Wednesday, March 31, 2010

weekly writing coach: precision

I'm in London this week, a city in which doorways, bespoke shirts, architectural columns and words are precision-tailored. Trying to buy time in a shoe store when the salesman inquired what interested me, I said, "Oh, I might want one of each," thinking one pair of each would be obvious.

And so I got this rejoinder: "Well, madam, typically we sell the shoes in pairs."

A clever rejoinder and a good reminder: Are you monitoring your precision when you write? What are you assuming about your audience and its understanding? What codes--internal to your focused area--are you employing? Can they be cracked by mere mortals or is more explanation needed?

When in doubt, share your prose with someone who has some distance and can be, as my salesman was today, a clever mirror to your missing words.

Straight from a CEO: On ghosting blogs and tweets

If your CEO or communications colleagues are trying to make the case for ghostwriting a CEO blog or Twitter account, read this straightforward post urging a better course of action:  Either the CEO writes his or her own posts, or no one does.  I'm among those who've recommended the same, but this is a powerful and convincing post from the top...just what you'd want in a CEO blog.  (And read to the end to see his well-written FTC disclosure statement, which follows each post.)  I think it might make the difference in persuading a would-be-ghoster away from that course of action.  A major hat tip goes to David Murray, editor of Vital Speeches of the Day, whose free e-newsletter shared this earlier...subscribe to that weekly treasure trove, won't you?

Related posts:   Employee blogs vs. CEO blogs: Which is best?

Get past these 6 CEO barriers to social media

Pitches with magical thinking

I've been a journalist, then a successful communicator who's fed ideas and leads to journalists in turn. But now that I'm also a blogger--with two blogs I author and more to which I contribute--my freedom from pitches with magical thinking has come to an end. 

I don't think this is retribution. My work in media relations followed the lead of the mentor who coaxed me away from journalism, who told me, "Just do for reporters what you wish someone had done for you on the other end of the phone when you were a reporter."  That boiled down to respecting deadlines, sharing topics relevant to the reporter's topics and interests, being ready and responsive when they had questions or requests, and not wasting their time otherwise.

But alas, no matter how I wish them away, pitches with magical thinking like these keep coming at me:
  • Off-topic pitches sent to me with the stated reason "You have so many fans on your Facebook page that we thought it would be the perfect way to promote our event." 
  • Pitches that don't fit my audience demographics, for the same reason--"they're so numerous, they must want to hear about this," even if it's for the wrong geographic area, gender, age group or professional interest.
  • The more-is-better theory of pitching:  "You wrote about this other book we published and so we thought you'd like to write about this one" that has no (or distant) relation to my topics or audiences.
  • More-is-better, part 2:  "You requested information from us before and so we've now put you on several email lists" without my requesting same.
  • The magical timing pitch:  "Our meeting/event/anniversary is coming up so you should cover this now."
  • "Your blogs are so visible."  Oh, honestly.
It's been said before, but some good old-fashioned research first might have kept these pitches out of the realm of the magical and into my (or someone else's blog) with less wasted effort.  Time, methinks, to get a sorting hat for these....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The fiscal communicator’s credibility checklist

When it comes to the credibility of the organization you represent as a communicator, it’s not age, position, board member prominence, revenues, media coverage or shareholder satisfaction that matter most. Instead, the bottom line should be your bottom line. Yet too many top communicators aren’t familiar with their company, organization or agency’s financial standing and statements—and scrutiny may be even higher in a recession. Here’s a short checklist to use to start that conversation and inquiry, not only with your team, but with your CFO:

• Do we receive public funds? Can we account for and show results from R&D grants, bailouts, subsidies, incentive payments and partnership funds? Are we setting a record in any way? Are we a “Fleecing of America” news expose or IgNobel Prize in the making?

• Are we exempt from certain taxes, fees and fines? If we’re well-funded and visible, or have a large footprint in town, are we ready for those exemptions to be questioned? Have we thought about paying, anyway?

