Thursday, December 31, 2009

December's top 10 tips & issues

On the eve of 2010, here's one more lookback, this time at December's top 10 tips and issues on the don't get caught blog. I hope you'll feel free to leave a comment suggesting the tips, topics and issues you'd like to see in this space in the new year--and wish you a happy and successful year ahead!

  1. Do you have a curator's perspective when it comes to sharing and publishing information online for your organization or company? This most-read post took some curation cues from a Museum of Modern Art exhibit of Tim Burton's varied works to help you figure out what to do. Includes video and audio insights from Burton.
  2. A new mobile app for Flip cameras closed out 2009 as a popular post--this app helps you view and share Flip videos more easily on a large screen. And if you're looking to buy a Flip camera, this week there's a $50 discount on the Flip Mino HD cameraon, if you haven't finished using your holiday gift cards.
  3. Do you welcome the Twitter backchannel when you speak? This new college president does--a good sign that he'll engage his student audiences, and a positive example of how to put the backchannel to good use.
  4. Author James Geary gave a great talk on using metaphors in this video weekly writing coach post. Listen for how he uses Aristotle, Elvis and Shakespeare to jostle your thinking about metaphors and how to use them in your writing.
  5. What's the best control for blurting things out on social media sites? It's your brain. Thinking through what you want to accomplish when communicating on Facebook, Twitter and similar sites is important--but so is loosening up a bit. This post muses on the balancing act.
  6. Think your organization is beyond comparison? Think again, says this popular post, which looks at how to handle and anticipate out-of-left-field comparisons that may be made about you.
  7. You don't need to check them twice, but lists as a means of simplifying your writing
    are a tool both underused and effective. Check out this popular weekly writing coach advice.
  8. How to change your presentations to accommodate the backchannel is the subject of a new book. This post details what I think you'll find especially useful--it's a must-read.
  9. Where's online video headed? The tsunami-like top trend in social media is moving forward with new search options, captioning and audience data you can use in 2010 to advance your video offerings.
  10. The blog has a new sharing option -- a Meebo bar -- that will let you drag-and-drop content and share it on YouTube, Facebook and more. Check it out in this post.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Letters to the editor or "like this?"

Women's Wear Daily checked with magazine editors and found--no surprises here, methinks--that letters to the editor, while not completely dead, are far outpaced by emails, tweets and blog or website comments, as well as commentary on readers' own blogs. From the article:
Glamour receives 30 to 40 handwritten notes a week, compared with 1,000 e-mailed letters. Both are a fraction of the 5,000 comments receives online. New York magazine editor in chief Adam Moss noted the publication gets roughly three snail mail letters and 100 e-mails a week — that’s only 1 percent of the feedback it compiles. One story on can illicit [sic] 3,000 comments in a week on the site. In effect, letters to editors have not, or will not, die. Instead, they’ve simply morphed into different forms.
Now that we've settled that, perhaps I shall elicit an RSS subscription to my blog's weekly writing coach feature for the author of the illicit usage seen above....

Backchannel book: A guide you need now

If you (or your leadership) are more wary of speaking or convening meetings because of the Twitter backchannel--the audience conversation going on on Twitter while your speakers are in progress--you could, ahem, tinker with the technology to prevent immediate commentary. Or you could do something more effective: Get prepared to present in this new, more engaged-with-your-audience world. Fortunately, there's a book for that: Cliff Atkinson's The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever. I've been dipping into it for the past few weeks, and finding much for the seasoned user of Twitter as well as those completely new to this new type of conversation. Here are some features of the book I think you'll find especially useful:

  • The opening: Atkinson tracks the progression of one session at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival, one of the most popular social-media conventions, to show the complex view of what happens to speakers, moderators and audience members when the Twitter backchannel augments a session--or, as he puts it, "the back of the room collides with the front." Read this to gain a fast but thorough take on all the different types of audiences such an experience creates, and how effective speakers and moderators handled it. A plus: Atkinson, himself a speaker at the conference, talked to the participants in this episode and gives you a behind-the-scenes view that lays out all the issues.

  • Nuts-and-bolts details for speakers and organizers, like preparing your slides for audience members using handheld video cameras or camera phones; putting more of your content and resources online in advance of your presentation; developing a message based on "the rule of four tweets," so that your entire talk can be summed up in one introductory tweet and three more that offer supportive details and takeaway points; and, especially useful, realistic tactics for managing, focusing and handling the backchannel in a variety of circumstances--including facing the backchannel directly as part of your presentation, and when to choose that route.

  • Ways to engage the audience using Twitter: Here, Atkinson helps you make the leap by suggesting ways to ask the audience questions, take a poll of the audience or get them to complete an online task during your talk--after all, if they're going to be online, get them to participate with what you're discussing.
Atkinson's book also is available in a Kindle edition, and for technology updates, particularly on presentation tools that help you integrate the backchannel into your slides, consult the very good and free ebook by Olivia Mitchell, written to complement Atkinson's book. I welcome these resources, which take a positive--rather than breathless and skeptical--approach to the backchannel, identifying its rewards as well as its risks along with practical things you can do. Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of the book prior to writing this review.

Related posts: A college president and the backchannel

A speaker's view of a backchannel disaster

What speakers can learn from Twitter hecklers

For more tips on speaking, follow The Eloquent Woman blog and become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook

weekly writing coach: visual spell chart

The Oatmeal -- an astonishing one-man operation --takes grammatical rules and casts them into charts and visuals to aid your memory. This week, in "Stop Mispelling Thees 10 Wordz," it tackles everything from homonyms (their/they're/there) to errors caused by spacing (alot vs. a lot) or punctuation, necessary or superfluous. Scroll to the end of the post and order the poster for your office (your coach thinks taping it behind your office door might be the most subtle application). We all have our favorite recurring errors to correct. Why not use a comic approach as a reminder?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"the front fell off:" media interview don't

Thanks to Nancy Blount for sharing this cautionary tale example of a media interview gone awry. "The Front Fell Off" is a comic sendup of an interview about a maritime accident and engineering standards, with plenty of "what not to say" reminders for your next media interview. Check out the other examples in the links below for a pre-holiday laugh.

Related posts: Does your media trainer still use Bob Newhart?

'Parks & Recreation' offers a new media training video

Updated media training: What to ask for

What to ask a media trainer

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

online video: where the king's headed

Whenever someone asks me which social media trend is strongest, I don't hesitate: It's online video. Those numbers don't lie about this content king. As this first decade of the century closes, YouTube's been declared the decade's top social media innovation, because "it touched the most lives" (to the tune of 20 hours of video being uploaded every minute, seen by 1 billion views per day). What got it there? Innovations like easy-to-embed technology, which aided sharing--and led to "going viral." The rise of social networks on which to share videos and easy ways to record video, from the Flip MinoHD Camcorder to smartphone recording capabilities, also boosted video's march to the top.

Your communications plans may be right on top of this trend...or a bit behind. Either way, now's a great time to be thinking about where online video's heading, so you won't get caught behind the curve:

  • Look for more live video, and video scaled to the small (mobile) and big (TV) screens. Mashable notes that YouTube's made strides in all three options, and more mobile phones are able to handle video well, with television options in the works. This year, Flip cameras got a mobile app to increase sharing options. For 2010, you'll have more options for live video of your events, and more ways to encourage and enable your audiences to share and discuss your video. Check out new features in this realm, like YouTube's option to chat in real-time with users while they watch videos, not quite live video, but a live running commentary that will lend immediacy to your existing videos. But watch YouTube move beyond its live U2 concert broadcast this year to offer more live options. And check out the Meebo bar, which will let your site's readers drag-and-drop your video to YouTube for sharing or commentary.
  • Video search will continue to bloom: Search capabilities help your audiences find your video--and help you track your broadcast and online coverage. Online video once was the stepchild of search, rarely showing up and requiring you to add text with the video in order to catch the search engine's eye. Today, YouTube is already one of the most popular search engines. You can search Hulu using its closed-caption feature, allowing you to pinpoint your search, and add captions to your own YouTube videos to make them easily found. You or your audience can search YouTube comments as a way of finding videos, in test form. And Google Video search now allows your audience to refine a search to cartoons or slideshows, great news if you're using slideshows as another multimedia tool (remember, visuals don't just mean video, but slideshows can easily be adapted for posting on sites like YouTube). In 2009, Google also increased the likelihood that network-posted online video would wind up in search results, a move that benefits your media-relations tracking as well as the chance that searchers will see your videos.
  • We'll all need to keep learning about online video. The good news? YouTube wants to help you do that. A new tool being tested by YouTube lets you see what certain audiences are watching on the service: You pick the parameters (gender, age, location, topics) and you'll see their likes and dislikes, locations, sample videos that are popular with the group and a word cloud of search terms they're using. It's one of my favorite new tools. And you can play with more new features, like adding commentary to your videos.
I'm already adding to my 2010 to-do list a review of my online videos and ways I can enhance them with these new tools, so I'm ready for the next wave. How about you?

no comparison? think again

You're an apple. They're an orange. End of story? If you or your leadership find yourselves saying, "they can't compare us to that sector," or "we have no competition," think again. In the New York Times this week, cancer centers found themselves being compared to pharmaceutical companies -- at first glance, an odd comparison. Many of the centers are nonprofit or university-based, and far from commercial, as their communicators would tell you.

But the article takes ads and marketing claims made by the cancer centers and analyzes them based on Federal Trade Commission rules for advertising claims made by pharmaceutical companies. The conclusion: the claims would, in many cases, not meet FTC restrictions and could be considered misleading to consumers. Never mind that the cancer centers aren't subject to the restrictions.

That happened to me in smaller form when I got caught by surprise while directing communications for a major nonprofit in Washington. Our building sat next to two other major nonprofits, a trade union and another professional group. The union was being questioned by members of Congress about whether it should be paying local real estate taxes, which it owed due to its tax status. As charitable organizations, the two other organizations nearby didn't face such a tax--but that didn't stop the trade union's spokesperson from telling the Washington Post that the union wasn't getting away with anything we weren't. After all, he noted, we were all nonprofits. By making it seem as if we should be doing so, the union shifted the focus and took heat off its position. The reporter gave short shrift to the research that would've poked a hole in his stance. And there we were, with the questions in our court.

While these episodes can feel, in the moment like they're coming out of left field, you can, in fact, do a lot to prevent them from blindsiding your organization or company. Here's how:
  • Move quickly from handwringing to solutions: Late in this article on celebrities spreading misinformation about health issues, heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show, cuts past the "isn't this terrible?" commentary and moves to the place where communicators should put themselves: "If someone has a heartfelt belief that something ought to be on the radar screen of America, they ought to put it out there, because believe me, other people are saying it anyway...I'd rather have it come up publicly and have Larry King have a debate about it." At Johns Hopkins University, my clients at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center public affairs team have taken an active, visible approach to disputing myths -- often the subject of email campaigns -- suggesting that standard cancer therapies like radiation and surgery don't work and that dietary changes are best. Check out their updated FAQ on the topic, just one part of a strategy that includes a publicized willingness to counter the charges and make experts available to reporters whenever the topic comes up--as it does perennially. When the debate comes, be ready to say, "Bring it on!" and say it loudly.
  • Understand and be understood through relationships: Keeping your ear to the ground on social-media networks is one way to do this, but don't underestimate building and maintaining a face-to-face network with your communications counterparts at a wide range of institutions, and with your competitors as well as those in other sectors with some relation to your own. That includes your near neighbors at your location, even if they don't work in your sector or topic; after the union incident, I started lunching my counterparts at nearby organizations, on principle. You may not sway them from using such a tactic, but you'll know more about where they're headed. By the way, this goes for building relationships internally. Your chief financial officer, human resources director, security chief and facilities manager all should be your best friends when it comes to understanding where "left field" lies for your organization.
  • Put on a new set of lenses: You may be a corporation with a great corporate responsibility program--but what will an upstart nonprofit say you've ignored in your charitable work? Or, if you're at an academic institution, how does your president's compensation compare with, say, those unpopular Wall Street bankers' bonuses? Take the time to engage your senior leadership in a wide-ranging brainstorm on what others might say in the wildest combinations and points-of-view you can think of...then come up with your answers. (Communications directors, if you haven't done this, try it. Your leadership will tell you more with this approach than any other, and you'll be better prepared.) Read my thinking on why you shouldn't get caught without the questions you want, expect and fear--and how to come up with the answers.
  • Use what you learn to shift your messages: Armed with what might come out of left field from your external contacts and what might bubble up from within, you can rethink your messaging so your organization or company won't get caught by those situations. Remember: it's the questions you want that can trip you up as much as those you expect or fear, if you're not ready for them--or how they can be used against you. Use the time-honored Tim Russert test from 'Meet the Press' to evaluate your own talking points and how they might be thrown back at you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

to share with you: new sharing options

Want a free, easy way to engage your website or blog's readers? I've added a new feature on my blog that offers the chance for you to chat with other readers, and more sharing options, including a drag-and-drop feature so you can share videos, posts and other content on social media sites. The good news: You can have this feature for your website, too. It's a beta from Meebo, described in this post from Mashable, which has been using the features for some time. The setup's simple, and as a bonus, you'll get a dashboard with analytic data, as well as the chance to customize your Meebo bar with the sharing options you prefer. Go ahead: Use my Meebo bar (you'll find it at the bottom of your screen) to share this item and test it out from the reader's viewpoint, then get your own.

Monday, December 21, 2009

weekly writing coach: buzzwords & tools

They may not always taste like honey, but buzzwords sure are sticky--especially at year's end, when wordsmiths look back to determine which buzzwords were stickiest. The New York Times Week In Review offered its list of 2009 buzzwords, but bemoaned the new lows hit by terms like "Octomom" and "jeggings" (those would be jean leggings), saying, " if ever there were a year to put buzzwords before a death panel, this would be it, before the aporkalypse comes"--and neatly working two more of 2009's buzzwords into that sentence.

In good social-media fashion, the Times then asked readers for their buzzwords of 2009, and got a curmudgeon's-worth of complaints about the state of the English language (to be fair, they started it). So "guest lexicographer" Grant Barrett, editorial director of Wordnik, a social media site about words, added a postscript noting that the buzzwords were to reflect trends, not commentary about whether the words were good or bad. Then he wrote:
If you took this as an opportunity to peeve about language rather than findsomething joyful and exciting in it, then, I fear, you have fallen out of love with the best tool you ever had. Go study any other language for a while and when you come back to English you’ll kiss your dictionary. Or at least caress the binding a little.
And while you kiss that dictionary, check out Wordnik. I agree with Steve Rubel that it's much more than an "online dictionary," as it bills itself--you can use it as a meeting-ground-of-the-minds with other wordsmiths.

Feel free to leave your buzzwords or your favorite stomping grounds online for writers in the comments.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

college president & the backchannel

Here's where we're headed, I hope: The newly appointed president of McDaniel College in western Maryland, Roger Casey, impressed a member of the search committee with his approach to audiences that use Twitter while he speaks. From the article:
"This guy's saying to [older people] like me that this stuff can really be a positive," [committee member Francis] Fennell said of Facebook and Twitter. "We can really use it to expand their horizons."

He recalled a conversation about public speaking in which Casey said he never asks students to turn off cell phones but instead tries to interest them so that they'll Tweet their friends on Twitter.
It was noted yesterday on Twitter that discussion of Twitter audiences creating a backchannel is overly influenced by coverage of the disasters and not enough of the success stories--or what you can learn from the experience to make your presentations and speeches better. As one who trains speakers (including some college presidents) for speeches and media interviews, I take the latter approach, which you can see in some of the posts below. Let me know if this type of training is on your agenda in 2010 and beyond.

Related posts: Tweeting at meetings gets controversial

Speakers: Learn from Twitter hecklers

5 ways to find out about your audience

Find out more about public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog

Become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook

Friday, December 18, 2009

weekly writing coach: on metaphors

If you want to rethink how you use metaphors, watch this great TED talk by the author of one of my favorite writer's references, James Geary, whose Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphoristshas a special place on my shelf--and should have on yours if you're a science writer, speechwriter, essayist or communicator. In this talk, he walks you through such models as Elvis Presley, Aristotle, and Shakespeare, as well as the senses and sensibilities behind metaphor. You'll learn why audiences have a tougher time identifying falsehoods if they're written as metaphors, why we can't ignore analogies triggered by metaphor, and even how metaphor "ignites discovery" for scientists like Einstein. Take your fingers off the keyboard this week long enough to listen with care to this great talk--it's very well done, indeed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

museum gets (really) social

Washington's Phillips Collection--the first modern art museum in the U.S. and home to such romantic classic paintings as Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party--is mashing up romance, location, online video and very social networking as it preps for Valentine's Day. Members and followers of the museum who live in the Washington, DC, metro area have been asked to share their stories of romantic moments at the museum, from meetups to dates to proposals. If enough romantics respond to this contact, the museum plans to make videos in January and post them on YouTube in time for Valentine's Day. This project pulls together some great social-media themes: historic information (the museum was launched by a husband-wife team), real-life experiences, local interest, online video and contest entries, all appealing and sticky stuff when it comes to attracting and engaging your audience. The Phillips has featured many collections and exhibits with love as a theme and the contest offers a great way to highlight the museum as both a meetup and date location as well as an option for events...say, that wedding? See the museum's Flickr collection of photos here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

a curator's perspective: do you have it?

Are you ready to ask your information curator, "Where the hell did you find this?"--and then let her share it with others?

I heard Studio 360's interview with artist and director Tim Burton as a retrospective of his work appears at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The show's full of the flotsam and jetsam, seemingly, of Burton's dark-tinged and fantastical career: high school drawings, pages pulled from sketchbooks, published illustrations and the movies that resulted from them. What caught my ear in this interview was how he described the show's curation. The interviewer asked how much of a "push-pull" there was between him and the two curators. Turns out he just opened the doors and let them in.

"It's hard for me to look at my own stuff," Burton admitted, then said he let the curators dig through his collections to choose what they wanted, without interfering. "It helped me...rediscover many things I hadn't seen in many years," he says, adding that his general reaction to their choices was along the lines of "Where the hell did you find this thing?" He also notes in the slide show interview, above, that the process of letting a dispassionate but appreciative observer choose from among his works has reenergized him. Much of what they chose to display "was not meant to be seen" by the public originally, Burton said, noting it represents "my own mental process." And he's appreciative that the show doesn't categorize his work as drawings, film, and so on: "they've done a good job of blurring the lines."

Curation's the new term of art, so to speak, for how organizations--nonprofits, government agencies and companies--serve up their information on the web, particularly through social media applications. For some, it sounds like a fancier, more elegant way to say "we're retaining control of our information" in an age when sharing your data and making your facts freely available are becoming the norms. But real curation--the type that engages your audiences--needs to be more like letting the kids into the candy store than polishing the candy store's windows. After all, if your "museum" of facts, data and news keeps its best stuff in storage where no one can get at it, you're more mausoleum than museum.

Inspired by MOMA's curation approach to Burton, here are some ways you can take advantage of curation and make it work as part of your communications strategy:

  • Don't choose your own show's contents: Getting an outsider's perspective makes your curation more authentic--and more likely to appeal to others. Too often, our communications tools (reports, websites and more) are designed to please our organizations rather than their audiences. Use crowdsourcing, make data available with an invitation to let others curate it and share the results, or at least ask a colleague who doesn't work on your issues help lend a different view.
  • Don't let the new blind you to you: Communications focuses on having news to share, but, as in Burton's case, that approach would have limited the show's depth and appeal--and failed to provide perspective. Don't get dazzled by only your latest achievements; set them alongside your historic milestones to enrich your offerings.
  • Bring out the long- and well-hidden items: "Where the hell did you find this thing?" might be the clue that your curation's hit upon a gold mine. And since the people closest to these gems often don't recall them, you may be more likely to find them with the help of a dispassionate observer.
  • Share your doodles as well as your daVincis: Just as MOMA included sketchbook pages in its presentation of Burton's work, consider sharing some of your draft or source material creatively. It's one thing true curation does well: Showing the thought process behind the finished result, rather than just the result.
  • Blur the lines between your traditional categories and see what happens: Burton's never boxed himself in creatively, so why would his curators do it? If the information you're curating can be sliced or seen from a variety of themes or perspectives, use one you don't normally use. You may find new audiences or re-engage longstanding fans.
  • Let curators wander where they may: Doing the electronic equivalent of letting curators search your attic might involve making more data available publicly, inviting mash-ups that combine disparate data sets or asking your audiences to choose what's presented and how. You'll learn more about how your organization or company is seen, and you'll be creating a new group of people who can appreciate your work in a unique, deep way.

You can hear the Studio 360 interview with Burton in the MP3 recording below. Special thanks to the program for making it easy for me to curate this post using embeddable and share-able sound and visuals.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hat tips and mentions

I'm behind in thanking many bloggers who've shared my posts or sources who've tipped me off to great news and ideas. So consider this my hat-tip back to them all--as well as a sampler of other blogs covering similar issues that you may want to explore:

  • Noting that I made "guinea pigs" out of scientists to test their communications skills, The Arkansas Science and Technology Authority posted this summary of a Communicating Science workshop I facilitated in early October. The workshops are a joint effort of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Foundation. AAAS released this update on the workshops and related programs, also in October and States News Service covered it here.
  • Getting past perfection in social media: In "I'm not special, you can use Twitter, too," Jessica Lewis notes, "Yesterday, I pointed you toward Denise Graveline’s post You Can’t Be Mary Poppins In Social Media. I figured this out before I read her post, but she describes the exact place I was in the last time I tried Twitter, so please do read it if you are at all hesitant about plunging into the raging rapids that Twitter sometimes feels like (especially at the beginning)." Thanks, Jessica! She blogs on social media and copy editing, among other topics.
  • Longtime colleague Don Akchin, aka "The Accidental Marketer," shared my recent post on how you can follow Bruce Springsteen's way with fans to do well with your social-media efforts. Thanks, Don!
  • e-Learning expert Tony Karrer blogged about multitasking while speaking--by the audience and the backchannel--and pointed to my post on what speakers can learn from twitter hecklers in the comments discussion. Joe Bonner gets a hat tip for pointing me to the Twitter heckling that led to that post.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Eloquent Woman book group

Reader Emily Culbertson suggested a book group -- online -- to discuss Scott Berkun's new book, Confessions of a Public Speaker, and I've started such a group on Google Wave. Wave is still in the experimental stages and you need an invitation to join; I have a few invitations to extend to followers and fans of the blog. If you are already on Google Wave, you can search for "Scott Berkun" or the book title to find our discussion--or enter this Google Wave ID:!w+iSDGzOq9B.2
If you're not on Google Wave, please share your thoughts and comments on the blog or on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. I'm interested to hear what you think about the book--what did you find that was useful to you, or surprising?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

weekly writing coach: begin, again

Strong starts make strong writing. But sometimes, you need to reconsider the rut you may be in with your leads, introductions and openings. No matter what type of writing you're doing, consider these options to change up your starting style:
  • Work a relay: Write everything but the opening, then hand off to a fellow writer on your team. Better yet, hand off to more than one writer. It's a great way for an entire team to see alternate ways to open a speech, release or essay.
  • Put the finish in the start: Writing something where the conclusion's important to the opening? That may be a puzzling piece of research that requires you to put a punchline in the lead for a quick and complete grasp of the facts, like the last line in this one. Or you may want to presage an ending in the start of a speech.
  • Start in the middle: You may want to save the writing of your opening till last, as part of a writing process that helps many writers get started. But you also may want to tell a story by starting in the middle, using the rest of the narrative to catch your readers and listeners up with what came before, rather than beginning, well, at the beginning. That's especially true if you're translating from the technical: Don't start with the beginning of your entire field of study, but with what matters to your audience today.
Related posts: Why you don't have to start at the top

Monday, December 07, 2009

join me on google wave

I'm starting to experiment with Google's in-preview Wave, an application that mixes the best of search, share, email, and chat--either backchanneled, private group discussions or public "waves." Google announced today that it's making even more invitations available, but I have a limited number to share with clients and friends of the blog. (Just email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz, or find me on Google Wave at eloquentwoman[at]googlewave[dot]com.)

How to use this new tool's the question of the month, but here are some ideas I'm considering--all of them can make use of Google Wave's ability to share files, comments, links and more with public or private groups for collaborative purposes:

  • A discussion group on Scott Berkun's new book, Confessions of a Public Speaker;
  • A program committee to plan a conference;
  • An advisory group to counsel me on new ventures;
  • A judging panel to determine winners of a forthcoming contest;
  • A multilocation collaborative workgroup for a client needing consulting services;
  • A speaker coaching group.
Have you thought about how to use this new tool? Let me know if you want to join me in finding out more....and leave your reactions and thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

the best control for social media

I was fielding a lot of rapid-fire questions this week from a skeptical audience of association executives about social media -- specifically, a barrage of questions about every worst-case scenario they could think of. What if people tweet things that are confidential? What if I don't have time to manage everything and control what people are saying online? We have layers of approval for these types of things. Even the best person might slip up at some point and post something inappropriate, right? You can't really guarantee for me that will never happen, can you?

Those things happen, I said, but that shouldn't stop you from trying. It's good to help clear guidelines for your team before you start working with social media, I suggested. Often, the way in which you correct an error can boost your reputation, I pointed out in an encouraging tone. No, I can't guarantee that won't happen, but it's best to choose people you trust for the task, rather than micromanage them.

"Ah, that's the problem," said one CEO. "I'm the one I'm concerned about."

I looked him right in the eye, and asked, "Do you know the best control there is on the market for social media?"

"No -- there is one?"

And that's when I pointed to my brain. Well, okay, the side of my forehead.

Truth is, if you don't have self-control, there's a lot I can't help you with, including using social media for business without embarrassing yourself. But I did take a lesson from it, a lesson that communicators should note: Sometimes, when you're making the case for social media, and your leadership is talking about loose cannons and that horse that escaped when the barn door was open, they might just be talking about themselves.

Now, to my mind, that doesn't mean they should be off your list of potential bloggers, tweeters, or Facebook friends. But they will need to rearrange their view of themselves as leaders in the social-media world. Showing a human side -- or as I like to say, if you don't have a personality in social media, you need to get one -- would do most CEOs a world of good.

In this great example, Brad Ward caught the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison showing her perfectly fine human side in a Twitter exchange she meant to be private, and argues it's just the kind of post that should be public. I agree, wholeheartedly.

Getting your CEO to that point may take more work than you have hours to do, but it's a useful discussion to have. Just promise me you won't resort to ghostwriting for your CEO as a way to fill a gap. If your leader is unwilling or unable to exercise the best control for social media -- the one behind her forehead -- let her delegate full authorship to someone else, in their own name.

Related posts: You can't be Mary Poppins in social media (or, don't be afraid to suck)

Get past 6 other CEO barriers to social media

Employee blogs v. CEO blogs: Which is best?

weekly writing coach: list it

Sometimes the simplest writing task is most effective at communicating your point. Witness the list: Without adornment, it puts forward a collection of facts, points, accomplishments, contents, ingredients. The at-a-glance aspects may best fit today's appetite for micro-content.

How does that translate to your writing? Consider a list when you have:
  • Accomplishments: Put the flowery adjectives and adverbs, the essays and prefaces aside. Simply list your organization or company's accomplishments--the historic record of all time, or just this year's kudos for an annual report--so that your web viewers and readers can quickly grasp where you stand in the universe. Rockefeller University enlivens its "about" section with a "quick facts" page; scroll down to see its impressive bulleted lists, nicely done with active verb constructions.
  • Ingredients: What goes into your annual conference, your newsletter, your membership? Slice up and list your demographics, parameters, or supplies to provide another view of your events or people. If it takes 35 freight trucks, 2,000 pencils and pads, 800 projectors, 55,000 seats in 50 conference rooms, 4,000 donuts and 300 gallons of coffee to fuel your big conference, that tells me more in a sentence than I can get from all the descriptive content on your website.
  • People: We like to see ourselves, so describe your demographics--or, share your lists of people so others can create their own contact lists. If a key group of your organization's executives, researchers, teachers or speakers is on Twitter, try the Twitter lists feature to make available a ready-made list others can follow. Or, crowdsource a list of leaders on Google Wave or Evernote, where -- in the holiday season -- a group wish list is being compiled so it's share-able.
This holiday, skip loading up your writing like a Christmas tree. Instead, make a list. Whether you check it twice is up to your communications office standards...

Flip cameras get a mobile app

Flip camcorders just got another utility with a new mobile software application that supports sharing from your BlackBerry, iPhone or Android phone--and the new app is free.   At the moment, the app only supports certain model phones within those categories, including the Apple iPhone, iPod touch; Blackberry Curve 8520, Curve 8900, and Bold 9000; Google G1 (T-Mobile) and MyTouch (T-Mobile).  You can find the apps at the Flip Share website or in the app store for those phones.

That means you can shoot and share video from any location where your phone's working, and without a laptop--so if you're sending communicators out in the field to gather video or stills, they can post from events and offsite locations directly, without coming back to the office.  For iPhone users, the app allows you to create video playlists and favorites, and all the apps allow access to your Flip Channel--a private channel where you can share video with other users.  The latter feature means video can be shared from a remote location to colleagues in your office, who can phone in reactions, questions or ideas to the on-site recorder.

Find out more about the the 2nd-generation Flip MinoHD Camcorder with 120-minute capacity or check out all shoot-and-share camcorders on Amazon.

Related posts:  Find out why the Flip's part of my communications utility belt

October 2009 updates on online video tips and trends

Why your online videos can now be longer

27 ways to Flip your PR visuals

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Remember November's top 10 tips

Tips, ideas and issues fell like autumn leaves this month, ranging from Twitter backchannels and speakers to camcorder tests and rethinking your communications using events. From the piles, we've raked up the 10-most-read posts from this blog in November:

  1. A speaker's take on the Twitter backchannel looked at one speaker's disastrous presentation--and how a visible Twitterstream behind her made it even worse.  The meltdown made this our most-read post of the month. (Read more about the sexual comments made about the speaker on The Eloquent Woman blog, another popular post.)
  2. Can you learn from the backchannel as a speaker?  I think so--and this post from October still ranks as November's 2nd-most-read item.
  3. And just in time to help you maneuver that backchannel, my post on Olivia Mitchell's new, free ebook for speakers on just that topic vaulted to our number 3 position this month. Timely, and the price is right.  Olivia writes the very good Speaking About Presenting blog, a favorite of mine.
  4. If you don't have RSS feeds on your web-published communications, you're losing a major audience--and making it tougher for them to pull your information to them.   Maybe that's why news of several new feeds from the National Science Foundation's Science 360 aggregator site got so many readers this month.  Take a look at how they sliced their offerings into different, useful feeds.
  5. Figuring out how to brand yourself on social media networking sites?  I've updated my thinking in this post about creating your own "" -- the topic of a talk I gave earlier this year to the Science Writers in New York.  Read this before you need to network or job hunt. As I said in my talk, employers are fickle--social media is your friend.
  6. The first review of the Kodak zi8 ultralight camcorder made its rock-n-roll debut on the blog this month, another reader favorite that lets you see video in action.  Our reviews came to a mysterious halt this month, also.
  7. Sharpening our sense of local news is a post that looks at new trends in "hyperlocal" offerings, whether from news organizations or your organization.  From the post: "You may think of your organization as a multinational corporation, a world-class philanthropy, a major player in national affairs or a widely recognized authority on your subject. But if you miss pinpointing what's under your nose in your location, you'll miss one of the hottest strategies in communications."
  8. In this social-media world, face-to-face events also are getting rebooted and made over. This post may challenge your thinking about how to turn some of your traditional communications--even things like publications--into successful live events.
  9. Must be close to year-end, since my collection of posts on retreat facilitation proved popular this month.  I focus on retreats for communications teams, or for boards and management considering changes in communications.
  10. My utility belt for communications includes actual equipment, social media sites and freebies you should check out and adapt to your own operation's needs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Twitter backchannel: A speaker's take

I'm not a fan of breathless coverage of Twitter at conferences, the kind that stresses the sensational and scares speakers from using this new tool for audience engagement.  But as one who trains and coaches speakers, I know this is another social-media area where the audience is ahead of speakers in adapting, and organizers are even further behind in making the process smooth for audience members and for speakers.  In some cases, that means it's a train wreck that's waiting to happen.

Danah Boyd's Twitter train wreck happened last week at the Web 2.0 Expo.  She's a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and recently completed her PhD in the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley.  Her specialty is social media and youth culture, and she got caught in the backchannel at the Web 2.0 Expo, attempting to give this talk on -- ironically -- "Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media."  Through a combination of assumptions she and the organizers made about the setup for her talk, her own nervousness and an aggressive group of tweeters in the audience, the speech failed. And she's written a wrenching, thorough post about the experience here.  She notes she'd have had a rough time even without the backchannel, but not the disaster that happened.  (I'll have more notes for speakers about how to avoid some of her basic speaker issues, and about the sexual harrassment of this speaker via Twitter on The Eloquent Woman blog.)

So it wasn't just that the audience was tweeting, but that the stream was visible--and a surprise to the speakers, who also couldn't see it unless they turned away from the audience. Scott Berkun, who also spoke, adds more details in this thoughtful post that notes that other keynoters, like Danah, weren't warned about the placement of the Twitter stream directly behind them. 

Olivia Mitchell's new ebook on presenting with Twitter does a great job on the nuts and bolts of what should go into speakers' planning for use of Twitter at a conference. Now, we just need the organizers to connect the dots.  Both this episode and the one at the HighEdWeb conference in October--while different types of backchannel issues--tell me that organizers, even at high-tech conferences, need to do more than just say, "wouldn't it be great to display the backchannel?" when planning their meetings.  Speakers need to be brought into that loop early and often, and the audience as well.  And, as I usually advise my speaker-trainees:  Don't get caught assuming these issues will be taken care of for you. 

Related posts: 

Twitter backchannel about Danah Boyd shows what women face as speakers
New ebook on presenting with Twitter

Tweeting at meetings gets controversial

Speakers: Learn from Twitter hecklers

5 ways to find out about your audience

Find out more about women's issues in public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog

Become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

pr lessons learned

Here's a great post on the BurellesLuce blog by Debbie Friez, who captured some of the insights of the panel of wise women in PR--I was proud to be among them--at the "Lessons Learned" event convened by Washington Woman in Public Relations.  The audience gave us our best cues at this event, including questions that ranged from adjusting to social media and handling sexual harrassment on the job to convincing clients (internal or external) about effective strategies.  Thanks to Debbie for sharing the panel's wisdom!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

weekly writing coach: wristed

Thanks to Lifehacker, here's a great, short video every writer should bookmark--it's a series of short wrist and tendon stretches to help you avoid repetitive stress injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. As one who takes lessons from her guitar studies and applies them to writing, I'm especially glad these lessons come from a percussionist.

This shouldn't just be a weekly exercise if you are keyboard-prone. Take a break once an hour during long stints at the computer and run through these stretches--they really help. You'll write better, I promise.  Want to do more? Check out the rest of the ergonomic upgrades recommended by Lifehacker.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New ebook on presenting with Twitter

Despite the sometimes overblown, panic-inducing coverage of what audiences on Twitter are saying about speakers, the Twitter backchannel can be a useful speaker tool--and is just another factor for which you can prepare yourself.  You'll have to consider some new factors, like the Twitter audience beyond the room where you're speaking, and learn some new tools and options.

To the rescue comes New Zealand speaking coach Olivia Mitchell, author of the very good Speaking About Presenting blog.  Olivia has published a free ebook on “How to present with Twitter (and other backchannels)” -- and you don't need to sign up for anything to read it, just download it directly here.

I had the privilege of reviewing the book before publication, and I think it's a must-read, even if you don't think you'll have tweeters in your audience (beware that assumption).  One of the things I like best about Olivia's book is that it walks you through what a speaker needs to do about the backchannel before, during and after a presentation.  Another benefit: She's reviewed some of the new tools that are emerging to help speakers do things like tweet from within their PowerPoint slides or monitor the backchannel.  Olivia also went beyond mechanics to talk more about a subject dear to my heart: True engagement of the audience, which is the missing factor when speakers get heckled on Twitter.

Olivia also recommends the soon-to-be-published book The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever, by Cliff Atkinson, which you can pre-order on Amazon in advance of the November 30, 2009 publication date.

I'm using Twitter and the backchannel in my coaching and training sessions to help speakers understand what their audiences expect--and to engage with audiences while they speak. Check out Olivia's wonderful ebook, then contact me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz about your speaker coaching and training needs.

Related posts: What speakers can learn from Twitter hecklers

5 ways to find out about your audience

Tweet your way to better speaking

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

finding the friends of your friends

Let's face it: If you're active in social media, you scan what your friends are doing, reading and joining as a menu for yourself.  Now Facebook has a new option for its inexpensive and effective ads--one that lets you target your ad to the friends of people who are already fans of your page, blog or application.  The bonus?  When your friends see the ad, they'll see that their friend is a fan.

Facebook allows a high level of targeting already, from gender and education levels to location and even whether it's the recipient's birthday (useful for those of you targeting people in specific age groups, such as people at risk for certain cancers as of age 50, for example, or new grads or retirees).  But allowing targeting of people one step beyond your fan circle capitalizes on the powerful pull of the social.

This feature just rolled out this week, and I've started my own experiment with it for The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, my fan page for The Eloquent Woman blog.  Whom might you target?  Leave your ideas and experiments in the comments, or email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for ideas and strategies.

zi8 testing comes to mysterious halt

I'd love to think that the Kodak Zi8 I've sent out for testing is enjoying itself on a beach somewhere...and it may well be. We'll have to inquire of Nancy Drew, girl detective: The camera disappeared in transit from one tester to the next, and efforts to track it have failed, so I'm calling a halt to the proceedings.

Ironically, someone on Twitter just added me to a zi8 Twitter list. I'm not sure I have the heart to break it to him.  I'm not sure I have the heart to break it to me.

There's a guest post and more video coming from one of the testers who did get to handle the camera, and I'll be sure to update the blog when those arrive.  In the meantime, feel free to post your questions or thoughts if you've tested the camcorder.

Related posts: Our Kodak zi8 test

Kodak zi8: A video editor's dream?

Where's that Kodak zi8?

Rockin' the Kodak zi8: 1st review

Monday, November 16, 2009

my current utility belt

Ever since Chris Brogan wrote about what's in his utility belt--actual gear, software and other tools without which he can't do what he does--I've been mulling my own.  Here, in no particular order (and with Amazon affiliate links to some products) are the tools I'm using most:
  • Amazon Kindle: I read my New York Times on it, wherever I am, every day...and it has increased my book consumption 10-fold, especially important since I downsized my physical book collection last year with a big donation to Books for America. I also use the Kindle as a speaker's tool, to review written speeches and carry them with me on travel, and to read from on the lectern without flipping pages--the text-size options are excellent for that purpose.
  • Flip cameras: I own four Flip ultralight camcorders, and use them to train large groups, to record one-on-one training for my media-training or speaker-training clients, and even to capture still photos. The Flips are small enough to carry with me everywhere, which means I can capture visuals on a whim--and so easy to use, they don't require a second thought.
  • An all-purpose camera clamp tripod: This clamp is the next best thing to a third hand--it can affix a Flip (or other camera) to nearly any door jamb, car window or other improbable location. Think of this: you're in the audience near the front, there's an empty chair in front of you with a clear view of the speaker, and you can use this to hold your camcorder in place to capture the speaker.  Or you want to make your car into the coolest rolling camera out there. My new favorite, inexpensive all-purpose tool.
  • My Verizon MyFi internet card:  A productivity piece of insurance for when wifi isn't available, or too expensive. It supports up to 5 devices--or you and 4 of your pals at a conference who want to live-tweet.
  • My Droid phone, a Motorola phone with Verizon service. Getting to be a super productivity device, and I haven't even found all its charms yet. Having the Android platform, with all the Google tools I use, is critical. (See more below.)
  • Twitter, by which I mean Tweetdeck:  Twitter's such a part of my day, I'm not sure what I'd do without it...but I only manage my account on its website, preferring the utility of Tweetdeck for organizing my many conversations into manageable streams.  It offers many features beyond Twitter, from auto-shortening of URLs to translation of tweets in other languages.
  • FriendFeed:  Recently acquired by Facebook--which has adopted many of its features--FriendFeed at once incorporates the streaming commentary of Twitter with a longer format and a robust backchannel. I like that pictures and video are displayed with your post automatically, and I'm especially fond of the ability to pull multiple people into a direct-message conversation that goes back-and-forth, and privately. It's a great alternative to a conference call, particularly if you're discussing something confidential: think backgrounding a reporter, comparing notes on a new-hire interviewee, and more.
  • Blogger:  One of the Google products I've used for years--I support three blogs on this platform and, in its 10th year, Blogger's rewarding us with new features and functionality.
  • Google Reader:  What was I doing with other RSS readers? Google Reader is my inbox now, and its searchability and sharing options make it work beyond that capacity.
  • New York Times's Times People:  A reader network and sharing program, this lets you seamlessly "recommend" articles you read in the Times, as well as follow the selections of others. A nice feature: You can connect to dozens of Times editors and reporters and see their takes.
  • Prezi:  A new presentation tool and alternative to PowerPoint, Prezi has lots of charms, among them, the ability to map a presentation--and show the entire thing on one screen, so you can navigate easily back to a slide brought up in a question.  It works on your desktop and in a web application, and lets you share your slides, too.
  • Facebook:  The stickiest social network for many. I have a Facebook fan page for The Eloquent Woman blog and a public profile, and find that Facebook's facile combination of the visual, the shared and the social works for personal and professional purposes.
Is this it? Not by a long shot. I've started experimenting with Google Wave, for example, and am always looking for new tools for my utility belt. What are yours? Which do you find most useful?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

lessons learned in a PR career: panel

I'm joining five women with varied and long experience in communications for a "lessons learned" panel for Washington Women in Public Relations. I moderated a similar panel for WWPR a few years ago, and we wound up having an amazing and frank dialogue between the senior lesson-sharers and the audience. So bring your questions and what you're wondering about! Sharing their experiences will be:

Tara Hamilton, Public Affairs Manager, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

Myra Peabody Gossens, President, Circle Consulting

Denise Graveline, President, Don't Get Caught

Nolu Ntonga-Crockett, Policy Communications Officer, CARE USA

Beverly Silverberg, President, Beverly R. Silverberg Communications, Inc.

Moderator: Pat Wheeler, Director of Marketing, Cultural Tourism DC

The event's a week from today. Here are the coordinates:
Thursday, November 19, 2009

12:00pm - 2:00pm
Ogilvy Worldwide- DC, 1111 19th St NW # 10, Washington, DC

To register, go to the WWPR website. I look forward to seeing you there!

new report on nonprofit taglines

Getting Attention blog is offering a free report on nonprofit taglines (with signup for its free newsletter), which includes do's and don't for developing an effective tagline as well as a directory of more than 2,500 nonprofit taglines and examples from the winners of this year's awards.  Check out this useful resource if you are considering changes to your tagline--or a brand new one.

rockin' kodak zi8: 1st review

(When the Kodak zi8 ultralight camcorder came out earlier this fall, I decided to crowdsource some reviews of it under real working conditions -- but I told all my testers, professional communicators at universities all around the U.S., that they should feel free to take any kind of footage: at home, at work, at play.  I wanted them to test it under all sorts of conditions, and I got my wish with this review just in from Jim Barlow, who directs research communications at the University of Oregon.  Leave your questions in the comments!)

We had great anticipation of testing the Kodak, but our turn and the Kodak arrived the same time H1N1 and a nasty respiratory illness was slamming our campus. Two scheduled shoots had to be canceled due to staff illnesses. Another was nixed when the researcher involved was sick. And another project in which we were going to videotape artwork that a researcher studies was halted because of copyright issues on the out-of-country artwork involved. We had planned multiple uses including using an external microphone on a visiting molecular biologist at a busy event, but it was scuttled by operator illness. Ouch on the week.

That said, our senior director of communications took the Kodak to a multiple speakers forum. He set the camera for 60 frames per second in a room with lights on speakers with a dark background. Sound quality was OK. He did not like the zoom effect of going in stages rather than smoothly, and did not like the on-off beep--he thought it was distracting to those in the room, but realized later it can be turned off. Worst case scenario is that he had experienced operator error when it came time to retrieve what he thought would be a great usable segment video … he had turned it off instead of on, so he missed the scene.

So our office's plans got smashed.

However, my son, UO journalism student Andy Barlow, who is interested in becoming a music writer, took the Kodak with him to Portland to capture his friends for a video to use on his MySpace page and on YouTube involving the Eugene rock band "The Last." The band members are friends of my son. The event was a battle of the bands to determine which band would open in Portland for a more well known band. My son made a long video (15-minutes plus for his MySpace page and a more-edited version for YouTube):

Andy Barlow's "review:"
- Very easy to use. Just turn on and hit one button and it's recording.
- Easy to change modes. One button and you can change the quality, type and options for taking video or still images.
- 5 MP camera
- 1080 P HD video quality
- Good pickup of sounds while recording
- Built in USB connector
- Overall look and style of device
- Easy to carry and fit in pocket

No cons with using camera.

Related posts:  Our Kodak zi8 test

Is the Kodak zi8 a video editor's dream?

Where's that Kodak zi8 camera?

Buy a Kodak zi8 camera