Friday, July 30, 2010

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, where I share lots of resources, good reads and news.  Here's what caught my eye in the week of July 26:
Go here to subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter--it's coming out next week, so now is a great time to sign up.  Then head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook to continue the discussion.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July's hot top 10 tips and issues

It'd be tough to get hotter than July, but this month's top 10 tips and issues come close. Here are the blog posts that gave off the most heat with readers:

  1. Word of a new $5,000 prize from AAAS to encourage early-career scientists to engage with public audiences proved, once again, that you respond to incentives. Please share this item with a communicating scientist; even post-docs qualify.  From my experience training scientists, there are many who are willing and able to do this.
  2. Is it illegal to photograph federal and other buildings? No, but you couldn't tell from all the tourists and photography pros getting arrested or detained.  If you caught this post earlier, check for the intriguing update involving Amtrak.
  3. Getting up to speed with social media? So is this reader, who asked for help getting her toes wet.  Apparently, a lot of readers were looking over her shoulder to get the same tips. 
  4. Embargoes: Hot or cold? Readers thought these tips for tidying up your embargo policies were hot, but my call for sharing your policies may have been too hot to handle, with just a single response from an organization that eschews embargoes. Plenty of readers checked out this post, though. There's still time to share your policy.
  5. Discounted registration for the Web 2.0 Expo New York drew lots of interest.  This discount ends September 19, so use it now. 25% off sounds great -- like a cool breeze in summer.
  6. Got a speaking gig coming up?  The post on being a networked speaker shares ways to make the most of it, networking long before (and after) you take the mic. 
  7. Facebook pages are hot, and this post on a new free tool for making them look good, plus lots of resources and case studies, was on fire this month.
  8. You can be a networked communicator--the theme of a new series on the blog--and to do that, I recommend you rethink your online profiles.  This goes well beyond LinkedIn and will help you improve your presence in search engines as well as networking face-to-face.
  9. Could Flip camcorders get wifi?  Maybe soon--this post shares the speculation.
  10. Need to boost your writing creativity?  These tricks and hacks, collected on Twitter, should do the trick.  I'm always looking for new ways to brainstorm or take a fresh approach.
Go here to subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter--it's coming out next week, so now is a great time to sign up.  Then head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook to continue the discussion.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Weekly writing coach: Email, deblundered

Like most folks who started out as writers, I love a style guide, and have compiled a whole shelf of them for today's needs.  But a reader asks, "Can you point me to a good style guide for email?  I need something I can recommend to my entire team so we can develop a consistent standard."

Being a little bit old school, I'll start with a book (now out in hardcover and Kindle editions, shortly in paperback): SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better (Vintage)by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe.  It expands "style" to include decision-making around when to send and to whom, as well as email content advice, and it's well-written to boot.

But new-school-types may not want to read a guide.  For them, a new tool called ToneCheck ("Just like SpellCheck...but for tone") may be the solution--or at least, a type of seat-belt to keep their emails from crashing into a verbal pole.  This Fast Company article ran a few tests of the service, available only for Outlook.  From the article:

"It identifies words, phrases, or sentences that exceed your tone tolerance," [ToneCheck CEO] Eldridge says. After downloading the software, you set the tone you want—a scale from negative to positive. When your email is ready, you run the check, and the program spits back flagged phrases and offers alternatives.

Your choice: Analog book or email plug-in.  Readers, share your sources for email improvement in the comments!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New $5,000 award for early-career scientists who engage public audiences

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, my former employer and current client, is inviting nominations for a new $5,000 award for early career scientists and engineers who carry out activities "that promote interactive dialogue with a non-scientific, public audience."  Activities might include "informal science education, public outreach, public policy, and/or science communication activities, such as mass media, public dialogue, radio, TV and film, science cafĂ©, science exhibit, science fair, and social and online media."

AAAS affiliate organizations--many of them major scientific societies--universities, government agencies, media, research organizations, and individuals may submit nominations now through October 15, 2010. The award will include a $5000 prize and support to attend the 2011 AAAS Annual Meeting next February. The award is open to individual "early career" scientists and engineers who have been working in their current field for less than seven years (at a pre-tenure or equivalent level); post-doctoral students are eligible for nomination.  Read more about the award eligibility and nomination procedures, and a related announcement that details judges, donors for the endowed award, and more.

The award's a great opportunity to recognize and reward young scientists who are making an effort to engage in discussion with non-scientists, so pass this new opportunity on.

Is the future of news in-depth?

This BBC article by journalist Andrew Marr suggests that the future of journalism doesn't lie only with the aggregators of top headlines, but with sites that can take the plunge into the deeper waters of particular issues--and do so alongside their sources. 

I like that he starts this line of thought focusing on what audiences want, using himself as an example: 
I'm interested in politics, social policy, business, technology and the arts. I am not interested in sport, fashion, property, crime stories or celebrity. In this new world, where I'm being sold new propositions, I no longer see why I should buy material I'm not interested in, just because it's been bundled up by one publisher rather than another. Am I alone? I'll pay. I'll buy. But I want to be more discriminating.
As a result, he sees a two-layered news world, one in which the emphasis isn't always on the most recent news.  Top-news aggregators would feed us the most recent news, he says, backed up by another layer that dives deeper:

...large numbers of specialist news sites - for specific companies or sectors, for different environmental issues, for overseas crises - which bring together journalists, academics, specialists, campaigners, professionals, lobbyists and so on. These will be where the expertise and longer-term attention span will be found.
It's an appealing vision, in part because it holds out some hope for investigative and watchdog journalism of the type that's already being mourned as gone. And it opens a door for information sources to participate.  Some of this is already emerging, but it's far from the sea-change envisioned here.

