Wednesday, January 31, 2007

how nonprofits can cut through clutter

I was asked to blog on the issue of how nonprofits can cut through clutter and overload to get their messages across on a tight budget by Nancy Schwartz, whose blog "Getting Attention" is hosting a Blog Carnival of nonprofit consultants. You can see my post here, along with those of selected other consultants and advisers with bright ideas. Enjoy the carnival of free tips and advice!

clear talk about science

We wish every scientist, medical doctor or high-tech professional we know -- and we know thousands -- would listen to Sharon Begley's interview this morning on NPR's Diane Rehm show (audio downloads, podcasts, tapes and transcripts will be available here later today). Begley, a Wall Street Journal reporter who's covered neuroscience for many years, is the recent author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves. Her extemporaneous descriptions on-air today about research that links meditation and mindfulness to changes in the brain are a delight: clear, concise, thorough and precise, accessible to a wide audience without "dumbing down" the science. Listen and learn!

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, January 30, 2007

science writer/media relations job

Our pal and former colleague Jason Gorss tells us that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute currently seeks a Media Relations Specialist to join the Division of Strategic Communications and External Relations. The job involves publicizing research and educational programs to news media and the campus community, with a particular emphasis on covering news of national interest from Rensselaer's School of Engineering. Reports to the Manager of Media Relations, and requires a Bachelor's degree in an appropriate field such as journalism, communications, or a science-related discipline, plus 2-4 years of professional experience as a science writer. Experience at a university, research laboratory, or scientific society is a plus. Apply online here for job number #20060533; you'll be able to attach a resume, cover letter and three writing samples. Call 518-276-6994 with any questions about the application process.

Monday, January 29, 2007

weekly writing coach: who inspires you?

An artist friend of ours recently completed a creativity and process exercise based on the Corcoran College of Art and Design's "80 works in three weeks" assignment. Her version consisted of two parts: first, compiling a book of samples of fine art that inspires her, from painting and printmaking to collage and clay sculpture. She had to articulate the qualities of elements in each work that appealed to her, in order to identify them as elements that she might incorporate in her own work. She keeps the book handy in her studio to inspire her: looking for color palettes, lines and forms or composition elements that inspire a new work.

The kicker: after that, she spent the next three weeks making 80 new, original pieces of art. Her art coach reviewed her book of inspirations and gave her about 15 elements that she needed to include in the 80 works, but after that our friend was on her own. That works out to close to four pieces of art per day, and she also was required to to reflect on the process she used and how it affected her creativity every night in a written journal.

Since we take art classes to inspire our own writing, the weekly writing coach wants to try adapting this exercise for those of you looking to stretch your writing abilities and learn more about your own creative process. Let's start with who inspires you? This week, make a list of all the different writers who inspire you, then go further: dig out a short sample of each writer's work that illustrates the qualities you most admire. Find pieces of writing that speak to you, make you laugh, grab your eye, move you to action.

Don't limit yourself at this point; include as many samples as you can find this week. Assemble all the samples in a three ring binder or other notebook, then write down what it is about each piece that inspires you. At the end of this phase of the exercise, you should be able to identify patterns in the types and styles of writing that get your creative juices flowing. (And yes, next week, for those of you who are hearty enough to take the challenge, we'll fire the starting gun on your own 80 works in three weeks exercise.)

Our own list starts with Virginia Woolf and George Orwell for essays; Edward R. Murrow, Scott Simon and Peter Jennings for an anchor's on-air commentary; Dooce for bitingly funny, heartbreaking blog posts; Jane Brody's personal health columns in the New York Times; the poetry of Pablo Neruda; Blanche Wiesen Cook's biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt; Taylor Branch's three-volume history of the civil rights movement; Miss Manners' advice column; E.B. White for almost anything. What's on your list? Take the time this week to compile it and find the samples. We'd love it if you'd post a comment and share your lists with us on this blog to help inspire other writers.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

nonprofits' secret communications weapon?

Nonprofit communicators know it's tough to compete with well-funded corporate ad and public relations campaigns -- and their resulting clutter -- for public attention. But blogging offers nonprofits an easy-to-use and inexpensive, even free, option for building an audience and grabbing its attention. A well-crafted blog can:
  • Engage your audiences in a two-way conversation. When they can participate with you, instead of just receiving your viewpoint, they have more reason to listen.
  • Draw in readers worldwide whom you'd never find otherwise. They'll find you in the search engines, because blog posts about your topic will get you higher in relevant search engine results than any other method.
  • Help you save on budgets for postage, production and printing, if you use a blog to replace news releases, newsletters or even your regular web page.
  • Demonstrate your expertise by including basic and more detailed information on the subjects you represent and know best. You can add as many links to related resources as you wish, making the blog a one-stop reference on your issue.
  • Make it easy for readers to get updates, via RSS feeds and readers.
  • Share information with your members, reporters, grant recipients, subscribers and more.

