Friday, March 27, 2015

The weekend read

Dear March: Here is a spring lamb, just in case you've forgotten that you're supposed to go out like one. I would love to count soft, sweet weather among my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you, communicators. We are poor little lambs who have lost our way. Let's head toward the weekend:
There's much more for little lambs to explore: sign up for my free monthly newsletter, register for my workshop, buy my new ebook on moderating panel discussions, or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Tim Pokorny)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Do you factor ROE (return on ego) in your communications?

I'll never forget the nonprofit executive, a new colleague on a new comms director job for me, who said, "Let me just warn you: We don't compete for profit. We compete for attention."

The ego's no stranger to communications directors. They know all about yours, and how it's likely to play out in terms of needing to be named publicly as a donor, or getting your name on a building or in a press release. In my workshops for communicators on working with experts, I've even heard of CEOs who want music to play when the enter the room, "just like the President of the United States." Cue the hot air.

Let it go takes a communicator/marketer's point of view and urges brands to let go of their brand egos and start listening to customers instead:
Ego is the driving force around brand feedback and listening. Stop spending all of your time getting feedback on the brand and the products. Talk about the needs of the customer, and then figure out if your product and brand fits into those needs. Now, I am not advocating that we abandon all product testing; I am just saying that we need to do more testing around the needs of the audience. In terms of listening, stop only listening to your brand. You are missing 85-98% of the conversations that should matter to you if you want to cut through the clutter.
I think communicators need a new metric for this, and it's ROE--Return on Ego. Beware of Pursuing ROE -- Return on Ego looks at this from an entrepreneur's point of view, but I'd like communicators of all stripes to start talking openly about the requests that have a higher ROE than return on investment. And don't just talk amongst yourselves. Bring your management into the discussion. Start keeping track of the hours, hourly rates and staffing required to boost the egos, and report them...starting with yourself and your team, then moving up the chain.

Why? There's a real cost to your business for padding egos, and you'll find it enumerated in the first chapter of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. Start working on a no-asshole rule for your communications efforts. It's a great way to wield your influence and stop a lousy trend. And you may find you have more time to devote to the more humble experts among you, the people who didn't get all the attention previously.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by gynti_46)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The weekend read

Time to fly away home, ladybugs. It's Friday, and there are signs of spring, like my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you, communicators. No better way to get smarter by Monday:
There's a lot more in my garden: sign up for my free monthly newsletter, register for my workshop, buy my new ebook on moderating panel discussions, or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Getting caught with a hat on your head: How media advice has changed

In President Obama breaks his own rule and wears a sparkly tiara for Girl Scouts photo, we learned that the President used to follow an old-school rule of thumb for photo opportunities: Never put a hat on your head. From the article:
"You don't put stuff on your head if you're president," he famously said last year when he was offered a helmet while visiting the Army and Air Force football teams.
Candidates and politicians are routinely handed hats to put on: Hard hats, ball caps, helmets, you name it. In general, these photo ops have created more mischief than magic, as former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis found out the hard way. Media relations types have made much of advising their principals not to accept offers for headgear.

But should you continue to warn someone away from participating in this way, particularly in an era where we're looking for more authenticity? In I just made a fool of myself, Seth Godin points out:
When you drop your guard, opt for transparency and make an honest connection with someone, you're right on the edge of foolishness, which is another word for not-corporate, not-aloof, not-safe. Another word for human.
So, are you aiming for safe or human when you set up photo ops? Think about it. As The Broad Side pointed out, if one of these Girl Scouts winds up getting elected as president, this picture will have a major second life. But even if they don't, it was an irreplaceable moment, made even more so by that extra tiara.

(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Friday, March 13, 2015

The weekend read

The Dowager Countess's question was not an existential one, and yet no one really answered her. So let's be polite, communicators, and respond: The weekend is an all-too-brief respite from our workaday world in which we need to catch up on many things. The weekend read helpfully gathers them up, like footmen do, and shares the best of them here for the harried communicator. (I'd tell her that I share everything first on Twitter via @dontgetcaught and then curate the best bits here for you, but that would only lead to more questions.) Let's find a butler to bring us something restorative while we contemplate the weekend, and tip our favorite hats to Cynthia Manley for the fabulous image:
And on a sad note, FriendFeed--a once-vibrant social network that was bought by Facebook to become your newsfeed--is no more, finally shut down. Those of us who used it loved it, and Louis Gray has an appreciation that captures what our community there felt. 

No need to keep your skills downstairs, communicators. Join the family and elevate your knowlege: sign up for my free monthly newsletter, register for my workshop, buy my new ebook on moderating panel discussions, or let me know how we can work together in 2015 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What to do *before* you run out of Evernote notebooks

I ran out of notebooks in my brain.

I've been an early and firm fan of Evernote for years, using it for business travel, blogging, planning and writing books, and managing my personal life, among other things. I use Evernote Premium, and I am well short of the storage space that allows, so I haven't worried...until I ran out of notebooks.

That's right: Evernote limits you to 250 notebooks. And while you can continue to add files and store them, they've got to go into one of your 250 notebooks.

This becomes an issue because Evernote won't sync properly between and among all its apps--desktop, mobile, or web--if you have too many notebooks, a smart control for the entire system.

When I hit the notebook wall, I wound up in another useful discussion with Evernote's fantastic help desk, which spent hours helping me work through several tests, error messages, and options. (Thanks, Karin!) In the end, the solution was in my hands: I needed to rethink how I organize my Evernote notes and notebooks. Here's what I came up with:
  1. Make sure all my notebooks reflect the system I use currently: I've changed how I organize notes and notebooks over the past few years, but haven't always updated old notebooks to reflect that system. In my tax files, I used to have notebooks by type of deduction; now, I archive them by year. My travel notebooks used to be organized by individual cities; now, I archive them by region. Making old notebooks consistent with new ones helped consolidate many notebooks.
  2. Tag and search rather than organize by notebook: While I have some tags that are applied automatically, I haven't tagged notes as much as I could or should. Tagging, and relying on Evernote's outstanding search capability, would let me put items on many topics into a single notebook. Previously, I'd indulged in one notebook per topic, stacking notebooks (a neat feature) to keep like topics together. While I still will have notebook stacks, and many notebooks, more tagging will help me stay within my allotted count.
  3. Merge and purge: While reorganizing my notebooks, I used several critical functions, merging all the notes in one notebook into a single summary note, then moving it to another notebook and deleting the first, now empty, notebook. For example, I've maintained one notebook per client, whether active or inactive. Now, for clients whose work is completed and not ongoing, I am merging all their notes into a single note and filing it in an inactive client file in two groups, individual clients and organizational clients. That takes my notebooks down from dozens to just a couple in one strategic area. Again, Evernote's great search and tag features will ensure I can still find whatever I need.
  4. Create an archiving schedule: I've now created quarterly schedules for archiving and merging notes for projects and clients that are completed, to stay ahead of the game.
If you want to try Evernote for yourself, use my link, set up a free account, log in, and you'll get a free month of Evernote Premium with 4GB of data uploads each month, unlimited storage, and expanded search.

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!