The question for communicators and sources will be:  Are you ready for this? It will require a different strategy than attempting a "wide" and immediate release that gets to the biggest outlets, and your approach, data-sharing and measurement tactics all will need to adjust if this is where we're headed.  Share your thoughts on whether this view of the future is viable in the comments.

Go here to subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, and head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook to continue the discussion.

Are corrections part of your transparency policy?

Your organization's online presence is visionary. Accessible. Multilingual. Frequently updated. Well-organized. Optimized for search engines.  Transparency is your middle name.

Now: Is all that true when you need to correct something?

You may think of corrections as the province of journalists (although making corrections prominent is a relatively recent phenomenon even in that field).  But if you're issuing news and information on the web, corrections should be a part of your transparency strategy.  How are you issuing them? How will your readers and viewers find them--especially if they don't go back to the post or article that's been corrected?  How will new viewers or readers find them?

To think through this imperfect science, listen to this public radio segment on corrections, featuring NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard and Craig Silverman, managing editor of PBS MediaShift Idea Lab, and co-author, with Jeff Jarvis, of a book on the topic: Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free SpeechOne smart solution discussed in this show:  Publishing a specific RSS feed for corrections.  Depending on your audiences, you may need a different corrections feed for each topic or user type.  And the most major corrections will need prominent play of their own.

How are you handling corrections? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.

Related posts:  How to correct a moving record on Twitter

9 posts I wish we'd seen on the J&J blog

How political campaigns are changing how corrections are handled online

Head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook for more discussion, ideas and networking with communications pros.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, and share lots of links from others with interesting reads, deals, and ideas. Here's what caught my eye in the week of July 19th:

  • Networked communicators alert:  Creative Portfolio Display helps turn LinkedIn into an even more useful online profile for those with text, video, audio an dmore to share of their work. You can easily embed YouTube and other videos, among many visual options. "Show what you know" just got a kick in the pants, and online profiles just got more useful. Think about showing off your successful video projects, slideshows, even presentations this way.
  • Evernote scanner giveaway:  I love Evernote.com for storing notes of all kinds, and I use the compatible Doxie portable scanner to load receipts, photos, and more into Evernote -- it travels with me.  Evernote's got a Doxie giveaway going until Monday night, so check out how to win your own here.
  • Free Groupon app for Android:  Groupon.com has had an iPhone app for a while, and now there's a free app for Android phone users.  Groupon's successful formula--offering local deals that don't take place unless a critical mass of users sign up--has been so successful that sites like Mashable.com now cover Groupon clone sites en masse.  If you can offer local discounts or specials of any type, it's worth exploring (and if you just like getting good deals, check out the app).
  • A newspaper leads in online video?  Sounds like it for the Wall Street Journal, in this article shared by Mediabistro.com.  Ten million streams a month may offer a glimpse at the future on online video and publishing.
  • Bloggers alert:  This was one of my favorite reads, a guest post on Remarkablogger.com about getting new and repeat traffic with "museum thinking" -- a new twist on curation, and prompting us all to think about what is and isn't obvious to those who visit our blogs, especially newcomers.  And if your company was tempted to ditch its corporate blog in favor of its Facebook page, AllFacebook.com wants to warn you not to. Here's why.
I'm heading to New York City early in August for the BlogHer conference. Let me know what you'd like to see on this blog about the conference, women who blog and related issues.

Enter your email address in the box at right to get For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, then head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook to continue the discussion.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weekly writing coach: Do you corral your writing time and space?

A writer and Twitter pal who'd admired my Droid smartphone awhile back sent me a tweet asking for advice on how to keep it from becoming what she termed "a time-sucking device." My answer? Put it in airplane mode. Shut it down.

That got me thinking:  Do you fence off your writing time and space, or are critters--your family, office mates, clients--always creeping over the border?  This Freelance Switch post (via Lifehacker) suggests you invest in a little digital and in-real-life barbed wire to reduce interruptions ranging from calls to instant messages.

If you need incentives, you might recall that Tim Ferriss, best-selling author of the Four Hour Work Week got to that schedule by checking email just twice a day, and by making sure that email was not the first thing checked in the day, given its ability to derail the best of plans.

That's tough to do these days, in which Steve Rubel notes we've developed the habit of "content snacking," dipping into and out of online content quickly, scanning, not finishing and moving on to the next item.  Fine for your readers to do, but not conducive to focus.

How do you set up your fences, electronically and otherwise? Do you use filters? Shut the machines off? Move to a secret location on- or off-site? Shut your door in the old-school way?  I'd love to hear two types of comments in particular:  Your suggestions and tips, and things that sounded great, but didn't work for you.

Enter your email address in the box at right to get For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, then head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook to continue the discussion.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Three ways to make details work in your content

It seemed a simple question about what she thinks about while swimming long distances. Then Diana Nyad, on NPR's Tell Me More, confessed that on her last long-distance swim, she sang the theme song to "The Beverly Hillbillies" 2,000 times.  And in a golden moment for radio, she started to sing it: "Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed/A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed..."  (Audio's at the link above.)

