Friday, August 31, 2007

weekly writing coach: idea city

Anyone who spends time writing--not just novelists--eventually hears someone say, "Where do you get your ideas?" as if you have a warehouse of them, or commute through Idea City on your way to work. Just as often, the writer in question secretly wants to say, "I doooooon't KNOW!" So this week, make your own Idea City to drive through and prompt new thoughts:
-Go visual instead of verbal: While you can learn style, phrasing and construction by reading great writers, you may need visual stimulus to get your brain moving creatively. Betty Edwards' The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence combines art instruction and brain research in simple exercises that will get your mind moving. (And she explains why you get ideas while driving in the car or watching a movie.)
-Travel...a little: Change your commute, your walk across campus, the direction you take from the subway to your office. Take a stairwell instead of an elevator. Seek out the path with a view (see above). When your routine's too set, you may stop noticing details and surprises. Look for them, and think of analogies and comparisons you can use.
- Watch or do improvisation: The something-from-nothing school of comedy--especially in rapid-fire delivery, as on reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway?--take away your internal editing function and turn your thinking high-speed. Try one of the several Whose Line? games with an office mate as a break today, and see whether that doesn't sharpen your thinking. At least you'll have a laugh...
Finally, check out your after-work activities. Full-time writers may want to avoid other language-laden pastimes, like foreign language classes, plays and reading. Take a run, join an art class, volunteer to give your eyes and mind a change of scene.

Buy The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

what to ask a media trainer

Whether you're booking a media training for someone on your team, or shopping around for your own training, use these questions to interview your prospects:
- what's your approach to media training? Media trainers have many different styles: Some want you to hammer a message over and over -- no longer considered a best practice in the field. Some have no experience as journalists, something we consider a distinct advantage. Some aren't up to speed on new media and answering questions from bloggers. Take the time to hear your prospective trainer's beliefs and approaches.

- can you combine media and presentation training? can you do both? Because media and presentation training share a basic skill set, a good trainer should be able to point out to you which skills work in many settings. However, if you're going to be doing multiple interviews or multiple speeches, consider a separate training for each specific skill.

- how do you price your training? Ask about group and individual rates, and be ready to discuss any special needs or goals you have. Group trainings are less expensive per participant, but mean less practice time for individuals, and some special needs are best corrected one-on-one.

- do you use video and audio recording? Effective training can be done without cameras, and may be less expensive; it's a fine option if you don't anticipate many television interviews. At the same time, seeing or hearing yourself on tape, while uncomfortable, offers the best feedback to help you learn. But don't assume cameras will be used--ask.

- will you offer a discount if I book more than one session?Always worth asking, followed by "how would two sessions change the training?"

- who else have you trained? may I speak with them? The best trainings happen one-on-one, so most trainers don't allow observers -- and some clients require confidentiality agreements from their trainers. But you should be able to talk to other referres, ideally someone in your profession or situation.

- what does your training cover? The answer will vary depending on the number of trainees and the amount of time, but you should get a fulsome list of skills to be learned during the session.

- how do you handle these special issues I have? A good trainer will admit when a specific issue -- such as a speech impediment -- is beyond her abilities, but should be able to bring in a specific type of coach to augment the training.

- how long are the trainings? what time of day do you recommend for training? We recommend no more than a half-day at a time, and prefer to train in the morning, for the same reason: Your energy. Training's intensive, especially one-on-one. Be sure you don't lose the learning because you're tired.

- what's your own experience as a speaker and trainer?Feel free to ask us how we learned the ropes. If you can, go see your trainer speak in front of a group.

- where do you conduct the training? Trainings shouldn't happen in your own office, where you can be interrupted and distracted. But they may take place in a conference room you provide, a hotel room, a television studio, or the trainer's own facility.

- for group trainings, are there guidelines on participation? See our post on why we prefer training groups of peers, rather than supervisors and subordinates.

- what will I need to do to prepare?You may need to provide a biography, messages you're already using in interviews and a list of your goals for the training. Your trainer should do independent research as well, looking at coverage of your topics and you, in order to help you develop effective messages and anticipate questions.

