Tuesday, December 20, 2005

we see Santa in a dark suit...

...not dark red, but dark blue, gray or black, at least when he's speaking in public or making a television appearance. The reason? Those of us with light hair, white hair or no hair recede visually. To keep your audience focused on you, wear a dark suit to pull your image forward. And while you're at it, wear a blue shirt -- the color most flattering to all skin tones and colors. We also advise avoiding chimneys just before 'Meet the Press.' For more coaching tips on your next public appearance or fireside chat, contact us at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

brevity, the soul of wit

We're flattered and amused that yet a third college writing textbook -- the forthcoming Expanding Viewpoints (December 2006, McGraw-Hill, Wayne Stein et al, eds.) -- will include a reprint of Denise Graveline's humor essay The Blue Book, a tongue-in-cheek rant about the flimsy books collegians use for final exam answers. Originally published in a national magazine for college students, the essay also appears in Models for Effective Writing and Patterns for a Purpose: A Rhetorical Reader. In the forthcoming textbook, students are asked to count the number of sentences with 12 words or fewer, perhaps to show that brevity is in fact the soul of with.  The editors tell us blue books are still cheap and plentiful on campus.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

the shape of things to um...

Ever start speaking and hear the approach of the ums? You, um, try to get your, um, point across to the people who, um, need to hear it...and keep tripping over this two-letter speed bump. And that's just what ums are: You're slowing yourself down so that you can think before you speak. Here are two quick tips to banish the ums: First, plan your remarks ahead and practice them so that you know where you're headed and don't lose your way. Second, come up with some handy fillers-with-fiber to replace the ums -- phrases that make sense in most sentences and are long enough to buy you time until you remember what you wanted to say. As you probably know, the fact of the matter is, in our work we often find that and similar phrases sound more sensible than an um, and will make you feel less embarrassed. Ask Denise Graveline about our speech and presentation training and coaching for groups or individuals at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Monday, November 28, 2005

'off the record' in a crowd?

Not possible, as proven most recently by a Time Warner event last week featuring Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court. At the program's start, the organizers told the audience of 100 executives and journalists that comments made would be "off the record," or not for publication. The New York Daily News and New York Post both followed up with articles quoting Scalia's views as expressed in the meeting, prompting an angry response from the company. Even odder: At least one reporter was told privately that Time Warner expected reporters to write about the meeting, and Scalia was said to have no complaints. We say: Don't speak it in front of a crowd, a microphone or even a single person if you don't want to see it later in a newspaper....and get your ground rules straight before you go marching out in public. For training on handling public and media situations -- and a primer on when you are and are not on the record -- contact Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

the elements, online

We're big fans of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, the "little book" used by the best writers. (Our favorite journalism professor, the late Tim Cohane, made his classes memorize and recite it, so important did he consider the book.) While there's much talk about a new illustrated edition, we find most useful the online version, which you can access here on the Bartleby website of language references. At don't get caught, our coaching, training and editorial services can help you to "Omit needless words!" or "be obscure clearly," as Strunk put it. Contact us at info@dontgetcaught.biz to find out more.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Stumbling on your verbal blocks

Today's New York Times business section looks at what happens when CEOs can't speak clearly to public audiences, and we couldn't have said it better: "More than ever, investors are holding chief executives accountable for their public utterances and their ability to articulate a clear and compelling vision....[public speaking mistakes] can not only mar the public profile of a chief executive but also prompt a run on the stock." Today's examples include the CEO-designate of J.P. Morgan Chase, the Legg Mason CEO, and leaders at Enron and Morgan Stanley. A new PR Week survey of CEOs found that 55 percent of them say they spend more time communicating with customers than they did two years ago -- far and away the audience with the greatest increase in CEO time. That's all the more reason to prepare to avoid stumbling in your speeches. At don't get caught, we can coach you based on an existing speech -- making it, and you, more effective -- or help you write and carry out your presentations. We excel at preparing you for extemporaneous speaking, especially anticipating and answering questions from a crowd. Find out more about our speaking coach services by contacting Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

And check out our sister blog, The Eloquent Woman, for more on giving great speeches and presentations and become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook.

Monday, November 07, 2005

printing your document

...could mean digital fingerprinting, unless you know how to disable the metadata tags that are encoded in the simplest Microsoft Word documents emanating from your computer. Today's New York Times article on the topic stems from a Democratic National Committee memorandum, sent to the media "unsigned," or so the authors thought. But bloggers took the Word document and mined the codes to devine the authors' identity, and had a field day. Fortunately for you, the article also tells you how to scrub your own prints from your documents. It's just one reason we encourage our clients to think before releasing material publicly, and why we're called don't get caught. Let us help you prepare by emailing us at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

I'll take mine plain...