Black gold, indeed. That's a memorable detail.

Sometimes, many times, I'm in the position of advising clients to remove, reorganize or reduce detail.  All those 300-slide decks.  Facebook posts that vie with the phone book. But compelling details are the ones I'll always let you keep:  They're the ones that make me say "aha!" or "wow" or "I had no idea--what a surprise." The ones that bring me closer to your point, not the ones that push me away.  In this case, I could suddenly picture Nyad in the water, the familiar tune keeping time for her strokes to get her through the boring parts of the swim, with counting to show her progress.

Why do details matter? I think they matter more than ever. These days, we gloss over, skim, scan, snack, graze. We use jargon and buzzwords, shorthand and acronyms. We generalize, group things and summarize.  Our work is major, legendary, all-encompassing...and vague. None of those things help us remember. Nothing sticks. In that environment, compelling details bring your content into sharp focus, make it memorable, tactile, unforgettable. And those qualities connect you with your audiences with power and magnetism.

There's a lot of talk in customer service circles about how companies can "surprise and delight" customers or prospects, but to me, that lies in the details.  Here are some ways to approach the detailed parts of your writing, speaking or content curation so they qualify as compelling:
  1. Does it disclose something?  Mystery, secrets and surprises make details magical.  Steve Buttry's homage to obituary writer Kay Powell is studded with moonshiners who didn't get caught by the revenue agents, United Methodist Women playing poker at their very long meetings, a guy named John Doe who was the most-looked-after patient while in the hospital because doctors and nurses kept dropping by to see who the celebrity was. I want to write a million country music songs based on those details.  I feel as if I know these people a little more. Fortunately, Buttry takes the time to include loads of links to Powell's obits of note so you'll have plenty of examples. But then, this is a detail-collecting journalist who has a Google Map detailing all the places he's worked
  2. Can I see it in my mind? On The Eloquent Woman blog, I've written about how to use details to make your storytelling compelling as a speaker, and writers and content curators can do the same if the stories revolve around concrete details we can visualize.  In my post, the stories include a funny sweater, pictures of children on a mother's bedside table and shower hooks in a girls' dormitory. The 13 toothbrushes belonging to others in the bathroom from Kay Powell's obituary for her mother do the same. Take them out, and the story doesn't sing.  Leave them in and you won't be able to keep that visual from popping into my head.  That makes your story seems more possible, tantalizing or understandable to me (or all three).
  3. Does it convey your enthusiasm?  Here's a factor too often overlooked when speakers present or writers craft a graph. Can I tell you're passionate? Do your details belie an aficionado, a fan, an I've-gotta-share-this mentality?  See how Copyblogger does it by planting "Easter eggs" in his posts for close readers. No comment on whether I do that here, nosiree, just a hat tip to Joe Bonner for sharing this one.  But I get the same feeling when I hear a speaker get excited about an elegant bit of data or find a loving and detailed tribute to a founder on a website.
  4. Does it add spice and flavor? Think of my palate.  Is it a sweet, salty, or bitter detail--something that adds flavor?  A sense of fullness, completion--the umami of your story?  Flavor, when it comes to details and storytelling, can ground the story in a place and time, or tantalize the viewer/reader/listener with something exotic, or bring them back home.  Can I just taste it, without being near it? If so, you've got the detail you want.
Enter your email address in the box at right to get For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, then head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook to continue the discussion.

Facebook-em, Dan-O: 12 resources for the 500 million mark

Facebook's set to reach the 500-million user mark this week, and to celebrate, let me share the articles, links, data and resources I've been collecting for you.  But first, let me ask: Are you a fan of don't get caught on Facebook and The Eloquent Woman on Facebook?  Get on that, willya?  Here, the resources I've been mulling and using on Facebook. Time to surf:
I hope you'll also let me know what would be useful to you on Facebook via the don't get caught page...and if you've "liked" the page, feel free to post questions, successes and ideas there.

Enter your email address in the box at right to get For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, then head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook to continue the discussion.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The networked speaker: 10 ways to make the most of your next gig

As a networked communicator, you're more likely to be asked to speak--but are you making the most of those visible networking opportunities?  Here's how to become a networked speaker who makes the most of each presentation gig:

  1. Business cards are a must--but your regular cards may not be just right. Consider special cards for your speaking gigs that point audiences to your blog, resources online about this talk (see below) or how to engage you for another speech.  Add your photo to help audience members remember you, or make mini-cards so they're easy to keep separate from your regular business cards.
  2. QR (quick response) codes are easy-to-make graphic codes in which you can embed links to your online profiles, discounts on your book, or your contact information. You can print them on business cards, stickers or your name badge; audience members need only point their smartphone barcode readers, take a picture and later download the information. Fast and easy for everyone.
  3. A special website for advance information can include your full bio, a summary of your talk, your slides, options for audience members and others to post questions in advance, and links to your Twitter feed, Facebook page and more.  Check out Flavors.me, which lets you pull together all your social networking and web presences, or Posterous.com, where you can grab a custom URL, and even add to your blog posts via email.
  4. Followup on the web after your talk by posting video, photos, answers to questions, your slides and more. Share those QR codes here, and add links to related content.  One tactic I like:  Get video of your audience's questions, then post them online with written answers and links, to make your followup presence on the web useful and interactive.
  5. Work your social networks.  On Twitter, share a hashtag so others outside the room can follow along, and troll for advance questions.  On Facebook, post an event notice, encourage advance questions, and post your slides and photos. Use all your social networks to share links to coverage of your talk.
  6. Work the room before you speak, introducing yourself to audience members, asking what their questions are, finding out more about them. Greet them at the door or move around the room; this will keep you energized and connected, and the more you know about them, the more pertinent your remarks. Hand out those cards and QR codes--it's much easier to circulate cards before you speak, rather than after.
  7. Work the halls after and make yourself available. Remember that many audience members will not want to stand up and pose a question in front of the crowd. Today, "working the halls" also may mean answering followup questions on those other hallways, Twitter and Facebook. Don't forget those outside the room.
  8. Keep better track of those you meet in person. Need to remember someone you've connected with after your talk? Use the Evernote app on your phone to take a picture of them with their name badge on; once you've loaded that into an Evernote notebook, you can search for it using the words on the badge.
  9. Learn about co-presenters and panelists in advance and share a few pertinent links and profiles with them so they know something about you.  Can you research and reference one of their online articles or talks in your remarks?  Connect with them on social networks, now that you're getting to know one another.
  10. Work with your organizers.  What can they tell you about the audience? Are they making a special website for the panel on which you can share advance information? If not, let them know about yours. Ask them to share links to your blog, your online profiles and any advance information you're posting with the members of the group before you speak.  Are you offering a discount for the group or looking for advance questions?  The organizers can include that in their emails, newsletters and web postings.
Related posts:  The networked communicator: Rethink online profiles, 7 ways

Enter your email address in the box at right to get For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, then head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook to continue the discussion.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, where I like to line up and share posts on new trends and ideas for communicators.  Here's what caught my eye in the week of July 12:

  • How long should you expect audience attention? Nieman Storyboard shared this exquisite essay by new media artist Peggy Nelson considering the attention span. Today, we whine about 3-minute YouTube videos, but that was the limit vaudeville artists gave themselves to win the audience. This site's one to follow if storytelling is your focus.
  • Job on the move: Zipcar, the car-share service, is looking for a Vice President of Communications in Cambridge, Mass. Want to try out Zipcar? Send me your email and I'll refer you--we'll both get credits to use.
  • About those online defections: TechCrunch reminds us that we were all going to quit Facebook just a few weeks ago, then points out its continued growth.  Good perspective so you don't flinch and panic the next time one of these angry protests hits the fan.
  • Attachments, it's all about the attachments: I know: You don't want no stinkin' ultralight camcorder. You want lenses you can attach and a big external mic. Well, here you go.
  • Move it to find it: A new survey suggests that mobile device users are 45% more likely to search locally.
  • Doing good with social networks:  Kenya has launched a new text service to report hate speech ahead of a new referendum, the BBC reports. If you're not watching African countries to understand new uses of mobile devices, you're missing one of the great secrets of social networking--on that continent, mobile device access is higher than computer access.
  • Facebook page admins get help, FB mobile gets bigger:  Facebook's experimenting with new ways to help page admins do better with interactions right from the get-go, Inside Facebook reports. Facebook Mobile has now passed 150 million users.
  • Inspiration for directors:  Via Frank Blanchard, loved this article on being a leader and being alone with your thoughts.
  • Share data in real-time:  EPA public information officer Melissa Anley-Mills writes about how EPA's making data sets available so you can search and analyze reports from the BP oil spill your own way.  A good model if you're sitting on data you can share.
  • Ford Foundation website offers new visualizations:  The new Ford Foundation website takes a visual approach to explaining its philanthropy. This is one to watch, in every sense.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

25% discount for Web 2.0 conference Sept. in NYC

I'm happy to extend this discount to don't get caught readers:  If you want to go to the Web 2.0 Expo New York 2010, being held September 27-30, use discount code webny10twt6 at this registration link for 25% off a conference pass. This discount ends September 19th. (Disclosure: I'll get a discount for participating in this promotion, as one of only 100 people able to offer it to you.)

The Twitter Bookco-author Sarah Milstein is general manager and co-chair of this year's Expo, so it doesn't surprise me at all that there's a top-tier lineup of speakers on these conference topics:
  • Business model strategies
  • Design & UX best practices
  • Social media success
  • Cutting-edge development
  • The mobile tsunami
  • Performance challenges
  • Practical analytics
  • Real-time opportunities
  • Enterprise tools
  • Creating community
You can follow the Expo blog here to get previews and updates.  Let me know if you plan on attending!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Weekly writing coach: Disarming the nuclear sentence

Earlier this year, I came back from a business trip to find this note in a pretty envelope in my mail slot. Here's what it says:
Dear Neighbor--
We want to apologize for the noise last night. When we planned the evening, we expected that all performances would be acoustic. We were mistaken, and caught off guard.

Because some musicians had traveled long distances, we hesitated to cut them off.

We regret the disturbance and we will avoid situations like this in the future.
Further polling of my neighbors ("What'd I miss?") unearthed descriptions of the 3 a.m. disturbance as "electric guitar that would peel the paint off your interior walls and the enamel off your teeth," not at all typical of our neighborhood.