• What’s our executive compensation policy? Do we break out all aspects of executive compensation on our tax filings, so that a package of benefits, moving expenses, and other categories don’t inflate what looks like a salary number? Are men, women and minorities compensated at comparable senior levels? What are the details of retirement plans? Where do we rank compared to similar institutions? What’s our bonus pool and how is it determined? What steps have we taken during the recession to scale back on compensation and benefits? Have we laid off workers but retained executive bonuses? Why?

• Have we contributed to the community? How can we quantify volunteer time, donations in kind or in funds, and use of our facilities by local charities? What donation drives do we support as a company or organization? What’s our policy on employee volunteers? Do we loan executives? How many jobs did we create or retain this year? What did we pay in taxes and fees?

• How do our public fiscal filings look from the outside? Have I seen all soon-to-be-public documents, from tax filings to regulatory submissions? What would a shareholder, board member, donor, neighbor or local public official see that would confuse, interest or annoy her? What’s the timing of our filings? Will any other known events at that time cause confusion or the appearance of an issue? Are we ready to answer questions once the filing is made?

There are many more questions to add to this starter list. Please add yours in the comments so we can crowdsource a list, or add financial issues you've faced as a communicator.
 
For a free newsletter of monthly tips about communications and social media strategies--with content before it appears on this blog--subscribe to For Communications Directors now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Somebody, get those photos out of the can!

I was facilitating a social-media orientation and brainstorm for a university client recently, and someone brought to the meeting existing publications for me to see. They featured photos like this one: generic yet mixed-race groups of young people, posed as one never can catch them in real life, smiling beautifully as if nothing ever goes wrong.  My first thought: Somebody get those photos out of the can!

Stock photos--or those that are so polished, they may as well be stock photos--might be the last bastion of the static web-presence-as-pixelated-brochure.  And the more you're able to move in social media circles, the more out-of-place your posed visuals will look in the world of tweets, likes and shares. If you're still putting pristine photography on your website, consider these alternatives:
  • Choose from what's already out there:  If you haven't cruised photo-sharing sites, that should be stop one (and you'll find a list of the most-used sites in this previous post).   Pay attention to rights and permissions, but do post others' photography and give them credit.
  • Ask your visitors to contribute:  If you convene meetings, offer tours, hold events or otherwise let folks through your gates, ask them to take photos or video and give them a place to share their shots--a Flickr group and a YouTube channel are all you need.
  • Make candid photography the rule, not the exception:  Can we ban the grip-and-grin, the formal headshot, the "let's pretend all five of us need to look at this printed-out document at the same time" shots?  Yes, we can.  Try it for six months and don't look back.
Related posts:  Photos as a social-media strategy: 5 ways

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The tides of March: Our top 10 tips

A flood of activity marked this month at don't get caught.  Chief among the changes:  The blog is now the centerpiece of don't get caught's web presence, and we are still migrating posts, so you'll find some broken links--but not in this post!  Please do subscribe (or resubscribe) using the new RSS feed or sign up to follow us on Blogger, get posts via email or get our monthly newsletter, which features content not yet available on the blog.  Then dive into this month's most popular posts:

  1. Press credentials for bloggers advanced as New York City decided to give them press access. To celebrate, I pulled together a roundup of 13 more concrete case studies for you to base your policy on.
  2. From who speaks to who's watching, public speaking's been remixed in a big way by social media.  Here's how to revise the basic recipe for your next talk.
  3. Want to write 750 words a day?  Check out this new online tool that tells you when you've reached your goal, gives you the sense of the emotions you were expressing, and tells you when you were most productive, a weekly writing coach post.
  4. Audiences are the real "river in reverse," flooding the Internet and live events with their thoughts, participation and ideas.  Two great think pieces help you reframe your approach to audiences today.
  5. Hiring for tomorrow's communications needs was the focus of this month's newsletter; while you're there, click on the "join our mailing list" button to get future issues free.
  6. Building on that career move, there's a new kind of social-media "forward-thinking" resume that shows off your aspirations as well as your accomplishments--ideal if you want to switch fields, transition or just don't have enough experience yet.
  7. More news outlets--and Google--are archiving old material, filling a gap when newspapers close and offering you new options for highlighting your company or organization's history.  Find out how in this popular post.
  8. If you're running a communications shop, in which direction are you running--away from deadlines or ahead of them? This piece might help you evaluate and reboot your process to stay focused on the next, as in "nexternal."
  9. How to choose a writing coach is a post from our past, as we mark the 5th anniversary of this blog.  It's relevant whether you're hiring a coach for someone on your team, or want one for yourself.
  10. Local's the new hot trend in social media.  Here's an update with new tools and trends in 7 aspects of using local emphasis in your social media and traditional communications.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Boarding the local: 7 social media trends to use

You knew that all politics is local, and real estate's all about location, location, location. Now local's taken strong hold in social media, and your options for making your location part of your communications strategy are growing like weeds.  Check out these seven options to board the local trend:

  1. Foursquare, the online game in which you "check in" with your location, leave tips for friends, and earn badges, has already been customized by many organizations. Now Foursquare has launched special dashboards and analytics tools for businesses that expand your options for finding out where your customers are coming from, what they're looking for and more.  Search engine Bing has started adding Foursquare data to its maps. Harvard encourages students to explore its campus and earn special badges. Starbucks fans can get rewards for frequent check-ins at the coffee shop. (You can find me here on Foursquare.)  Foursquare's setting the bar for local interactions, so keep an eye on it.  
  2. Local journalism's getting a shot in the arm today with the announcement of Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding for seven "local journalism centers" in the southwest, the plains states, upstate New York, the upper midwest, and central Florida.  The effort's one of many recent nonprofit and corporate initiatives to partner with, fund or create new focus on local coverage.  If your media relations strategy isn't looking at rebooting your offerings with geotags, local emphasis and local news resources, you're missing out on a rare growth industry within journalism.
  3. Major media are refocusing on the local, as the Wall Street Journal gets ready to launch a New York metro section in late April, and the New York Times announced a partnership with local journalism students to author a blog about Brooklyn matters.  It's worth checking on locally focused efforts at your favorite national outlets to find out whether you have options to promote your programs in new ways.
  4. But local TV news ratings are sharply declining, says this analysis of the Project for Excellence in Journalism's annual media report, noting that "local TV news has become a commodity. It looks the same, sounds the same, is produced the same… sooner or later, as with any product in just about any business, a lack of innovation and differentiation will result in a decline in consumption. Now, more than ever, is the time to invest in innovation and re-engineer how content is created and distributed on a local level."  Focusing your efforts on innovations in your local TV media relations might be a more difficult path right now. Consider whether local television news needs to shift before you put your emphasis there.
  5. Facebook will launch new location features next month, so if you have a Facebook presence, watch for features native to the site as well as API that others can use to provide location check-ins on Facebook (such as Foursqure and Gowalla).   Since Facebook pages already offer you location-based data about your organization's fans, and the ability to target messages to fans in specific cities, use that strength in combination with the new features to emphasize the local on Facebook.
  6. Do you know where 30 percent of your social media audience is?  On the go with a mobile device, that's where.  And mobile users are the prime audience for localized information.  This analysis shares recent data about smartphone users and the rapid growth of mobile services, which means your websites need to be configured for mobile use, so they display well on smartphones.  (On Facebook, 100 million of its 400 million users are accessing the site from mobile devices, for example.)
  7. Google Maps now offers new editing tools for business locations, which work in tandem with its "Place Pages."  Checking to make sure your company, business or organization's location is correct--and editing out errors--is an important option, since Google Maps form the basis for so many local data offerings, from directions and "search nearby" functions on Google Maps directly to GPS and other services based on Google Maps.

how to find & subscribe to don't get caught

As part of migrating the blog to the dontgetcaught.biz URL, I've got to tell Technorati (hey! Technorati! code QQAM7THDUQ5Y) where to find it, and I thought you'd also like to know that you can:

  • subscribe in the reader of your choice with the RSS feed
  • grab a widget that lets you post everything from this blog on your website;
  • get our posts via email, using the form below:
    Enter your email address:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

weekly writing coach: choosing a coach

(The don't get caught blog completes its 5th year this month.  Here's a still-relevant post from 2006 on choosing a writing coach to go above and beyond what you read in this feature each week.)  When you consider training options for yourself or your team, consider a writing coach. You'll get individualized instruction that's tailored to your level, needs and issues, something that off-the-rack training sessions rarely accomplish. You can set -- and meet -- goals with coaching over a three- or six-month period, or longer. And coaching can combine group and individual training: We often train a group of 4 to 5 writers on one staff in the morning, then spend the afternoon in one-on-one sessions with members of the group, an effective way to gain shared knowledge as well as targeted help. Here are some of the challenges that have prompted don't get caught clients to seek my writing coach services:
  • I want my editor to make fewer red marks: We can help you stop repeat errors and learn to self-edit to make your results (and your editor's job) better.
  • I have a new, high-profile assignment writing for the CEO: When you're tapped to write for a leader, we can help you brainstorm style points and review techniques that matter in leadership writing projects.
  • My writers need help sharpening the focus of their stories: Finding the core of a story takes more than a snappy lead. We offer workshops and individual instruction on brainstorming, focusing and exploring a story core to give writers a system that works.
  • We need better headlines: "Microcontent," such as headlines, captions and call-outs, take on more importance when writing appears on the Web -- and make all the difference in capturing reporters' attention on news releases. We can help you write and edit crisper, more informative headlines for all sorts of content.
  • I rely on cut-and-paste for my content: And you're cutting and pasting in others' errors, voices and spin, too. We'll teach you how to edit cut-and-paste to make it your own, fitting your needs while making use of this common resource.
  • I can't stop rewriting: Then we say: Plan ahead. Learn our techniques for gathering information and creating a content-rich outline before you start, to limit the need for rewrites. Our self-editing steps make the best -- and last-- draft, far better than another rewrite.
Sound familiar? For more information on one-on-one writing coaching services, or group workshops, contact Denise Graveline at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

do you run communications? which way?

In many communications operations, running things means deadlines are chasing you--you're trying to stay one step ahead of demands, requests, unexpected crises, that undone wish list, external critics.  And because you have metrics and standards and objectives, you have periodic staff meetings to review the progress of each team or team member, or to report steps forward once a week or once a month.

I can't think of a better way to get caught, frankly.  Running while looking over your shoulder is a recipe for tripping and falling.

Instead of reviewing progress in meetings, reboot your process so you and your team are facing forward and looking ahead. In the busiest and most productive communications shops I've worked with, the team meets at least weekly to pour all their knowledge and focus into these questions:
  • What do we expect will become known about our company/organization/agency in the next week? Month? Six months?
  • Which of those public matters are we generating? Which are thrust upon us?  What external events do we know about that might become factors?
  • Is there something happening now that's not public but might become so? How are we prepared for that?
  • Among them, where are the fixed and the flexible deadlines? When push comes to shove, what gets shoved?  Where conflicts arise, which item takes priority?
  • If we needed to move an announcement up and do it in less time, how would we do that?
  • How do each of these situations fit with our overall image and brand?  Are they contributing or not?
  • What are the tough questions that might be raised, and how will we answer them?  (You might want to work through three kinds of questions: Those you want, those you expect and those you fear.)
  • Who's handling this? What do they need to bring this to a good conclusion? What are the known barriers?
In such a crucible, you can vet not only projects you originate, but those brought to you as prospects from your internal clients or external partners.  Your entire team will understand the decision-making process, and progress updates can take place outside a meeting format, since everyone has the same context--or a short followup meeting can be scheduled on a particular project that's on fire.  And you won't be caught running to stay one step ahead of your deadlines. You'll be leading the pack and setting its direction.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Archives as part of a reboot

"Browse" view of the Montreal Gazette from Google News Archive.
As more newspapers fold--as in close their doors--one gap left by the rebooting of journalism is the local newspaper archive, or morgue. In some cases, insolvent newspapers' archives are fair game for auction or just disposal, and there's no assurance the records will go to a curator, museum or other responsible party.

Online news archives are starting to fill that gap, and Google News announced last week that it's adding a "browse" feature that lets you skim through one issue (as shown above from the Montreal Gazette) or several in its searchable news archive.  Go here to see a full list of features, which include search and advanced search; News archive material also shows up in regular Google searches.

Other newspaper archives are indexed here by the Library of Congress and here by Wikipedia, but the most comprehensive list of online archives is here, maintained by the Special Libraries Association.  It includes papers from every U.S. state.  And don't stop with newspapers.  C-SPAN just put its archive online, and Popular Science has, too.

What can you do with an online news archive? Content curators should be looking for old clips about their institutions and highlighting them online, since archives can yield fascinating blog and website content, as we've noted before.  Making your archives available--for research, rebooting or mashups by others, or as an expansion of your rich content offerings--broadens and deepens your organization or company's online brand and its connections with customers, supporters and even former employees or alumni.  Perhaps you can help secure and publish the archives of a local or specialized newspaper focused on your area or field. 

Blog & website changes

We're a bit of a work-in-progress this week, as the don't get caught news & info blog morphs into the centerpiece of dontgetcaught.biz.  You may find nonworking links and images, so know that we're working on them!  I'm looking forward to bringing you better functionality and content in this new configuration.  In the meantime, if you want to subscribe, use the links at right for our new RSS feeds, including the option to subscribe to posts in your email--or to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Flip cameras coming?

Engadget blog has heard rumors that Cisco will launch a new version of the popular Flip ultralight camcorder in mid-April. You can read the speculation here. What features would you like to see next on the Flip?

weekly writing post: keep time

I'm learning new chord progressions from my guitar instructor, and while I played them accurately--and knew where my fingers went for each chord--I wasn't playing fast enough yet. "Practice with the metronome before the next lesson, and set it a little faster each time," he urged me as I was leaving. "The faster you play, the less time you'll give yourself to think. That's what makes you hesitate."

Since the last time I took a timed test was in my newswriting classes in journalism school, I started thinking about whether timing your writing would help you improve your craft--and I came up with four ways I'd suggest to the writers I'm coaching:
  • To reduce excessive rewrites:  If you're wasting time agonizing and rewriting your pieces over and over, you're missing the chance to write more, or get lunch, or practice.  Forcing yourself to finish within a tight time limit might just be the rubric you need to push your piece forward.  Better: Time yourself, and don't allow rewrites.
  • To hone your decision-making:  All writing (and editing) is a series of choices.  Do you struggle with yours? When you time your writing, you can see how you make those choices--and where you run out of time.  And if you focus on improving your time, you'll learn how to make those decisions faster and better.
  • In case of emergency:  It's a core skill, not a frill, to know how to write well on a deadline. Once a month, set what seems like an irrational deadline -- in minutes instead of months, or a half-day instead of two weeks, or three articles in the time of one. Then do it again, with less time.  By the time the crisis rolls around, you'll be ready.
  • To find out what you need to work on next:  Your best-honed skills will stand up to a time test. Your weak spots will show.  Track where you stumble in a timed writing test, then focus on shoring up that skill.
You can use a clock or a stopwatch--or the 750 Words site we wrote about last week, which tracks the time your 750 words took, and how productive you were during the arc of your writing session. Try timing one genre at a time, then move on to another once you've improved your time.

Want more advice on communications strategies, training and content? Just subscribe to For Communications Directors now. It's my free monthly email newsletter.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Onion: How cable TV news works

The Onion tackles how cable television news stories are put together, telling us by showing us in this satirical video that I'm sure will seem familiar to you.  (Warning: This video contains profanity.)  Enjoy this laugh for the day, via TV Newswer, that may make it into my next media trainings....

Twitter aids communicators' needs

While some folks belittle Twitter and complain you don't want to know what we're eating for lunch, they may be missing a home truth: Twitter (now past 10 billion tweets) is a task-oriented tool for most users, and lately, I've observed communicators of various kinds expand its myriad uses. Here's a sampling what struck me as new in my Twitterstream:
  • Embedding tweets in a PDF annual report:  The German Marshall Fund of the United States is bridging its way from print to electronic annual reports. This year, its downloadable (and printable) PDF includes embedded tweets (see above), with active links to websites, as well as similarly embedded posts about videos, audio and other electronic files related to the text.  (A hat tip to the Communications Network blog, which shares more details on the project here.)  No reason you can't do this in other online documents, from news releases to white papers.
  • Sparking conversation in training sessions and classrooms:  Shaping how audiences tweet while you talk is a smart new way to manage the backchannel, and the Inside Tim's Head blog describes how he did this in the classroom to get students who'd be otherwise reluctant to talk into a conversation.  Consider this for your next in-house training session, a staff meeting or even a news conference.
  • Converting manuals and documentation to tweets:  That's what this TwiTip post urges technical communicators to do, playing into the streams of tweets that offer practical tips and "news you can use."  Helping remind your users of your product's features, fixes and fail-safe methods is a basic customer service.  Think of it as a way to replace or reduce your "Shell Answer Man" phone service.
  • Tempting foot traffic to exhibits and events:  Here's a set of webinar slides from the Web 2.0 expo, illustrating how IBM used a Twitter hashtag and prize offerings to tempt attendees to its booth--it's easy to adapt this set of tactics for your next exhibit, be it at an expo or a museum.
For a free newsletter of monthly tips about communications and social media strategies--with content before it appears on this blog--subscribe to For Communications Directors now.

social gets a forward-thinking resume

Here's a great update to yesterday's post on the road ahead in hiring -- or being hired as -- one of tomorrow's communicators:  Today, Louis Gray's blog describes how Brazen Careerist has developed future-focused social resumes that allow you (or your prospective hire) to describe your "Top Ideas" to give employers the chance to see how you think and what you'd do if you had the chance to solve a major problem or tackle a new trend. You also can use it to describe small, unconventional and non-work-driven projects germane to your hoped-for position.  Check out this new resource--will you try it?

For a free newsletter of monthly tips about communications and social media strategies--with content before it appears on this blog--subscribe to For Communications Directors now.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

weekly writing coach: 3 pages, easy

Ever wanted to write "morning pages"...3 pages a day...that guest post you said you'd do for me 6 months ago...your life story?  Just need to clear your writing throat or get started?  Warm up your writing muscles?  Here comes 750 Words, a nifty website that prompts you to write 750 words a day--about 3 pages--that's seen by you and only you. 

What's more, as Gina Trapani notes in this Lifehacker post, the site includes wonderful graphics and engines that generate data about your words--the mood you're in or how distracted you were--as well as public data you can check out here about everyone's contributions.  (Above, a shot of the chart that shows that distractions-while-writing are highest for folks who are married.)  It will keep tabs on how long your 750 words took, when in that time period you were most productive, what your mood was and what (based on your words) was preoccupying you most, and show you graphs and charts about all that. 

You might want to use it as a mind-dump, or as a tool to measure your productivity as a writer, comparing when your output's highest to lowest, for example.  The idea here is an unfettered, unpublished, unedited stream of words--and no one's looking.  Check out this new tool and let me know what you think.

Monday, March 08, 2010

weekly writing coach: cut & haste

I got caught: I just published a newsletter with a breathtaking typo in it, the kind that can't be caught with a spell-checker. But I'm a good speller, normally, so I took a few moments to figure out what happened: Turns out I was a victim of what I'm now going to call "cut and haste."  It happens when you're rushing to finish and it seems easier to eyeball, select, copy and paste text from the web or another document, rather than writing it yourself.  In this case, it was a quote, and all I did was transfer someone else's typo into my work. Duh.