We see many nonprofit communicators in our popular blogging workshops, but because strategic blogging isn't widespread yet, they're ahead of the curve -- another great advantage. Philanthropies, advocacy groups, fundraisers, trade associations, and more are experimenting with blogs as the latest way to cut through clutter and get their issues on a larger platform.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

private blogs? now possible...

Participants in our blogging workshops ask all the time whether their blogs will really be seen -- and until now, most free blogging platforms did not allow a privacy option, which meant that anyone might view your blog creation. (It's why many who take the workshop delete their practice blog at the end of the session!) Now Blogger's new version, just out of beta, offers you the chance to create a blog that operates by invitation only: You specify the emails of those to whom you wish the blog to be visible, and access is limited to that group. The option makes it possible for anyone to create private blog without a firewall, which means you can now consider using blogs for such projects as:

- small-group reviews, such as those for judging contests or reviewing manuscripts;
- training or preparing employees, members or a panel of speakers in advance of an event;
- discussions among board or committee members;
- advisory panel deliberations;
- internal information sharing, as in "lessons learned" blogs that help employees share their experience.

We'll be using this new version of Blogger to help you create a public or a private blog in our workshops that start January 29 or 30. Seats are still available if you register here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

weekly writing coach: stronger op-eds

Strong starts and finishes draw your readers in and leave them with your article's full impact -- and op-ed or opinion articles demonstrate that principle daily in your newspaper. Next time you're online or at the table with morning coffee, choose any opinion article or editorial in your newspaper of choice. Read the first paragraph, skip the middle, then read the last. The author's opinion should ring true in just those two paragraphs. Next time you're writing an opinion piece, make your first step writing both the start and the finish, then fill in your arguments, data and proof in the middle. And when you find examples that prove this tip, save them as good examples of strong opinion pieces. (Just don't tell anyone your secret for skimming the viewpoints pages!)

where to catch us in February

Don't get caught without hearing don't get caught president Denise Graveline in February. She's speaking on blogging in two forums: On February 13 at the Consultants' Consortium in Washington, DC, she'll talk about "Making the Most of Blogs and Newsletters," to help participants decide whether they really need a blog or a newsletter as well as a website and brochure. And on Valentine's Day, she'll lead a teleforum for the food writers, editors and publishers section of theInternational Association of Culinary Professionals on "You Started a Blog in Five Minutes. Now What Do You Do?" with thoughts on how to use blogs strategically and how to fit them into your current writing routine. Graveline is an IACP member and author of the blog Vegetables for Breakfast, which includes reporting, research and recipes for using local produce, based on her experiences with a community-supported agriculture project.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

if bill marriott can blog... can you. The 75-year-old CEO of the hotel chain has launched a blog, joining other CEOs from GM and other major corporations, according to an article in today's Washington Post, which notes:
Marriott's entry into the blogosphere is another in a series of steps he has taken to keep his Bethesda company -- and himself -- relevant in the fast-changing hotel industry, which is adapting to a more urbane breed of traveler who communicates via the Internet and demands a sophisticated lodging experience.
Kudos to Mr. Marriott, who confesses in his blog that he's not very good with computers (he apparently dictates his posts), for putting his toe in the blog pond. Too bad the Washington Post didn't bother to include the link to his blog in its article. The Marriott blog appears here. You can catch up to Bill Marriott by bringing your leadership suite to our "Blogging for Your Business" workshops, which start January 29 or 30. Go from beginner to advanced in just a half day!

Monday, January 15, 2007

getting your message through: ad clutter

When clients wonder why it's so difficult to get a public message across, we typically ask them whether they feel they're not getting enough information in their daily lives -- and no one ever says they lack information clutter. Now, some data around one type of message clutter: advertising messages. Today's New York Times reports Yankelovich data that says you may have encountered 2,000 ad messages a day some 30 years ago. Today, that number's closer to 5,000 ads encountered daily.Outright advertising is just one contributing factor. And it's only going to get worse, apparently:
More is on the horizon. Old-fashioned billboards are being converted to digital screens, which are considered the next big thing. They allow advertisers to change messages frequently from remote computers, timing their pitches to sales events or the hour of the day. People can expect to see more of them not only along highways, but also in stores, gyms, doctors’ offices and on the sides of buildings, marketing executives say.
Ad messages are just one kind of clutter to keep in mind when you set your expectations for reaching a public audience, of course. Which 5,000 ads did you see today?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

speech coaching for entrepreneurs

Why should entrepreneurs have less communications help? The New York Times this week looked at free agents who've invested in speech coaches, public-speaking training or media training (the skills, while not identical, are transferable to many situations). The article notes:
Even though business owners may be experts in their fields, that does not automatically translate into being able to market themselves verbally. Many agree that speaking concisely — and in a compelling way — lends credibility. While poor communication skills are not necessarily deadly, they can make it more challenging to win over potential investors, prospective clients, employees and business partners.
We couldn't agree more. Best of all, training helps you eliminate the stumbling blocks you know you possess, and builds confidence -- an edge everyone needs over competitors. We offer individual and group training in speaking, media interviews, presentation skills and more. Contact Denise Graveline at

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.

