Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is your social media style open or closed?

I keep running into businesses and organizations that run to the extremes of social media: Those that let a thousand flowers bloom, with many projects or departments or units having their own social feeds, and those that mandate one page for everybody. They're either wide-open or tightly closed, generous or controlled, conversational or super-scripted.

I'm never an advocate for trying all social media at once, particularly if you don't know why you're on any particular network. Or, as I like to say to my clients, "I can support you doing nothing  or just one thing on social media, as long as you've thought it through, tried it, and can tell me why it is strategic for you to take that approach." The small size of your staff, company or organization might well mandate just one social presence, or none. But I'm talking about larger organizations here, those with many moving parts.

Of course, organizations and companies aim to control the message on social media for all sorts of reasons that have little to nothing to do with actually communicating. It's easier (and it's much easier for your PR firm or consultant) and time-saving if you only have one Facebook page instead of the 87 that your organization's sub-units could produce. It supposedly controls the message, although in practice, that's tough to do these days.

Your version of a closed approach to social media doesn't have to involve many units. It might be your lurker-but-not-poster participation, or a decided "no personal sharing" policy, two personal ways of controlling (or omitting) your message.

These closed approaches may not just be controls on the system. They also can be the sign of a fixed mindset, not one geared to growth, an attempt to make Facebook or other social networks a stone tablet rather than moving stream of info. There's an echo of the old command-and-control approach to communications in an age where that's just not relevant anymore, a vestige of an easier time for the message controlling types. And if social media has taught us anything, it's the open mindset, the risky one, that leads to great growth and opportunity. So like life.

This put me in mind of a Brain Pickings post about the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, who studies fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. Dweck writes, "Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics." Brain Pickings described how this played out in a research study:
...Dweck brought people into Columbia’s brain-wave lab to study how their brains behaved as they answered difficult questions and received feedback. What she found was that those with a fixed mindset were only interested in hearing feedback that reflected directly on their present ability, but tuned out information that could help them learn and improve. They even showed no interest in hearing the right answer when they had gotten a question wrong, because they had already filed it away in the failure category. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, were keenly attentive to information that could help them expand their existing knowledge and skill, regardless of whether they’d gotten the question right or wrong — in other words, their priority was learning, not the binary trap of success and failure.
I see this as well with clients I'm coaching for public speaking or presenting. Some are open to improvement, even eager for it. Some are scared but willing to try. Some just want to hear how wonderful they are, again and again. And all that goes double for your social media presence. A more open social media style may well mean you face more criticism, questions, or other-than-adulation.

Success vs. failure really is a binary trap, and social media isn't a binary world. Have you fallen into that trap in your approach to social media?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Eric. S.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

The weekend read

The leaves of your work week sure looked pretty, didn't they, communicators...until someone handed you a rake. I've been raking in the great leads, reads and data I shared on Twitter this week, and have pulled out a few leaves of wisdom just for you in this week's curated collection. Time to start getting smarter by Monday:
Next week, I'm headed to Amsterdam for the European Speechwriters Network conference, where I'm leading a pre-conference session on women and public speaking. But I'll be here again next Friday, weekend readers. Thanks for showing up here again on a Friday...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The grab-and-go checklist for last-minute TV or radio interviews

There's plenty to do to really prepare for media interviews, and most of that shouldn't happen at the last minute. But even if all you have is a half-hour before a broadcast interview on TV or radio, you can be better prepared with this grab-and-go list. Keep it handy when your moment arrives, and remember, now that many radio stations and newspapers are capturing video of interviews for their websites, the wardrobe tips are not just for television anymore:
  1. Message first. Can you boil down your core message into three points? Of course, you have much more to say. But those three things should offer the interviewer a roadmap of choices, so she can take the interview in a direction on which you are prepared to speak. Ideally, you have this figured out in advance, but if you only have a few minutes to prep, spend most of them on this. 
  2. Pick one. When you're answering a question, you may have a piece of data, an example, and a story. Just pick one to start. If the interviewer wants more, then you have the other two in your back pocket. Let him or her draw you out, and feel prepared while you do so.
  3. Wear saturated color so the lights don't wash out your outfit's advantages. All skin tones look better in a French blue shirt or similar color near your face--for women, that might also include a scarf or sweater. But in general, saturated (jewel tones rather than pale or pastel) colors stand up best to all that lighting. Prefer solids to busy patterns, especially checks and tightly patterned plaids. Frequently called to interview at the last minute? Keep some spare shirts or accessories in the office in these colors.
  4. Black and white and red all over? Both all-black and all-white outfits are difficult to light well. You may have a great black suit jacket with intricate detail that looks smart in person, but all the detail will disappear on camera. White's the opposite: often too bright and distracting, it draws the camera's focus. In general, avoid wearing only these high- and low-contrast colors. If you're wearing a black suit, make sure you have a shirt, scarf, or tie in a saturated color. And ladies, leave the red jacket behind. On camera, it can appear to be disintegrating at the edges, or "bleeding."
  5. Watch the paleness factor: If you have white hair, light hair, or no hair, plus a pale complexion, wear a dark suit to bring yourself into focus. Don't forget: Colors that look great on you in person may not do you favors in the studio.
  6. Stand if you can:  The longer you sit, the more your body wants to put itself to sleep. To feel and sound energetic, stand while you are waiting to go on the air on television. If you're lucky enough to be doing a phone interview for radio, stand up while you do it. Your voice will sound energized.
  7. Flyaway hair? The fastest fix is to drag a comb through it, after you've sprayed a little hairspray on the comb.
  8. Smile, for two great reasons: It will calm your nervous adrenaline and make you feel better (so start doing it in the taxi en route to the interview). And it will counter the natural tendency of the mouth to look either downturned or flatlined--neither of which is attractive. Even a slight smile will do. On the radio? Smiling helps enliven your voice and contributes to the energetic voice you want.
  9. Remember to let the interviewer get a word in edgewise: Nerves can make the best interviewee forget that the interviewer has a job to do. Using a three-point message lets you sum up a few key points, then stop to see where the interviewer wants to go. 
  10. Nurture your inner introvert. Don't fritter away your energy talking to everyone off-camera. Instead, head for the stairwell or restroom to grab some quiet moments alone, both before and after the interview--just make sure the producer knows where you are. "I need a moment to collect myself" is all you need to say.
Once you're done, look at the video or listen to the audio of your interview, using the checklist I give to speakers whose talks are recorded so you know what to look or listen for, and are focused on what you can learn from the recording. Then get ready for the next time--well ahead of time.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The weekend read