- what materials or resources do I get to reinforce my learning? Do you get take-away materials? Online resources? Follow-up consultations?
I'm always happy to answer questions like these to make your media training a better experience. Email Denise Graveline at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

why we media train in peer groups

Prospective media training clients often ask us to schedule a workshop for several executives at once -- typically, for budget purposes. In return, we always ask for the organization chart, because training supervisors along with subordinates creates an uneven playing field for trainees, we feel. We work hard to create a comfortable atmosphere in our media and presentation training, providing a safe place to fail without embarrassment...and ultimately, to succeed. That's not only tough for you if your boss is in the room (or your boss's boss), but tough on the boss, too. Are there exceptions? Certainly, but we'll want to discuss them with you in advance, to ensure your group gets the most out of its workshop or training. So think instead about booking training for all members of a committee, all senior managers, all committee chairs, and similar peer groups when you want to train in multiples. We offer introductory group media trainings, special group trainings for women in media skills and presentation skills, and intensive media training for groups of three at a time, as well as individual trainings. To find out more, email us at

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

the origins of eloquence

...can be found in an upturned palm, we learn today in John Tierney's charming report in the New York Times. Emory University researchers studied chimpanzees and bonobos, which use the palm-up gesture consciously to ask for food and "more abstract forms of help, creating a new kind of signal that some researchers believe was the origin of human language," Tierney writes. Today, he notes, we use it to ask for food, objects, money, divine help, cooperation, pardon, acceptance and other nuanced concepts. It emanates, he writes, from the "crouch display" that animals use when confronted with a threat; its opposite, the "high-stand display," belongs to an aggressor. Here's how it evolved:
The human remnant of the crouch display is a shrug of the shoulders, which lowers the head and rotates the forearms outwards so that the palms face up. Conversely, the high-stand display persists in humans as a rotation of the forearms and palms in the opposite direction, producing the domineering palm-down gesture used by a boss slapping the conference table or an orator commanding quiet from his audience.
Emory's primatologists "note that gestures are controlled by the same part of the brain that controls speech. But it is also possible, they said that gestures and speech evolved jointly to create language," the article notes. And that lets you use simple gestures, like the upturned palm, to express more complex ideas with metaphors, emotion and sympathy.

In our "Eloquent Woman" focus groups earlier this month, participants alternately bemoaned and praised similar behavior in women speakers -- particularly at the start of a presentation, when many apologize (for being late, for the room conditions, for replacing another speaker), or spend much of their time thanking and acknowledging others. Our participants described this as women seeking to include and connect with the audience, and even as a way to seem less threatening -- a verbal version of the crouch display? Perhaps so, but it's a tactic now used by very prominent male politicians, as Tierney notes in his "TierneyLab" discussion area (click here for the discussion on the palms-up gesture). He writes:
Skilled politicians instinctively woo audiences with the upraised palms that made Mr. Clinton and Ronald Reagan seem so genial and helpful (or contrite, when the occasion demanded). Veteran politicans know to avoid palm-down gestures unless they’re attacking enemies or trying to look strong (like Richard Nixon desperately flashing his victory signs as his presidency was collapsing).
Kathleen Hall Jamieson's book, Eloquence in an Electronic Age, takes a long look at Ronald Reagan's "self-disclosive, narrative, personal, "womanly" style," and notes:
The broadcast age has rendered the combative, data-driven, impersonal "male" style obsolete. Two ironies result: only to the extent that they employ a once spurned "womanly" style can male politicians prosper on radio and television; meanwhile, in their surge toward political equality, women abandoned and must now reclaim the "womanly" style.
Leave us your comments here, or join the discussion over at TierneyLab--palms up, of course.

Monday, August 27, 2007

when your audience plugs in

A Microsoft executive spills the beans in yesterday's New York Times about attendees who bring laptops to meetings, detailing the habits of the plugged-in and offering some cautionary tales for speakers and presenters. Among his insights:
-if you're the presenter, be sure your own laptop is in "presentation mode," to avoid getting instant messages for meeting participants, as in this embarrassing example in the article.