...language, that is. A smart client from Baltimore sent us this article from today's Sun about the Fifth International Plain Language Conference held this past weekend in Washington, D.C., where advocates of simple words gathered to hone their sentences to make the meanings clear -- a rare art form here in the nation's capital, and in many workplaces. See if you can translate this gem from one presentation (if not, read the article to find out the simpler phrase): "As with the progenitor of the scion, in such similar manner it may occur with the scion." Or as William Strunk wrote, "Be obscure clearly!" We beg you. For information on our workshops about self-editing and our writing coach services, contact us at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

science writing and blogs

This weekend, at the National Association of Science Writers conference in Pittsburgh, we heard a great panel of science journalists talk about their blogs, including Amy Gahran, Joel Shurkin, and Carl Zimmer, whose blog has won science journalism awards. Amy has posted a Podcast on her site here, so you can hear the discussion and question-and-answer session. It's a great session with introductions and insights into blogging from journalists' viewpoints, with useful information for communications pros as well as writers.

an untapped medium?

More than 48 percent of bloggers surveyed in a recent Edelman/Technorati poll report that they never hear from companies or their public relations representatives, and another 30 percent report contact less than once a week. At don't get caught, we're against news release proliferation, but the survey suggests better ways to reach bloggers -- and we do recommend them as the Web's version of word-of-mouth communication. Bloggers also report that they trust other bloggers' recommendations most when seeking product information, as evidenced by the genre's tradition of ranking highest those blogs to which most sites link. The all-around winner today is a blog called Boing Boing, and a perennial favorite for news commentary is Daily Kos.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

bloggers gain traction

...as the White House, and more recently, the National Press Club have moved to officially credential them, providing access to the advance information that traditional journalists already enjoy. The Press Club voted this month to admit bloggers as associate members. Communications pros should already be strategizing how to amend their own policies to encompass bloggers and considering them as useful outlets in any media strategy. Will you admit them to your press rooms? Give them access to embargoed information? Put them on your regular media lists? We welcome hearing examples and experiences from anyone experimenting in this area; just email us at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

take five: blogging to reach reporters

Today, don't get caught President Denise Graveline speaks to the Capital Communicators Group about new ways to reach the news media through blogs. While this is a little-used approach, we expect it to take hold in the next year or so, and you could be ahead of the curve. Take these five factors into consideration before you do:
  • Good blogs are like a great rolodex: Reporters seek a fresh and frequent supply of news, tips, background and information, and that's what a good blog contains. Blogs are best for those tidbits of information that don't warrant a release, but can still help reporters cover your topic -- just be ready to post frequently, ideally more than once a day, for your beat reporters.
  • Use blogs for bursts of news: Consider using blogs for short-term but intensive media feeds -- during a convention, a campaign, or a crisis -- then delete or archive the blog when you're done. They're easier to update quickly and fast to read.
  • Put bling in your blogs: We mean golden nuggets of information, not jewelry. Give away information and tips. Tell reporters when an announcement will be delayed, what five sources can corroborate or challenge your view and how to reach them, help them plan for in-depth or difficult coverage with bits of background. Just as with other blogs, giveaways attract attention and fans.
  • Create the ultimate collection of links: If you were covering your topic, what resources would you need? Put links to those sites on your blog for reporters, and include some that all journalists use: Associated Press and other wires, thesauri and other references. Make it easy and useful for them to hang out on your blog.
  • Users, competition or your best plug? They may be users of your blog, but reporters often have their own blogs -- and bloggers are increasingly credentialed as reporters. So get to know your beat reporters' blogs well, and be sure to promote your blog to other bloggers on the topic (find them on www.technorati.com using a topical search). If your content is top-notch, you may find them referring other users to your blog...or borrowing liberally, which, after all, is your goal.