The days of this week fell away like leaves on an autumnal tree, communicators--all piled up by Friday. Time to kick the pile in celebration of the weekend. I've gathered up all my finds of week, shared on Twitter, and curated them here, just for you:
Are you following the DGC blog in all its many places? In addition to @dontgetcaught on Twitter, check out our Facebook page, boards on Pinterest about social media savvy and communications skillz. and posts on Google+. The weekend read appears in all those places, so follow where you will.

I fall for you every time you show up here on a Friday, weekend readers. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I don't write blog posts till I'm ready to write. Here's what I do instead.

I blog a lot--on this blog and on The Eloquent Woman, my public speaking blog. Between the two blogs, I publish five posts a week, and occasionally more. Yet I don't spend all my time writing, because I don't write blog posts until I'm ready to do so.

That may sound obvious, but I work with many clients who spend all their time on the writing, whether that's thinking about the post, staring at the blog interface, or rewriting again and again. You might be sitting down "to write," but quickly get distracted by the need to find photos, copyright info, a link you remember but can't find right away. And it's distractions that lower the quality of your writing, new research shows. More important to me, as a business owner, I don't have time for all that. Here's what I do instead, while I'm waiting to write:
  • Collect string: I save anything that might be useful for the blogs in specific notebooks created for each blog in Evernote, which lets me clip from web pages, my email, or my RSS feed (currently Feedly Pro). Anywhere I'm reading, pretty much, can be saved there. I tag some saved items as "story idea" to make them easier to find, and I make specific notebooks for weekly features on each blog, such as the DGC blog weekend read or The Eloquent Woman's Famous Speech Friday feature. Because I use Evernote Premium, there's a strong search function I can use to find all the notes about, say, online video when I'm ready to write a post on that topic. (Use the Evernote link to get a free month of Premium when you sign up for a free Evernote account.)
  • Set up shell posts: I set up a shell post before I ever sit down to write. For most posts, that shell includes a title, perhaps an intro, links I want to include, quotes, photos or other illustrations--everything but the writing. That way, I'm not distracted by looking for those things when I'm ready to write.
  • Write a tweetable headline: My feed pushes out a tweet with the blog name and post title when it first publishes, so I've learned to make the headlines fit within 120 characters and, if appropriate, to include @ symbols and Twitter handles.
  • Get credits in: If I need hat tips or photo credits, those go right into the shell post--a huge timesaver.
  • Reading what else is out there: A subset of string-gathering, I read widely and listen to audiobooks and podcasts like they're going out of style. Mobile devices and tablets mean I can be collecting string while doing many other things, and if I have several shell posts set up or story ideas tagged, I'm ready to save what I'm reading or listening to and know where it belongs.
  • Wait: If nothing comes to me on a topic, even though I know it has potential, I wait. It might be my best quality control measure on the blog. To balance any anxiety over not having enough material--which might prompt me to post even when I'm not ready--I just make sure I have plenty in the queue. Waiting then lets me pull disparate pieces together in unusual ways that work better for me and my readers. 
  • Split burgeoning piles in half: The process of saving many draft posts in "shell" form also lets me quickly see when a post has many links and threads, before I start writing. Sometimes that prompts me to turn that into more than one post, a bonus for my blogging--and something I might not realize until I'd put in too much effort, without this system.
Those of you with interns and assistants can train them to do the same before you start writing, but this system makes it much easier even if you're flying solo. On Not Writing takes a deep look at putting your writing down for a long time, and is worth considering if and when you need a longer break. I'd like to think that my system builds in shorter breaks with purpose, keeping it all fresh.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Thiophene_Guy)

Friday, October 03, 2014

The weekend read

Do you go up the down staircase this week, communicators? No matter. We're at the top of the stairs now and you can see the weekend from here. I've taken steps this week to collect, then curate, finds for you in my Twitterstream, so we can all get smarter by Monday:
Less than a month to go before I head to Amsterdam for the European Speechwriters Network for its autumn conference. I'm giving a pre-conference workshop on women and public speaking, Be The Eloquent Woman, on 23 October, followed by the main conference on 24 October. It's one of the best-curated conferences I attend. Americans traveling from the U.S. to the conference get a special discount: Use code "eloquentwoman" for a €200 discount. Join us!