-walk around the room to glance at screens of laptop users and decide whether they are topic-related. Then decide: Will you ask people to stop using laptops? Designate a notetaker? Better yet, set the ground rules before the meeting starts.

-ask questions of the attendees, to keep them engaged in the meeting.
He also notes that "our senior management sets a good example in this regard. In meetings, I don’t see Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer doing e-mail — they’re actively engaged, and listening and asking questions." For those of you attending meetings, check out Microsoft's own suggestions around bringing laptops to meetings. Your presenter will thank you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

now comes a book on ums

In today's Wall Street Journal, you'll find this review of a new book on our verbal gaffes, called -- what else? -- Um. . .: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean by Michael Erard. The review highlights some of the interesting facts Erard found when he untied our collective tongues -- we'd never call them trivia, as they're not trivial when you're trying to be eloquent. Among them:
- Verbal mistakes make up between 5 and 8 percent of your everyday speech;
-"Slips of the tongue" or tangled-up speech are generally noticed more than interruptions in speech -- like "ums" -- unless they become a habit;
- Gesturing reduces your mistakes, but tying down someone's arm increases them; and
- You're more likely to make a verbal slip when you're talking on the phone, or if your hands are in your pockets.
Clearly, we'll want to read this one to find out why. In the meantime, keep your hands out of your pockets and practice our other fixes for ums and pauses, and our advice on banishing "visual ums" that don't involve language but do interfere with your speech.

Buy Um. . .: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean

Thursday, August 23, 2007

prop up your point

What audiences see is "stickier" than what they hear, for the most part: You'll get your point across faster and and they'll remember it longer if you help them to visualize it using a prop. For truly memorable presentations, go beyond gesturing with your glasses or waving your pen. Find a prop that's easy to carry with you and that carries your point across to the audience. Some great examples we've observed -- or helped clients develop -- include:
-a scientist working on "electronic paper" holds up a sample as she describes her work, then asks the audience "Does anyone want to see this?" and walks into the audience to share it. The same size and shape as a clear plastic overhead, with computer circuits pasted onto it, this prop let the audience visualize exactly where she was in the research, focusing their attention while she explained how it worked.

- another scientist speaking to hundreds of college students about the value of chemistry in everyday life takes a poll of his audience at the start of his talk. Holding his own cell phone high in the air, he asks, "who in this room has the smallest cell phone?" prompting a fierce competition around the auditorium -- after which, he explains the role that chemistry plays in miniaturizing cell phone components.

- a television producer, explaining to public relations professionals how she prefers to receive material, holds up her Blackberry and says "your headline has to fit on this screen."

- an environmental official takes a glass of water on the podium and holds it up -- but instead of taking a drink, asks the audience "do you have questions about drinking this?" and uses this commonly available resource for speakers as the jumping off place for discussion on drinking water quality.
We don't recommend you use props every time, nor more than once in a given presentation. Let the task suggest the prop. If you're lucky enough to have an example of your work that's as colorful as electronic paper, or as convenient as your phone, take advantage of it. Your audience will thank you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

baby videos on the air tomorrow

Don't get caught missing our client Lisa Guernsey, who will be interviewed tomorrow, August 23, at 1pm Eastern Time on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU in Washington, DC, to discuss her forthcoming book, Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age Five. She'll be joined by a Georgetown University researcher and a representative from the American Academy of Pediatrics to discuss the impact of videos and television programming on young children. You can get involved in the program by calling in to 1-800-433-8850 or by emailing your questions to After the show, the link above will allow you to listen to the interview online, or order a transcript.

planning around the calendar: resources

This week, a discussion on NPR's Diane Rehm Show about benchmarks in Iraq prompted a caller to ask why September 11 had been chosen for the delivery of the Congressionally mandated report on progress toward benchmarks in the war: Didn't the White House understand the significance of that date, the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Discussants walked us through the calendar, and planning process, just as any smart communicator would do. The law requires the report to be made by September 15; the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah falls on the 13th and 14th; and Labor Day, September 3, is a federal holiday that falls the week prior. The conclusion: It's a crowded calendar, not an intentional slight, that prompts the schedule this time.