Friday, January 12, 2007

NEW: 2007 blogging workshops begin

Our popular "Blogging for Your Business" workshops start again on January 29 and 30 -- and we'll be offering the half-day workshops twice each month in 2007. The workshops have been completely revamped so that you'll learn to blog using Blogger's latest platform, allowing you to move from beginner to advanced in just one session. Come find out how a blog can advance your business goals as a promotional tool or as a replacement for your publications, news releases and Web page. When used strategically, they’ll also improve your search engine results better than any other method. Instructor Denise Graveline has been dubbed a "bloguru" by previous attendees, and looks forward to training you and your colleagues. Register here for the January sessions, or any session through June.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

start training them young communicate well. Take a tip from many professional societies, and consider offering communications training -- for speeches, presentations or media interviews -- to young people involved in your organization as student members, volunteers, youth partners or youth board members. You'll not only wind up with enthusiastic spokespeople, you'll be helping to grow an organization of good speakers from the earliest stages (just imagine how much more effective they'll be years from now with early training). We've trained college and high school students to give presentations and interviews and seen impressive results. Give it a try in 2007!

Monday, January 08, 2007

No TIME for you?

Also in today's New York Times, David Carr looks at the big shift in deadlines brought about by TIME magazine's move to publish on Fridays, rather than Mondays. (That change affects not only journalists, but the public relations folks aiming to place sources and information in the magazine, need we add.) Further into the article, Carr notes several other major shifts at the newsweekly that will affect communications pros:
In the last six months, the huge rate base of Time magazine has been cut by almost 20 percent, the street date has been moved, and at the end of the month, the standard editorial model — a centralized, well-paid cadre processing every bit of copy that comes in the door — will be kaput, replaced by a leaner enterprise build on star voices who presumably will get less editing.
In our experience, even star voices need editing, and more importantly, the fact-checking for which TIME was famous. Time will tell whether TIME will tell its stories accurately and grammatically with a leaner bench...

retreat from Washington? bureau cuts

We always turn to Monday's business section in the New York Times for media news, featured on this day every week. Today, Katharine Q. Seelye reports on newspapers that have cut, combined or eliminated their Washington bureaus, thanks to the plethora of news available on the Web, either straight from the source or via official services. Here, some examples:
Unlike in most cities, events all over the highly wired capital are broadcast live and transcripts are instantly available. Congressional committees Webcast their hearings. Scores of industry newsletters track incremental steps in legislation. The Supreme Court releases same-day audio recordings of some cases. Public-interest groups do original research and are making raw data available on the Web.

“Almost nothing that happens in Washington is fresh in the next day’s paper unless it breaks at 10 o’clock at night,” said Bennett Roth, a reporter in the Washington bureau of The Houston Chronicle.
That last comment has been true for some time. Now, when we have fresh news at 10 o'clock at night, the question will be, who'll be there to report it?

Friday, January 05, 2007

don't discount local TV news

...says the latest Gallup poll. More Americans use local television news as their primary news source, with 55 percent watching it every day, and another 14 percent several times a week. What's more, those numbers have held steady since 1995, unlike newspaper readership (down 10 percent since the late 1990s) and nightly network news viewership (down more than 30 points since 2002). The kicker: Even Internet news consumption, which rose five percentage points between 2002 and 2004, increased by only two points, to 22 percent of those responding.

Here are the survey's percentages for daily usage of each type of news source:
Local television news from TV stations in your area: 55%
Local newspapers in your area: 44%
Nightly network news programs on ABC, CBS or NBC: 35%
Cable news networks such as CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC: 34%
Public television news: 28%
Morning news and interview programs on the national TV networks: 28%
News on the Internet: 22%
Radio talk shows: 20%
National Public Radio: 19%
National newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today: 7%

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"new" Blogger in our next workshops

To get you up to speed with the latest improvements in blogging platforms, our 2007 "Blogging for Your Business" workshops will use the "new" version of Blogger, which makes adding links, publishing and changing layout features much simpler. That means you'll get much more from our sessions, which walk you through setting up a blog and considering how to use it as a strategic communications tool. Stay tuned for our roster of dates and registration details, coming soon.