We're helping clients from book authors to government agencies think through how to use blogs to reach many audiences, including news media. To find out more, contact us at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

blogging your next meeting

As a media relations strategy, consider creating a blog -- even temporarily -- if you expect reporters to cover your organization's next conference or meeting. A blog will allow you to show links to important background materials or papers, and to web sites on related topics; biographical information about speakers; immediate updates on changes to room locations, news conferences, and other last-minute logistics; and small tidbits of background information that wouldn't warrant a news release or news conference, but could help reporters covering you, both on-site and remotely. Because blogs are simple to update quickly, you can be faster and more flexible in your updates, compared to publishing the information on your organization's web site. Consider as a model ABC News's "The Note," which began as a web log by ABC producers covering the presidential elections, first for internal use, then -- due to demand from other reporters -- on the web for all to see. You'll see they mix commentary, updates, calendar items, and the best rundown on what announcements are and are not expected each day, as well as background on players in politics. (You should be reading the Note daily if you work in or around politics, or need to know quickly what other groups' major announcements are likely to dominate the news.) For more ideas on blogging to reach reporters, contact Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

blogging workshop

Because we've heard from so many readers interested in learning how to use blogs in their business -- especially writers and communicators -- don't get caught is developing several workshops that will cover blogging basics and better writing for blogs. We'll cover how to develop and write compelling content, how to choose topics that serve your clients and potential clients, and how to balance marketing with meat when it comes to content. For more information or to pre-register, contact Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

active writing in a tale of grief...

...can be found in The Year of Magical Thinking, writer Joan Didion's forthright memoir of the year following the death of her husband, novelist John Gregory Dunne. At the same time, her adult daughter, Quintana, lay in a hospital in a coma brought on by septic shock. The book turns her typical honest eye on her year of family trauma, piecing together what happened along with her memories. We studied Didion's essays in journalism school (try The White Album or Slouching Towards Bethlehem, for preference) because her writing demonstrates what we try to teach in our writing seminars and coaching: Use powerful nouns and active verbs instead of adjectives and adverbs to strengthen your writing. Consider this excerpt from the new book, powerful not only due to the subject, but the construction:

I remember trying to straighten out in my mind what would happen next. Since there was an ambulance crew in the living room, the next logical step would be going to the hospital. It occurred to me that the crew could decide very suddenly to go to the hospital and I would not be ready. I would not have in hand what I needed to take. I would waste time, get left behind. I found my handbag and a set of keys and a summary John's doctor had made of his medical history. When I got back to the living room, the paramedics were watching the computer monitor they had set up on the floor. I could not see the monitor so I watched their faces. I remember one glancing at the others.

We recommend this new read, but note that our favorite bookstore, Politics & Prose, is already having trouble keeping this in stock and predicts another printing soon. You can order from them online -- they'll ship anywhere, and are a winner of Publisher's Weekly's "Bookseller of the Year" award. Ask about our writing seminars and coaching at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

beautiful invitations

For your next social or professional event, consider this month's preferred referral to artist and graphic designer Melissa P. Hackmann, who creates unique custom invitations designed to match your style and situation. Whether you need a small batch of exquisite handmade invitations -- truly one-of-a-kind -- or a larger-scale printed piece for a major event, she'll work with you closely to ensure you don't get caught without attendees. Contact her directly at mphackmann@comcast.net to learn more!

catch these job opportunities

If you're looking for a permanent job in public relations, why contact a temp firm? Because Kate Perrin, president of PRofessional Solutions, LLC, Washington's first and only PR temporary firm, tells us she's facilitating "a record number of temp-to-perm hires, particularly at the mid-range level." Individuals with skills, experience and interest in temporary PR assignments should go to the PRofessional Solutions website and check out the For Job Seekers page for an application form and complete instructions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

why businesspeople speak like idiots

Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide is the title of our new favorite language book for the workplace. With a great sense of humor -- in chapters like "Pick Up the Damn Phone" and "The Smartest People Use the Dumbest Words" -- the authors have pulled together a terrific guide for presentations, memos, even conversations. The team responsible for the book also created Bullfighter, a software program that can analyze your writing (or someone else's) for known jargon. Check out the book's Website here to find excerpts, a free download of the Bullfighter software, and the "mystery matador" service, which helps you send a jargoneer an anonymous email showing how his obfuscations stack up when analyzed with Bullfighter. May office memos and our next presentations never be the same again.

Check out our sister blog, The Eloquent Woman, for more on giving great speeches and presentations and become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook.

Monday, September 19, 2005

stirring the alphabet soup

You may be at a university, a newspaper, or like us, just caught in the nation's acronym capital of Washington, D.C. Want to sort through the abbreviations that abound? Try this website: Acronym Finder, a simple search engine that takes your acronym and serves results of the most popular meanings. Then do us all a favor and stop using acronyms. We prefer to coach writers to use the full name of the organization on first reference, then to use a part of the name -- "the Society," "the union," or "the Federation," for example -- in subsequent references. Once you see just how many groups have the same acronym, we hope you will do the same! To find out more about our workshops on writing with clarity, contact Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

even if it's not your favorite mistake...

