Agency, which I never worked for, but I worked with because of McDonald's and my work on Proctor & Gamble and other brands. They had a grid, I don't know if they still do, it was like a Likert scale. I'm not going to quote the name of it, but I will tell you the point I'm about to make. There was a number chart of 1 through 10, and every ad that they created at this time, they measured against this chart. One being, you know, it's OK, kind of ... And No. 10 being “change the world.”


- [Jason] Right.


- Meaning they wanted their ads to go for that “change the world” mantra. And so that is what I say to us as public relations practitioners. That's what being notable and quotable is about, changing the world.


- OK, I love that. I love that. Well, this has been a great episode. Our time has run out. Let me ask you, you have two books, correct?


- Yes.


- OK, and the second one is?


- Here it is, bam. Thank you, Jason. This is why I love you. So this is called "When Leadership Fails." And I know the cover can be a little off-putting, but what it is about is what happens when you have a leadership team that doesn't do what it needs to do. And we can apply that to brands and my chapter focuses on what we can do to change that. So mentoring and introducing young people in particular to the dynamic is how I discuss as an anecdote to that.


- And both of these books are available on Amazon?


- Correct.


- OK. Amazon.


- So we'll put links to, to the books in the show notes, episode notes, as well. And then, also I understand that you offer and are available for workshops. Tell our audience a little bit more about that.


- Sure. So if you go to shanitaspeaks.com and there's a form there you can complete and you can reach out to me, I can tell you about the workshops I offer, one of which is called “Selling the Sizzle: How to Make Yourself Notable and Quotable,” which we've been talking about today, and some others. And you can also check me out on my podcast, “Marketing Insights,” through McGraw Hill. So I know Jason will share those links with you all.


- Absolutely. We'll be glad to do that and we're glad you were here and sharing your smarts with our audience today. And if you're watching this episode and you think that there's a colleague or a friend in the industry that you want to share this episode with, I hope you will do that and take the time to share that episode. Also, we can find you on LinkedIn and we'll be sure to put those links in the episode notes as well. So this has been another episode of On Top of PR. I'm your host, Jason Mudd with Axia, and we're really glad you tuned in. Like I said earlier, if you can think of a friend or colleague who would benefit from this episode, please take a moment and share it with them. They'll be glad you did and I'll be glad you did too. Otherwise, it's our pleasure to help you stay On Top Of PR.


- [Narrator] This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. And check out past shows at ontopofpr.com.


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About your host Jason Mudd

On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies.


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