The calendar for your announcements only gets more complicated as we move into an election year. To plan ahead, consult these resources:
-ABC News's "The Note" publishes a full "futures" calendar for election-related events, including major television appearances, primaries, fundraisers, debates and other news events from now to election day 2008. Even if your event is nonpartisan, it pays to know when you face competition in the national news -- or during a campaign stop in your market.
- Chase's Calendar of Events is the standard reference -- started by a social scientist and a former newspaper librarian -- for all the special weeks, days and months in a given year. Updated annually in book and CD-ROM form, the Chase's website gives you a taste of holidays for the current six-week period here and lists all the special months here.
-The National Press Club's web page lists major speeches and announcements at the club for today and forthcoming weeks; the full calendar is here. Looking ahead to a major newsmaker's speech can help you avoid a conflict or dovetail your own related announcement.
Why all the calendars? If you're issuing news when other foreseeable news could trump yours, you'll either lose your impact or be accused of burying bad news. At the same time, calendars give you ideas, angles, and advantages if you make the most of them. Take the time to flesh out your own organization's calendar of issues, deadlines and announcements for 2008 now, and overlay the national events, conflicts and potential angles you've culled from others' calendars. It's the simplest and most effective planning step you can take for next year's communications.

Monday, August 20, 2007

replace your visual "ums"

I've coached you before about verbal "ums" and their equivalents -- words or phrases that repeatedly pop out of your mouth as think-aloud placeholders when you're trying to remember what you wanted to say. For some, the "um" turns into "like," "you know," "er" or other repetitive phrases...and others use their faces and bodies, unknowingly, to "um" their way through a speech, presentation or media interview. You can best catch these "visual ums" by practicing with a coach and a video camera, and you'll spot them most frequently in unscripted moments, such as during a question-and-answer session with either a reporter or an entire live audience. Look for:
- looking away from the interviewer, camera or audience (up, down or to either side);
- fidgeting or gesturing repeatedly in a certain way, such as moving one arm up and down, touching your lapel, or playing with a pencil or your watch;
- blinking repeatedly; and
- frowning or grimacing.

Some of these visual ums cost you in connecting with the audience or interviewer: Looking away when you're answering a question may make you seem untrustworthy, or as if you are not convinced of your answer, and frowning or grimacing may come across to the viewer as if you feel negatively about them or the question, or both.

The solution's similar to your strategy for verbal "ums" -- replace the look or gesture with a tactic that buys you time to think, but doesn't interrupt the verbal or visual flow of your answer or comment. And you may need to couple a new look or gesture with a verbal um-replacement, as your visual appearance shifts don't actually buy you time in the way that a well-turned phrase might do. So look directly at your questioner, smile, and say out loud a safe and appropriate delay tactic, such as, "I get that question all the time..." or "Tell me more about what you're thinking about X," or "That reminds me of a story from the days when I was just starting out." And while you say that, think of what you really need to remember to say. Then contact Denise Graveline for coaching at

weekly writing coach: fast novel-ty

We're giving you early warning about yet another writing contest, because this one's a whopper: National Novel Writing Month (nicknamed "NaNoWriMo") takes place November 1 to 30, with local events, online features like blogs, and more to support you in actually writing an entire novel in a month. You can go here to learn how it works in 10 easy steps. Step three says:
Begin your novel-planning procrastination by reading through all the great advice and funny stories in the forums. Post some stories and questions of your own. Get excited. Get nervous. Eat lots of chocolate and pamper yourself in preparation for the fiction-fueled escapade to come.
Most of our clients and friends stick with nonfiction writing, but it's important to vary your writing styles and formats to prompt creativity and push you outside your box. And there's nothing like a deadline to make you productive! In the meantime, take a tip from novelists and try plotting out your next nonfiction assignment, whether it's a news release, letter, or article.

where photo ops & book tours began

We're reminded this week of two powerhouse communicators who deserve credit for starting two enduring staples of publicity: the photo op and the book tour. Former Reagan White House deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver died over the weekend at age 69, and his obituary credits him with originating the "photo op," short for "photo opportunity," primarily as a way of putting off reporters. His Washington Post obituary notes that these sessions:
....positioned the former actor in visually irresistible locations where troublesome reporters' questions could not intrude: atop the Great Wall of China, on the beach at Normandy for the 40th anniversary of D-Day or in front of a construction site as the president announced the latest government report on housing starts.
And today is the birthday of the late Jacqueline Susann, the popular novelist of the 1960s who is credited with developing the modern book tour. According to today's Writer's Almanac:
Susann developed a system for promoting Valley of the Dolls that helped to revolutionize the way books are marketed. She went on coast-to-coast tours, appeared on local radio and television stations, and made personal appearances in bookstores to read and sign autographs, becoming one of the first modern celebrity authors.
Her Wikipedia entry notes that she had a personal touch:
When her books were coming out, Susann would rise at dawn to take coffee and doughnuts to the truck drivers who were delivering her books. She and Mansfield would also drive around the country to meet sales clerks at the bookstores. She would keep track of everyone's birthdays, their kids' names, and their pets, so she could talk to them more personally. Susann's shrewdness ensured her book would be prominently displayed and enthusiastically recommended by booksellers.
Modern authors, take note.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

why I gave up my daily local paper

Just this morning, I kicked a lifelong addiction to reading the print version of my daily local newspaper (these days, that's the Washington Post). As a former magazine writer, my print addiction's tougher than most, and while I read several papers online, I'd kept the local paper in hardcopy. But another Sunday of erratic delivery service finally prompted me to cancel my entire seven-day-a-week subscription this morning. When I came back from the gym to find a very late, last copy on my doorstep -- truly too little, too late -- I had one last hardcopy read.

Fittingly, I found Joel Achenbach's column, "I Really Need You to Read This Article, Okay?" summarizing the industry's changes and the impact on reporters, newsrooms and readers. One change: newsroom structures and metrics, both now focused on page views and viewers, rather than hardcopy readers:
A dramatic example already exists at the Daily Telegraph in London, where the brand-new newsroom is arrayed like radial spokes, with the Web operation at the center. Everyone can see an electronic board that lists the articles attracting the most eyeballs at that precise moment on the Web. It's like a page-view shrine.
And Achenbach summarizes in two sentences what a reporter's job has expanded to include these days, in case you haven't kept up:
Marketing, however, may increasingly become part of the journalistic mix (along with reporting, writing, doing an online chat, podcasting, filming a video diary, answering e-mails, blogging, etc.) Reporters long immune from circulation concerns are now encouraged to identify bloggers who might link to their work.
So I'm helping Joel out with these links, in aid of his "proposition: News outlets will never get anywhere if they're obsessed with chasing readers. They can, however, collaborate with them. And therein lies a hopeful future for the business." If only they'd collaborated better in reaching my front porch on time...

smart standards for wiki changes

Today's New York Times looks at more of the changes now detectable using Wikipedia Scanner, and finds that corporations have used the editing function to make sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic changes in Wikipedia entries. Wikipedia's volunteers and administrators will promptly re-edit the changes if bias is detected. But with the ability to see who's doing what -- or, at least, where changes originated, by computer location -- some smart recommendations have emerged for those monitoring their image on wikis. First and foremost: Identify yourself. Jimmy Wales, who started the foundation that runs Wikipedia, notes in the story:
“If someone sees a simple factual error about their company, we really don’t mind if they go in and edit,” he said. But if a revision is likely to be controversial, he added, “the best thing to do is log in, go to the ‘talk’ page, identify yourself openly, and say, ‘I’m the communications person from such and such company.’ The community responds very well, especially if the person isn’t combative.”
Next, consider a corporate policy on who can make changes to your organization's entries -- and opt for transparency, in keeping with the nature of wikis. Dell Computer, for example, says that employees writing online about the company must note their status as Dell employees. Finally, keep in mind that this new technology is suggesting future changes destined to keep you honest. Says Wales:
“When someone clicks on ‘edit,’ it would be interesting if we could say, ‘Hi, thank you for editing. We see you’re logged in from The New York Times. Keep in mind that we know that, and it’s public information,’ ” he said. “That might make them stop and think.”
That example's no mistake: The article, in the spirit of self-disclosure, notes several unfortunate changes made from computers located at the New York Times to entries about President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Watch for more such disclosures in the weeks to come, as reporters continue to probe this new service for clues.

Friday, August 17, 2007

stickier wikis

We've cautioned before: Don't get caught relying solely on Wikipedia entries, much as we want to believe in the self-regulating nature of the Internet, reported and argued here earlier on this blog. But this week, two intriguing developments and ideas emerged about wikis. First, Lee Gomes wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the better read you can find in Wikipedia's discussions pages--the place where edits and articles in the online encyclopedia are debated openly, under a separate tab for "discussion." Then came reports of a new site, Wikipedia Scanner (now overrun with searches), designed to allow users to track the computers where changes to Wikipedia entries originated; among the first discovered this week were changes made on CIA and FBI computers about entries concerning the Iraq war and the Guantanamo military prison (read the Reuters story here). Does this mean you'll spend more time investigating your Wikipedia entries? Do you welcome the transparency? And, if your tactic has been to surreptitiously change the entries of others, looks like a new bright light's shining on your keystrokes.

They stand... uncorrected?

Jack Shafer's "Press Box" column on corrects the misimpression many have about newspapers and corrections policies, highlighting a forthcoming study from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communications, which notes that fewer than 2 percent of erroneous daily newspaper stories are corrected. Some 3600 news stories were analyzed, and primary sources contacted, with almost 70 percent of the sources completing a survey. They found:
....2,615 factual errors in 1,220 stories. That means that about half of the stories for which a survey was completed contained one or more errors. Just 23 of the flawed stories—less than 2 percent—generated newspaper corrections. No paper corrected more than 4.2 percent of its flawed articles.
What's more, while 130 of the news sources asked for corrections, only four corrections were made. That tells us that too few sources are pursuing corrections, one factor on which you can have an impact. With new tools like the comments option on Google News, there's no excuse for not pursuing a correction in a news story.

Web use: content now king

The way we use the Internet is shifting, with nearly half of all users looking for specific news and entertainment content, rather than using the Web for e-mail, shopping, searching, or other tasks. That's according to a four-year survey by the Online Media Association, issued this week; you can read Reuters' coverage of the study here. It notes:
The abundance of content and faster online speeds accounted for the spike, the study said. A proliferation of social networks such as News Corps' MySpace and Facebook have helped boost content viewing as well.
In contrast, online shopping and use of e-mail decreased, the latter impacted by the use of instant messaging. Focusing on content for your website not only meets this strong demand, but optimizes your search engine results: it's the newest content, such as frequent blog posts, that show up highest in search engine results.

New book on baby's screen time

Don't get caught client Lisa Guernsey's new book Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children from Birth to Age Five will be published September 10, but is already part of an interesting public relations debate. Researchers at the University of Washington last week published a study in The Journal of Pediatrics with data suggesting that infants who watch DVDs and videos will have smaller vocabularies. The chairman of Walt Disney Co., which publishes the popular "Baby Einstein" videos, demanded that the university retract not the research, but its news release. The university has refused to do so. In the meantime, Guernsey published an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times, noting:
I’ve learned that it helps to consider what I call the three C’s: content, context and the individual child. Most video content is nearly meaningless to babies less than a year old. (Though there is some evidence that they can imitate on-screen actions, it isn’t until they reach 18 to 24 months that they really start to comprehend what they see.) What matters is context and the child’s developmental needs.
That's probably good advice for adults, too. Guernsey's op-ed is number seven today on the New York Times' "most e-mailed list," as the debate dovetails with the publication of her book.

Buy Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children from Birth to Age Five

Monday, August 13, 2007

colleges slow on new media curve

If you were counting on new college graduates in journalism or communications to help you catch up on new media, better think again and question your candidates closely about their skills: Turns out college media's behind the curve in adopting new media, according to studies presented this weekend at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication annual conference here in Washington. Inside Higher Ed covers two studies here,noting that -- aside from college newspapers -- other forms of media lag behind in adding new media features:
About 91 percent of college newspapers had online presences in 2007, but the percentages are much lower for other forms of college media — 36.3 percent for radio stations, 20.9 percent for television stations, 18.1 percent for magazines and 6 percent for yearbooks. There were, however, “appreciable gains” in the proportion of college media outlets using multimedia technologies in 2007 compared to 2006: For instance, in 2006, 20.9 percent used podcasts, versus 38.4 percent in 2007. The use of Weblogs increased from 19.8 to 35.8 percent, RSS feeds from 23.5 to 35.1 percent, streaming video from 16.6 to 30.5 percent, embedded video (including YouTube) from 9.6 to 42.4 percent and comments features from 39.6 to 57 percent.
We can back this up from our own experience teaching blogging, in workshops where area PR agencies sent senior and junior execs to learn the skill and consider policy issues. Junior PR professionals often said they had no experience blogging in college, even those coming out of communications programs. Contact Denise Graveline about in-house training to bring your team up to speed in new media approaches; email us at

weekly writing coach: a challenge fields round two of its Creative Writing Challenge: Write a 750-word original, creative composition in any style, from prose to poetry and more. Entry forms can be found here, and the rules here. You could win gift certificates and a link to your blog in the challenge's hall of fame. The hook? You must use each of these words or phrases and include hyperlinks to their entries on
salad days
Kew Gardens
Prizes aside, this type of exercise not only diverts you from your usual path, but pushes new words into your constructions, forcing you to imagine circumstances, patterns or plots to link them together. Feel free to post your entries here also. Your coach suggests you spend no more than an afternoon on this practice, to add speed to the parameters.

Friday, August 10, 2007

your 2 cents' worth on Google News

The Washington Post's IT blog reported this week on Google's decision to test a new feature on Google News, allowing those quoted in a news story -- but only those quoted -- to comment on the story. Post IT blogger Sam Diaz wrote:
In a test that begins this week, Google will allow comments only from the people in the story and will post those comments along side entries on Google News. As a journalist, I welcome this feedback. Often, our sources have been less than happy with stories we've written about them. And I can't tell you how many times I've heard from sources who were disappointed that some detail that came up during an interview didn't make the story.
Citing the personal touch that insider comments could add, Google's reflecting the social media trend, catching up with myriad news websites that allow coments on stories...and let you respond faster than a letter-to-the-editor would. It's said they won't edit the comments, but will label them clearly to differentiate from the news story. You can find out more about the test, conducted on US stories only for the time being, in the Google blog here, and find out how to submit comments on Google News stories here.

Monday, August 06, 2007

weekly writing coach: style the pile

To get more insight and practice in improving your work, take a half-hour this week and pull one recent piece of your writing out of the "pile," more likely from the electronic file where it's stored. Choose a portion -- even one or two paragraphs would do -- and look at it with fresh eyes. You may even want to segregate the paragraph in question from the rest of the document, so you can see it more clearly. What do you notice today? Can you make it shorter? Should it have been longer? If so, where? Are word choices springing out at you from the paragraph? Why? Now, rewrite the paragraph, using the insights you've gained. Taking a short amount of time to review your work -- once you gain some distance from it -- is a great way to improve your writing. And if you can arrange to do this within a month of having written the piece, you can use the exercise to make improvements all the faster.

socialize, advertise, maximize!

