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Home » It’s Not Manipulation, It’s Strategic Communication: Keisha Brewer (Transcript)

It’s Not Manipulation, It’s Strategic Communication: Keisha Brewer (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript and summary of Strategic Communications professional Keisha Brewer’s talk: It’s Not Manipulation, It’s Strategic Communication at TEDxGeorgetown.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Keisha Brewer – CEO of the PR Alliance LLC

Good morning; good morning. I’m excited to be your first speaker of today.

By a show of hands, how many of you have heard of the phrase: it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.

Do you remember the person who told that to you? Tell them they lied. Repeat after me:

What you say is just as important as how you say it.

Your turn.

What you say is just as important as how you say it. And that is called Strategic Communications.

And strategic communications is probably the very thing you’ve been needing this entire time to help you get what you need out of life.

See, most people stop going after the bigger things that they want in life simply, because well they’re just not getting it.

But what they don’t realize is that they’re causing some sort of resistance in the way that they’re communicating, that’s helping them not get what they want out of life.

How many of you have been in the situation where no matter how much you talk and talk and tell someone your viewpoint they’re just not getting it, right?

No matter how much you change your approach and your delivery, they’re just not understanding your viewpoint, whether that’s to a family member, whether that’s to your spouse, whether that’s to your boss, they’re just not getting it. I think we’ve all experienced that type of frustration.

Today I’m going to give you the tools to strategically communicate through all of those issues and combat that resistance. And I’m going to do that first by taking you through two parallel situations, very real situations to me; one personal and one professional, starting with professional.

So I started my career in communications a few years ago, starting with news writing and reporting; then going on to advertising specialist, then landing a job as a communications specialist.

In my communications specialist role, I was able to do things such as email marketing, mission-driven partnerships, writing speeches for the CEO, things of that nature.

On the first day of my communication specialist role, my boss said, ‘I know this is a lot, it’s your first day you’re supposed to be doing paperwork things of that nature, but do you mind if you reach out to Google and see if they can land a partnership with our next event next month?’

And I’m like you’re right, that’s a very big ask for the first day. I am supposed to be doing paperwork, we’re at HR.

So either way it’s my job, right, it’s the first day, you want to make a big impression, I shoot my shot; that’s millennial talk for just get it done.

And so I look up Google’s mission, I figure out what they’re interested in, the type of partnerships that they’re interested in, then I think about my company’s mission, what type of partnerships are we interested in, what is our mission, what are we trying to convey?

I wrap that up into an email, I send it to their communications department, I express the need, send it on its way.

Transition into my personal life. I get home and I’m scrolling on Instagram like us millennials do, and I get a DM from my friend Jessica, and she’s like, oh my gosh, Keisha, the guy I like just DMed me.

I’m like okay.

She’s like and he liked my picture on Instagram.

Okay. So what do you want to do now?

She’s like, well you’re a communication specialist now; teach me how to communicate with him. As if that’s what we do right.

So I’m like okay, well I’ll go with it. What’s the goal? What do you want him to do? What do you want to get out of the conversation?

She says well I want him to be my boyfriend.

Again it was a like on Instagram right how far are we going to take this?

But I let her keep going and I’m like, okay so what do you know about this man?

She’s like well I know that our values, they pretty much go together because on his Instagram, I see that he posts music and I like music and he likes food and I like food and he likes his mom, I like my mom.

And I’m like okay, sure fine okay.

And I’m like out of all the people on Instagram that he’s engaging with, why you?

And she goes on to tell me about how she thinks their missions of being successful in the entertainment industry will align.

All right.

So here’s what I tell her to do. Slide into his DM, that’s millennial talk for send a private message, and just organically have a conversation like you normally would, allow him to organically express his values, allow him to organically express his interest and then you express yours and see how they mutually align. At the end of it see if you guys can go out, hang out, grab a drink or something.


Long story short, six months later, here they are. I played matchmaker, kudos to me.

Moving on into my professional life, I go back to work the next day and my boss is like Keisha, remember how I told you to email Google about that partnership.

Yeah less than 12 hours ago.

She’s like well they emailed us this morning and they said they actually want to partner on the event.

And it was at that very moment that I realized, I need a raise. But it was also at that moment that I realized I just strategically communicated into very different scenarios using the same exact method, and that method is what I’m going to share with you today.

Now let’s take a step back.

What does strategic communications really mean? How many of you have taken a strategic communications class or communications course by a show of hands?

Great. So what you probably learned is something along the lines of strategic communications is communicating the best message through the right channels, measured against well considered organizational communication specific goals. Great, right.

But through my two scenarios which you can probably see is that strategic communications is simply communicating with purpose, while showcasing value in order to achieve a goal.

And at the heart of it all, strategic communications helps you evoke specific responses out of your target audience, whether that be a spouse, a love interest, your boss. And in those responses it helps you get what you want out of the situation as well.

