Wednesday, December 06, 2006

independent sector job opportunities

Washington, DC-based Independent Sector, the voice for the nonprofit community, has two communications positions open. They are:
Manager, Nonprofit Sector Communications Initiative -- to manage a communications initiative to strengthen support for the nonprofit community among key decision makers and influentials. The ideal candidate is an energetic, flexible team player who understands the challenges facing nonprofit and foundation communications and can mobilize leaders from a wide variety of organizations....a professional with experience in strategic communications planning and implementation, a background in working with coalitions and partnerships, and a strong understanding of the media and policy challenges facing the nonprofit community.


Media and Communications Associate -- to reach out to news media to foster strong coverage of the organization and the nonprofit community. Sought is a professional with successful experience in working with media, planning releases of policy positions, working with coalitions and partnerships, tracking media coverage, and preparing background materials on complex issues. The best applicant is an avid media watcher and reader who also thrives in a rapidly changing, high-pressure environment and is able to respond to fast-breaking events.
Find out more in the detailed listings here on the IS website.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

blogs and knowledge management

If you're making the case for a blog for your organization, consider today's cover story in the New York Times magazine, "Open-Source Spying." It describes the way U.S. intelligence agencies have begun using blogs and wikis -- protected from outside eyes, but shared between and among the intelligence agencies -- to share information about terrorist threats. If your organization also is moving from a "need-to-know" to "need-to-share" culture, as one young analyst described it, you may need at least an internal blog, behind a firewall, to use all the information collected by your many eyes and ears.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #1

1. Learn how to use a blog strategically.

Why blog? It will move up your organization in any search engine result faster than any other method…can replace newsletters, news releases, or even your web site...let you update your site without technical help…and introduce you to the wide world of word-of-mouth marketing. And because blogging platforms are free, you may be able to redirect your publishing budget to accomplish more, while using this low-cost option.Don’t get caught behind the blogging curve. Instead, join the ranks of early adopters who are turning this new tool to strategic use in their communications efforts. We can teach your team how to blog, help your organization craft a blog strategy and policies, and help you develop content – or create the blog for you. At a minimum, you'll come away with an understanding of why you should, or should not, try our favorite communications tool. Update: In 2007, we're offering our popular "Blogging for Your Business" workshops twice each month. Find out more and register now here.

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #2

2. Shake up your traditional outreach methods.

Still doing magazines and newsletters sent by mail? Relying on a website you update once a month? Holding regular press conferences? Using news releases as your primary media relations tool? Communications methods are changing – and offering communicators myriad options to deliver their messages in ways that save time, budget and effort for everyone. Don’t get caught without a review of your current offerings to learn whether you can expand your offerings within the same budget, reach a wider audience faster, or simply save staff time. We offer audits and reviews of communications methods and can help you plan to revise, revive, or regroup in the face of new technologies and options.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #3

3. Hire a coach for your communications challenges.

When you – or one of your team members – need to improve specific skills based directly on individual needs, and can’t find the solution in an off-the-shelf training course, don’t get caught without one-on-one communications coaching. We can focus on your particular needs and issues, customizing training to achieve faster, more effective results. Among the coaching options our clients request are: writing and editing skills; presentation and speech delivery; media interview skills; communications management skills; and interpersonal communications skills. We combine in-person confidential sessions with telephone follow-up, and can also combine group trainings with one-on-one coaching for each group participant. Choose a few sessions, or, for more lasting results, a longer-term arrangement. Find out why our clients rave about this personalized training option.

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.

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #4

4. Expand your media relations to reach a new audience.
When was the last time you shook up your press list beyond the usual suspects? Many organizations know the “core” reporters who cover their primary topic, but neglect those with reasons to cover the same area from a different angle. Don’t get caught without considering all your media relations options in 2007, from getting bloggers to cover your topics to expanding to reporters in a variety of topical areas. (Bloggers, when surveyed, say they’d welcome your news, but rarely receive it.) You’ll get more coverage and target your audiences even more precisely. When you approach a new beat’s worth of reporters, we recommend bringing them up to speed on your resources with informational workshops and briefings, like this one created to teach food writers about chemistry in the kitchen.

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #5

5. Conquer at least one public speaking pitfall.

You hem. You haw. You “um” too much. Your hands suffer from “lectern lock.” The back of the room can’t hear you. You lose your place. You don’t look up from your written remarks. You’d rather die than speak in public, even though it’s part of your job. Going off the text or handling questions raises your fear factor. You face angry audiences, and dread the attacks. Don’t get caught without conquering at least one of your personal public-speaking pitfalls in 2007. We can teach you to un-do your “ums” and gesture with confidence – and even deliver a speech without notes. The best news: These skills work in all sorts of situations, from office presentations to cocktail chatter and media interviews. Already a competent speaker? Let us take you from good to great. Group trainings and one-on-one coaching available.

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.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #6

6. Train new messengers to communicate on your behalf.

In a world where word-of-mouth marketing is king, you just can't have enough people prepared to convey your strategic messages. Take a census of your organization's trained spokespeople: Do they include your members? Your board members? Committee or department chairs? Authors and editors of your publications? If not, make 2007 the year in which you offer presentation or media training to another key constituency. Don't let them get caught without knowing how best to communicate on your behalf. And consider offering training on-site at meetings or conferences where these groups are already gathered. They'll consider it to be an important member benefit, and a professional development skill they can use in all parts of their work. We offer group and individual training and coaching in public speaking, presentations and media interview skills, and have extensive experience training governance and constituents of major organizations.

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.

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #7

7. Make sure you – and your writers – know how to self-edit.

Realists know that everyone gets edited -- but that reality doesn't make it any easier when you're on the receiving end of the red marks. And if you're the editor, you and your red pen might like to take a rest and move on to another task. We have a solution that works for everyone, writers and editors alike: teach your team to self-edit its work before submitting it to an editor. We have six easy steps that will sharpen even the most advanced writer's work, help beginning writers to avoid mistakes, and make the editing process a breeze. Don't get caught without our team trainings or one-on-one coaching to teach you and your writing team self editing skills that will save you time and improve your written products in 2007.

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #8

8. Learn how to communicate your message in Washington.

Washington has the highest concentration of journalists and public relations representatives in the world. Communications efforts in the nation's capital can be an efficient and effective way for your organization to make its mark -- if you know how to operate inside the Beltway. Don't get caught in 2007 without an orientation to Washington communications, or without a plan to get your message across with the nation's press corps. Even if your organization is located far from the capital, you need to know effective strategies for briefing reporters here; the best venues for conferences and events; how to target state, local, national, and international coverage from Washington; and how to time your event for maximum exposure when your competition is the Congress and the White House. Our extensive experience in Washington communications can be your secret weapon in 2007. Ask us to create an orientation and plan for your next foray in the nation's capital, or a longer-term strategy for establishing your organization and message as an authoritative national source.

Monday, November 27, 2006

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #9

To make sure you don't get caught unprepared, speechless or without a message in 2007, we're offering our top ten keys to communications for the year ahead. Consider this your year-end checklist to make 2007 a strong, strategic and stress-free communications year:

9. Create a 2007 communications plan to guide your year.

Often, by the time you think of a great communications tactic, you lack the time, budget and staff to pull it off, and miss the chance to seize the advantage. Don’t get caught without a plan for your 2007 communications efforts. A good plan includes new data on the audiences you want to reach, the existing and potential opportunities you have to reach them, and the challenges that might get in the way. With those in hand, you can create a calendar of opportunities and the steps it’ll take to reach them, ensuring more success – and fewer surprises – when you make a public move next year. If you’re establishing a new communications enterprise or reviving an existing one, a plan can help you do so sensibly, with steps that build upon one another for maximum result by year-end. We can help you create a communications plan with a process that captures the key elements and puts them into a context that works for your organization. Our specialty: Communications planning processes that work with the communications team and its clients within an organization, to ensure buy-in for the plan.

top 10 communications keys for 2007: #10

To make sure you don't get caught unprepared, speechless or without a message in 2007, we're offering our top ten keys to communications for the year ahead. Consider this your year-end checklist to make 2007 a strong, strategic and stress-free communications year:

#10: Review your 2006 communications accomplishments – and share them.