If you're looking for great way to socialize, advertise, and maximize your presence in public relations circles here in the nation's capital, consider one of the sponsorship options for the Washington Women in Public Relations' annual "Washington PR Woman of the Year" award luncheon, to be held Wednesday, November 14 at the Mayflower Hotel from 12 noon to 2 p.m. Jennifer Bolick, event chair, tells us you can be a "patron" for just $600, a sponsorship level that includes four seats, as well as opportunities for name recognition, promotional items in the gift bags, and more. Event "benefactors" at $1200 receive tables for 10, as well as additional recognition and advertising opportunities. You also can donate items worth $50 or more for the raffle, which benefits Doorways for Women and Families, WWPR's pro bono client. You're supporting a great cause, and you'll be participating in one of the most anticipated events of the year. WWPR keeps the suspense going by inviting all three nominees for the award to the luncheon, without divulging the winner until the end. Veteran journalist Helen Thomas is this year's keynote speaker, and don't get caught president Denise Graveline is the 2002 WWPR woman of the year. Contact for more information.

energizing nonprofit support

Don't get caught president Denise Graveline will join nonprofit marketing consultant Don Akchin at the Maryland Nonprofits' 15th annual conference, "Realizing Our Future," November 9 in Cambridge, Md. We'll tell nonprofits how to "Energize Your Communities of Support," using old and new technologies, such as blogs -- a high-tech/high-touch way to seize, solidify, and strengthen communities of support. We'll talk about reevaluating nonprofit communications strategies and marketing budget allocations to reflect the changing marketplace. Join us by registering via the link above!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

wear blue for your audience

For your next speech, presentation, or media interview, take a cue from the curtains you see behind nearly every press conference, and wear blue near your face. News shows and newsmaking organizations have made the blue-curtain background ubiquitous to help the viewing audience, because this shade of blue:
-flatters virtually every skin color;
-focuses attention where you want it,on your face; and
-for those with light hair (blonde or red), white hair, or no hair, adds the visual emphasis and focus that darker hair provides for others.
For preference, we recommend a shade of blue called "French blue," shown here in several examples. (But gentlemen, please don't wear the style of French blue shirt that comes with a white collar; to be most effective, the color needs to be as close to your face as possible.) Because women have more options in terms of suit colors, they might choose a French blue sweater or jacket. Can't find a shirt or blouse that's precisely this shade of blue? Go ahead and wear a lighter shade of blue. This works well not only in a television or video close-up, but when you're at the lectern or on stage as well.

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.

Legal guide for bloggers

If you blog, have plans to do so, or are sorting out whether to give press credentials to bloggers, read the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Legal Guide for Bloggers, which includes a guide to bloggers' legal rights, liabilities, and privacy issues. Check out the FAQ on "the reporter's privilege," which helps discern whether bloggers are covered under laws and protections for journalists. A hat tip to the National Press Club's blog for alerting us to this useful resource. EFF campaigns for bloggers' rights, and its pages also include a guide for "safe blogging," for those who wish to blog anonymously, or nearly so.

Friday, August 03, 2007

fair use explained

If you're creating new media, from podcasts and video to blogs, you need to understand the "fair use" provisions of the copyright law--and that's easier said than done. The provisions, which allow you to use portions of some works without permission or fees, confuse many creators of new media material. Here's a transcript from "Ask the Experts: Demystifying Fair Use," an online dialogue co-sponsored by OneWorld, a global information network, and the Center for Social Media at American University. Patricia Aufderheide, director of the center, and Maura Ugarte, a graduate associate there, field the questions and offer advice.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

how women size up audiences

A recent Washington Post article summarizing research on gender differences in negotiations -- specifically, how and whether men and women ask for raises -- offers an interesting insight for any woman facing an audience. The article notes that economics and psychology researchers:
....found that men and women get very different responses when they initiate negotiations. Although it may well be true that women often hurt themselves by not trying to negotiate, this study found that women's reluctance was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did. Both men and women were more likely to subtly penalize women who asked for more -- the perception was that women who asked for more were "less nice".
Hannah Riley Bowles, one of the study authors, underscores that the women in the study had sized up their audiences and tailored their approach as a result, despite the downside to not getting a raise:
"This isn't about fixing the women," Bowles said. "It isn't about telling women, 'You need self-confidence or training.' They are responding to incentives within the social environment."
You can go here to read an online chat with the Post reporter, Shankar Vedantam, and economist Linda Babcock, of the Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society at Carnegie Mellon University. Babcock also has co-authored Women Don't Ask, a book on gender and negotiation.