Monday, August 31, 2009

social media: what you & your boss say

Psst. Your boss really is thinking about social media, even though you don't think she is. And, for the boss: Your team's also thinking about it. I'm no psychic. I just spend a lot of time listening to organizational leaders and top communicators in all sorts of organizations, and with their teams, many of whom I train or coach. When it comes to social media, I'm often hearing both sides of what could be a useful and interesting conversation--except the parties are having it with me, instead of each other. Want to listen in? Here are some of things bosses say to me about using social media as a communications tool:
  • "I'm the only one here who does anything in social media." Variants on this them include: My staff shows no interest in learning this stuff...I've shown them how to use Twitter but they don't post anything...I've set up an entire video studio to get things started, but I'm the only one trying.
  • "Are my existing staff capable in this area? I can't tell." Sometimes this sounds like I don't want to hire new people right now...I don't see their willingness to try...No one volunteers for experimenting with social media...I don't know enough to evaluate their skills.
  • "I'm not sure my leadership appreciates that we're using this." On several occasions, I've heard this comes out a different way: I was surprised when the president asked for a report on what we were doing in social media--it came up with a board member.
Here's what team members are telling me:
  • "No one dares post anything for work, because the boss is too anxious about it." Sometimes I'll see my trainees show up on Twitter, only to disappear. When I inquire, they most often say things like: Bob called me seconds after I tweeted about x to ask what I thought the ramifications would be, and so I know he's monitoring verrrry closely...Susan wants to decide what we say right down to the verbs...she's only comfortable with what she posts, but it sounds very awkward. I don't want to risk it.
  • "They've decided I don't know how to do this." I've talked to team members who are planning to take vacation time and pay to attend conferences to learn social media skills--just the show of enthusiasm that marks an eager player--because their boss has decided they aren't capable of learning it.
  • "I'm on Facebook all the time, but no one has talked about how we can use it for work." Or I hear: Janet can't send email from her cellphone. Why would I expect my supervisor to get social media...I never get to talk to the VP, but I'll just guess he's not into this and so we won't be into it as an office, either...I could show them, but no one's asked for my help.
If you're not hearing these things, it doesn't mean they're not being said--or thought. In some cases, the adept social-media boss may need to pointedly delegate to team members--then stop hovering--and adept but junior staffers may need to stop waiting to be recognized and volunteer to help others. But you may just need to start with a conversation, or several. That's why many of my clients have asked for some combination of facilitated orientation sessions, training and strategy brainstorms to help entire teams--or several teams at once--work together to figure out a social media approach. (In some cases, I've also helped evaluate where staff stand on social media skills and recommended needed training.) I can customize a facilitated session that gets your team together, talking and taking action on strategic uses for social media. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for ideas and details.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The top 10 tips of August

Time always seems shorter at summer's end, and this month, writers and strategists sought out these top tips from the don't get caught blog--maybe to get caught up before the fall? Check out what our readers found most valuable this month:
  1. Want to write more? Just takes an hour: An alert reader tipped us off to the source for this weekly writing coach post, the top post of August, suggesting that you just need to take one hour a day, five days a week, to write 130,000 words.
  2. Want to write better? Want to do it in small steps? Try these 5 "brush-ups" to freshen and sharpen your work.
  3. Listening to your audience, and asking what they think, is critical in these days of social media--or any time. My tale about a 20-year relationship with a theatre that resulted in my unsubscribing was our number three post this month.
  4. If you're experimenting with online video using the ultra-light camcorders like the Flip, try these 27 ways to switch your PR visuals, another popular post this month.
  5. I call it "nexternal relations," a way to make sure your communications team is ready for changes now, and what comes next. Read one take on this approach here, and our new series on rebooting your communications operation here.
  6. Creating tweetable presentations--a guest post--offered readers the chance to turn the live-Twittering audience to the speaker's advantage.
  7. Can humor help the technical talk? One scientist-turned-standup-comedian shows how in a great video.
  8. Writing for a speaker? I've got five questions writers should ask before they pen introductions, speeches or remarks.
  9. You need a friend feed, an outside source of insight, ideas and expertise. Here's a post that lets you see how to do that with social media.
  10. It's hammock time for writers, with 19 ways to refresh, renew and rejuvenate your writing--many of which don't involve writing at all.

Amazon Kindle: environmentally friendly

I've recommend using the Amazon Kindle e-book reader--either the 6-inch version or the larger (9.7-inch) Kindle DX--as a great device for speakers who wish to stop shuffling papers, and to reboot your communications operation with less paper and more efficiency. Now there's a new reason: A new study has found the Kindle to be environmentally friendly. CNET looks at the study here, and quotes from it:
The roughly 168 kg of CO2 produced throughout the Kindle's lifecycle is a clear winner against the potential savings: 1,074 kg of CO2 if replacing three books a month for four years; and up to 26,098 kg of CO2 when used to the fullest capacity of the Kindle DX. Less-frequent readers attracted by decreasing prices still can break even at 22.5 books over the life of the device.
The CNET article notes that some universities are experimenting with using the Kindle for textbooks, in part due to the improved environmental impact. Will it make a difference for your operation?

Buy the Kindle 6-inch version or the larger (9.7-inch) Kindle DX.

Related posts: How the bigger Kindle may help you

How a Kindle contributes to rebooting your communications office space

Thursday, August 27, 2009

social media workshop September 28

Save the date: I'll be leading a workshop on social media as a marketing and communications tool for the Society for Marketing Professional Services on Monday, September 28, 2009. This session will be targeted to the needs of marketers working in architecture, engineering and construction firms.

The session will be held from 3pm to 5pm at Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, 1800 K Street NW, Suite 200 Washington, DC 20006. Registration is $40 for non-members and $30 for SMPS DC members. Watch the SMPS DC website or this blog for more details--I'll let you know when registration links are up.

feed me. i'm hungry for RSS.

Suppose we're at a ballpark--hey, it's summer--and, instead of sending the vendors into the crowds yelling "Beah heah!" like they do at Fenway Park, we have to walk outside of the ballpark and two blocks away to get a beverage. Maybe I want a popsicle, but I can't have one until I consume a four-course meal in your restaurant...your rules. Or you invite me to a picnic, but while I cool my heels at the beach, you're keeping all the sandwiches in your house, where you expect me to show up.

That's what you're doing with your website, I'll bet. If you think of content as food, these days, you need to be thinking "mobile dumpling van" or "street food vendor" or even "home delivery," rather than trying to get me to spend time in your restaurant. Trouble is, most organizations are still trying to follow the "build it and they will come" mythology about their websites.

Kent Newsome summed this tug-of-war between website owners and readers perfectly. If this description from his blog fits your approach, it's time to rethink your strategy:
...the system they are desperately trying to save is the one in which the
provider selects and aggregates content, either on paper or a website, and the consumer accesses that content at the provider's place. Where the experience is tightly controlled
, complete with ads, etc. Under the new system, which will be much better for the consumer once it matures a little, the consumer selects both the content and the package, and then accesses it wherever he or she wants: internet browser, phone, RSS reader, Facebook, etc. Of those choices, the RSS reader is currently the best choice, by far.
Why? Because I get your information where and as I want it, and you and I both work less to make that happen. The time-saving features of receiving dozens of posts in a feed reader make consuming all these treats easier for me (read: more likely to sample your stuff). I don't need to register, join or pay. Think of it as the automat, the buffet on wheels, the conveyer belt with your sushi on it--just serve it to me. (Hat tip to Joe Bonner for the pointer to
Nearly every time I speak about using social networks as a communications tool, business leaders ask, "Isn't it enough that I updated my website? That's where I want people to come." A friend who just launched a new site and promoting it on Facebook and Twitter has focused on getting people into her forums on the website...but is neglecting fans and followers on their preferred pages. And plenty of websites I visit have tasty, tempting which I can't subscribe, because they haven't provided an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

reboot communications office space?

When I think about rebooting your communications operation to fit today's shifts and changes--from technology to the economy--strategy's normally at the top of the list. Today, though, I'm thinking strategically about how your office, your physical space, also needs a reboot to make it functional for the communications challenges ahead. Here are a few ideas I've been mulling (or trying out) to make my space and yours fit for the future:

  • Take down the TVs and put Twitter up for the office to monitor news: I've been known to create a newsroom-like atmosphere in a communications office by wall-mounting TVs dedicated to showing CNN with the sound off, to allow anyone to monitor news in real time. Today, I'd be showing a Twitter feed, customized to the office's topics and focus. In this post on RSS, pointing out that Twitter's far more real-time than syndication, Robert Scoble says: "I'm not in the news business anymore, but if I were I’d keep Twitter up on screen. I’ve been looking closely at Google Reader’s latest features, Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed...most of what shows up...shows up in my Twitter feed up to a day earlier." Wondering why everyone needs to see it? There's been more than one day when someone wandering by, an administrative assistant or a colleague down the hall alerted us to breaking news--and if only a few get to see the feed, only a few perspectives will reign.
  • Reduce the file cabinet space. Most communications offices are replete with file cabinets and cupboards to store all those annual reports, printed news releases, and other paper-based information tools. I set out more than a year ago to revamp my own offices, and this previous post includes a link to ways to set metrics for your office's paper reduction. Lessons learned: I don't miss the paper, I gained loads of storage, and my focus is improved with fewer stacks sitting around.
  • Expand the electronica space: Key to my paper reduction has been theKindle 2, which stores my books, as well as speeches, any PDF or Word documents I need to take with me, magazines, and blogs. You can avoid loads of delivery and recycling of periodicals and newspapers by stocking a few for office-wide use. It sure clears up the shelf space, and the newer, larger-format Kindle DX is a boon for art directors, graphic or web designers, or anyone whose communications work includes lots of photos, charts and visuals, or just more storage space (3,500 documents fit in the DX). But you'll also need to dedicate space to recharge all those devices you're using in lieu of paper, and perhaps, secure storage. Good news: most of the devices are small, but you may need to expand those power strips for all the plugs and cords.
  • Stock up on stocked backpacks: Just as local reporters are going mobile, with stocked backpacks full of audio and video equipment, so should you have ready at least a couple of kitted-out packs. Consider stocking ultra-light camcorders like the Flip MinoHD Camcorder, or the Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera (available now to pre-order for delivery in September), which adds an external microphone jack for improved sound recording. Choosing a backpack? Try a backpack that comes with chargers, tripods, and cleaning kits for cameras or choose from among the many other electronics backpacks.
  • Make room for visitors and drop-bys. Crowdsourcing, collaboration and creative brainstorming with outside sources are the methods of the day. While square footage can be tight, consider dedicating one cubicle as a drop-by space--you can alternate its use for telecommuting full-timers and outside visitors. Then invite in some outsiders for a day or more: visiting colleagues from other organizations, competitors, supporters, consultants. Lend them space in return for some insights and observations, a type of co-working that can advance your rebooting efforts.
If you've rebooted your space, downsized your archives and created a new look, feel and functionality for your communications office, snap a picture and send me an explanation at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz to share with others.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

your infinite variety on social media

I got a private message on Twitter today that made me smile for a long time, because it's a mirror that shows me I've reached a personal goal, and a professional one. My Twitter pal--someone I have not met IRL (in real life for you non-texters)--normally engages me about public speaking, a topic we share, but this time asked about a note I'd posted about a work project.

I explained I'm working on communications for a cybersecurity project to secure the Internet's domain name system. And here's what came back in 140 characters or less:
You have a wide range of interests. Started following you for speaking; am surprised/pleased to see science, music/guitar, art, and food.
Right there, you have much of the science behind my Twitter content--and a summary of what I value on social networks. I share news and links about social media and communications, and public speaking, as those form the core of my business. Science has been part of my work for the past two decades, so my followers see medical, scientific (all disciplines) and environmental tweets from me. But they also know that I love to cook (and what I'm attempting), that I'm in the market for a guitar and lessons, whom I've seen in concert, that I love to travel, and that I make art (a most recent sculpture is pictured above left). So, while many of my followers are clients or contacts or referrers, they also share recipes and travel tips with me, steer me to good social media examples I can share, encourage my newbie guitar hopes and ask for photos of my sculptures. They share content I use on this blog and others, help me to hear their perspectives, and point me in directions I'd never find on my own. All together, they represent the type of infinite variety so rare in our workplaces and work--and now, so common in mine.
Many folks I meet are still struggling with how much of their personal selves to share on social networks, if they're encountering business colleagues and acquaintances there. Plenty of others have told me about their fences: I only post professional updates on Facebook, says one. Another: Facebook is reserved for my personal friends. A third: I don't like Twitter--anyone can follow you. My choice, made early on: I open my networks to clients, friends and family alike, and I've advised many an audience to be the same person you are online as you are in person (only perhaps with more care, if you are careless). But I always add a corollary for those who stick to the strictly professional: If you don't appear to have a personality on social media, get one.

Today, I learned that someone else on Twitter gets my personality, as well as my professional skills, and that's just priceless...and impossible if your posts are strictly business. That's not just a sentimental moment. I've been hired sight unseen by new clients I met on Twitter, referred by others to productive business leads, and been able to promote, share with and learn from others. I never run out of things to talk about when I meet these people IRL, and we always look forward to those chances to meet--it's a myth that those of us who network online are avoiding face-to-face contact. If anything, most of us can't get enough of the chance to meet, if only to see that infinite variety in person.

Monday, August 24, 2009

weekly writing coach: hammock time!

These look like hammocks in this photo, don't they? But they're fishing nets, and they let me make my point this week: Sometimes your writing (and maybe your wrists) need a rest so you can gather ideas idly and, in the process, improve your craft. So in honor of the waning weeks of summer, here are 19 ways I get rested--and inspired--to write again, and better than the last time:
  1. Take a class that doesn't look anything like writing or language skills. Make art, learn to tango, find out how to cook crepes, try a new gardening skill (all things I've tackled personally)...anything but word use. Work the other side of your brain; the more visual, aural or hands-on, the better.
  2. Sleep. I hope I don't need to explain this. If I do, take a nap and figure it out afterward.
  3. Challenge your taste buds and try a completely different dish than you usually eat.
  4. Challenge your cooking skills and cook something completely different. Even better if you fail at it, frankly. You'll learn more.
  5. Take a driving trip, whether you're the driver or not. Be sure to look out the window instead of at your cellphone. (There's some evidence that the brain gets creative when it has lots of visual input, particularly when the visual input's moving toward you, as in a movie--try that, too--or the view when driving.)
  6. Exercise. You don't get enough if you write. Try a yoga class, take a walk, move. If you've been eating lunch at your desk, take a half-hour walk before you do.
  7. Read a genre you don't normally read: Poetry for the non-fictioner, free verse for the rhymer, mysteries for the manual-reader, short stories for the mega-novel-lover.
  8. Walk away from the lighted rectangle that is your computer. I'd try a week, but a weekend will do. Helps if you go somewhere with no Internet access, or are the driver on the driving trip (see above).
  9. Write by hand. See what happens when you put pen to paper. You remember pens. You remember paper.
  10. Clean your desk, files and piles. Toss all those piles and files that are composting while you ignore them. Enjoy a clear workspace and see what happens.
  11. Grab some perspective. Call an old friend, your mom, your spouse--someone you trust--and ask what they'd love to see you write about. If they don' t know, ask them what they'd love to read about. Don't argue with them. Just listen and absorb. I was told, for instance, to write humor. I love to tell a funny story and most of mine turn out to be true. It's a secret wish of mine to get back to that (okay, so much for the secret) and it was great to have it confirmed.
  12. Spend a day entirely on the visual. Read as little as possible and see as much as possible. What do you notice? What catches your eye? What does it make you think about? Take pictures, sketch, take video, or just look around.
  13. Spend a day immersed in sound. Listen: to people, birds, music, ambient sound. Talk less, listen more, ask questions and shut up and hear the answers. What stands out? What did you notice?
  14. Play. Start a meeting with some improv from "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" or watch a standup routine on a DVD, or better yet, live. Get everyone you talk to engaged in sharing a funny story. Ask for recommendations on hysterical YouTube videos. No one's watching. Go ahead. Enjoy.
  15. Play with the clock. Do you normally give yourself an entire day/2 weeks/3 months to write something like a news release/short feature/essay/speech? Try to see what you can do in 15 minutes, or 30. If you're normally a quick-turnaround writer, take a day or a week on one piece. Yes, you can.
  16. Move your location for writing. Go sit somewhere else to write. Get out of your comfort desk zone, or that coffeehouse you hang out in, or your pajamas. Trade offices with someone. See what happens.
  17. Move your location, minus the writing. In many cultures, this is called a vacation. You can look it up.
  18. Change your approach. We fall into lots of habits and one is our daily path. So if you normally walk up to your office building the same way every day, divert your path. Approach from the long way around or a shortcut.
  19. Change your departure. Leave earlier, except from vacation. I can't possibly recommend leaving work later. Life's too short. Just promise me you'll use the extra time to contemplate what you notice that's different, how you feel and why.
Hammock time should net you some new insights into your process or your prose, and refresh you and your viewpoint at the same time. Feel free to share ways you've refreshed and rejuvenated your writing in the comments....after you try these ideas!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

how the bigger Kindle may help you

Amazon's got a larger new Kindle DX available, the wireless electronic book reader now in a slightly larger size (the DX dimensions are 10.4" x 7.2" compared to the Kindle 2 at 8" x 5.3"--so it's still smaller than a sheet of standard paper). Should you get it? It's got the same advantages as the earlier version: Free 3G wireless, readable for 4 days on a single charge, the ability to change type size for easier reading, a read-aloud function, ways to receive not just books and blogs but your Word or PDF documents. (See a full list of features here.)

What's different? The larger size boosts the visibility and clarity of complex images, so drawings, photos and charts are easier to read -- a boon if you're a visual learner or communicator. The DX also has a rotating view, so you can hold it sideways or straight up and the view will shift for better viewing of horizontally oriented graphs. It holds an impressive 3,500 documents (2,000 more than the Kindle 2) and reads PDF files without having to convert them first.

I recommend the Kindle 2 or the DX for those of you who are frequent speakers, since they can hold your speech text, let you read it at a larger type size, or even read your words back to you so you can hear them aloud--and you avoid scrambling to keep your pages in order, too. It's easy to use on a lectern, but you also could use it to read from without one, and do so in sunlight (the screens aren't backlit). Speakers may find some advantage from the larger size for greater readability, so keep that in mind. Let me know how you're using the Kindle!

Buy the Kindle DX

Related posts from The Eloquent Woman blog:

Testing the Kindle on the lectern

New Kindle offers more features for speakers

Reboot communications with urgency

Communications leaders should read this interview from Inc. magazine with Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, in which he discerns the difference between panic--the reaction lots of operations are having in response to big changes like the recession, or the shift to social media--and urgency. The latter's the more purposeful response, he says. While pegged to entrepreneurs, there's a lot in this interview to inspire communications leaders, particularly if you're looking to reboot your operation and the ways you approach communications in the 21st century. Here's a sample of what I saw that's useful:
  • You can inspire change in your team with urgency: "Talk about the big dangers and big opportunities...You're trying to get people to think. And you always say what you are going to do first," Kotter says.
  • Clear the decks so you're ready for action. Instead of the typical panicked response--long hours, fear of layoffs, looking busy to show value added--Kotter says the leader should head in the opposite direction, asking the team to purge anything on their calendars that doesn't propel change and forward motion. Then you have the space to look for new opportunities and ideas.
  • Take the time to set the stage for change. Here's a statistic to note: Kotter says 70 percent of change efforts fail due to the leader's failure to "create a sense of urgency around what they're doing" and moving straight to problem-solving.
That's just a sample from this thoughtful read. I can report that lots of clients this year are taking the time to build team urgency and support change with don't get caught's facilitated retreats that mix strategic brainstorming with training and goal-setting for communications that don't get caught behind the curve. Read more about them here, or contact me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for more ideas and information.

Related posts: Re-tooling your training in tough times with focused retreats
Get your toes wet in the new-media pool: Social media orientation retreats

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

weekly writing coach: ?s for speakers

Putting words in someone else's mouth is tough. Might be your regular gig, or just a once-in-a-while task, but it's tough. Here are five questions to ask the speaker before you start to write, to save you time and to make the finished work sing:
  1. Are there any words or sounds I should avoid? I once wrote a long narrative script on theft in the Boston subway system for a radio announcer, full of purses, police and pickpockets--only to have her inform me that she pops her P's (sounds a bit like a cork coming out of a bottle), prompting a last-minute rewrite. Most speakers are familiar with their verbal stumbling blocks and impediments, and happy to have your help in avoiding them--so don't shy away from this question.
  2. Do you know the person you are introducing? A perfectly genial introduction can be written for anyone, but if your speaker's introducing someone she knows well, use the opportunity to ask two further questions: Do you want a written introduction? and What's something special you can tell me about him? Then -- if she does want some notes -- write an intro that's unique to your speaker and her relationship with the person she's introducing.
  3. What's a story you tell (or might tell) when you're talking about this subject? Instead of fabricating a story for your speaker, ask him this question to elicit a familiar story--then, instead of writing it down, put "Tell Paris story here" or some similar cue in the script. This will naturally cause the speaker to look at the audience, rather than the text, for a more impactful telling of the story.
  4. What's the effect you want to have on this audience? No writer can afford to guess the answer to this one. Asking this question may uncover organizational politics, hopeful aspirations or real anxiety about the outcome. Your speaker's take will help you guide the writing and avoid any inadvertent pitfalls due to the words you choose. And it'll help you set the right mood: somber, humorous, pointed, or questioning.
  5. What part of your message is likely to surprise the audience? Building up to a surprise is a classic way to add some drama to a speech, so make sure your speaker clues you in to enough context that you can do it effectivelly.
Speakers and speechwriters can find out more tips on public speaking at our sister blog, The Eloquent Woman.

Related posts: How to write a suite of introductions for others to introduce your speaker

Monday, August 17, 2009

more ideas to steal from old-school media

I'm fond of calling talk radio and talk-TV the original social media--they've always focused on giving time to the audience, letting them drive the agenda, and promoting various ways for the audience to participate, as does any good social networking effort. But can you steal good social media ideas from mainstream media? MIN (Media Industry News) thinks so, in this excellent post with four concrete ideas almost any organization can adapt in its social media efforts, from getting your multi-media out of buckets on your website and putting video and podcasts right up front, to crowdsourcing content. (Don't have advertisers? Where the article recommends connecting the audience with your advertisers, think donors, sponsors, funders, members.) Check out these options as you consider how you're rebooting your communications efforts, if only to keep your offerings fresh and competitive.

Friday, August 14, 2009

weekly writing coach: 5 small brush-ups

Sometimes improving your writing seems daunting, especially if you've been doing it for a long time. There's no need to put off the chance to brush up on a new writing technique--just make the task smaller and more focused, and think of it as a touch-up rather than painting a mural. Here are five focused (and small) ways to brush up your writing, from tweets to reports:
  • Choose a unit instead of the whole work: Focus on paragraphs, or sentences within them, as your opportunity to improve. With paragraphs, you could focus on the transitions between them; the sentences within each one; their order; or strong starts and finishes, for example.
  • Tighten: I always recommend self-editing -- who better to fine-tune your work than you? Here are 5 ways to edit your copy when you run out of space, all methods of tightening your words and making your copy crisp.
  • Go for the verbs: I think making your verbs active is the single best way to improve your writing. Here's an exercise in turning passive verbs to active ones, a small effort that makes a big difference.
  • Tackle a headline or title: The shorter the better is the rule of thumb for headlines these days (think Twitter, among other things). Here are some tips for focusing on these small, but impactful words.
  • Speaker intros: These should be short and punchy, to get the speaker off to a good start. Whether you're writing them for your speaker, or for someone who's introducing the speaker, check out my tips for writing several lengths of short intros.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Director's perspective: Creating tweetable presentations

Editor's note: If you're rebooting your communications to fit what comes next, you need to be prepared when your audience wants to live-tweet -- or report on -- your presentation on Twitter. Here's a guest post from Carmen R. Gonzalez on how to do just that. Gonzalez is the Manager of Strategy and Communications at Healthcare Communications Group, a leading clinical trial recruitment and retention firm. Follow her on Twitter at @crgonzalez or visit her site Atomic Latina.

If you want to get more “web mileage” our of your PowerPoint presentations, you’ve got to prepare a few key elements to assist your viewership in sharing your message. There are three basic rules to turbo-charging the viral marketing potential of your speaking event:

1. Boil down your key points into 140-character size messages. By summarizing your primary headlines into tweetable chunks of text, you are hand-feeding your listeners to tweet your remarks. You can also draft quotes that illustrate your point into the 140-character format for the same purpose. The bottom line is if it’s short and sweet, it is easier to tweet!
2. Use hashtags! Most conference attendees these days have their laptops and cell phones handy, so you don’t think it rude if your listeners are doing double duty in your session. Instead, encourage them to tweet about your presentation and offer them a unique hashtag to create a buzz on Twitter. For the uninitiated, a hashtag is the number symbol used in front of an acronym, as in #tweetspeech or #smarttalk. So while you are offering gems of wisdom (in tweetable format), you are also helping your listeners to circulate those gems with an identifiable stamp.

3. Use links! Just as hashtags help tweeters to find your comments and locate fellow presentation attendees, URL links help everyone to source you, your citations, reference materials, and other people who are noteworthy to your speaking topic. While you are building your speech, think about links that make sense and help your audience get a fuller picture of what you are talking about. Use humor and photography to get your point across too. Make every effort to refine your presentation into something memorable.

For the ultimate Triple Tweet Effect, combine rules 1, 2, and 3. Example: If it’s short and sweet, it is easier to tweet. #Tweetable Make every presentation a tweetable moment.

Related posts: Better ways to Twitter your meeting

Tweeting at meetings gets controversial

Inviting live tweets at your meeting

get caught (up) with online video: 7 ways

Online video's perhaps the strongest trend in social networking and has reshaped everything from how traditional non-broadcast news media handle their coverage to how people make purchase decisions. In the past month, I've been collecting new data and ideas on online video that I think you'll find useful right about now:
  1. Watching online video on sharing sites like YouTube outranks all other use of social networking: The Pew Internet and American Life Project surveyed and found high usage in all age groups, ranging from 90 percent among 18 to 29-year-olds and as much as 41 percent in users aged 50 to 64. Watching television network fare online -- distinct from video-sharing sites--more than doubled in the past year. See a good summary of the data here.
  2. More than 20 percent of Americans have cut cable TV from their budgets, and a third of those watch online instead. This is from the same Pew survey; see coverage of this aspect here. It's seen as a recession cost-cutter, but may prove an enduring trend.
  3. Now you can share your viewer statistics for YouTube videos: YouTube gives video posters lots of data and now you can broadcast it for others to see. Here's a great summary from Mashable, including a video tutorial on how it works (you make a small change in the privacy settings). Why share your data? It's an easy way for your team to stay updated--and, with enough views, a subtle but powerful way to demonstrate the viral nature of your video posts.
  4. Where should you post video online? YouTube dominates the field, but here's a great list of the top 20 online video sites, with statistics on usage for each, as of early August 2009.
  5. Fresh data on online TV, film viewers: Using data from the past month, online television offerings (from the networks, not your neighbor) are gaining ground. Some 26 percent of Americans downloaded a full-length TV program online and another 14 percent did the same for a full-length film--doubling that group from nearly a year ago. Nearly half of all 18-to-24-year-olds downloaded a TV program in the past month.
  6. Make sure your video's out on the 12s: That'd be noontime or midnight, according to new research showing that most people watch online video from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. – 1 a.m (with the fewest watching from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.). It's worth considering when you set up a schedule for posting.
  7. MSNBC sets the pace on embeddable video: You may like that network footage online, but good luck using it in your own blog or website through embedding technology--simple cut-and-paste codes that let you show video on your site. The first exception and pacesetter: MSNBC, which has seen a "booming" use of its embeddable video online, and is working on making resizing and other features easier for users. Read this Beet.TV interview with MSNBC president Charlie Tillinghast (and watch a video with him) to find out what's in the offing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

get a friend feed: social media's diner

To understand this post, you need to see the artwork in my kitchen. The artist wrote:
There are things you do because they feel right & they may make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking & say it was good.
I rarely report here on social media industry news of this type, but my circles are still buzzing--or stunned--about Facebook buying FriendFeed. You may not even know what FriendFeed is, if you're still experimenting with Facebook and Twitter. The key words in FriendFeed's "about" section say it all: the site is there to help you "discover and discuss." Call it the diner of social media, if you will. It's made discussion easy, taking aspects of Twitter (and lending some to Facebook), so you can "like," comment (at more length than on Twitter, publicly and privately), see pictures and video, hear audio, and more. It's built, like Twitter, on a more open premise than Facebook, so that you may have many subscribers or followers whom you don't actually know--and follow others in the same way. (Anyone can come into this diner, see.) That openness permits the discovery, and often, prompts discussion, opining, sharing and questions...a great back-and-forth.

While FriendFeed users mull the prospect of the site getting absorbed into Facebook (no decisions yet on that score), what's coming up again and again is that they value that stream of consciousness, the ability to be fed by the feed--even if they don't know the source in real life. They are, in effect, eating each other's cooking and (most of the time) saying it was good. It's an ear to the ground, a source of feedback, a way to find out what you didn't know or a different listen, to ask and to share your thoughts. (Twitter's also a favorite of mine for the same reasons.) What struck me today: In the true sense of social networking, and just in case things don't stay the same, some users were trading their other coordinates -- blog URLs, emails or other ways to stay in touch -- so their FriendFeed communities could travel with them, wherever they may go. That's a powerful statement.

One way that FriendFeed allows you to cultivate that kind of relationship with others is its robust approach to sharing and search. When you post a video or photo, it's immediately visible within your post, which encourages people to pause, look and comment. And you can share privately, with direct-messaging options that include the ability to pull more than one person into a private discussion that's not visible to the feed--think about doing media interviews this way, for example, or collaboration discussions. Many of my best private social networking discussions happen this way. And since you can pull all your feeds, from Facebook and Twitter to many others, into FriendFeed, it can be a simplifying force in your online world--the one-stop shop. Search on FriendFeed also sings: It's comprehensive and, if you are feeding all your inputs here, can serve as your own private archive of your tweets, Facebook posts and more.

All this tells me that communicators of all stripes should be getting themselves a small-f friend feed, developing a set of knowledgeable and interested outside listeners and talkers with whom to converse. We talk a lot in the business world about getting out of your box and then we all wind up eating lunch at our desks, confirming our hunches with someone who won't challenge us and not taking the time to reach out to a disinterested--but interesting--observer for another view. FriendFeed is just one great example of how social media helps you do all that. I like the early word from Facebook that FriendFeed will be their R&D department, as that's exactly the function it fills for many of us. If you want to reboot your communications operation, where's your intelligence these days?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

27 ways to Flip your PR visuals

For the most part, the tiny low-price camcorders like the Flip camera or the forthcoming Kodak Zi8 are simple and intuitive: The built-in USB port and uploading software, the small size and the simple operation combine to inspire--and take all the lugging, planning and setup away as barriers to capturing video. And while some communicators want to stick to their broadcast-quality equipment array, Flips and their ilk can inspire unusual approaches to communicating information about your company, organization or agency.

If you're trying to reboot your communications operation, getting your team savvy about online video's a must. (You know that, but for more ammo, ideas and data, see all my posts on online video here.) Got a reluctant team or one that's more versed in writing than video? Hand them this list of easy ways to break into online video--along with one of the ultra-compact camcorders--and make these options a weekly assignment, no matter what your staffers normally do. You may find that the best videos come from the most unlikely folks, and may uncover some new talent in the process. See how long these last you--and send me the results you think work best for posting on this blog, at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz:

  1. 5 views: Send 5 people out (at an event, on an ordinary day, to a meeting, on the showroom floor, to a lab, to a class), cameras in hand. Let each one choose a specific perspective, then have them shoot their video strictly from that view. Could be as simple as having them sit in different places in the room, or dividing the shooting directions (only left, only right, only to the floor, etc.), or at different times during the event. Mix the different views into a mini-movie.
  2. Abstractions: Shoot anything but the usual. Look for patterns, not people. Zoom in or out to turn a figurative scene into a series of shapes.
  3. Baby b-roll: Your website or blog needs just as many "b-roll" shots as any network television show. Shoot people walking down hallways, talking, playing sports, shopping, participating in what you're offering. Ultra-compact cameras make this easier than ever. The trick will be making sure your team captures these most ordinary moments.
  4. Birds' eye view: Record from above. You may need to get on the roof, a balcony, a ladder, or some other platform. Shake up the viewpoint. Things to shoot: crowds moving in or out, traffic patterns, desktops, architectural details, shop windows, you tell me...
  5. From the ground up: Do the reverse and shoot from below. Duct tape the camera to your shoe, if need be--get creative. Experiment and find out the results from shooting the ant's eye view at your building or your offices. (Just one example: In an animal hospital, shooting near ground level, aiming up, tells you what the pets see. What else can you discover?)
  6. Still life: Use the built-in function to capture stills from every video, so you can use them to extend the utility of having a camera on the scene. Stills can go into your blog, your website, or emails after events or interviews.
  7. Wheelies: Mobilize the camera on wheels. At a hospital, let patients in wheelchairs record as they roll through. Put the camera on a bike, cart, car, lawnmower, a rack of clothes, or a shopping basket, and see the view that rolls.
  8. View from the top: Give a leader a camera at a graduation, a meeting with top officials, a walk through your headquarters. Ask her to interview someone. (Yes, you can.) Instead of putting your top folks on camera, get their point of view and put them behind one.
  9. View from the middle: Find a middle manager, lab specialist, office manager. Ask them to share what they see, and what's important to them in conveying what your organization does. What do they want to share?
  10. Hallway interviews: At a meeting (on-site or not)? Just maneuvering through the workplace? Pull out a Flip and conduct an impromptu hallway interview (helps to have brainstormed your questions beforehand). At a conference, these can provide a great sense of "meeting buzz," and may unearth news. Keep it simple, not stilted.
  11. Handout videos I: In this version, hand out the camera--to customers, visitors, students, alumni, suppliers, business partners, colleagues--and see what they come back with. You can do this at a special event or just on an ordinary day. (If you order your camcorder direct from Flip, you can give it a custom design--perhaps one that says "Return to communications office?") Check out these videos from a Travel + Leisure contest in which visitors to Washington, DC, landmarks and venues are challenged to use Flip cameras to make their own guided tours. If the visitor doesn't have a Flip, several sites will lend them out.
  12. Handout videos II: If you're putting speakers out there, ask them to carry an ultra-compact camcorder--and record audience questions that can be answered later on a blog, Facebook page or website. Check out my own experiments in this vein here. It's how I handle all my "speech handouts" now. There's no replacing the freshness of an audience asking questions, and no better way to capture it than with a mini-camcorder.
  13. On-the-spot training feedback: Coaching someone for a media interview or speech? Use a small camcorder to record their practice...then plug it into a laptop and show it to them instantly for review. No cables, no fuss.
  14. Foreign correspondents: Sending staff to conferences? Have them check out a Flip and cover the conference, from capturing some speaker segments to capturing details of the venue, the exhibits, anything on which you need intelligence, easily captured. If you have visiting scholars, attendees or execs, ask them to record for a different perspective.
  15. Venue specifications: If your organization has its own conference facilities and they're booked by internal or external groups, make a video tour of the venues in your control, describing their capacity and features. Upload them to your website, or email them directly to inquirers.
  16. Scouting trips: Same goes when you're scoping out meeting facilities or event venues. Take a Flip and record your impressions and the visual sweep of the space, as well as any details you might forget.
  17. The one-question interview, 20 times: Send your team out to conduct one-question interviews from time to time--of customers, visitors, suppliers. Use the feedback to shape your communications, and in some cases, post it to share with others. Or, choose a question that gets to an issue you want to cover, and collect 20 responses. Mash them into a mini-video response.
  18. Right before you start: Catch a speaker or official just before he or she begins a big ceremony, speech or presentation. One or two questions will suffice for a spontaneous perspective.
  19. Right after you end: Same goes at the close.
  20. The river: It may be the parade of customers in your door (or past it on the sidewalk), the graduates marching toward their diplomas, or any other parade of moving people. Use the camera to capture the flow by following the crowd, or keep it stationary to see them go by for another unique perspective.
  21. The rock in the river: An alternative: Stand still with the camera and let the crowd/customers/grads/passersby swirl past and around you.
  22. Visitor/customer questions: Ask random visitors/customers/attendees: What's on your mind? or What's the biggest question you have for us today? Capture the answers.
  23. Walk me through it: What should I know about your business--as a customer, supplier, supporter? Take me on a tour and show me. If there's a process I have to go through as a patient, applicant, or visitor, clue me in and make me comfortable with it.
  24. Show me the shortcuts: From the secret hallway to the fastest way to find parking, show me how to make my interactions with you simple and fast. A compilation of staff suggestions--for reporters, visitors, customers--is a great way to do this.
  25. Show me the long way around: Do the opposite, and walk the perimeter of your campus, your warehouse or your meeting space. Take the time to see what visuals you get by avoiding the shortcuts you usually take.
  26. Show me the back room: Whether you're my favorite store or my favorite website, I want to see what you're hiding in the back. A little behind-the-scenes video is one visual no one else can copy. Use it to your advantage. What's new, what's next, what's in store?
  27. From the unexpected side: The first time I visited the Vatican, an architect tipped me off: Approach St. Peter's basilica not from the front, but the side, the better to experience the curved sets of columns flanking the front. What's the unexpected--and better--view of your business? Capture it on a video.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

how do you create nexternal relations?

Communicators looking at the changing landscape around them are wondering whether to reorganize or rename some longstanding traditional operations. Should you have media relations when there may not be many mainstream media outlets to whom you're pitching? What are the new capabilities your organization needs to reflect? Folio magazine just published an article on the new and emerging top jobs in publishing (which, now that anyone can publish, may be relevant to your communications operation, too). According to this list, recruiting audiences, ensuring data quality, optimizing your offerings for searches, non-traditional marketing, and expanding the business to related products or services (like conferences) are the tasks most needed. In a communications operation, you also may need to emphasize a function like constituent relations or community outreach more than you might have in the past.

Whatever you do, take the time to think about how you can make your operation what I'd call "nexternal relations" -- focused on external audiences, but poised for what comes next. And I don't just mean now, when you're wondering how to convince your team to use Twitter or have internal struggles over who can use Facebook at work. I mean cultivating an operation that works continually to:
  • connect the dots between and among different types of feedback to determine what you need to change about how you're communicating
  • keep an open mind about new technologies, which will come and go, but takes from them the applications that make most sense to reach your audiences
  • pay attention to audience data of all kinds, to understand where the users are headed, especially since traditional media is no longer shaping those preferences
  • cross-train everyone in everything, to create a base of utility infielders and to smoke out talents and preferences
  • shake up things at least weekly with creative exercises, field trips, guest speakers, new inputs, giving the team a safe environment in which to experiment
What's in your definition of "nexternal relations?" How do you plan to get there?

can humor help the technical talk?

No question about it, as comedian and former scientist Tim Lee shows in this video--and there's no question that humor, in turn, appeals when it has intelligent content. And he uses PowerPoint slides in many routines, as he does here, although they're unlike most slides you'll see. Even as he's weaving humor and science, Lee also makes every joke relevant to a broad audience. Enjoy this break from your usual slide diet!

Monday, August 03, 2009

weekly writing coach: one hour, just

Writer John Scalzi's blog offers up some simple logic about what it takes to get your writing done: Just an hour. And he suggests you start with cutting out an hour of TV (or whatever else is easy and gets in the way.) He estimates that a five-day-a-week hour can net you as much as 130,000 extra words a year. Best of all, the concept here is not to sacrifice what's important to get your writing done:

Don’t give up everything for your art. Just turn off the damn television for a bit (or put down that XBox controller, or stop staring unblinking at your RSS feed or whatever), and get yourself used to writing a bit every day. You’ll be surprised at how effective it turns out to be, and you’ll still have a job and loved ones at the end of it.

Of course, you don't need to be a novelist to do this. Try it for your work-related writing first. A hat tip to Joe Bonner for unearthing this bit of inspiration for the blog, once again.

Reboot communications with a locavore

Locavore's a term that only recently made it into the dictionary, and it describes eating habits of folks who aim to consume only foods made or produced locally--sometimes in a footprint of just 100 miles. So why would you want one on your communications or marketing team?

I have more than a few clients looking ahead to how to re-organize -- or as one puts it well, "reboot" -- their communications operations to reflect the many emerging trends they can see, from the advent of social networking tools to the demise of traditional media. To me, that rethinking involves a new look at the traditional beats or roles communications team members play. After all, the audiences and gatekeepers their current jobs revolve around may not be there shortly. And that's where your locavore team member comes in.

I know from my own experience that local issues, from community outreach to local public affairs and even "good neighbor" issues often get short shrift. But it seems to me that a locavore-style approach will bring you plenty of benefits. Here's why:

  1. Unlike national news outlets, local and hyperlocal news outlets are a growth area. From the demise of the Washington news bureau to the expansion of social networks, trends point to local news as a more powerful source of information. Local newspapers are on the wane, but people are seeking local stories online and on TV and radio. And let's face it: Since most companies and organizations are not in major media markets (and what are those, anymore?), your odds are better with local as your focus.
  2. It's easier than ever to search and find local news, expanding your footprint. YouTube just announced that hundreds of local TV stations have agreed to post footage on the site (and share ad revenues), and viewers will get suggestions for local videos to watch based on their locations. And while some stations don't want to participate, YouTube's also posting locally focused videos from colleges and universities, citizens' groups and more. (Google's also now featuring video from television stations in search results.)
  3. A local focus takes advantage of 3 major social media trends: photos, video and mobile devices. Nothing shows off a place like a visual--or, for that matter, a phone-based application with maps and photos. These under-your-nose advantages translate into compelling content that will attract readesr and viewers.

As for organizing your locavore strategy, consider these options inspired by the food movement:

  • Focus on the miles: Whether you choose a five-mile radius or the communications version of a 100-mile diet, proscribe a specific area on which to focus and see what you can find there.
  • Make it sustainable: That may mean a team approach, where every communications team member is tasked with adding local approaches to a strategy, or tasking one or more team members to tackle the local territory. Either way, make sure it's not a one-shot wonder, and encourage your team or tasked individual to come up with new ideas each week to ensure it's part of your office's local flavor. (I've had success asking a very junior team member, or an administrative assistant looking to move up, to take finished releases, reports or other products and come up with the local angle and how to pitch it--that narrow focus is a great development tool.)
  • Add another strategic reason (or two): Locavores seek out local food in part for environmental reasons, but also for flavor and freshness, as a political statement against agribusiness, or for health reasons. So in addition to your mileage focus, figure out what else is in it for you and make that a part of your approach.
  • Take advantage of community-supported options: Just as subscribers help community-supported agriculture or CSA farms to thrive, consider who your local subscribers (RSS or otherwise) might have been missed in your rush to get headlines. A concerted effort to reach out to community groups (and their avenues of communication) can be part of a smart strategy to build local support for your organization or company.

I'm curious to know about models you're using to reboot your communications operations, and will return to this topic in a series of posts. Please do share your models, ideas, questions or the issues you're looking to solve with me in the comments, or at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Related posts: 3 location-savvy ways with social media

Using Twitter to drive foot (and car) traffic

New web watchdogs change local coverage

Photo-sharing social media strategies: 5 views

2 university communications jobs: UMBC

UMBC's Office of Institutional Advancement is among my clients, and I worked with them earlier this year to figure out how to integrate social media in their communications, media relations, marketing and alumni relations. Now two midlevel jobs in the Communications unit are posted, one handling science, engineering and environmental topics, and another handling administration, the President's office, humanities and social sciences. While both posts will incorporate traditional media relations, you'll see that creative social media skills also are sought. Reply as directed in the links above. This is a great team to work with!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Dive into July's top 10 tips

Go ahead--dive into these strategies, tips and sources for ways you can avoid getting caught behind the curve this summer. These are our most-sought-after tips from July:
  1. Retreats to help refocus: Lots of readers went to these posts on how I facilitate retreats for communications teams, especially in these tight economic times.
  2. Tweeting at meetings gets controversial: This post drew lots of comments, and includes three perspectives about the controversies around allowing (or not) conference attendees to live-report the proceedings on Twitter.
  3. But what about science meetings? Journalist Bob Finn shared this important guest post explaining the real rules that govern whether scientists can talk to bloggers and reporters at scientific conferences. Share 'em with a researcher you know!
  4. Tweeting case study: You might take a different approach, and invite folks to use Twitter, blogs and video to report your meeting. Here's a case study--and it's one I'll be participating in at a conference this coming October.
  5. Don't overuse this: The weekly writing coach feature catches up with several articles that talk about most-overused words, and suggests some ways you can rid yourself of them.
  6. Midterm test for your communications operation: We started the year with these 8 tests for whether your communications shop is focused in the right direction--and the most strategic of our readers checked in again in July to look at this yardstick again. And you?
  7. Can't find your audience? In social media and in public speaking, communicators sometimes find they're without their expected audience. I gave you five questions to ask yourself to strategize better ways to reach your audience where it really lives.
  8. Online videos get longer: This month, I shared new data to help you gauge how long those online videos can get, and how your content mix may need to change as a result.
  9. Google helps you handle media relations: Are you using Google as a PR tool? If not, you're missing out on easier ways to learn reporters' interests, track video coverage and more.
  10. Speaking of contests: Our sister blog's contest at The Eloquent Woman--a chance to win 15 weeks of online speaker coaching and a Flip camcorder--garnered hundreds of views. Stay tuned for the winner!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

my theatrical unsubscribe

In a world where we unsubscribe daily from RSS feeds, Twitter follows, email marketing and other pushes to get our attention, I've just unsubscribed from a real-life theatre to which I've subscribed for almost 20 years. Here's what surprised me about that: It appears that they don't want to know why. Worse, sometimes they have tried to suggest to me why they're not hearing from me. But at no point has anyone inquired about my reasons. It's almost as if the marquee of the theatre's flashing a "Feedback Not Wanted" sign--and that's really what strikes me as odd in this day when feedback's not only widely available, but desirable in understanding your audience and building a relationship with them.

And we've had a relationship: I've bought two seats for 20 regular seasons, often buy additional guest seats or blocks of reserved tickets at its otherwise-free summer outdoor theater offerings. I subscribe to its email updates, newsletter, program guide, blog and Twitter accounts (the latter two not often updated). I've given sizeable regular donations as well as funds for an endowment campaign, a donation large enough to get my name on a bronze plaque in the lobby. They know where I like to sit, which plays I've missed, which ones I brought more people to see. I'm no celebrity, but they know me, and the lines of communication are wide open.

After failing to renew, these were the three messages I got over the course of four months,: 1) Are you having a tough economic time and wondering whether to renew? 2) Did you forget to renew? 3) Did you forget your annual donation, since it's the end of our fiscal year? All three suggest the theatre might know what I'm thinking. What they don't know: I've become dissatisfied with the content and ways the plays are staged and directed. There are themes I can predict from months ahead and what feels like a well-worn path to production--from plays that enjoy many interpretive options. Not easy to fix, but worth knowing.

Here's where I think they missed the mark:
  • Not tracking my missed performances or those where I left early: I've actually voted with my feet a few times in the past two years, and it's not too difficult to figure out whose seats are empty. Missed performances get followup emails offering standby seats--and those could be used to elicit feedback in case it's wanted. Sending them to early departers also opens up a feedback loop that's currently closed.
  • Failing to use an open-ended approach: For a longtime subscriber, failing to renew is a big statement and not one made lightly. A phone call or letter eliciting feedback would've let me share my feedback without guessing at what it was.
  • Suggesting they knew what I was thinking: Framing their communications this way--Did you forget? Having a bad economic time?--suggests not only that they think they know the answer, but that they don't want to hear mine, if it's different.
  • Failing to use online and social tools effectively: My electronic connections to this theatre far outnumber the paper ones, but they're not using Twitter, Facebook or often even email to reach me, figure out my interests or make another connection loop.
I'm trying out a subscription to a jazz concert series instead (and have given them a donation) for the upcoming season. One promising sign: The big button on its website that says "FEEDBACK."