...admitting a mistake early, apologizing and taking responsibility for harm caused are the best communications steps to take if you're in the public eye. President Bush today said he took responsibility for failures in the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, following the resignation of FEMA Director Michael Brown. Was his timing the best? Sooner would have been better, forestalling a tide of resentment, questions about accountability, and eroding support from both political parties. Politicians who can admit mistakes, fully and frankly, find that simple step impresses public audiences more than any other skill...most people can relate to having made mistakes and understand the difficulty in admitting them, but still want their public servants to demonstrate responsibility in words as well as actions. To prepare for difficult public relations situations, contact Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Monday, September 12, 2005

caught in uncertainty?

You may want to proudly stay there, but first read journalist Ted Gup's wonderful audio essay from today's National Public Radio segment "This I Believe." In a world that seems increasingly polarized and where every fact appears to prompt lineups on either side, his refreshing take is that it's fine -- and even necessary -- to be (and admit you are) uncertain. We say you can't go wrong expressing your own viewpoint when communicating with others. Saying "I feel..." always works better than "You think..." when building connections with folks on all sides of issues. Enjoy the essay and tell us what you think at info@dontgetcaught.biz. "This I Believe" revives an old Edward R. Murrow radio program of the 1950s, which encouraged entries from people around the U.S. "to point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

update on flood zone coverage

CNN took the federal government to court over the new-this-week FEMA directive limiting video news shots of dead bodies in the Hurricane Katrina recovery -- which was enforced at gunpoint. After hearing these two comments, CNN went to court to recover its free press rights: New Orleans' homeland security director Terry Ebbert said the recovery effort would be done with dignity, "meaning that there would be no press allowed," and Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore later said there would be zero access to the recovery operation, according to the Associated Press story today. After a reversal of that policy in the courtroom, CNN agreed to drop the case.

Friday, September 09, 2005

no flood of information?

One of the disturbing communications developments to arise in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is the absence of enough government public affairs professionals on the ground in New Orleans and other affected areas. The result: Police officers and National Guard soldiers are implementing FEMA's communications directives at gunpoint, and the agency has asked news organizations not to broadcast images in which dead bodies appear, which would include much of the city at this point. FEMA only yesterday asked other federal agencies to contribute public affairs personnel to the hurricane recovery effort -- a step that historically would have been organized in advance of an anticipated natural disaster, or immediately after it. Communicators in a flood or hurricane zone serve several important functions, keeping lines of information open, especially to the news media; handling access, so others can do the more important recovery work; ensuring that facts are vetted before they are released; and much more. Career federal public affairs personnel usually have extensive experience in handling crisis communications in such situations -- at EPA, we worked with pros who'd handled everything from the Mississippi floods to Chernobyl. We say if it's a public affair, let's let the professionals in public affairs do their jobs -- and in a nation with a free press, we don't need to do this with guns. The topic is the subject of news coverage in today's Washington Post and an editorial in the New York Times, and the Associated Press today reports on just how difficult conditions are for basic reporting in New Orleans, guns aside.

Friday, September 02, 2005

new bipolar book

Don't get caught client Candida Fink, MD, is co-author of a new book, Bipolar Disorder for Dummies (Wiley 2005) that we're working to promote. Dr. Fink's psychiatry practice focuses on mood disorders in adolescents and children, and her new book emphasizes approaches from medicine to lifestyle changes that can help manage bipolar disorder. And because she doesn't recommend "flying solo," the book includes resources for friends and family members who want to support someone with the disorder. You can check out sample chapters, the contents and index here, or order the book here. Dr. Fink also is the co-author of The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child: A Survival Guide for Parents. We urge you to share this great resource with anyone you know who's struggling with bipolar disorder.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

we see you on the radio...