Whether you run a communications office or an organization, take the time before year-end to review your communications accomplishments for 2006. What worked? With which audiences? How can you tell? Don’t get caught in a communications rut – use your perspective from the year that’s ending to consider what to do in the year ahead. Then think of your internal audiences: Clients, members, subscribers, customers all want to know about your communications successes, so be sure to summarize them and share them. Don’t assume they’ve seen all your media coverage or know about the success of your last campaign. We can help you make sense of the year’s success with communications reviews, reports and retreats.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

new bloggers: college presidents

Today's New York Times reports on a small trend we're cheering about: College presidents using blogs to communicate with students, alumni and supporters. While many are slow or reluctant to blog -- just like many business CEOs -- those who do report enjoying the ability to respond quickly to large groups of students, on turf the younger folk understand. About a dozen college presidents are blogging, according to the article, which compares a few approaches as well as brickbats and praise from college advisers.

AAAS public programs opening

Ginger Pinholster, director of the Office of Public Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, tells us she is seeking a communications/administrative officer for senior-level administrative and professional support to the Director. Responsibilities include research, writing, editing, special projects and events and more; five to 10 years of relevant experience are required, as is a thorough understanding of issures relevant to a news environment and media relations operation. Check the position posting here, or contact recruiter Dawn Graf at

Monday, November 20, 2006

young pr pros get their own blog

Young PR professionals in Washington are the focus of a new blog by one of their own: John Stauffer blogs on Young Washington DC PR Pros, with a
focus on the new technologies as a means to communicate with consumers; it's what I hear my clients asking for everyday and it’s what will make us younger PR pros more valuable than a years’ subscription to Bacons.
Stauffer was asked by his firm to start building his skills in new media, and found his way to don't get caught's "Blogging for Your Business" workshops; this blog is the result, and lets him share what he's learned with a network of colleagues. A soon-to-recur feature: Interviews with industry veterans, beginning with Denise Graveline. Read her advice to young PR pros here, and keep an eye on this blog for what's happening of note to the next generation of PR practitioners.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

the reading break you need today

We read several papers every morning (quite early, as you can see) and often it's a skim-milk-and-skim-the-headlines exercise over breakfast. Today, what turns out to be Dan Barry's last "About New York" column, titled "On a Corner in the Midstream Rush," pulled in our wandering eye with gems like this:
With an evening rain lashing, a stream of people burble and bob toward the stairwells draining down to Penn Station. Some of those being carried along use umbrellas as shields against the wet and the city. Others hunch their bodies in clear resistance to their surroundings and to any notion of rainwater as a blessing.

Clumps of people clog street corners whenever the floodgates go up; that is, whenever the traffic lights turn green to unleash cabs and cars down Seventh Avenue. But when those lights flash red, the people float again upon the released current, across and down to trains and subways departing.
If you're looking for inspiration for your own writing (or just an inspiring break), this is worth dipping into: His active verbs and word pictures brought me right to 7th Avenue this morning, without leaving my breakfast table. Barry starts a new national column soon, but we recommend our writing coaching clients and others sample this exemplary piece today.

another great quote our series of colorful soundbites that go beyond the ordinary to make great word-pictures: This morning's New York Times, in an article on how the election results prompt changes in Washington lobbying firms, quotes Republican lobbyist Wayne Berman thusly:
I've told my Democratic partners it's time for them to buy some suits...I went out and bought two new fishing rods and looked into yoga classes.
The article notes, "He was joking, sort of." We like Berman's straightforward yet tongue-in-cheek delivery, which avoids an analogy -- the words "It's as if..." don't appear, making the statement more immediate and powerful. Can you use this approach the next time you want to get quoted?

Monday, November 13, 2006

last chance tickets for Woman of the Year

Members and friends of Washington Women in Public Relations have one more day to order tickets by phone for Wednesday's WWPR Washington PR Woman of the Year award luncheon, a must-do event in Washington public relations circles. Online registration closed last week, but credit card payments by phone can be taken until 5pm Eastern Time today at 202-729-8261. You also can try on-site registration, which opens 11:45am on Wednesday, November 15 at the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue; however, all on-site registrants will include an additional $5 surcharge. Don't Get Caught president Denise Graveline, a former winner of the award, will introduce one of this year's finalists, and her group blog on Washington communications networking, The Capital Buzz, is a benefactor-sponsor of the event.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

are you a media tracker?

If your work calls for you to absorb the best media coverage in science, environment, medicine and health, you have something in common with veteran journalist Charlie Petit, now "head tracker" for the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, a new blog that summarizes coverage -- particularly in-depth and enterprise reporting -- in all those topic areas. A unique feature: The Tracker's posts include Charlie's elegant summaries, as well as links to the original article and any related news releases issued to drive the story, making it easy for you to do your own comparison, and he notes that about half the stories he finds can "trace their genealogy" to a release. Especially fine stories are dubbed "Petit's Picks," and the blog's tagline -- "peer review within science journalism" -- suggests a new eye on the field. Check the link "about science journalism" for news, views and coverage of the profession, and award updates.

launching a business blog

Two more business owners who've taken our "Blogging for Your Business" workshops have launched strategic blogs. First, artist and graphic designer Melissa Hackmann uses her recent open-studio sale as the starting point for a new blog that covers her work in collage, printmaking, painting and more. Posts to this blog show her preparing art for sale, hanging it, and mixing with the crowd on open-studio day -- and in between, share her observations about art openings and exhibits in Washington, DC. A recent "art of the book" opening gave her an opening to display her own bookmaking arts. This blog makes strong use of photographs, not only of Hackmann's work, but her working environment: We see her studio, her "open studio" and individual pieces-in-progress, demystifying the artist's way and tantalizing prospective clients with views of not-yet completed work.

Ecologically minded entrepreneur Matthew Lemp has launched the Ecocabs blog, promoting his hybrid-vehicle courier service in Washington, DC. With the eventual goal of expanding to a full taxi fleet, Lemp uses his blog to share perspective on traffic, environmental issues in urban driving, hybrid-car performance, and more. (And he takes time out to share his philosophies on Halloween and trick-or-treaters, adding a personal touch.) For Lemp, this blog may become his primary web page, a cost-effective strategy for small businesses and entrepreneurs that takes advantage of the many free platforms available for creating a blog.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

shrink your reference shelf

...with some great online research resources. The National Press Club's Eric Friedheim Library, home to our blogging classes, has put together a page of reference sites for reporters (and the rest of us) to use. It includes sources of information where you can look up phone numbers, polling data and much more. One of the sites featured, the Virtual Reference Shelf, is compiled by the Library of Congress, with links to lookups for topics that range from art to statistics. Keep these links bookmarked, and clear that bookshelf!

Knight Foundation's "news challenge"

At the most recent meeting of the Communications Network in Philanthropy, we learned about an innovative online "news challenge" being issued by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The foundation will award $5 million in 2007 for online news projects that "Turn the web on its head [and] Show us how online news can help people improve their lives and shape their communities." Funding may go to "new ideas, pilot projects, commercial products and leadership initiatives that will improve the flow of information and news in the public interest." Individuals, organizations and even businesses may apply by December 31. The catch: You must show how your idea will transform community life. It's rare for private foundations to extend this type of offer to entrepreneurs and individuals as well as nonprofit organizations, in our experience. If you're going to take the challenge, do read the useful website to learn about the relevant categories and to find out what they don't want to see, to improve your chances.

