Tuesday, March 28, 2006

did the hotel inspector get caught?

Don't get caught appears to be the motto of hotel inspectors, too, according to a first-person account in today's New York Times by AAA inspector Michael Petrone. Noting that inspectors prize their anonymity above all else, he describes getting suspicious when hotel employees offer extra perks or good service, because "sometimes, they catch us." In this account, however, he describes one hotel's staff so "on alert" that a waitress confided to him they knew the AAA inspector was there. The end of the story will have you chuckling -- and thinking twice about who should have kept things anonymous.

political bloggers remain unregulated

...thanks to a unanimous vote yesterday by the Federal Election Commission. Virtually all Internet political activity, except for paid political advertising, was exempted from regulation in the same way that media organizations are when they cover political races, according to a report in today's Washington Post. While political bloggers are among the most discussed bloggers, they represent less than 10 percent of the blogosphere. But the FEC move, along with the National Press Club's decision last year to admit bloggers as members, signals a policy shift that hints at more access, power and freedom for these online commentators.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

smart nonprofit announces investigation

Oxfam International is temporarily suspending its tsunami recovery work in Sumatra due to financial irregularities it uncovered in a routine audit, and the announcement offers a great example of exactly how nonprofits can and should handle financial troubles: make them public. Today's New York Times article explains:
It is rare for any nonprofit group to make such problems public, much less before exhausting internal queries, but more organizations are striving to demonstrate their attention to good stewardship because donors have placed a premium on knowing how their contributions are spent and regulators have begun to intensify oversight.

The audit estimated losses of tens of thousands of dollars from its $48 million budget in 2005 for tsunami recovery. Too small to matter? We don't think so, as Oxfam's reputation can't be bought back once it's lost. In the meantime, they've lessened the level of criticism they might otherwise expect by identifying the problem, holding it up to the light, and reiterating their values of transparency and accountability. Would your organization do the same?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

don't get caught in a Valentino gown

...seemed to be the common response of actresses Uma Thurman, Jennifer Lopez and Keira Knightley at the Academy Awards. The reason? A premature news release Sunday morning from the designer, announcing that the three actresses had chosen his gowns for that evening's event. The stars turned out in the gowns of Valentino's competitors, garnering attention and brand recognition the old-fashioned way, by letting the dresses speak for themselves. PR Week reported the (very) "ill-advised" mistake as its "PR Play of the Week," and it underscores the need in any announcement to consider whose announcement is it? In this case, letting the stars get the attention and the scoop would've worked well for everyone. Before you rush out with news involving a Very Important Partner of any kind, spend some time strategizing when and from whom it should come.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

the shrinking business section

...of many major newspapers is due to the recent trend toward eliminating stock listings, long considered by many to be dinosaurs nearing extinction in an era when most people use online sources to track the rise and fall of their stocks. The change is a 2006 phenomenon, with papers in Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta cutting back or eliminating listings this year. Today, the New York Times announced it will follow suit, printing complete financial tables only in the Sunday edition and replacing daily and Saturday tables with expanded online features and two pages of market and economic information in the print editions. While rising newsprint costs are behind the change, there's speculation that readers will revolt...and that, without the financial tables as a core, business coverage may dwindle. Will you be fighting to get stories into a smaller business section? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

writing anxiety

At don't get caught, we coach many writers who ask for ways to stimulate their creativity. Many times, when we probe for reasons why, anxiety is the culprit, prompting numerous rewrites at the end of the process, an inability to get started, and a lot of second-guessing of the author, by the author. One tool we recommend is a little book called Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. The authors work as artists and as writers, so they understand the struggle and describe it with clarity. You'll find practical tips for handling the process (including starts and stops), the people and the practice of your art and craft, no matter what you do. As for that creativity question? The authors proudly note that the book never once uses that word (to do so, they refer to it as crea**vity). Enjoy this pithy and piercing resource!

Buy Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

and the Oscar for most-used words goes to...

...a long list, according to today's New York Times Arts section. In the hardcopy editions -- but sadly, not online -- appears a list of words used 10 or more times in Academy Awards acceptance speeches, scaled proportionately to the frequency of their use. Number one was "thank," naturally, followed by academy, people, love, great, film, know, thanks, everybody and crew. The entire list is a randomized treat, including everything from "oh" to "Howard," but excluding some pronouns and other commonly used words. (We must have nodded off, as we didn't notice Howard's more than 10 mentions.) In your next speech, acceptance or not, it pays to learn which words you use frequently -- and find alternatives. It'll keep you and your audience sharp.

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.