...is the clever tagline for this month's preferred referral, News Generation, a well-respected source of radio news. If you're promoting a news story, they package the story, pitch it, and provide you with a detailed report on who was reached, when and where. If you're a station news director, they're a consistent source of newsworthy stories, professionally produced -- so much so that they've attracted a vast network of stations that accept their stories even before the pitch is done. The trick: They insist on content that's credible news. You can see and hear examples of their radio news stories on the website they offer as a source for radio stations. Many organizations are seeing success placing stories on issues in the news, from healthcare to homeland security. News Generation offers public service announcements, radio tours, audio news releases and more. Contact them at clientservices@newsgeneration.com and tell them we sent you.

strategy of sharing

In the new edition of A Field Guide for Science Writers, the official guide of the National Association of Science Writers, don't get caught president Denise Graveline offers an insight about communicating science from an institution, advising communicators to collaborate to extend the reach of a news release. When your institution or researcher has science news to share, take the time to coordinate in advance with science communicators who can help spread the word -- and stretch your budget and manpower. For example, if your organization publishes research journals, develop a system for notifying authors' PR contacts well in advance so they can be working to disseminate; if your researcher's presenting at a major meeting, check in with the meeting sponsor to see what else can be done to highlight your speaker. Few communicators take this extra step, and they miss out on expanded networks and opportunities. The 2d edition of the Field Guide for Science Writers is now available here at Amazon.com, and we recommend you add this expanded and revised edition to your office bookshelf now. Check here to learn more about the contents and the expert collaborators who put this edition together. For more strategies to enhance your research communications, contact Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Friday, August 26, 2005

a coach for writing

If your team's bench strength doesn't lie in its writing -- or if you're fielding a team of writers who need to go to the next level -- consider a writing coach. We work with you and your team to identify goals and objectives, create assignments, and conduct group or individual coaching. A favorite training: Our self-editing course, which advances a writer's ability to improve her own work before passing it to an editor, resulting in less redlining and more time for the editor in the long run. Whether you want better memos, crisper releases, improved reports or shorter sentences, we can tailor writing coaching to meet your needs. Ask Denise Graveline for more information at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

science writers' guide

Science writers, take note: A revised edition of the A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers, is now available.

nominate a woman of the year...

...in Washington Women in Public Relation's annual "PR Woman of the Year" competition, which honors career excellence in public relations as well as community involvement. This year marks WWPR's 25th anniversary, and the award will be presented in November at a luncheon featuring journalist Eleanor Clift as the keynote speaker. Nominations are due Friday, September 16. For more information on nominations, check here. Denise Graveline of don't get caught, a former recipient of the award, this year serves on the judges' panel.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Here in Washington, we're learning that the President wants to continue referring to the "war on terror," despite what appeared to be a coordinated effort by other Administration officials to start calling it the "global struggle against violent extremism." If you like to follow the language of politics, check out this July 1st airing of NPR's 'The Diane Rehm Show," in which linguists and political observers share insights on how the language of politics has changed...we think you'll be intrigued.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

front pages and smarts

You'll find both at the website of the Newseum, the Washington, D.C.-based museum of news journalism. Currently closed while its new location is built, the Newseum offers cyber exhibits, including views of hundreds of today's newspaper front pages, updated daily. You can check them for story placement, size of article and photo, and use of images -- all things you can't get in online news pages. Test your news know-how with the Newseum's news trivia game, a timed, interactive quiz based on the latest coverage in several categories.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

the shoemaker's PR help...

It's ironic, but true: communications offices often neglect opportunities to gently promote their work within the rest of the organization. (The easy way to tell: Your client-colleagues say, unprompted, that they have no idea what you've done for them lately...or at all.) Aside from reminding others why your services are worthwhile, you're missing the chance to create pride and enthusiasm among your clients, as well as your own staff. Take a tip from those of us who work with many clients independently, and set aside time on a regular basis to brainstorm "gentle promotions" you and your staff can carry out, from elevator chatting to more formal reports when you hit a communications homer. You'll find an educated client is more enthused and receptive to new ideas. For more ideas on communicating your communications success, contact Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Monday, July 18, 2005

a new science writing conference...

...combines two old ones, and the joint program has just been made available. This year, the National Association of Science Writers joins its sister organization, the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, for a combination conference from October 22 to 26 in Pittsburgh...click here for details about the program, schedule, and hotel registration for both conferences. NASW's focus will be on professional development for science writers, public information officers and freelancers, while CASW will offer briefings by noted scientists on research topics emerging on the horizon. In between, there's lots of networking and some journalism awards. This is the first time NASW has moved its main conference offerings away from the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, with which it has long been linked. So if you're a science writer -- or looking for them -- the Pittsburgh conference is the place to be. Regulars: Note that you should register even earlier than usual, as attendance for both conferences is expected to swell.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

get a world view

In the wake of last week's bombings in London, that city's Guardian begins its editorial with a line from one by George Orwell during the WWII blitz: "As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me." Curious about what editorials in other countries are saying about world events? Check out the New York Times opinion page online and look for the section "Editorials from Abroad."