Now you can also be thinking is she teaching us how to manipulate people, maybe, but not really because strategic communications creates mutually beneficial situations. Strategic communications allows both parties to feel like they’re getting what they want out of the deal, okay.

So if you were paying attention, here’s what I did in both scenarios to help them get what they want out of the situation.

Number one: I identified the goal. In the professional situation the goal was to land the partnership with Google. In the personal situation the goal was to land the boyfriend.

Step two: Understand your audience. In the professional situation I researched everything about Google to understand what type of partnerships they’d like to align with. In the personal situation, I was able to allow Jessica to go into his Instagram and say what does he like to do, understand what his values are.

Step three: Communicate the value. Communicating the value in the partnership with Google look like helping them understand what they get out of a partnership with us. In the personal situation she communicated what value their interests would have with one another.

And step four: Express the need. In both situations I was able to use the value that they both share to express the need that they both want.

And so by doing this, and using this method, I’m able to combat the resistance commonly felt when people are communicating through challenges.

Even like today, I was able to use strategic communication standing right here on this stage and not because I was able to memorize my lines on hearing speech and not because I was able to put together this presentation, but because I took you through those same four steps standing right here.

Number one: I identified the goal which was to get you guys to understand what strategic communications really was.

Two, I took the time to understand my audience by asking you guys two questions to help me know who was in the room today.

Step three, I communicated the value of what strategic communications can do in your life.

In Step four, I expressed the need for why you need strategic communications.

And see, usually the reason why people are faced with a lot of resistance in the way that they’re communicating is because they’re skipping these four steps or at least one of them.

For example, if you don’t identify the goal, you’ll be speaking without purpose. You ever had those conversations where you realize it started off one way and it ended another and you’re trying to figure out how you even got there; didn’t identify the goal.

Step three, I was able to communicate the value and then express the need here on this stage.

Why do you need strategic communications? Why this is going to help you in your life and how you can combat that resistance?

So at the heart of it all, realize it’s not what you say… what you say is just as important as how you say it.

Thank you.

Want a summary of this talk? Here it is.


Keisha Brewer’s talk, titled “It’s Not Manipulation, It’s Strategic Communication,” delivers a compelling message about the power and importance of purposeful communication in both personal and professional contexts. In her talk, she outlines key principles and provides real-life examples to drive home her points:

1. The Power of Communication: Keisha begins by highlighting the age-old adage, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it,” but challenges its validity. She encourages her audience to reject this notion and replace it with the idea that “what you say is just as important as how you say it.”

2. Strategic Communications Defined: Keisha defines strategic communication as a method that involves communicating with purpose while showcasing value to achieve a specific goal. It’s a way to evoke specific responses from a target audience, ultimately benefiting both parties.

3. Identifying Goals: One of the fundamental steps in strategic communication is to identify the goal. This step ensures that your communication serves a purpose and isn’t aimless.

4. Understanding Your Audience: Keisha emphasizes the importance of tailoring your message to your audience’s needs, interests, and values. Knowing your audience allows for a stronger connection and a more resonant message.

5. Communicating Value: In both personal and professional situations, Keisha illustrates how to communicate the value of your message. This involves highlighting the benefits or value that your communication brings to both parties, encouraging cooperation.

6. Expressing the Need: Keisha stresses the significance of clearly conveying why your communication is essential and how it can address the needs of both parties. This fosters understanding and cooperation.

7. Examples from Personal and Professional Life: Keisha shares two vivid examples from her own life. One involves securing a partnership with Google on her first day as a communications specialist, while the other revolves around helping a friend establish a romantic connection. These stories serve as concrete illustrations of how strategic communication can yield positive outcomes.

8. Avoiding Resistance: Keisha points out that resistance in communication often arises when people skip one or more of these key steps. By following the four-step process (goal identification, audience understanding, value communication, and need expression), individuals can combat resistance effectively.

9. The Ethical Aspect: While some might question whether strategic communication borders on manipulation, Keisha clarifies that it fosters mutually beneficial situations. It allows both parties to feel they are getting what they want out of the interaction, emphasizing the ethical foundation of this approach.

10. A Strong Conclusion: Keisha concludes her talk by reiterating her central message: “It’s not what you say… what you say is just as important as how you say it.” She leaves the audience with a clear understanding of the significance of strategic communication in their personal and professional lives.

In her engaging and insightful talk, Keisha Brewer provides a practical framework for improving communication effectiveness. She showcases how applying strategic communication principles can lead to better outcomes, all while emphasizing the ethical aspect of building mutually beneficial connections. Keisha’s message resonates with anyone looking to enhance their communication skills and achieve their goals.

For Further Reading:

Communication in the 21st Century: Is It What You Say, Not How You Say It: Vivian Ta (Transcript)

The 110 Techniques of Communication & Public Speaking: David JP Phillips (Transcript)

Louise Evans: Own Your Behaviours, Master Your Communication, Determine Your Success (Transcript)

Think Fast, Talk Smart Communication Techniques by Matt Abrahams (Full Transcript)

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