Now, you can pick out the nuclear sentence in that note, can't you? The author must think herself a master of understatement, but "When we planned the evening, we expected that all performances would be acoustic" has the same ring to it as a million other sentences you've heard that attempt to smooth over the thermodynamic facts.  Sentences like "We all know that Jane is the best computer technician of her type" and "I could tell when you were planning that romantic weekend that I really should tell you I was in love with Bill, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it."  Sentences that damn with faint praise or coyly share a fact you don't want to know or just plain won't like. The skunk in your verbal woodpile sentences.  They are the staples of corporate memos, emails, press statements, even speeches that deliver bad news but want to make it seem less bad. They elaborate too much, in hopes of diverting the reader's or listener's attention.

Before you pat yourself on the back for crocheting such a masterful cover for that warhead sentence, realize that the recipient will be able to see right through it to the bomb inside.  My loud neighbor packed hers in the soft padding of chronological recountings ("when we planned the evening"), aiming to signal good intent.  I can tell you that this did nothing to create good feeling, and may have annoyed the neighbors further.

Usually, you go into a writing assignment like this knowing that you need to get lipstick for that pig, but even if you haven't figured that out, let me urge you to read the finished work one more time, with an eye out for the nuclear sentence that's hiding in plain sight. Then get someone with no connection to the issue to read it.  I guarantee they'll find it even if you can't.  Replace it with something more direct, brief, clear and human. If the news really is bad, you can't make it better with more elaboration...at least, not this way.

I encourage you to share awful nuclear sentences in the comments. What have you seen that we should avoid?

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What are you making your audience do to reach you?

Since we talk a lot about engaging audiences, I thought you'd want to think about some lessons from a story about engagement and raising eyebrows, tongue firmly in cheek on both terms.

First, the engagement: If you've read Jay Rosen's manifesto on the people formerly known as the audience, you can see the entire process come full circle in this New York Times blog post by Jennifer Saranow Schultz. In "Wedding Expenses That Aren't Worth It," she includes professional engagement photos, writing: 
The main reason I had the pictures taken (I’ll admit it) was to submit one with our wedding announcement to this newspaper. Unfortunately, our eyebrows weren’t on exactly the same level in the photographs — one of the requirements. So our announcement ran with just text. If I had to do it again, I’d just send in a picture we already had or ask a friend or family member to take shots of us for free.
Having raised the eyebrows, I want to review the bidding:  The paper got to keep its requirements, which mean that the photos are more uniform and therefore easier to scan visually, easier to fit on the page, less likely to highlight height differences between the members of the couple, less likely to waste space and therefore cost more in printing, ink and paper. By having strict requirements, they solve a space issue--many young lovers will give up or get disqualified.  So the paper retains control.

Or does it? The young couple can start a wedding blog or website to feature the photos, send an email photo announcement, start a Flickr photostream,  post video and updates to Twitter and Facebook.  Family and friends can share great photos of the couple, eyebrow-height-matching optional--and all for the cost of the time involved.  Who needs the newspaper, at which someone is presumably tasked with measuring eyebrows with a level? 

So let me ask you: What are you making your audience do to reach you?  What's the barrier for entry to finding your stuff, or letting people participate, publish or poke around for more information? Call it a hurdle, fence, wall, password, registration field, locked door or invisible resource. What are you making them jump over to get to you?

Media companies seem to be struggling most publicly with this (witness TIME's move to put abridged stories online, with a pitch to readers to go to either the print edition or the iPad app, making readers go to two places to finish one story in its entirety).  But the hurdles exist for other companies and organizations, too.  And this really is a two-part question: What are you making your audience do, and what are you doing so that they don't have to?

Google this week gave us a great example of answering the latter question, making a new "app inventor" available (see video below) so that anyone can create a simple Android-based application.  Make it easy, make it available, make it known.  Are you doing that--in your spheres?



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Monday, July 12, 2010

A reader writes: Help me get up to speed with social media

If you're an experienced social media communicator, read this post about helping newbies--then share your tips in the comments. But if you're feeling unsure of yourself and not sure where to start, you may be more like this reader, who writes:
I really enjoyed your newsletter. I am working furiously to "get up to speed" where social media is concerned. I have worked out of the country for the past year and stepped out of communications and into print publishing for the 3 years prior to that. I now feel that my industry has moved on without me and I am scrambling to catch up. I have LinkedIn, Face Book, and now (thanks to you) Google profiles online, and I have a new blog but I'm not sure I feel confident about my skills. Can you give me some guidance or resources to look into? Thanks again for a great resource for the professional communicator.
It's easy to feel that you've been caught behind the curve on social media.  Here's some guidance and a few resources to get you started:
  • Pick one network or medium and dive into that first:  If you've started a blog and are on Facebook or LinkedIn, that's great.  Pick one of them to focus on at first, maybe two. Read all the help information available on the site -- too many users fail to check the most basic information, and it shows. You can save loads of time by reading the help sections, and if there are user/help forums, check those, too.  Then try posting:  On your blog, work up to posting two to three times a week if you can; on Facebook, look for friends and say hello; on LinkedIn, find former coworkers and connect. Look at everything. Be curious.
  • Don't feel like you have to post all the time. Listen first, then join in where you can.
  • Make a schedule:  If you are concerned this will take all of your time, remember you're in control of social media, not the reverse.  Making a schedule--an hour a day, perhaps, to start--or setting a timer may help you keep your explorations manageable.
  • Follow some leaders:  For blogging, check out Problogger.com and Copyblogger.com; Problogger (aka Darren Rowse) also publishes Twitip.com about Twitter; you'll find material for getting started on all these sites.  Read Mashable.com for a firehose's worth of social media news and updates, or follow its threads on the topics on which you're focusing.
  • Follow some followers:  Don't worry if you don't have any yet, you will--even when blogging. Pay attention to those who are following you, and learn from them whenever you can.  Ask them what they want to know--it's a great way to build content ideas and keep your ear to the ground.
  • Go to a meetup:  Check Meetup.com for meetups in your area related to social media. It's a great way to find others with similar interests.  Your professional groups also may be offering speakers and programs about social media--sign up for those, too.
Here are some posts from my blog that you may find useful, starting out:
Enter your email address in the box at right to get For Communications Directors, the newsletter this reader liked, then head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook to continue the discussion. And share your tips for social media newcomers in the comments!