Monday, October 30, 2006

the gender gap in presentation skills

When Harvard president Lawrence Summers suggested that fewer women reach high-level positions in science due to differences in innate ability or innate preference, he created a firestorm. One thing we know after decades working with top women who work as scientists, engineers, physicians, attorneys and public officials: Women in all professions have specific advantages and challenges when it comes to public speaking, presentations and media interviews. To help them build on their gender advantages, we're developing new workshops for professional women on presentation skills, covering effective messages, physical movement, appearance and dress, and more. Let us know your greatest challenge, biggest fear or best moment in presenting or speaking with an email at -- you can help us shape the workshop content now! Look for these new workshops to debut early in 2007...or call us sooner for a consultation now.

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.

the art of blogging for your business

You may not be able to hang them on a wall or see them in a gallery, but blogs can be artful communications tools for businesses of all sizes, a concept we teach in our "Blogging for Your Business" workshops. And while some participants choose to delete the blogs they create in our workshops, many go on to put them to immediate use -- with immediate results. An artful -- and art-filled -- case in point is the blog created by workshop participant Julia Morelli, deputy director of Washington's Nevin Kelly Gallery. She started the gallery blog in last week's workshop because
the blog is a great strategy for letting our friends and clients know about news and goings-on at the gallery in a more timely manner than monthly website updates and emails.
Both Julia and gallery owner Nevin Kelly will be posting on this blog, which makes good use of photos of art in current and forthcoming shows, gallery staff and the resident dogs. We especially like such posts as "Does Art Scare You?", which engages the reader by explaining the gallery's efforts to be a welcoming and comfortable space, pointing out that -- far from stuffy -- they even welcome you to bring treats from the neighboring bakery Cake Love into the gallery. (And it suggests that readers can make an afternoon of visiting the gallery and area eateries, just one of the content techniques we review in the workshop.)

Most important: Proving that blogs rise to attention online extra-fast, the gallery's new blog -- considered a first for DC art galleries -- has already gained notice by DC Blogs and Mid-Atlantic Art News, all in less than a week after the blog was begun. What are you waiting for? Contact us at to find out about smart blogging strategies for your communications efforts.

top ways to publicize your book

Don't Get Caught president Denise Graveline joined science author and blogger Carl Zimmer and News Generation president Susan Matthews Apgood this weekend to help members of the National Association of Science Writers strategize about book publicity at NASW's annual meeting in Baltimore. The session was moderated by author Julie Wakefield, and titled "Book PR Boot Camp: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You," and included participants ranging from seasoned authors to those with books-in-progress, and few who dream of publishing a book, and lots of compelling topics such as the brain, health-care costs, eating disorders, and the impact of media on very young children. In an active session, our advice for effective book publicity included:

- providing your publisher with materials demonstrating your ability to actively publicize your book: a "media resume" of previous media coverage and appearances; tape of any broadcast interviews; a summary of any media training you've had; a list of speaking engagements you've lined up about the book.
- use your website and blog as free communications tools to build an audience, sell copies of your book (from retailers, or autographed by you), create email lists, and keep readers interested in your next project.
- use radio tours and releases as more efficient and less time-consuming ways to reach millions in markets all over the country; it's a great alternative to the traditional book tour.

We're looking forward to bringing you news of new books from the authors we talked to on Saturday -- they're a dedicated bunch. You can read highlights from other sesssions at the NASW meeting here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

publicity on a budget, redux

Here's where you can finally see our letter to the editor of Inc. magazine, challenging some assumptions in its advice this fall to a CEO comparing the costs and benefits of firms and full-time communications employees. (We posted about it earlier here, before the current issue was released online.)

the chill of government blogging

The chilling effect on government blogs -- either from agencies or by their employees -- just got colder: Federal Computer Week reports that the U.S. Department of the Interior's chief information officer has banned employees from reading blogs, and his quotes imply he disapproves of employees writing their own blogs, although the latter activity should be protected under their First Amendment rights. The article notes:
Interior banned blogs mostly because of fears of information leaks and the inability to know who is writing a particular blog.

“Blogs just scare the pants off me, particularly when Interior people want to launch blogs and take ownership of those types of things.” Tipton said. “We don't allow people to go to blogs unless we know where they are, who they are and what have you.”
The ban, prompted by a crackdown on employees looking at inappropriate websites on taxpayer time, including pornography, puzzles observers when it comes to blogs, which may contain content that's useful for the government to monitor -- or can serve as an effective communications tool to reach special audiences.

We've just completed this fall's "Blogging for Your Business" workshops at the National Press Club. Our advanced "part II" class allowed participants to build on and expand the blogs and skills they built that morning in part I, and we're looking forward to highlighting our participants' blogs once they're ready for prime time. A favorite comment: "Before the class, we knew we needed a blog, but didn't know how to do it or think it through. Now we're ready!" This time around, we worked with PR firms, trade associations, professional membership groups, journalists, publishers, a delivery service, an art gallery, government contractors, consultants and more to advance their blogging skills.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

new year's resolution: get coached

Whether you're a communications manager who'd like to see your staff writers improve, or a writer who wants to advance to the next level, consider planning now to offer -- or take advantage of -- writing coaching in 2007. It's a new year's resolution that will deliver results, and works as well for beginning writers as for seasoned pros. A one-on-one form of customized training, writing coaching allows individuals to get private advice and practice that pinpoints their specific challenges. You'll work with the coach and independently on assignments, techniques and challenges we set for you. If a group of writers needs coaching, we offer half-day group trainings, with one-on-one sessions scheduled after lunch, so that each writing team member gets both a consistent level of training with her peers, as well as individual help. Find out more about our individual coaching in writing, presentation skills, media interviews and more here on the website, or email us at for advice on how to structure this important and effective training option to meet your needs.

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.

initiation fee waiver for National Press Club

If you're interested in joining the National Press Club here in Washington, get thee to a cocktail reception at the Club on Thursday, November 2 -- for this event only, they'll waive the initiation fee if you join the Club. The event will take place from 6pm to 8pm, in the Murrow Room, 14th floor of the Club building at 529 14th Street NW. While it's primarily for newsletter editors and writers, any potential member may attend. Or, if you can't attend, the initiation fee waiver applies for the entire month of October -- it will be extended into November only for attendees of the reception. For more information, or to RSVP, contact Sarah Driggs, Director of Membership Recruitment, National Press Club, at 202.662.7511 or

communicating science news

One of our favorite online resources has just been reformatted. It's called Communicating Science News: A Guide for Public Information Officers, Scientists and Physicians. Published by the National Association of Science Writers, the guide is especially useful if you've never handled communications or PR for a scientific organization at technical meetings, for example -- and a wonderful resource to hand to scientists, physicians and other technical clients who may not understand how the process of public relations works. (It also handles deftly some common situations that communicators face when working with reporters.) You can catch Denise Graveline, don't get caught president, at the forthcoming NASW annual meeting in Baltimore at the end of this month, on a "Book PR Boot Camp: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You" panel. (Please note that registration is now closed for the meeting, at which 400 science journalists and communicators are expected!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Washington PR Woman of the Year...