Monday, July 11, 2005

and you think you've got mail?

A new study by the Congressional Management Foundation tells us that members of Congress received some 200 million communications by mail in 2004, with 180 million of them via email -- four times more mail overall, compared to a decade ago. Today's Washington Post article on the study notes that, since 9/11, it is almost useless to send snail mail to Congressional offices; since the anthrax scares, paper mail is scrutinized so thoroughly that it has no hope of reaching the target in a timely way. That's also true for most major news organizations, BTW. Phone calls, followed by emails, are our preferred methods -- based on guidance from the individual reporters in question. Are your emails to these tough targets as effective as they could be? Ask Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Confining your remarks...

...gets a new twist this week with a Supreme Court decision that means jail confinement for reporters from TIME magazine and the New York Times, both of whom refuse to divulge to a special prosecutor the names of their confidential sources and what the sources said. Today, a federal appeals court ordered four more reporters -- including top science and environmental reporter H. Josef Hebert of the Associated Press -- to divulge confidential sources or face $500-a-day fines in another case. Click here to read today's William Safire op-ed reminding why it's important to preserve the rights of journalists to keep confidential sources. Denise Graveline's favorite tip for assessing a good op-ed: You should be able to read the first and last paragraphs and know the writer's point of view. (In the Safire op-ed, the numbered list at the article's conclusion makes his views entirely clear.) We urge you to support freedom of the press -- and to aim for stronger starts and finishes in your op-eds. For more on how to do that, email us at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Catching poll data correctly...

...is tough to do in the headline. Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, took to task this week a headline on a press release from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The release's misleading headline about a poll on the public's perceptions of journalists resulted in lots of coverage -- but was itself inaccurate. The also too-long headline claimed "About One American in Four Considers Rush Limbaugh a Journalist, Roughly the Same Share as Identify Bob Woodward That Way, According to Annenberg Public Policy Center Survey." It used the data point that 30% of the respondents identified the Washington Post's Woodward as a journalist, compared with the 27% who said conservative talk show host Limbaugh is a journalist. Newport notes, however, that the poll also found that only 17% of the respondents say Woodward is not a journalist, while "a very significant" 55% say Limbaugh is not a journalist. Using only the positive ratings skews the headline to mislead. Newport's solution for a more accurate (though no less short) headline: "Among Those Who Have an Opinion, Bob Woodward Much More Likely to be Viewed as a Journalist Than Rush Limbaugh." (We'd try "Poll: Woodward Seen More as Journalist than Limbaugh," but we like our headlines crisp.) Don't get caught by using numbers in your news. For more information on our headline-writing workshops, contact Denise Graveline at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Plan for science writing in October...

...when two back-to-back conferences converge on Pittsburgh. The National Association of Science Writers launches its own annual conference Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22 and 23. Immediately following, its sister organization, the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, meets in the same city, with free registration for NASW members and credentialed journalists. NASW's "Science in Society" meeting will feature professional development workshops for journalists, freelancers, and public information officers; CASW briefings feature scientists who describe what's next and newsworthy in science, medicine and technology. Registration opens in mid-July. To proffer ideas for science or scientists you want to see featured at the CASW meeting, contact Paul Raeburn at paulraeburn@nasw.org.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wrist rest?

When overtaxed writers ask us which wrist brace or rest we use, we recommend strength training instead. The trainers at City Fitness taught us how to do wrist weight lifting using dumbbells of 2-3 pounds. Try these 3 exercises, 3 times a week, 12-15 reps each:

- hold one dumbell in each hand, arms extended in front of you, palm facing down and wrist level with arm; drop the weight down, then back to level, for a wrist lift.
- the reverse, a wrist curl: hold dumbbell in front, palm up and wrist level with arm, start with weight below arm level and curl up to arm level.
- for wrist rotation: hold each dumbbell at one end with your arms in front of you, rotate them away from each other in an arc so that your wrist moves from palm facing down to palm facing up.

You also can strengthen the upward motion of your hand muscles (the opposite of what typing does) with a heavy rubber band -- use the kind that come around asparagus bunches. Hold all the fingers of one hand together in a little bundle, as if you're pinching something; wrap the band around your fingers once or twice, then splay the fingers out as far as you can and retract back together. Do 15 repetitions, then repeat on the other hand. Keeping these tools of the trade in shape is the best investment a writer can make.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

All Greek to me...