The networked communicator: Rethink online profiles, 7 ways

(Editor's note: I'm starting a new series on "The networked communicator" with this post on online profiles--a cornerstone of your strategy to get networked. Stay tuned for posts that will show you how to put profiles and other tactics to work for you as you build your network.)

No wonder that headhunter (and I) can't find you online. Turns out that fewer than half of American adults are using one of the most effective tools for becoming networked communicators: Online social networking profiles.

Forty-six percent of American adults online have created a social networking profile for themselves, according to a May report on reputation management from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. While that's a big jump from the 20 percent who reported creating social profiles in 2006, it turns out that you're a rarer breed if you use online profiles to market yourself for career or work purposes. The report notes:
Those who need to make information available about themselves online in order to market themselves for their job make up a unique segment of the internet universe. These “public personae” now make up 12% of the employed adult population, up slightly from the 10% who said they were required to market themselves online in 2006.
Can you be found?

Even more striking are the data on what happens when you search for yourself online: "35% of self-searchers say their queries do not yield any relevant results," the report notes, adding:
Just 31% of self-searchers say that most of the results on the critical first page are actually about them, while 62% say the first page of results is mostly about someone else with a name very similar or identical to theirs.
So, while you may have a profile somewhere, it may not be showing up in the search engines.  On the plus side, that also means that you can stand out among the crowd just now with a strong social profile presence.  And if your name matches someone else's, all the more reason to make clear which person you are.

Who's looking for you?

The answer to that is, "You'll never know if you can't be easily found."  The Pew report notes that "In the age of social media, it is now the case that a Facebook profile may get more traffic than your resume or your bio on your employer’s website."  And nearly two-thirds of those who reported conducting searching for information about people on the web said they were seeking contact information or social and professional profiles. Folks want to find you--but can they?

Thanks to my online profiles, the first half-dozen search results on Google lead to my website, blogs, LinkedIn profile, Twitter account, Facebook profile and business Facebook pages--all places I want to be found. Beyond defining what your search results yield, profiles can help you get speaking engagements, book deals, requests for articles in industry publications, collaborators, donors, partners, clients, volunteer opportunities and more. Having a profile before you're seeking a change means you can build relationships with headhunters before you need them.  Far better to have profiles in place (and up-to-date) long before you want to consider a new opportunity--or have to do so. 

Rethink your online profiles

If you haven't given thought--or taken time to rethink--how you're seen and found online, here are 7 do's and don'ts to consider when using an online profile as a networked communicator:

  1. Do choose profiles strategically.  Think audiences, and here, size might matter. Yes, LinkedIn's a favorite with headhunters and professionals.  But audiences are larger on Facebook; as more companies get Facebook pages, it's possible to apply for jobs with new apps that embed the application process right into a Facebook page, for example.  A Google profile works across a wide range of Google's many products--and influences your search results (see number 5 below).  How many profiles? Only you can decide. A range of well-chosen profiles gives your contacts a hint about your social-networking proficiency, but if you're not going to be on a network with regularity, pass that profile up.
  2. Don't overlook a YouTube profile.  YouTube is the second-largest search engine, and given that 2 billion online videos are watched on the site every day, it's a place to be seen and searched. Dan Schwabel offers a great guide here to branding your YouTube profile and channel.  Google's blog offers this guide to using YouTube videos to drive business your way.  Adding video of yourself (from a speaking engagement, excellent presentation, or just a message about what you're focused on now professionally) also rounds out your online profile and may make the difference in getting you noticed.
  3. Do get your own website.  I can't tell you how many clients and friends I have whose only online presence belongs to their employers--it's too many to count. Get your own website before you need one, if only as a place to centralize your many social-networking profiles.  Flavors.me offers slick-looking options for simple websites that pull together all your profiles; check out this article about how others are using the site.  Posterous.com, which makes it simple to create a blog simply by emailing what you want posted, now makes it simple to register your own domain name.  Doesn't get much easier than that.
  4. Don't set it and forget it. Review and renew existing profiles.  If you didn't realize that you can now generate your LinkedIn profile in other languages but want to work overseas, or that your Google profile can put you on the first page of relevant search results for other people in your social networks, it's time to review and make use of new features on the profiles you do have.   Schedule a review every six months to make sure your accomplishments are up-to-date and all links are still current.  For example, if you did nothing when Facebook changed its privacy settings earlier this year, and your profile used to be open for anyone to see, it likely is not visible to all any longer. Is that what you want?
  5. Do make your profile a portfolio--with an eye on the future.  Sure, you can cut-and-paste your resume into your online profiles.  Or you can be more strategic and include the interests, links and other clues that will help contacts and recruiters figure out where you're headed.  Call it a personal statement or "where I'm focused now," but make sure it's included. This is especially important if your current work doesn't reflect where you want to go next.  It's why I like Google Profiles, which allows lots of "my links" that--on my profile--go to my blogs, articles about my accomplishments, my writing samples and more.
  6. Don't remain the Flat Stanley of Social Media.  If you're now more comfortable with social networking and the balance of personal and professional, consider moving beyond a one-dimensional profile by adding some personal information. Do it for the same reason you do at in-person networking events: To give others a well-rounded sense of who you are, as well as something to talk to you about.  That relentlessly professional profile may be, well, relentless. Ease up a little.  According to the Pew report, just 4 percent of Internet users report bad experiences because of embarrassing or inaccurate information online about them.  You're probably among the 96 percent who will find this a safe place to share.
  7. Do share your updated profile.  LinkedIn and Facebook will alert your network when those profiles are updated, but you should take the time to consider who needs to see your primary online profiles beyond those networks.  Links to your profile should be on your resume, your email signature, your website (see number 3), and any bios you send out when you're speaking or moderating a panel or listed in a program. But are they on your business cards--your employer's, or your own separate set of cards? Did they make it into the followup email you sent that contact you met at last night's networking event?  Are they on your presentation slides or the blog post that serves as your handout?  Did you link to a profile when submitting that guest post you're writing for my blog? If you have more than one profile, do people know which one you prefer to be used?
What profiles do you use on social networks? Share your preferences and feedback in the comments.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Weekly writing coach: 5 creativity hacks, from Twitter

I find all sorts of sparks for my creativity on Twitter, and this week, my pals must've been reading my mind (and my tweets), since they passed along all sorts of inspiring reads on creativity. Here are some resources for rebooting your creativity--and I've taken some creative license with what to include in this post, just to reboot my own:

Related posts: 10 ways I use Twitter to boost my creativity

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Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, where I like to line up and share posts on new trends and ideas for communicators.  Here's what caught my eye in the week of July 5:

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Time to clean up your embargo policies? An inconsistency checklist

Let's just say it: Nobody likes embargoes, except when a) they work and b) they benefit you, whether you're the issuing organization or the receiving journalist. That must be why those two things don't always happen at the same time, right?

There's no worldwide management system for embargoes (and I am not proposing one, because I have a business to run).  But I can attest that embargoes -- created in the name of giving reporters a "level playing field" on which to research complex scientific research that then gets released all at the same time -- are managed, er, inconsistently. 

So it's a level playing field that shifts shape, gets shorter or longer, and includes frequent rules changes and obstacle courses, often depending on which team is on the field, who's coaching and how big the ball is.  An embargoed announcement may include many players, from the issuing journal or meeting to the universities or labs where the research occurred to the funding organizations, any journal with a competing bit of research, plus the reporters who have to agree to play along by the rules, and the ones who don't feel a need to play within those lines you're putting on the field.  Any one of those players who doesn't hear/get/know/accept/understand the rules can put more bumps in that playing field than a squad of gophers.

If this sounds too much like inside baseball, I can tell you who's keeping the scorecard: The very good Embargo Watch blog is "keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage."  The blog's author, Reuters Health executive editor Ivan Oransky, is cataloging the many and varied ways in which embargoes are issued, managed, broken and lifted. I asked Ivan to share insights specifically on areas where embargoes are managed inconsistently, with an eye to giving you a short list of embargo issues you may need to clean up on your end as communicators.  Consider the blog a source of case studies you can use to compare, contrast and clean up your own embargoes:

  1. Embargoes for research presented at scientific conferences that limit coverage until time of presentation--even though abstracts containing key facts are freely available online.  The European Society of Human Genetics just changed its policy on this score, and the American Diabetes Association is considering a change to its similar policy, both in the wake of Embargo Watch coverage.  This gets at a common practice in scientific societies--sharing abstracts with member scientists in advance--that puts access for members in conflict with access for reporters, particularly as many societies distribute these packs of abstracts not only online but in CD or print form.  If you don't know or don't control this aspect of abstract distribution, it's time to figure out how to make it consistent; embargoed material depends on a strict control of how the embargoed information is distributed, else it just doesn't work.
  2. Embargoes so short as to be meaningless.  Ivan's got a startling collection of examples of short embargoes--so far, the record goes either to the New England Journal of Medicine for a 2-hour-26-minute embargo or to the University of Leeds for a journal paper already publicly available.  (The latter case highlights the problems when the researchers' institution and the journal publisher are not coordinated.)  Short embargoes are the result of attempts to hang on to the traditional embargo system, which worked better when the issuing organization could use the old print production cycle for a journal to offer reporters galley prints of forthcoming articles, about a week ahead.  With advances in online publishing, sometimes the article's online before the press office even knows about it.  When I was at the American Chemical Society--which publishes tens of thousands of journal articles a year--I gave up on embargoing journal articles for just that reason.  You try covering a complex chemistry paper in less than three hours, with no notice. I'll watch.  It can be done, but don't count on turtledove coos from the reporters you're calling.  Communicators will say: Won't coverage suffer? Maybe. But too-short embargoes are more work and probably even less effective.
  3. Papers published online and available to any subscriber but embargoed for reporters.  Two examples -- here and here -- suggest other areas where you may want to clean up your policies.  If the paper's published online, even in a subscriber-only location, is it clearly marked as embargoed for reporters? And when reporters agree to your embargo policies (you do ask them to agree to one, right), are you making them aware of this?  My own preference here would be to avoid embargoing that which is published for a large group of subscribers.
  4. The Groundhog Day embargo: You have your choice of two oddities in this category: an embargo that lifts every hour over the course of a whole day and two embargo times for one publication, in this case, The Lancet.  Both distinguish between local times in different time zones--a fine concept, except when you consider the World Wide Web and international news organizations. This sounds like the seventh circle of Hell to me, speaking from the point of view of managing an embargo.  I can attest that, even before the advent of the web, those of us managing major embargoes used the local time of the issuing organization, and let the time-zone chips fall where they may.
I agree with Ivan that policies are all over the map regarding when embargoes get lifted, and that's a topic for another day--and one that affects fewer organizations issuing research.  You'll have your hands full if you can check on the four inconsistencies noted here, I suspect.  Feel free to share your policies (or challenges) in the comments.

