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