The risks of cut-and-haste turned up in this assessment of a recent New York Times plagiarism case. Here's how the reporter in question explained what happened as he made a series of "lifts" of others' words:  
He said he would copy stories from wires, paste them into a file in the editing system, verify the information and then put the material in his own words. At least, he said, that is what he intended to do. When I asked him how he could fail to notice that he was copying someone else’s work, he added further explanation: He said the raw material in the computer files in which he assembled his stories included not only reports from other sources but also context and background from previous articles that he had written himself. When putting it all together, he said, he must have thought the words he copied were his own, earlier ones. “It was just my carelessness in trying to get it up quickly,” he said.
When I make an error, I often say, "I'm moving too fast." Cut-and-haste errors require a slowdown, enough to allow me to check material from other sources than myself, and to re-read my own work, looking for basic self-edits.  Do you make cut-and-haste errors?  How do you handle them?  Today, my method is to use a best practice in blogging and blog about the mistake so I won't forget it soon...

How social media remixes public speaking

Public speaking comes with a lot of assumptions baked into it--forms, formats and formalities that have been used over and over again for centuries. Here's the basic recipe: Someone, the expert, strides to the front, gets introduced, stands behind a lectern on a raised platform and speaks for 30 minutes to an hour, perhaps taking a few audience questions at the end, but only if time permits. People in the audience listen, and clap at the beginning and end. There might be handouts to take away with more information, or business cards.

More and more, I'm seeing that standard recipe get re-mixed, thanks to the influence of social media--and not just one kind of social media, either.  Here are the six ingredients of speeches and presentations that are getting tossed and turned in the process:
  1. Who speaks:  Today's audiences expect to speak, share, question and contribute--so much so, I encourage my trainees to open their presentations with a Q&A session, to get the audience participating right away.  All forms of social media, from networks like Facebook and Twitter to online video and blogging, have given "the people formerly known as the audience" a series of microphones and platforms of their own, and they're using them. 
  2. Who shares: Once upon a time, only three people controlled what was shared outside the meeting room: The organizer, the speaker and any journalists who were covering the session.  Today, the tools for sharing what's happening, live and in real time, are right in your mobile phone or laptop. 
  3. Who stands where:  At a TEDx event in New York focused one education, speaker Jeff Jarvis told his listeners, "You should be up here."  He was speaking to the audience's expertise, but many speakers also are moving into the audience to hold listeners' attention, make a stronger connection and provide some visual variety.  Standing behind the lectern's falling more and more by the wayside.
  4. Who listens:  Listening in doesn't require being in the room anymore, thanks to the backchannel on Twitter and similar sites. That also means that "listeners" can scroll through an account of your talk hours, days or months later. You may need to provide more context online, including your slides, the text of your remarks or additional comments.  I've taken to creating blog posts with useful links after my major addresses--they become the "handout" and the context, all in one.
  5. Who watches:  With a webcam on a laptop, a cellphone or a Flip camera or other ultralight camcorder, your audience can record and upload your remarks within minutes--or choose to livestream it.  Speakers who address audiences with "just between us in this room" remarks, beware. 
  6. And for how long:  The instant gratification, speed and variety of information available in social media can't be matched in most formal speeches.  Attention spans are getting shorter, which is why I recommend that speakers need a strong, fast start.  No matter how much time you're allotted, use far less for your formal remarks. Open it up for questions, take some Twitter breaks and get the audience involved.
Related posts:  Creating tweetable presentations

Rebooting your events

Handouts no more!

I'm cross-posting this on both the don't get caught blog and The Eloquent Woman blog.

Friday, March 05, 2010

For Communications Directors: Monday

My free monthly newsletter, For Communications Directors, is coming out Monday, March 8, with fresh content not yet on this blog. This month, I'll be looking at the road ahead in communications hiring--with 6 things I think employers are looking for in candidates, given all the new technologies and tactics in play today.  And I expect that my savvy readers will understand that the tips work equally well whether you're the hiring manager, or looking for a change, yourself.  The newsletter gets right at the heart of what you need to reboot when presenting yourself to an employer for a communications job fit for tomorrow