...finalists have been announced for this coveted Washington Women in Public Relations honor, and they are:
Kristen Grimm, President and Founder, Spitfire Strategies,
Margery Kraus, President and CEO, APCO Worldwide, and
Marilynn Deane Mendell, President, Win Spin CIC, Inc.
As tradition requires, all three finalists must show up at the WWPR annual luncheon on Wednesday, November 15, to find out who wins the ultimate honor -- a great way to add suspense to a luncheon. Newscaster Maureen Bunyan is this year's keynote speaker. Don't Get Caught president Denise Graveline is a former "PR woman of the year" and judge for the award, and this year joins with other authors of The Capital Buzz, our newest blog, as a benefactor sponsor of the event. You can order tickets for the luncheon online now, and we hope to see you there!

a new blog for DC communicators

If you work in communications in or around Washington, DC, check out our latest blog -- a group effort -- called "The Capital Buzz: Survival Tools for DC Communicators." Don't Get Caught president Denise Graveline joins four other "boss ladies," all women entrepreneurs on several sides of the communications business, in keeping you up-to-date in real time on networking events and opportunities. We blog before and after events, so you can stay updated even if you don't attend, and you'll notice a variety of views and discussion questions. The Capital Buzz will be a sponsor of the upcoming Washington Women in Public Relations "Washington PR Woman of the Year" luncheon; look for our "survival tool kit" in the goody bag at that event!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

inc magazine on reasonable PR rates

In August, Inc. magazine's "Ask Inc." column tackled the question of a small business CEO about whether to hire a PR firm, even though retainers seemed high to him. Should he just tackle the PR tasks himself? The magazine (and another CEO) recommended hiring a fulltime publicist at a $36,000-per-year salary instead, comparing that favorably to a scenario in which one might spend $4,000 per month in retainer fees. DGC President Denise Graveline's response appears in the current October issue, which unfortunately, doesn't yet appear on Inc.'s website (the September cover is shown here). Here it is for you:
Inc.'s response to Michael Wolverton's question about hiring a PR firm offered incomplete advice. Hiring a $36,000-a-year in-house publicist may actually cost more than the $4,000 per month ($48,000 per year) in retainer fees for an outside firm once you add up training, taxes, insurance, and an operating budget. You also missed the opportunity to suggest several money-saving options, including asking for other pricing models besides retainers and finding smaller PR firms that charge lower rates.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

science writers hear the blogging buzz

Tonight's DC Science Writers Association session on "Blogging: Beyond the Buzz" drew a sold-out crowd of 85 journalists, communicators and freelancers, eager to hear and talk through blogging issues. As before, I heard from many frustrated would-be government bloggers, but just as many other potential bloggers who've wondered about it and not felt comfortable trying it out. My great insight came when I asked the crowd who could do one less email a day -- because a blog post is as easy as writing an email -- and only one person raised his hand! Surely, folks can rethink that.

My fellow speakers had wonderful insights to share. Matthew Nisbet, author of the "Framing Science" blog, a newcomer to Washington and an American University faculty member, walked us through how scientists, strategists and journalists use blogs. His observations of the audiences we all seek online: Most people are "cognitive misers" who seek information shortcuts and summaries...the "just tell me what I need to know crowd," which bespeaks brevity and value in content. Tamara Zemlo, executive director of the Science Advisory Board, a network of 31,000 life scientists, has launched six blogs for and with her members. Some 75 percent of the SAB's website is member-contributed to begin with, and her blogging goal was to facilitate more conversation between scientists and their high-tech suppliers. Her five lessons-learned, after a mixed experience with some successful and not-so-successful blogs:

- Organizations that blog need to participate more in the larger blog community;
- Organization blogs need to connect with their audiences -- no matter how small and focused;
- Considering less-frequent posts may be a more viable option for many organizations;
- Encourage and nurture subscribers via RSS and other ways to push forward your content; and
- Don't tune out readers by losing interest in your topic over time--choose a topic about which you can write with passion in your blog.

making the case for a blog

Many of our clients want to blog for their businesses, large or small, but fear they can't make the case for a blog to their management or colleagues. This week, two articles offer you ammo: In the Wall Street Journal this week, Gwendolyn Bounds covers "How to Get Attention in a New-Media World," focusing on small businesses using blogs (and other techniques) for cost-effective public relations. And today's New York Times provides this short data summary on who's blogging, business-wise, which notes that more than 80 percent of both corporations and small businesses say they do blog or intend to blog, but only 10 percent of small businesses have incorporated blogs into their marketing plans. That's followed by a longer article -- "Blogging the Hand that Feeds You" -- on bloggers who are and are not encouraged to publish by (and about) their corporations. It's helpful when making your case to note that Microsoft, at last count, purportedly has some 15,000 employees blogging about the company in some way, but no internal policy or controls forbidding or limiting what they say. Even if your organization isn't ready to go that far, it's useful to have these examples of the blogging landscape when you make your case.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

AFT public affairs director search

The Washington-based American Federation of Teachers is seeking a senior communicator for its Director of Public Affairs position. Candidates with significant public affairs experience -- particularly a familiarity with the labor movement -- are preferred. Find the position description here, and send your resume and cover letter referencing posting #57-11-806 to, or by snail-mail to the Director of Human Resources, AFT, PO Box 2090, Washington, DC 20013-2090.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why businesses should blog

We asked Brian Brown of Pajama Market -- who reviews a "small business blog of the day" -- to give us his best advice for businesses considering blogging. His reply: "Get started." You can see some of Brian's picks in today's USA Today article, "Blogs Put Businesses on Web Search Map," just as brief as Brian's advice, with a few more of our fellow "blogs of the day." Denise Graveline's Vegetables for Breakfast blog was similarly singled out by Pajama Market last month...and she'll share more tips in our October workshops on "Blogging for Your Business."

Monday, September 18, 2006

registration open for blogging workshops

You can now go here to register for our October workshops, "Blogging for Your Business I and II," to be held at the National Press Club's computer classroom. Previous attendees have called this a “terrific seminar…very hands-on…informative, easy to follow and helpful...thorough and fast-moving.” Some have changed their business models, stopped publishing print newsletters, or reduced their promotion and publishing budgets. Join them and find out why -- or, if you've already taken part I, try the advanced version.

Friday, September 15, 2006

blogging workshops set for October

Don't Get Caught will once more hold its popular "Blogging for Your Business" workshops -- this time, with a beginners' part I and an advanced part II, each one half-day -- on Monday, October 23 and Tuesday, October 24, in Washington, DC, at the National Press Club (which is not a sponsor of the workshop). The part I workshops will be held in the morning on both days, and the part II in the afternoons, allowing you to take both workshops in the space of a single day. Here's what to expect:
Blogging for Your Business I: With strategies, examples, and hands-on practice, this workshop helps you start (and make the case for) a blog, create content, use it to promote your business, build an audience, handle comments, and drive and measure traffic.

Blogging for Your Business II: More hands-on practice and strategies for improving your blog's visual appeal; adding links, sound and photos; promoting your blog to wider audiences; and more creative uses for business blogs.
Each half-day workshop costs $150, or just $110 if you are a National Press Club member. We'll have registration pages on this website soon. Please email us at in the meantime if you have questions or need more information.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pajama Market shares our blogging tips

You can glean our tips and perspectives on blogging for your business in this interview with Don't Get Caught president Denise Graveline at Pajama Market, a blog about small business blogs. Pajama Market named our other blog "Vegetables for Breakfast" the "small business blog of the day" recently, and PM blogger Brian Brown interviewed Denise about this unusual approach to blogging. You'll also find our tips for business bloggers and get a sense of who else takes our popular blogging workshops. Stay tuned for October dates for our next blogging workshops in Washington, DC!

blogging buzz explained

Don't Get Caught president Denise Graveline will speak to the D.C. Science Writers Association later this month in a panel discussion on "Blogs: Beyond the Buzz," Wednesday, Sept. 27, 6-8 p.m., at the Genetics and Public Policy Center, Berman Bioethics Institute, Johns Hopkins University, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Fifth Floor. Speaking on "Why Blog? Benefits for Science Writers," Graveline will join these panelists:

Science Blogs: Intersections with the Public, the Media, and Politics:, Matthew Nisbet, assistant professor, School of Communications, American University and author of the Framing Science blog, also columnist, Science and the Media, for Skeptical Inquirer Online.

Launching Science Blogs: Successes and Challenges: A representative from The Science Advisory Board, an online community of over 30,000 life scientists based in Arlington, Va., will describe the varying degrees of success achieved by the organization's six different member-authored blogs that describe everything from daily life in the lab to the frontlines of cancer research.

The event costs $15 for members, $20 for non-members for light hors d'oeuvres and beverages, free for the program only, which starts at 6:30 p.m. RSVP: By Sept. 25, via Evite to members or on the DCSWA website.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

posting video online? keep it short

A new Associated Press-AOL Video poll has found that just 20 percent of those who've watched videos online -- about half of all Internet users -- has downloaded a full-length movie or television show. As with videos shown to groups in convention halls or even those you see at home in your living room, shorter means more popular:

News clips were the most popular, seen by 72 percent of online video viewers, followed by short movie and TV clips, music videos, sports highlights and user-generated amateur videos.

Survey respondents noted that the accessibility of online video had not changed their TV viewing habits, and a third said they were watching more video online than a year ago.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

un-mix those metaphors

The Washington Post's political reporter, Dana Milbank, listened with a writer's ear to Senator Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.), who described yesterday his party's plans for victory in the midterm elections.
To judge from Schumer's presentation, the Democrats will achieve this extraordinary triumph by employing an extended series of mixed metaphors. Schumer himself may have set a record in that department yesterday as he painted the electoral landscape:

"This administration is shrugging its shoulders. . . . It's like 'The Wizard of Oz' -- it showed the man behind the screen. . . . You know which way the winds are blowing. . . . There have been very few bumps in the road. . . . The wind continues to stay at our backs. . . . The idea that there should be no check and balance, no congressional oversight, just isn't flying. They want to try to bring back the 2004 playbook. . . . They're trying to find a new rabbit to pull out of the hat, but so far they've gone back to the old chestnuts."

Chestnuts? In the same hat with rabbits? With the wind at their back on a bumpy road?
Speakers draw on metaphors to make complex points clear, to resonate with audiences, and, more often, because they haven't thought through ahead of time what to say. Piling on too many metaphors tells you that the speaker's either unprepared or unsure his audience gets the point, or both. Cliches in the form of mixed metaphors tell the audience the speaker isn't trying hard enough to be clear or concise. Don't get caught speechless or tongue-tied -- contact Denise Graveline at to get help developing messages memorable for both audience and speaker.

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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

next year's anniversaries, now

Anniversaries of all kinds help organizations measure progress, whether you're celebrating the founding of the group or the 10th year since a chapter was formed. (And they're often irrestible when you want to motivate your volunteer members or recruit new ones.) If you're anticipating organizational anniversaries next year, don't get caught without our anniversary speech inserts for 2007. We offer suggested remarks you can drop into board member, executive director, or member speeches, letters, editorials and more, with content that reminds audiences of what was happening 10, 25, 50 or 100 years ago, putting your history into perspective -- a technique that wins audiences over every time. You and your organization will start 2007 ready to celebrate. We also offer customized anniversary content for scientific, medical, environmental and other subject-specific organizations. To find out more, email us at

Friday, August 25, 2006

science writers' meeting early registration

You have just one week left to get the early registration discount for the National Association of Science Writers "Science in Society" meeting, set to begin Friday, October 27, in Baltimore, Maryland. Register by September 1 for the discount. All registration closes on October 5. To learn more about the NASW Science in Society meeting or to register, go here. Don't Get Caught President Denise Graveline served on the meeting's organizing committee and will be speaking at a "Book PR Boot Camp" at the meeting on Saturday morning, October 28.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

'small business blog of the day'

Our other blog, Vegetables for Breakfast, is the 'small business blog of the day' today, according to Pajama Market, blogging consultant Brian Brown's blog about best practices for business bloggers. (Read his review of our blog here.) Brian's blog, well-reviewed itself, offers a daily take on a good business blog, and offers tips and advice along the way, based on real-world examples. His enthusiasm's catching, too (and not just when we're mentioned). Vegetables for Breakfast is our journalistic and impressionistic blog about don't get caught president Denise Graveline's experiment with a community-supported agriculture (CSA) project, in which she gets a weekly subscription "share" of fresh, local organic vegetables every week from June through October, from a farm less than 100 miles away from her (in this case, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.)

The blog offers perspectives on prepping, cooking and consuming vegetables (hence the name), CSAs and how they work from the consumer's view, the science behind organic vegetables and sustainable agriculture, nutritional issues, and efforts around the world to increase the consumption of locally grown produce. We take health, environmental and science perspectives and toss in recipes and ideas, and we're proud of this new salute! (Brian correctly notes that V4B is not a blog about our business, but the business of the farmer, from the consumer's side...and still liked it.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

revising your publications wardrobe

If you publish -- be it magazines, brochures, newsletters, fact sheets, news releases, issue briefs or any other paper-based publications for your communications efforts -- perhaps it's time to reconsider some of the "closet classics" in your publications wardrobe. That's particularly true in the era of blogs, which can replace many, if not all, publications. Among the participants in one of our popular "Blogging for Your Business" workshops was a Washington-based publisher for several national membership groups. Much of her business consisted of publishing newsletters for those groups, updating them on goings-on in the nation's capital on their issues -- but not once she learned about blogging, still a largely free option for self-publishing. Consider what else you could be doing with the budgets you spend on printing, production, graphic design, postage and distribution. We can help you determine strategic alternatives to your current publications schemes (some of which may even include paper-based materials). Email Denise Graveline at to find out more.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

foot in mouth disease

In the aftermath of Mel Gibson's outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease, today's New York Times asks seasoned Hollywood publicists for their prescription for handling gaffes with more finesse -- and with better results for your reputation. Celebrity publicist Michael Levine cites what he calls "the four pillars of celebrity crisis management: Speed, humility, contrition and personal responsibility" as the essential steps in recovering from major public mistakes, good counsel even if you are not a movie star.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

science writers set to meet in Baltimore

Registration for the 2006 NASW Science in Society meeting is now open. The meeting will begin Friday, October 27, in Baltimore. Here's where you can register, check out the hotel discounts, program and speakers, which include Denise Graveline and a panel speaking on book publicity. Registration closes on October 5.

nominate a woman of the year...

Once again, Washington Women in Public Relations has issued its call for nominees for its "Washington PR Woman of the Year" award, to be presented at WWPR's annual awards luncheon in mid-November 2006. Nominations and all supporting material must be received no later than September 8, 2006, by: Gwen Haynes, WWPR Woman of the Year Co-Chair, via or at The Points of Light Foundation, 1400 I Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

senior job opening at National Trust

Senior communicators, take note: The National Trust for Historic Preservation is searching for a Vice President for Communications and Marketing, a newly configured post that will oversee communications as well as the Trust's national magazine, Preservation. Twenty years' communications experience is preferred, and experience with mass electronic communications vehicles and magazine publishing would be "a big plus," as would experience and/or interest in preservation, community revitalization and related fields.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

revealing leaders, one blooper at a time

If you're wondering why the nation and the world seem so fascinated with playing and replaying Internet-spread video of President Bush (or any world leader) getting caught with a slip of the lip, wonder no more. In today's New York Times Week in Review, Jim Rutenberg here notes how times have changed for modern U.S. presidents, thanks to President Nixon:
Nixon famously and reluctantly provided 2,700 hours of tape from his inner sanctum, along with tens of thousands of pages of transcripts of conversations, which combined to blow any vestige of a strait-laced facade off his White House--and hastened the march toward impeachment. After Nixon, though, presidents tended to keep the candor well guarded, and so to the blooper bin we go for insight.

It is deep.
Rutenberg also notes that the Nixon tapes and the resultant damage "pretty much ensured that no president would again make the mistake of keeping vast archives of recordings. White Houses are better than ever at hiding the true humanity of presidents, so historians are glad to have the bloopers." Not to mention the joke-passers of the Web...

measure that podcast

Today's Washington Post business section reports new data from Nielsen Analytics that put specifics on our gut sense that podcast audiences are growing. But how? The article, here, notes that:

-more than 9 million Internet users downloaded podcasts last month (not a high proportion of the total);
-ten percent of respondents said they download eight or more podcasts a week;
- more than 75 percent of podcast listeners are male;
- 38 percent say they're listening to the radio less, as a result of using podcasts.

While still a small audience overall, it pays to stay abreast of these trends as they grow and change. One analyst quoted in the article suggests that the car stereo will be the first device to be replaced by podcast technology...a change that would revolutionize the captive audience of commuting drive-time radio.

Friday, July 21, 2006

no more writer's cramp

Writers who struggle with forearm and wrist pain from too much typing will welcome an improved generation of dictation software. Reviewed in the New York Times this week here, NaturallySpeaking version 9 (available at comes close to 100 percent accuracy -- without having you read extensive passages into the software first. The review offers an extensive description of how it works, comparisons to other versions and brands, and special features for Macs and PCs. Best: It works whether you're writing a memo, the Great American Novel, or just a text message.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

a fresh blog

Fresh and local vegetables, that is...Don't Get Caught president Denise Graveline has launched another blog, Vegetables for Breakfast, about the environmental, scientific and culinary aspects of participating in a community-supported agriculture project. She gets a prepaid weekly "share" of organic, locally grown vegetables from a farmer within 100 miles of her home in Washington, DC. After Farmer Allan Balliett of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, drops off the weekly bag of what's in season, the fun begins...follow the challenge of cooking fresh and local foods in this new effort!

Monday, July 17, 2006

the shelf life of an egg not, we predict, going to be lengthened by CBS's move to put advertisements on eggshells. Don't believe us, check it out in today's New York Times here. Some 35 million eggs will have laser-printed ads (text only) for programs in the CBS fall lineup right on their shells. CBS likes it, says one exec, because "you can't avoid it" in a cluttered ad environment (if you eat eggs, that is). A company called EggFusion in Deerfield, Ill. handles the laser work. For now, don't look for a rash of egg advertising: CBS likes this approach enough to have secured sole advertiser status on eggs this fall. You're most likely to find them at A&P supermarkets, the first major chain to carry EggFusion-altered eggs. Guess this is a sign that there are now too many promotional pens and t-shirts...

the shelf life of online news rather longer than an instant. And it was measured in, of all places, a physics journal. Reported in today's New York Times, the study in Physical Review E, the journal of the American Physical Society, finds that it takes 36 hours for half of the total readership of an online article to have read it. The article gets confirmation by actual editors of online news. Jennifer Sizemore of, notes:
“Sure, the top news story always gets a ton of traffic. But sometimes that second-to-last headline near the bottom of the page won’t be far behind. And there are features that will draw strongly for a week or more. Even once they’re no longer featured on the front, they are prominent throughout the site.”
Don't get caught pulling online news stories too quickly, then, lest you lose the other half of the readers who go beyond 36 hours to reach your news.

Friday, July 14, 2006

your online image checkup

How often do you glance in a mirror or plate glass window to check your appearance? Now how often do you check your image -- or that of your organization -- on the Web? Find out whether you're above or below the radar, and what your customers or members are saying about you, with this simple online image checkup:

* Start with your email signature block, your best free ad on the Internet. If you're only using it for your name, phone and email address, you're missing a chance to point your messagees to a news release, new Web page, or blog post that they might otherwise miss. Update your signature block frequently, and it will be frequently read -- this is a major word-of-mouth traffic driver when it's used effectively.

*Next, Google yourself, your organization, your new book title, or your issue of importance. Does your preferred image or site show up as one of the first searches? If not, you may need to update your Web page or blog more frequently; the most recent content rises to the top of any search, which is why we recommend blog posts so strongly. Don't forget to check for yourself or your group on Google Image and Google News to see photos and news stories circulating about you.

*Is your blog showing? As noted above, blogs are search engine magnets, but you can help the process along by "pinging" blog search sites like Technorati, Google Blog Search or Feedster to be sure they include your most recent posts.

Smart communicators, or those needing to raise their visibility, would do well to conduct this checkup at least once a month if not more frequently. For more ideas on how to raise your visibility online, contact Denise Graveline at

Thursday, July 13, 2006

news release blogging

We encourage clients to consider the easily updated blog as a media relations method, and UMBC, an honors university in Maryland, offers a great example with its news release site powered by Movable Type, a blogging platform. While not advertised as a blog, you'll note that each release is a post, identifying its author; the site also offers RSS feeds. We provide coaching, training and writing services for the public relations and marketing teams at UMBC, and we're proud to share their example as one you may want to emulate.

smooth the way for readers

Many writers get caught in transitions, and we don't mean job changes, but those essential words that move the reader from one thought to the next. An easy-to-use reference for just such occasions is A Writer's Guide to Transitional Words and Expressions by Victor C. Pellegrino. The "pages" in this book are arranged so you can easily thumb through them to find options for transitions that indicate time order, sequence, summaries, cause and effect, emphasis, examples and more. And as a bonus, the last section includes 500 words that can substitute for "said." Make a transition on your reference shelf and include this slim but useful volume.

Buy A Writer's Guide to Transitional Words and Expressions

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

thank you for hating my book the title of a tragicomic op-ed piece in today's New York Times. Author Katha Pollitt describes her horror at learning that a lousy review (complete with bad caricature of her) was deemed "good publicity" by her publisher and friends. She writes about the common author addiction of watching her rankings, and hedges her bets by buying $256 worth of her own book for friends and at at time, over time, to boost the numbers. If you are or have been a book author, you'll find this a familiar situation -- but it doesn't have to be. We help book authors to:

- negotiate with their publishers to get maximum PR and marketing efforts;
- conduct a publicity checkup to make sure you're taking advantage of the free and simple ways to promote your book, as a baseline.
- create speaking opportunities and materials to promote your book;
- identify and seek coverage of your book or interview opportunities with print reporters, radio and TV producers and bloggers;
- help you create a blog that can promote your book; and
- measure your book's coverage.

Denise Graveline is co-organizing and speaking on a panel on "Book PR Basics: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You" at the next National Association of Science Writers meeting, in October in Baltimore. Find out more about the meeting here, and email us at if you have a forthcoming or existing book that needs publicity help.

Friday, June 23, 2006

a blackout that revealed too much

Federal prosecutors who filed a government brief in an ongoing grand jury investigation of steroid use in baseball thought they had electronically blacked-out or redacted sections considered sensitive, to avoid public release of those details. But they got caught by technology: Just by cutting and pasting the document into a word processing program, the blacked-out sections could be reversed, allowing anyone to read the "secret" parts. Ironically, the brief is part of an investigation that hopes to force two reporters to reveal confidential sources. The New York Times article offers a graphic showing the redacted area and a portion of what could be read beneath the blackout lines, as well as the full document, which you can see here. Your take-home lesson: Don't forget that reporters understand the comments and editing functions of electronic documents, and know what you're releasing -- or protecting.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

start shortening: the one-word brand

Reader Elizabeth Corley sent us this Financial Times interview with advertising guru Maurice Saatchi, who now recommends that you whittle your brand down to a single word. Here's why:

The strongest brands are defined by their ownership of one thought; the very strongest by one word. The nature of this thought or word predetermines the breadth of the brand’s activities. This is why companies need to think very carefully about the dominant association they wish to create for their brand. If the word is attitudinal, it is possible it will have wider application. If it is product specific, it will define the company more tightly in its category. It is essential to remember that choosing the word involves sacrifices, the relentless editing out of the superfluous and the irrelevant. Precision is better than greed.

Saatchi's thinking makes sense in an era when we're beginning to get headlines on cellphones and in text messages, which are by definition brief. Can you edit your brand down to one word? Let us know your progress at

a voice from the past

If you're studying great and moving speeches to improve your own, dip into a new book and audio CD combination, Let Every Nation Know: John F. Kennedy In His Own Words (With Audio CD). Authors Robert Dallek and Terry Golway offer biographical background on the 30-plus speeches, debates, press conferences and other public speaking moments included on the CD, allowing you to reflect and listen. (See our previous post here about Kennedy -- and others'-- tendency to misquote the great thinkers in their speeches.) Among the many fine examples included are several poignant ones: Kennedy's last public remarks, delivered in San Antonio the day before his death, and later tributes by his brothers, Senators Robert and Edward Kennedy.

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.

Buy Let Every Nation Know: John F. Kennedy In His Own Words (With Audio CD)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

be tech-savvy when you pitch reporters

So said a panel of newshounds today at Washington Women in Public Relations' annual media roundtable luncheon. Most traditional news media outlets -- whether print or broadcast -- now have added one or more websites, plus podcasts and broadcasts, to their offerings. As a result, "technology makes our jobs larger," said Garrett Graff, editor-at-large, Washingtonian Magazine and editor of Fishbowl DC, a blog that covers journalism and the media industry in Washington. Jennifer Nycz-Connor, a Washington Business Journal reporter, agreed: "Now every day is deadline day," a major change for a weekly publication that's added daily 3pm web feeds to its roster. Graff noted that the new mix of blogs, websites, broadcasts and traditional print outlets means you'll see media "trying to figure out what we do best" over time. An example: Daily newspapers' print editions no longer can carry true scoops, given the advent of faster-turnaround web releases. But they do excel at analysis, and you're likely to see more of that in your morning paper. Alter your pitches to reporters and keep in mind that their deadlines are more numerous -- and onerous -- than ever.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

rethinking your long-standing logo?

We've recently helped one nonprofit board work through whether to stay with or revise its long-standing logo -- a discussion that caused a major rift within its membership -- so we're pleased to see that today's New York Times looks at a similar discussion in the corporate world. "What's Red, Familiar, Ubiquitous and May Be on Its Way Out?" describes the possibility that Citigroup will retire the 136-year-old red umbrella logo it acquired along with Travelers Insurance. As with other organizations we've counseled on this matter, the considerations range from brand consistency to whether someone's feelings will be hurt (in this case, former chairman Sanford Weill, who helped Travelers grow and led the merger). Noting that "everything's on the table except the Citigroup name" as a possible change, the article points out one complication: an earlier announcement. "The news release announcing the merger of Travelers Group with Citicorp said in the second paragraph that the combined company would retain the umbrella," the Times notes. We can help your organization's executives, boards and members work through the negotiation of a new logo -- or the decision to keep one. Contact Denise Graveline at

Friday, June 16, 2006

Special discount for media roundtable

We're happy to say that a mere mention of "Denise Graveline sent me" will allow you entry to next week's Washington Women in Public Relations media roundtable luncheon at the member rate, 20 percent off. The media roundtable is one of WWPR's most engaging meetings, and is being held at 12 noon next Wednesday, June 21, at the Arts Club of Washington located at 2017 I "Eye" Street, NW, in Washington, DC. This year, reporters from Washingtonian magazine, Fishbowl DC, Washington Post Radio, COX-TV and Washington Business Journal are lined up to share insights and advice.

WWPR also is one of the best networks in the city for communicators, and don't get caught President Denise Graveline was honored by the group as a "Washington PR Woman of the Year." Make your reservation by emailing Racine Tucker Hamilton at You will need to provide a credit card number to reserve your space. Don't forget to say Denise Graveline sent you!

funny, but no

Some use humor in their writing to engage the reader, others to make a sharp point. It pays to review any humorous attempts in your writing to ensure the point doesn't turn back on you...that's what the writers at Hallmark's Shoebox Greetings line do, according to yesterday's interview with the team on NPR's All Things Considered. In team meetings, the writers review each other's work; humor that's considered too biting or prone to misunderstanding or offense is posted on an office wall titled "Funny, But No." You can go here to see and hear the story, and see examples of off-putting humor that made it into the "funny, but no" collection. Use it as a reminder to check your own humor before publishing, printing or hitting "send."

Friday, June 09, 2006

making your brand stick...

...just got easier. The U.S. Postal Service recently approved customized stamps for businesses, paving the way for you to use a commercial vendor -- Endicia, Zazzle or -- to print postage featuring your business logo or name. (There's a surcharge, with discounts for larger quantities, and the stamps include a bar code in addition to the image you supply.) While your largest mailings will likely be metered, consider these stamps for special occasion mailings, such as organization anniversaries, fundraisers, and the like.

great quotes: the cost of moving a piano....

Yesterday's Marketplace business radio show reported on legislation before the Congress on control of the Internet, and a standoff between Web content producers and telephone and cable TV companies. The fight's over the burgeoning amounts of data users want to receive -- like video -- and who pays for its transfer. Telecom consultant Scott Cleland used piano-moving to create a wonderful word picture that put the issue across:

One two-hour high definition movie is the equivalent of 35,000 e-mails. In the next year or two, the Googles and Microsofts and Yahoos want to distribute video which is like moving pianos. Obviously, the cost of moving a piano over the Internet should cost more than moving a letter.

You can listen to reporter John Dimsdale's story, or read the transcript, here. We hope our ongoing series of great quotes help you craft soundbites and word pictures when you're explaining technical matters to public audiences.

"You got to learn English..."

Thus spoke President George W. Bush yesterday to advise new immigrants to the U.S. -- and remind the rest of us that even longtime citizens may need to brush up on verb forms. Put the solution on your reference bookshelf, in the form of 501 English Verbs. It's a verb-per-page reference that tackles the most common and most difficult verbs and conjugates them fully, in an easy-to-use format. (Those who struggled through irregular French verbs will remember the companion volume in that language.) Got it?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

new site reaching across the digital divide?

Today's Washington Post reports on a nonprofit group, One Economy Corp., that will today announce plans for a public-interest Web site, designed to offer economically disadvantaged people simple information on safety, emergency services, health, education and job opportunities. To be written at a fifth-grade literacy level in Spanish and English, the site will link to existing information on the Web, and plans to strike agreements with municipal, private and nonprofit organizations to place their information on the site. First up: Pilot versions of the site in San Francisco, Baltimore and New Orleans within a year. A similar effort,, was launched to simplify citizen searches about government Web offerings.

Monday, June 05, 2006

business blogs get webby

One week from today, the Webby Awards ceremony will take place in New York, and for the first time, a business blog will win a Webby in a newly created category. The inaugural winner: 5 Blogs Before Lunch, the blog of marketing consultancy 5 Meetings Before Lunch. View all the winners here, including a list of all nominees. In the business blog category, those included Gartner, Inc. (with multiple blogs); GM's Fastlane blog; Inc. magazine's staff blog; and, the World Resources Institute's blog on international development through enterprise. (Warning: The links in this post take you straight to these nominated blogs; not so the links on the Webby winners page, which often lead to the main web page.)

We're also big fans of the Webby tradition of 5-words-or-less acceptance speeches, which in the past have included Al Gore's "please don't recount this vote," and Travelocity's "Thanks. Now please go away." What are the odds that the business blog winner will say "Five Thanks Before Lunch?" Check out the nominees and the winner as part of your ongoing research on innovation in business blogging...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

don't get caught misquoting... there's an author ready to pounce. Ralph Keyes'new book, The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When, excerpted here in today's Washington Post, looks at famous speakers and how they mangled quotes in speeches, sometimes to good effect. John F. Kennedy is the subject of the Post excerpt, and Keyes says that, in addition to being well-spoken, "Kennedy was also... a misquoter of eloquence, who showed how creative and unreliable memory can be when using comments others have uttered." Check out the misquotes -- including many that improved upon the original -- and read the book to reconsider the sources you are using in speeches and conversation. We like an authoritative source, Bartleby, where you can search several collections of quotations and their correct citations. Then add Keyes' book to your reference shelf.

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.

Buy The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

so what: communicating in the age of AIDS

One of the most fascinating communications projects we've ever worked on was the funding and sourcing for the first television series on AIDS, from WGBH-Boston, back in the late 1980s. Called The AIDS Quarterly, it was hosted by Peter Jennings and was the brainchild of Renata Simone. At a time when most television networks weren't touching the subject, public television took it on. And they won the funding (from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, at the time one of the few philanthropies active in AIDS) because Renata, when asked "so what?" by a clever foundation executive, could answer that question about the impact of the epidemic and the impact of the series.