Got caught and taught in the same day! A good writer and close reader saw our post about Reuters Recommends, caught us making a common error, and taught us a useful writing lesson: the Greek word "kudos" is not a plural, and singular is the only form it takes (we used "kudo" incorrectly). Click here to see what another favorite site, www.bartleby.com, has to say...as they point out, the clever writer will craft the sentence so no one can tell whether she intended singular or plural. The take-home lesson: Admit your mistakes early, and use the dictionary function on Bartleby to check ancient and venerable words...or just ones you don't use frequently!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

getting free PR help

We're proud to have played a role in helping N Street Village gain pro bono public relations help for 2005 and 2006 from the Washington chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. N Street Village serves homeless and low-income women with a day center, night shelter, transitional housing for women in recovery, permanent housing for women with mental illness, and low- and moderate-income housing. But it's also a place where homeless women can get their mail and meals, learn job skills, and receive health and mental health services and wellness care. Mary Funke is NSV's excellent executive director, and she was quick to apply when we passed on IABC's call for new pro bono clients. Check with your area communications, PR, journalism, marketing or related professional societies to see if they take on pro bono clients, or can help you identify communications pros as volunteers. And contact NSV if you can help them, too!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

meeting plans?

When your organization's members gather for the annual conference, don't get caught missing the chance to improve their communications skills. Whether you choose to offer media training, public speaking, or presentation training in pre-conference workshops, you'll be providing one of the most highly rated member benefits. You get members who can articulate on behalf of your mission, and they get skills they can use immediately to advance their careers. And all these trainings offer skills that can easily transfer to other situations, from the boardroom to one-on-one conversations. For more on our array of fun and effective pre-conference workshops, email us at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A news site that sifts

No one gets too little news these days, so we prefer finding ways to sift for quality, quirks and questions of the day. If that's your goal, click here to check out "Reuters Recommends," a roundup of selected stories from today's feed from the wire service. New products to keep your eyes on, trends, and insights into the news all are featured. And if you place a story that winds up in "Reuters Recommends," use that kudo as a qualitative way to measure the impact of your coverage.

can you be too prepared?

Speechifying trivia: Woodrow Wilson, while U.S. President, led a small trend in short speeches, unusual in his day as it is in ours. A member of his Cabinet asked how much time he spent preparing to speak, and Wilson said, "It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” We say: Keep the speech short and the preparation long, and your presentations will always win the audience's vote. Email us at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz if you want to learn more about great starts and finishes for speeches, presentations and more.

Check out our sister blog, The Eloquent Woman, for more on giving great speeches and presentations and become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

too boring for TV?

Here's a recent article from The Onion that's almost too true for many scientists, physicians and other technical experts: being rejected as "too boring for TV." In fact, you don't need to dumb down your content to get your point across in front of a camera or in front of an audience. One of the best examples I've seen recently: a proteomics researcher in Chicago, who opened a talk by keeping his introducer on stage with him, pointing out that they had a genetic makeup that was 99 percent identical, despite her long brown hair and his baldness, among other differences. And that, he said, is what proteomics wants to understand: the remaining one percent. He grabbed the audience, and so can you...just takes some preparation. You can find out more by emailing us at info@dontgetcaught.biz.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

for you, blue

Tennis and your next television appearance have something new in common: the color blue. I always recommend you wear a strong French blue or royal blue shirt when you're on television: It flatters all skin tones and draws the viewer's eye to you better than most colors. (There's a reason all those backdrops at news conferences are the same color, you know.) Now the U.S. Tennis Association is applying that same savvy to the U.S. Open courts, which will be a royal blue, bordered with green. Click here to read today's Washington Post coverage on the change, and see the picture here.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

may news & info

"Nothing is as easy to make as a promise this winter to do something next summer; this is how commencement speakers are caught."
— Sydney J. Harris

While judging student commencement speeches for Boston University some years ago, my contribution was preventing a crowd disaster. One speech began with lists of the world's ills, prefaced at key intervals by "Breathe deep the gathering gloom!" Faculty members on the panel rejected it because it was depressing, but I had a more practical issue: Thousands of giddy graduates would be yelling "Watch lights fade in every room!" -- the next line in the Moody Blues song Nights in White Satin -- every time that line came forth. If someone at your organization is delivering a commencement speech, we hope it's completed by now, and missing any dangerous lyrics. Next time, when your speaker is selected -- a process that typically happens in September or October -- call us about writing the speech ahead of time, so you won't get caught in May. And for a laugh, click here to read Jon Stewart's recent commencement speech at the College of William & Mary. His great start: "Thank you Mr. President, I had forgotten how crushingly dull these ceremonies are. Thank you."