And a reminder: Even if you have been on my newsletter subscriber list previously, you need to sign up anew for this one.  You'll find the February issue archived here.  Go here to subscribe to For Communications Directors now.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

credentialling bloggers: 13 examples

New York City became the latest example of an institution choosing to credential bloggers this week, or at least mentioning them in a policy.  But they're not the only one--just the 13th example among those cited on this blog:
  1. The White House credentials bloggers for formal news conferences.
  2. The Supreme Court sometimes credentials bloggers--on a case-by-case basis, and with specific requirements for having covered earlier progressions in a case currently before the Court.
  3. Target, on the other hand, "does not participate with non-traditional media outlets."  No matter what you say.
  4. Political campaigns have reshaped their policies to treat bloggers as press.
  5. In this roundup, see 8 cases where the United Nations, the federal court in Washington, PBS, the California legislature (but not the U.S. Congress's press galleries), sports teams, the National Press Club, and Chrysler have made policy on admitting bloggers as press, most favorable. The Press Club membership category doesn't provide a credential, however.
Of course, just because some bloggers have been admitted doesn't mean all will be. But keep your eye on these precedents, all helping to normalize blogger coverage--and the need for you to offer them resources to cover your organization.

Related posts:  EFF's legal guide for bloggers (includes an FAQ on when protections for reporters apply to bloggers)

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, our free monthly newsletter full of strategies, training and content ideas and tips.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Audiences: the river in reverse

Twice today, posts about audiences have tugged at my attention, sounding similar themes. This post just jumped right out of Google Reader and smacked me in the forehead. Or at least that's what it feels like. It is a reader letter to The Atlantic, about the site's redesign, and came to me via Emily Culbertson:
People don't want a series of headlines. They can get that elsewhere. They want personality. They want community. They want names and faces they can identify and bond with. The age of nameless, faceless "editors" is over. It has been over for quite some time, even if many don't yet realize it. People accepted it when the market provided them with no alternative, but as you both well know the moment alternatives became possible they flocked to them in droves.
And thanks to Jay Collier, I was pointed to this 2006 post by Jay Rosen on "the people formerly known as the audience," which says:
We graduate from wanting media when we want it, to wanting it without the filler, to wanting media to be way better than it is, to publishing and broadcasting ourselves when it meets a need or sounds like fun.
These points shouldn't be news to you--or are they? I still encounter trainees in my workshops who are startled to learn that it's the audience they should begin with when planning what to communicate (rather than what they want to say). That's a longtime tenet of communications theory, and long-ignored when news media and organizations decided they were in control of the channel. But with the new tools offered by social media, accessible to all, the river's in reverse. 

Today, the tide took another turn, with news from the Pew Research Center that some 60 percent of Americans get their news from a combination of online and offline sources.  And while TV leads the news-source list (with local TV ahead of network TV offerings), social networks play an increasing role, and mobile devices do, too, with a third of respondents saying they read news on the move.  And 37 percent participate in sharing news, blogging, sharing or commenting.

All of which is to ask: From where you stand, is this rising tide lifting all boats, including yours? Are you watching safely from high ground? As Bonnie Raitt sings, you could go under or enjoy the ride.  I vote for the latter.  Let me know if you're looking for facilitation or consulting to help develop your company's social-media strategy or training. I'm moored at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, our free monthly newsletter full of strategies, training and content ideas and tips.

weekly writing coach: online standards?

This should drive some typo-seeking traffic to magazine websites: A survey of 665 magazines coming out today in the Columbia Journalism Review found that many of them use looser standards (or none at all) when it comes to copy-editing and fact-checking content that appears only online.  This New York Times report on the survey spells out the data:
Copy-editing requirements online were less stringent than those in print at 48 percent of the magazines. And 11 percent did not copy-edit online-only articles at all. A similar trend held with fact-checking. Although 57 percent of the magazines fact-check online submissions in the same way they fact-check print articles, 27 percent used a less-stringent process. And 8 percent did not fact-check online-only content at all. (The other 8 percent did not fact-check either print or online articles.)
The need for speed is cited by some magazine editors, who suggest that being first is more important to revenues than accuracy. That's a short-sighted content strategy, considering that online content soon will be the primary source of information for consumers, not just an add-on.  Your coach has recommended a periodic review of your writing standards as part of your writing and editing process.  Do you need to add one specifically for your online content? Does your content get the same treatment online as offline? I'd like to hear your experiences in the comments.