Today, we still use the "so what?" question to check our (and our clients') assumptions about communications matters large and small. And we're pleased to alert you that Renata has produced a lookback at the AIDS epidemic on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the first diagnosed cases of AIDS. Airing on the public television stations series Frontline next week (Tuesday, May 30 and Wednesday, May 31), the special will look at the science, social and political impacts -- and I expect it will hit the "so what?" question hard, as usual. (Check your local listings for specific times.)

If you do communications and outreach about AIDS matters, contact the series (information here) about their planned outreach and education events, or about using portions of the film in your work.

government bloggers

...and would-be government bloggers gathered at the National Association of Government Communicators yesterday in Baltimore. Don't get caught president Denise Graveline joined Susan Matthews Apgood of News Generation and Dan Shellenbarger of the Ohio Channel to talk about missed opportunities and good examples of blogging, podcasting, RSS and more in government and non-government settings. One participant shared information about an emerging law enforcement blog: The Los Angeles Police Department blog, reportedly one of only two in the nation. We continue to seek your good examples of blogging within and outside the government. Email us at

Monday, May 15, 2006

you know you're not paying attention... least, not fully, to most of the information that comes your way. And now the wavering attention span of the modern multitasker is being scrutinized at a lab in Los Angeles, sponsored by the Interpublic Group of Companies, a holding company for ad agencies and media buyers, according to today's New York Times. There, major corporate clients can focus on "concurrent media usage" in settings that replicate homes where consumers can watch TV, use the Internet and talk on the phone. Market researchers, the article notes, are now trying to measure consumers' level of engagement with various media. One chilling finding: "'Our research showed that people somehow managed to shoehorn 31 hours of activity into a 24-hour day,' said Colleen Fahey Rush, executive vice president for research at MTV Networks." While solid measurement tools still are not available for attention spans, we're already advising our clients to pay attention to this trend.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

publicizing nonprofit credibility checks

We've been watching major nonprofits take a variey of stances when it comes to sharing publicly the steps they're taking to correct credibility problems, and the latest example is covered in today's New York Times: The Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit center for research and treatment, where the board of trustees has taken on new roles in examining conflicts of interest that arise when physicians at the clinic have relationships with industry entities, such as drug and medical device manufacturers. The move comes after a year of public controversy, during which even the clinic's chief executive disclosed (and then severed) ties to for-profit companies. The clinic has not yet decided to make available to patients and the public information about potential conflicts. David J. Rothman,a medical ethicist at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, who advocates such public disclosure, notes in the article, "If they make that information public, they will set a precedent that is very difficult to resist." What's your nonprofit's policy on disclosing potential conflicts? We can help you strategize and plan for such an event. Contact Denise Graveline at

Friday, May 05, 2006

come blog with us

...on May 9 or on May 16, from 9:30am to 1pm, at the National Press Club's computer classroom for our "Blogging for Your Business" workshops, back by popular demand and our own conviction that blogs can be turned to your communications needs, no matter what you do. We've helped retail, construction, public relations, federal agency, nonprofit, franchise, art and writing professionals use blogs to, among other things:

- replace their newsletters and save printing and mailing costs;
- communicate swiftly with members, reporters and constituents;
- update their web pages effortlessly and frequently, without help;
- share their expertise to educate and bring in new clients;
- decide whether they need a blog;
- explain to other colleagues the pros and cons of blogging.

Seats are still available for both workshops. Register now online here, and join this cutting-edge movement. You don't want to miss the experience that one participant said "has changed my business model completely." Email Denise Graveline at with any questions you may have.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

the holes in peer review

New York Times science writer and physician Lawrence K. Altman today takes scientific peer review of journal articles to task in a commentary that reviews most of the steps in the peer review process -- and most of the holes in it, too. News about journal-published findings are among the most popular types of science news, and nonscientists have come to look for the term "peer-reviewed" as a marker of quality. Not so, says Altman:

However, even the system's most ardent supporters acknowledge that peer review does not eliminate mediocre and inferior papers and has never passed the very test for which it is used. Studies have found that journals publish findings based on sloppy statistics. If peer review were a drug, it would never be marketed, say critics, including journal editors.

Altman's commentary includes a rundown of recent retractions of findings that went through peer review, but later turned out to be fraudulent. If you're releasing scientific news, you should expect -- and welcome -- questions that go beyond "is it peer reviewed?" when establishing the quality of the research. Altman's commentary provides a useful guide to consult in understanding the process and what it can -- and can't -- do.

Friday, April 28, 2006

people are listening differently...

That's how Senator Edward Kennedy put it when asked, on yesterday's Diane Rehm Show on NPR, who the great orators are today. Substitute host Andrea Seabrook mentioned Churchill, JFK, Martin Luther King and other great speakers of yore, asking who inspires us in that way today. "People are listening differently" today, he noted, and added that politiicans need to listen differently as well--and change their oratory to reflect today's rhythms and concerns. Hear the whole interview here, though these reflections come very close to the end of the hour program.

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, April 26, 2006

new media front and center at BBC

In a major lecture released yesterday, BBC Director-General Mark Thompson laid out the future creative direction for what the Wall Street Journal (reprinted here in the Washington Post) calls "the world's biggest and best known public broadcaster." The future is on the Internet, Thompson said, indicating expanded content and resources for the BBC's already robust Web presence. "The BBC should no longer think of itself as a broadcaster of TV and radio and some new media on the side," he said. The speech contains Thompson's view of the future, and it's audience-centric: drag-and-drop TV and radio "stations" you create yourself online, more audience-created content (such as blogs), and more. Check out his view of the moving target that is new media if you want to keep up...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

public service ads in a new media age

Last month, the Kaiser Family Foundation held a forum in Washington, DC, to examine how to use new media -- mobile marketing, viral campaigns, adver-gaming -- in public education campaigns. Featured speakers included reps from the Ad Council and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You can use their collective knowledge by viewing the panel webcast or the collection of case studies prepared by Kaiser here

booklovers' new nonprofit blog

The Book Critics' Circle has launched a blog here, and it's useful on many fronts: for book lovers, to keep up with the chatter on chapters; for book authors, to see the critics' views in real time; and for nonprofits looking for a way to blog. The circle, made up of independent critics, has a policy stating that each post reflects the views of the author, not the organization, to foster, well, critical views and perspectives. And it is the blog of the organization's board, a nice and authoritative twist. Take a look and decide whether your organization can use this as a model...Denise Graveline will be sharing other good models of nonprofit, for-profit and other blogs in our popular "Blogging for Your Business" workshops, May 9 or 16; register or find out more here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

reporter or teacher?

We know lots of teachers who complain that society wants them to do many jobs: babysitter, rule enforcer, ethicist, job trainer, parent. But news reporters have the opposite problem: Sources who think they should be teachers. If you've always thought that the point of media relations is to get reporters to "educate" the public, think again. Most reporters we know would argue that's not their job, and bristle at the use of that term. Rightly so -- a news story's intent should be to summon the facts as they are known right now, and use short-term priorities to organize them. Later, history -- and actual educators -- may see the facts in a different light, and be able to add perspective. News outlets keep us updated and entertained, but let's not ask them to be teachers as well.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

May blogging workshops announced

They're back: Our dynamic and popular "Blogging for Your Business" workshops will be offered twice in May at the National Press Club. Limited to no more than 15 participants per session, the workshops will have you creating a blog in the first 10 minutes, then learning how to populate it with thoughtful content, strategic targeting of your audience, and careful management of comments, measurement and policies related to the blog. We focus on using blogs for gentle promotion of your business, book, consultancy, nonprofit or governmental activity, and offer plenty of real-life examples of business blogs. Our previous workshops attracted several businesses that sent teams of would-be bloggers to learn in pairs or groups, as well as enterprises ranging from authors and publishers to federal agencies and nonprofits. Click here to register for the workshops, to be held on May 9 and May 16; a special discount is offered for Press Club members. Curious about feedback from the previous workshop? See it here on our blog.