May 10 is a day of great starts in history: Hoover became FBI head in 1924, Churchill became British prime minister in 1940, 'Rock Around the Clock' was released in 1954, and Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994...and last year, don't get caught was launched to somewhat less fanfare. In this first year, we've achieved something every independent business dreams about: all our business comes from colleagues and their referrals. We'll keep the celebration low key this year, but want our clients and friends to know how very much we value their support and referrals. To find out what happened on your birthday or anniversary, go to www.historychannel.com and use the search engine under "This Day in History."

Our favorite online news source has long been the Associated Press, where you can see tomorrow's news today. Updated every hour or so, it features some of the very best journalism. Choose a local link into the system at the AP main page, and don't forget to look to the menu at left, where you can see indepth links to national, international, health/science, sports and entertainment feeds on the wire. Communicators and writers should check out the lesser-known but essential AP media news page, for updates on personnel changes at key media outlets, winners of the latest journalism awards, and industry issues.

A science writing job opportunity is available at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. Check it and other openings out here, urges Bill Blaul, vice president for institutional relations at the center. We heard about this while speaking at the NACCDO-PAN Conference in Chicago last month, convened for public affairs and development officers at cancer centers nationwide. Click on "conference highlights" in the list of links at right to see my slides and handouts from that conference.

For all those who've remarked on our corporate image, the first anniversary of don't get caught lets us honor the people who made it possible. Our corporate image is the product of MSK Partners (www.mskpartners.com), which designed our stationery and business card. Sara Delgado of Gado Graphics (www.gadographics.com) expanded that to Web-size, designing our site and blog from front to back. Be sure to check out Sara's fine art, as well as her graphic skills, on her website. A contest for you: Where did the name don't get caught come from? Email us at info@dontgetcaught.biz and we'll publish the best guesses -- and the real answer -- next time.

Friday, April 15, 2005

April News & Info

"Don't get small units caught in between the forces of history."
—Gen. John Vessey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after the death of 237 troops in a Beirut terrorist bombing

Finding the right words, part one. If you describe all your organization's new initiatives as "major" and all your research as "ground-breaking" or "breakthroughs," it's time for a major, ground-breaking breakthrough in your vocabulary. When we need to choose a new word, we go to www.bartleby.com. Named after the humble copyist in Herman Melville's short story, Bartleby the Scrivener, the site is perhaps the Web's most comprehensive reference library, and free. You can search classic literature from Shakespeare to modern novelists, or search reference tools from dictionaries and encyclopedias to thesauri and quotations. Put the word you are overusing in the search box and choose "all reference" as your search. It's also where we get our "catchphrase" quotations using the word "caught" in creative ways, BTW.

You can catch me, after all, if you're attending the annual meeting of the National Association of Cancer Center Development Officers and NCI Public Affairs and Marketing Network, which takes place in mid-April in Chicago. I'll be speaking Sunday, April 17, on "The Write Stuff: How to Write About Basic Science," helping public affairs directors working at cancer centers learn how to build skills in technical translation, tackling new topics in science, and write clearly without having to "dumb down" the subject for public consumption. We'll also talk about how to gauge the eventual success of a science story headed for media coverage; rule number one is "the dinosaurs always win." Just ask me.

Finding the right words, part two. Many of you know my goal to return to writing books and magazine articles for publication, and here's a chance for you to participate in such a project with me. I'm exploring writing a book on What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say, using what I've learned as a national spokesperson about handling tough questions and awkard situations on your feet and in public, with an eye to helping folks in everyday conversations to manage them better and more comfortably. I'm looking for your experiences in situations where you didn't know what to say, and want to know with whom you were speaking, why it felt awkward, what you wanted to say, and what you ended up saying. You'll help me shape the advice in the book and give examples that come from real experiences. Just email them to me at info@dontgetcaught.biz. And thanks for your help!

...and don't get caught without this month's preferred referral: We get the energy to manage issues and answers for you by working with trainer Maggie McLain at the Washington, D.C., gym City Fitness (www.cityfitnessgym.com). It's a great community and network, with friendly clients and a superb staff -- and because it's a neighborhood gym, not a chain, you get much more personal attention and encouragement. When she's not helping me get strong, Maggie's working on a new Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby class on prenatal fitness starting April 15 (click here for more info).

For more information, email us at info@dontgetcaught.biz.