Disclosure:  I've managed embargoes in the past for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the journal Science; for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and for the American Chemical Society.  I am not involved in embargo policies nor in media relations for any client, as these are not services I offer.  My observations here speak only to my own experiences.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

When the going gets tough, what do you do? Start something.

Someone asked me last week whether I'd have started this consultancy had I known a recession was looming. There's no way to answer that--but I'd like to think I would have done it, anyway.  I'm aligned with what I read recently on 37 Signals' post on being a starter in a recession. David notes:
This might have seemed like exactly the wrong time to start a business, but I believe the opposite is true. The skills and the culture you pick up at formation will stick with you forever. The corporate mind of 37signals became imprinted with frugality and efficiency that still is at the core of who we are today.
But you're more likely working within an organization, right? One that's had budget cutbacks, layoffs, hiring freezes and every kind of cheeseparing.  "New initiatives" becomes a dreaded term, something out of reach. 

That's when you need to start something.  Starting may mean different things within different organizations, but it doesn't cost much to:
  • Think out loud:  Make a little pie-in-the-sky and brainstorm what you'd do with extra funds or one more staffer--or what you'd do with no restrictions. Prioritize that list. You'll want it at the ready when things turn around, and in the meantime, you can start building support for those new ideas.
  • Find out what's not working and stop doing it:  You can start something by stopping something else. What would stopping something help you do?
  • Get takeout: Bring in some outside perspective. Convene a small advisory board to suggest pilot projects. Ask a consultant to give you two hours of thinking. Pose a question to colleagues on LinkedIn or Twitter. Hire a freelance writer to finish the pile of tasks on your desk so you can think about something new.
  • Figure out what goes with sliced cheese:  Can't create new content? How about diving into your archives, polishing some gems and putting them out there?  Instead of a major push, craft a pilot project that only lasts a few months. Take your problems and flip them around to find a do-able project that lets you accomplish something new.
  • Train for the next wave:  Maybe you can't launch a major initiative now, but you can be reading, attending lectures and asking around about the topics you'll need to know when you can get started.  Ask for training options for future projects and show you're thinking ahead.
  • Read like a startup.  Real startups live with failure, low budgets, small staffs.  Just like you, baby, just like you. I like Silicon Alley Insider to keep me in startup mode, but you can pick any startup trade blog or just the blog of one startup.  Stay inspired.
If you've started a communications project during the recession, share it with us in the comments--and tell us a bit about how it felt to try.

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Check out don't get caught on Facebook, where I'm floating ideas and discussing them before they appear on the blog.  It's shaping up as a great networking community for communicators.

Facebook pages: New free tool and a compendium of resources



I sure hope you see yourself in this post--if you're in this box, it means you got past my landing page on Facebook.  Facebook pages have become the new artform for communicators, and the latest specialty to master in the form is the "landing page" or welcome tab people get to before they decide they "like" you and want to follow your company updates.  You need to fool around with Static FBML to put landing pages together...until now. The good news:  This week, I've come across two solid resources to help you get up to speed on making your landing page better--or getting one in the first place.  I'll be mining them both and hope you'll share your results, too:
  1. Pagemodo.com offers a new, free tool that eliminates the need for you to use Static FBML to make a customized landing page.  TechCrunch took it for a test drive last week.  A paid version with more features is in the works, and those who sign up now for the free tool may be in line for a discount when that happens; the company promises there will always be a free version available.
  2. This bonanza post from Smashing Magazine pulls together almost everything you could want in a Facebook fan page tutorial: stunning examples of top-of-the-line designs, commercial and free templates, websites and tools that offer tutorials and how-tos.  Dive in and share this with your team--there's a lot to spark new ideas.
Got another resource to share? Leave it in the comments.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Online video update: Flip cameras to get wifi, and low Kodak zi8 prices

Sorting out the inbox following the July 4 weekend, I find two updates for fans of online video who will want to bide their time or pounce now, depending on which of these items interests you: