Friday, December 31, 2010

The top 10 posts for communicators for 2010

The road from the start of 2010 to the end was fascinating for me, especially when I use your favorite posts of the year to look back at this blog. You chose an astonishing range of topics to consult this year, and they make for a great year-end collection. Here are your top picks, which I'm happy to recommend to communicators:

  1. Infographics: The good, the bad and what's next is a treasure-trove of links that will show you good models and wince-inducing what-not-to-dos, as well as a vision of what lies ahead. This year's top post...a sign of where you're headed, perhaps?
  2. What communicators should know about nonprofit executive compensation is a long post that looks at how some nonprofit CEOs get caught when their compensation packages are publicly disclosed. Full of important steps for communications directors to take on this uncomfortable topic.
  3. No, really officer--it's not illegal to photograph federal buildings looks at one of the awkward (and unnecessary) barriers being set by organizations in the name of security. Unfortunately, it's a barrier that flies in the face of a good communications strategy. 
  4. 7 ways to use QR codes for networking, marketing and causes  gave you concrete examples of how you can put these multilevel versions of barcodes to advance your career, product or giving opportunity.  This is one trend you'll see blossom fully in 2011, and I'm glad you won't get caught behind the curve on this one.
  5. 9 ways with Evernote, for communicators shared my use of this notetaking and storage tool, from keeping my own notes and records to helping you clip and save my blog posts with the Evernote button at the end of each entry. A late entry, appearing just this week, it skyrocketed right onto the year-end list.
  6. A reader writes: Help me get up to speed in social media was a post based on a reader's question--and one that many of you spent the year working on. This is a post full of shortcuts, links and encouragement.
  7. Why your social-media strategy should be like my homemade pizza clued you into the fact that, when it comes to pizza, I like it authentic, inexpensive, easy, with minimal active prep time required, and a capacity for using up leftovers. Those factors can go into your approach to social media to make it easier, less expensive, and yes, tasty.
  8. When you're the Twitter moderator offered a step-by-step how-to guide so you can help a panel or speaker to succeed when part of the audience is outside the room with social-media tools at its disposal. Lots of communicators told me this one was a "keeper" post, and I saw it in use at meetings and conferences this year--my favorite kind of compliment.
  9. Time to clean up your embargo policies? An inconsistency checklist shared real-life examples of where embargoes go wrong. A "what not to do" post that'll save you hours of headache.
  10. Managing time on social media "if I just have 5 hours a week" was one of the most creative questions I got from an audience member in 2010.  Here are my answers to how to pick and choose to maximize your time and effort.
This is a great week to sign up for the newsletter, below, since it'll be out in the first week of 2011.  Thanks so much for reading and participating in 2010. I'll see you in the new year...

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

December's top 10 social media and communications tips

Your holiday gifts are open by now, I hope. This monthly post tells you where to look among the crinkled wrapping paper and empty boxes to find the most popular gifts from the blog: December's top posts.  Here they are:

  1. 9 ways with Evernote, for communicators--just published this week--zoomed to the top of this month's list. From media clips to travel receipts and visual networking, this is one of my workhorse tools.
  2. On social networks: What to share when you don't know what to share gives newbies with no content ideas 7 things they can start sharing right away--and I've tucked in a couple of new trends for your savvy socialites to consider, too. This month's most re-tweeted post.
  3. 7 savvy ways to incorporate bloggers in your media relations is based on lessons (or anti-lessons) learned during the recent announcement of what's known on Twitter as #arseniclife. But the topic's less important than the approach. Here's how to balance working with reporters and bloggers (groups that overlap) when managing announcements and access--and lose that "oh, no, here come the bloggers" attitude.
  4. 11 communications blogs I'm reading drew a lot of attention. This time, I focused on some blogs that  may be under your radar--but they're perfect to add to your feeds this year to freshen up the viewpoints you're receiving. Excellent reads, all.
  5. Are you making the most of comments? gave you 7 options for making better use of them--not just in responding, but in repurposing them as content. Waste not, want not, when it comes to content, and comments are the key.
  6. Director's perspective: Clouds for communicators gave us guest poster Joe Bonner's take on using Dropbox (and similar in-the-cloud services) with some real-life examples of why they work for a communications director.  If you haven't gotten onto this cloud, check out the post.
  7. State court proposes big change in blogger credentials offers a new case study to add to my burgeoning collection of press credential processes that include bloggers (or not).  In this case, look at the process used to put the proposal together, which included traditional journalists, bloggers, court officials and a public comment process in which even you can participate.
  8. The networked communicator: Skills you need now offered a handful of useful perspectives and resources to make sure you've got the right skills to list on all those online profiles you use to network your way into new opportunities.
  9. Should I make the leap? ask would-be indie communicators -- and this post attempted to answer the questions I most frequently get from this group. If you're thinking through your options, it's a great place to start.
  10. Small plates: Packable tools for communicators is a late November post that came into its own with readers this month. It's my stash of gadgets that travel with me and make me more efficient and effective. And this post tells you about the workhorse tool I managed to leave off this list.
This week's a good one to sign up for the For Communications Directors free newsletter (links below). The first edition of 2011 will be out next week, and the content appears on the newsletter before it appears here on the blog, so you get the first look.  And tomorrow, the top 10 posts of 2010.

Happy new year! And if you'd like to see more or less of any topic on the blog in 2011, leave a comment here.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What would you like to see more/less of on the blog in 2011?

Thanks to a prompt from Georgy Cohen, I'm asking this question on all of my blogs (and Facebook pages): What would you like to see more/less of in 2011?

In the next two days, I'll be posting December's top posts as well as the top posts for the year...but feel free to suggest regular features, big issues or questions you want answered here, and I'll do my best to make them part of 2011 content on the blog.

Thanks for your ideas and interest...


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Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

8 ways with Evernote, for communicators

Last year, a couple of my freelance writers asked whether I use Evernote, so I explored it--and found lots of possibilities for my personal life and my business. Now, I'm an affiliate, and I include an Evernote "clip" button at the end of blog posts so you can save them directly to your Evernote notebooks. Communicators, in particular, can use Evernote effectively. Here are 8 ways to use Evernote that I recommend to my clients:
  1. News coverage clippings:  Doesn't matter whether your good news appeared in a screenshot online, in a hard-copy publication, on the radio or on a television broadcast.  Clip and save it, or scan the hard copy it into Evernote using one of several compatible scanners. (I like the portable Doxie scanner or the Droid Scan app, both of which know how to send what you scan to Evernote--or take a picture with your phone, using one of Evernote's mobile apps for iPhone or Android phones.)  Once you've captured it in Evernote, it's searchable and accessible, whether you're online, on your desktop app or on your mobile device. And if you need to share that clip, or an entire notebook of them, you can do so by emailing them from Evernote, or giving others access to your notebook electronically.
  2. Pre-interview briefing package: Getting an expert ready for a media interview?  Scan, clip or save all the relevant articles, videos and notes you've created--from talking points to your insights about a particular reporter--then give your expert access to the notes to have handy during an interview, and for advance preparation.  If you've already been saving string for this interview, just search Evernote and pull the relevant items into a notebook to share.  You can email a series of notes in one email, or give (and later remove) access to a full notebook through sharing and permissions. (Go ahead and do the same for the reporter if you like.)
  3. Archiving your tweets.  Follow @myEN to get a link that will let you log into Evernote and link your Twitter account; you can also send tweets to @myEN to store them. 
  4. Crisis background at your fingertips:  If you take the time to scan, clip or save the background you might need in a crisis--from talking points to core documents--you can have immediate access to them in Evernote, just by searching keywords. And if you have the mobile app, you can run that crisis pressroom from your phone, expanding your abilities under fire or on the road.
  5. Writing:  You have scraps of ideas, outlines, half-written drafts, notes from your editor, the memo from last year that you're supposed to remake (but not too much) for this year's version, eight news releases' worth of background information.  Scan or clip them all into Evernote where they can get searched, revised and referred to wherever you are.  Writing's one of my favorite tasks to do within Evernote. Never toss another idea or inspiration again.  You can tag extensively, which makes your ability to search more effective. Check out how best-selling author Tim Ferriss used Evernote to write his latest book, The 4-Hour Body.
  6. Networking:  One of the simplest and most useful ways to use Evernote is to take a photo of a new contact at a conference--and once it's in Evernote, you can even search the text on a nametag in a photo.  Evernote's mobile apps include special photo functions, so you can snap and save in one click.  You can do the same with business cards.
  7. Brainstorming scrapbooks or storyboards:  You can pull images, video, music, and text from sources that inspire you, then organize them into a cohesive outline, storyboard or notebook full of ideas--and share them with your team, too.
  8. Competitive assessment:  Keeping tabs on your competitor's (er, colleague's) website, news platform, latest speeches, YouTube channel?  Save the inspiration and notes that will help you make the case to tackle those things anew in Evernote.  You can save entire web pages, or select portions of them; if Evernote's on your desktop, a right-click will bring up a menu that includes a one-click "Add to Evernote" option.
You can follow the Evernote blog, where they're sharing how other communicators, designers and others are using the service, and the trunk, in which you can find pre-populated notebooks as well as compatible devices and apps to make you even more efficient.  Premium service lets you store more capacity in more formats, makes PDFs searchable, adds secure encryption and lets you offer others the chance to edit your notes to make this a collaboration tool.  Let me know how you're using this versatile tool.

On social networks: What to share when you don't know what to share

When clients and colleagues are starting out in social networks and contemplating what to post, they nearly always hit a wall that sounds something like, "But what am I supposed to be sharing with people? I don't want to be telling people what I ate for lunch."

Perhaps not (although I am glued to Twitter when good home cooks or my favorite top chefs tell me what private meals they're making). This isn't just about whether to post personal stuff versus professional stuff, although that's part of it. It's people struggling to come up with content, to envision what they might have to say that others want to hear. The good news: You have plenty to share. Here are 7 ideas to get you started:
  1. What you're reading right now: Plenty of experts, journalists and others used to pushing out polished information rather than sharing raw material ask me, "What could I possibly share?"  "What you're reading" is always my first answer. Some bloggers are doing this well. Check out current reading lists from food writers and a librarian.  Or go the easy route: Many of my shares are articles I'm reading in Google Reader, which makes it easy for me to post them.
  2. Your history: Robert Scoble thinks sharing your history is the next big thing in sharing socially, and especially likes Memolane's new features (although Foursquare now has some history-sharing features). Essentially, these options let you show where you've been; Memolane does this in a comprehensive timeline. Scoble's post has a code so you can take Memolane out on a test drive.
  3. What you're listening to:  Listening to Miles Davis while you edit? Monsters of Folk when you start making dinner? Found a new Dylan rarity?  These leaven the flow of work tweets and add a dimension to you that gives your followers something they can relate to, strengthening your ties. Add a video or audio link, while you're at it.
  4. Who's on your list? Seth Godin's post got me thinking you should be sharing your list of the people you like to read, work with and play with. You might do that via #FollowFriday on Twitter, or by retweeting their posts; by introducing them to others on Facebook; or recommending them on LinkedIn. But putting your trusted network out there expands your influence.
  5. Where you're going:  Many apps like TripIt and Foursquare make this easy to do, and you can control the amount of detail you're sharing. But where you're going does much more than say "I'm out of the office." Among other things, it encourages folks to reach out when you're in their city, and makes it easier for you to get tips and advice on the ground when you travel.
  6. Something about you: No, you don't have to share everything, but do choose 2 or 3 things to share that make you more than one-dimensional. For me, those things are usually music, cooking and travel. Again, you'll help strengthen your networks--much as you do when those topics come up in person.
  7. What you're presenting:  Patrick Powers, in 3 ways universities could better use SlideShare, offers a rationale and tips all organizations and companies might well heed.  You also can use Twitter effectively to share what you're presenting; check out these 14 ways to integrate Twitter into your public speaking from The Eloquent Woman blog.
And if you're lazy, or smart, make sure your posts are shareable by others. Chris Brogan walks you through how to make shareability a priority.

Related posts: How I balance personal and professional on Twitter

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Monday, December 27, 2010

When you need to announce the obvious: Three ways to confirm what you think is clear


Your news may not seem like news...to you, it's as plain as the nose on your face. No need to announce that, you say. But it's just at that moment that you may need an assumption check, as a smart communicator. There have always been situations that required pro forma announcements and housekeeping items, but the social media world has made everyone's deadlines tighter--and trained us all to look for updates and confirmations. 

Thus, you may need to plan ahead to include announcements of the obvious, lest your audiences fill the void with rumor, confusion, anger or worse.  (And if you're concerned about looking ridiculous by stating the obvious, Scott Berkun tells you why that's okay.)  Here are a few situations where communicators might need to announce the obvious:
  • Tell us you're open when you're open: University Relations blog shares a winter storm lesson in social media communication, in which the University of Michigan-Flint learned it needed to announce on social networks that it was open during a storm, rather than limit announcements to closings or changes in the always-open status. You'll learn a lot from this case study, and may want to follow the lead of the U.S. government, which has its status noted on the Office of Personnel Management homepage (look for the "operating status" button at top right) 24/7, so there's no mistake.
  • Publish something to explain why you're not publishing:  On a day when social-network rumors were flying about an embargoed NASA announcement, Embargo Watch blog posted in the morning to remind eager readers why it wouldn't be posting until later that day.  And Reference Library blog, which doesn't publish on Mondays, reminds you of that this way every week.  Likewise, if your blog has "daily" or "weekly" in the title and you're going to deviate from that assumption, tell your readers.
  • Tell us when you're not ready to tell us.  When you have a packed room full of reporters waiting for you to brief them during a full-on crisis, and you're delayed (as well you might be) in bringing out the principal speakers to share details and answer questions, go tell the assembled press corps at regular intervals that you don't have anything yet, and that you will be back in 10 minutes to let them know more--even if the "more" is to say, "I'm back here at 2:10pm to say that we do not yet have all the facts pulled together. I will be back in 10 minutes to update you on our progress, and when we do have a statement, I will be giving you a five-minute heads-up announcement." There's a practical consideration here: If your news is that big, you'll have reporters waiting to go live with your news conference. Telling them "We'll be out here with statements and to take questions in 10 minutes" lets them prepare.  And even if you're just marking time, you'll be alleviating the frustration of waiting without receiving information of any kind. Read more about accommodating reporters in a crisis here.
Have you heard--or had to make--announcements of the obvious? Add to our list of examples in the comments.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Closed for the holiday

I'll be celebrating the Christmas holiday with my family this weekend, so your next post from don't get caught will be on Monday, December 27, 2010--just in time to wrap up the year.  If you're celebrating, I wish you a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is your social strategy shifting along with the audience? 6 new data sources

Audiences are shifting, and social media shifts along with them.  I've been collecting new data reports on how audiences are using social sites in the past few weeks, so you can start 2011 with a new playlist that will cater to the fan favorites. Here's what your readers, users and sharers are focused on:
  1. Twitter is maturing and its users are changing their sharing habits. Brian Solis analyzes a new report from monitoring service Sysomos that looks at the new directions in great detail (it's a long post with lots of charts, so make sure you give this one the time it deserves.  Among the changes:  The majority (73 percent) provide a detailed name or descriptor, up from just 33 percent last year; 45 percent share a URL in their profiles, up from 22 percent last year. And the majority now want you to know their location, a big jump from last year.  It's seen as a sign the site is getting more personal, among other things.
  2. Facebook users update their status one-fifth as often as Twitter users:  All Facebook has the details: "just over half of all Tweeple update their statuses daily while a little more than one out of every ten Facebookers do so every day."  There's much more here, particularly in the differences between the two audiences' preferences for following brands and other marketing implications.  It'd be wise to think this report through while keeping in mind the actual numbers, since Twitter is not only a smaller universe, but the percentage of those updating frequently is tiny. Use the Sysomos report above as a barometer. But in case you're worried about Facebook, don't be: All Facebook also uses new stats to assure us that Facebook is still on fire.
  3. Got a corporate blog? Publish early and socialize late:  Social Times teases out more metrics about timing your posts, and thinks it's found the sweet spot to boost your page views *and* social sharing. The trick is that they happen at different times of day, based on audience activity.
  4. But are these really mass-market audiences? Forrester thinks so in this post with four signs that social media is a mass medium.  Some comparisons are made with television viewing, email and other traditional media.
  5. But wait!  Pew's latest research suggests everyone uses email and it's blogging that's on the wane. (Forrester cites data that email use is diminishing compared to social media use, which includes blogging.)  The real answer: It depends what age group you're talking about. There's an extensive chart detailing which generations and age groups use which media, and you'll want to take the time to compare this information with what you know about your own audiences. 
  6. Hold that space for data to come:  Publishing site Scribd, as of November, offers a new set of statistics about your readers, available to anyone who's uploaded content to the site.

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Did you leave training money on the table in 2010?

Did you leave your professional development training money on the table by not spending it in time? Gosh, I hope not. But at the end of every fiscal year--whether that happens now for you or in the summer--I have clients who call and say, "Quick! We need to spend our training budget. Can you hurry up and...."  I'm always happy to help, but you (and your team members) will get much more from training that's part of a larger plan and tied to your goals.

If your answer is "Training money? What training money?" remember, it's still important to have a plan ready. If training was cut from your budget, but you're not ready to say why it should be restored, or how you'd spend it if it were brought back, you might wind up missing a major opportunity. Use those unfunded months to stay on top of what you and your team need to learn, so you're ready when that door opens again.

I'd love to work with you to come up with something that fits into your plans and helps your team achieve its goals in 2011, no matter when your fiscal year ends. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz to set up time for a consultation. Here are some examples of the trainings I did for clients in 2010:
  • Social media content development trainings on things like how to mature a blog or developing a strategic Twitter feed and how to manage it effectively;
  • Coaching for communications directors or managers to work on their professional development goals, build teamwork or help their operation shift from traditional to social media, or a mix of both, effectively;
  • Workshops to train scientists and engineers to translate technical topics into clear, concise messages for public audiences without "dumbing down" the content or losing needed detail, for experts based at universities, government agencies and corporations;
  • Pitching workshops for media relations teams to practice skills needed to reach reporters effectively via email and phone, with data on what reporters expect and want from those exchanges and how to add value to them;
  • Extemporaneous speaking workshops to help executives learn how to present without a script or notes, develop memorable messages, handle audience questions on their feet, and incorporate gesture, movement, visuals and props effectively into a presentation or speech; and
  • One-on-one coaching for public speakers to address issues better suited to private training or to focus intensely on improving a specific presentation or talk.
Learn more about my retreats for communicators, training for communicators, or training for your experts, executives and scientists.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

11 communications blogs I'm reading

I love me a blog. Actually, dozens of them. But there's nothing quite like finding a new one and deciding that you must subscribe to it. Good blogs are inviting, getting you to come in from the cold and chat up the bartender. Good blogs about your work make work feel like happy hour.  I don't maintain a blogroll, so let me share some of the communications, social media and writing blogs I've discovered that may have escaped your notice, although those who follow me may have already found these in my shares. I'd be glad to buy the next round for these bloggers:
  • Brains On Fire is a phrase I use to describe my most creative moments. It's also a company that creates engagement "movements" and brand identities, and the blog's crisp, savvy, and not at all afraid to have fun. My kinda people, too numerous to mention here.
  • Brass Tack Thinking always gets at thorny communications issues from an intriguing angle. Amber Naslund of Radian 6 and Tamsen McMahon of  Sametz Blackstone Associates are the co-authors.
  • Louis Gray says his blog is for "early adopters, technology geeks, RSS addicts and Mac freaks."  He's the managing director of new media at Paladin Advisors Group, and for me, a must-read. Always thoughtful and innovative, focused on the next thing. 
  • Higher Ed Marketing by Andrew Careaga, communications director of the Missouri University for Science and Technology (best.acronym.ever).  Another one who hits 'em out of the park on a regular basis. Watch, also, for his music recommendations.
  • LizUnMuzzled is Liz Wainger's strategic communications blog. Her specialty is nonprofit communications, but her observations cut across sectors to find good ideas and cautionary tales.
  • The Enlightened PIO by David Harris is a recent blog that's already got great perspectives. The title comes from his mentor's highest compliment for a good communicator, and something we're all aspiring to be, right?
  • The Plainspoken Scientist, from the American Geophysical Union's Maria-Jose Vinas takes a different approach, speaking to scientists about how they can be clear in communicating with public audiences in a wide variety of ways: talks, slides, blogging and more. Great examples here--some contributed by scientists--for any experts or technical types.
  • In Case of Emergency, Read Blog is the blog of John Solomon, a smart communicator focused on emergency preparedness topics (and a guest poster on this blog). John died in November due to complications from a bone marrow transplant to treat his leukemia. The blog's still up at this writing, loaded with useful information and a thorough-going approach to the topic. He is missed.
  • Embargo Watch blog, by Reuters Health executive editor Ivan Oransky is one of my new favorites this year--probably because I no longer manage embargoes. If you deploy news under embargo, you'll learn a lot by reading this "what not to do" blog that also is happy to share good models.
  • King Kaufman blogs on the future of journalism with the smarts of a sports writer. What's not to like about that? He takes the time to examine issues closely...a bit like watching fastballs, then taking apart the movement for you.  Crisp, smart writing.
  • Librarian by Day is Bobbi Newman's blog, and she's wide-ranging: public speaking, social media, gadgets, reading, and more. She just took a new book on the science of shopping and turned it around to look at the "retail" aspects of libraries (something you could do if your business involves people coming into your building to get information products, too).
Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

The networked communicator: Social shapes your search results

If you've taken the first step in being a networked communicator, you've already rethought your online profiles.  They're ubiquitous on social networks. But what are they doing for you?

Shaping your search results, that's what. The most basic and important utility of your online profiles is to help you remake what people see when they enter your name in a search engine...as well as when they find you on a site.

Take a look at my Google search results, left. You'll see my bios from my two blogs and my Twitter feed right at the top--no surprise, since those sites are where I publish almost daily. Frequency of posts help to move things higher in search results, which is why blogs are such a great search-engine optimization tool. My LinkedIn, Blogger and Facebook profiles follow.

Then follow two much more recent entries:  a profile from one of my professional groups, which asked me to submit a bio for a panel I helped organize for a conference this fall, and my About.me profile, which includes a personalized URL that includes my full name, also a help with search engines.  (I've only had the About.me profile since late October of this year; the site opened its beta to the public and was bought by AOL this week.) Those two entries are followed by two more profiles in frequent use in my work: My Google profile, and my New York Times "Times People" profile.

What does all that mean? Here's my take:
  1. I'm in charge of my search results.  You're not finding lots of other Denise Gravelines (yes, there are some) or random mentions. When you Google my name, you get the profiles I want you to see. 
  2. The profiles you see aren't all the same.  Each one takes advantage of the formats available, and leads you to the places I want you to explore to find out more about me and my work. The most diverse profile is my Google profile, because it offers the most flexibility to add links. And even the shortest profile, on Twitter, has a profile-within-the-profile, because it links to the "about" page on this blog...a great way to pack a lot in a small space.
  3. Profiles with customizable URLs can move up in your search results, fast.  I often use my company name, don't get caught, as my handle (say, on Twitter) and in some cases, I use my name. My About.me profile includes my name in the URL, and is high up in these search results despite being the newest of my profiles. So don't pass those vanity URLs by, when you have the choice: you can get them on Facebook, About.me, LinkedIn and other sites.
  4. You can learn about much more than my bio.  From my blogs, you can see what I'm working on, who my clients are, and how I write and think as a consultant--and for potential clients, that's gold.  From Twitter and TimesPeople, you can see what I'm reading and sharing for others to read, on a wide range of topics...and because I do not relentlessly tweet about my business, you get to know more about me as a person, so we can feel as if we know each other a little when we do meet. Some profiles have started adding the option to include videos, slideshows and more to make it possible for you to expand how you and your work samples are seen.
  5. You can see where I've been speaking. As someone who's a frequent speaker, and a trainer of speakers, this is important marketing for me.  Having recent presentations or panels (even those for which I'm the organizer rather than the speaker) show up helps advance that aspect of my work.
  6. Your social graph shapes your search results.  Here's a new YouTube video from Google's webmaster, explaining that they've begun to gauge your influence and use it in search algorithms:

What do your search results look like?  Do they reflect what you want people to see? What will you need to do to improve them?  I'd love to hear your results, tips and experiences in the comments.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Delicious lessons: Why it's important to stay flexible and try new social media tools

If you were among those taken aback by Yahoo's apparent decision to end or sell off bookmarking site Delicious (leaked last week, then sort-of denied by Yahoo), you're not alone. There's a smart lesson or two here for communicators and social-media managers to consider, chief among them whether you are making the mistake of falling in love with just one or two tools, site features or apps.

Social media's getting mature enough that it has its own versions now of people clinging to typewriters and fountain pens. But companies and suppliers come and go, free options get replaced by paid ones, your favorite site may be bought up and left unloved (like my beloved FriendFeed) by its new owners, which means diminishing functionality and poor service. Even a robust service like Facebook will continue changing its options (as in its decision to get page administrators to move away from FBML as a publishing tool).

Your job? Dave Fleet notes it's best not to put all your social-media eggs in one basket. I'd take it a step further and say that you should solve two problems at once:  Keep trying new social media tools, not just to stay on top of trends and new options, but to make sure your options are wide open when a favorite site can no longer support you. Don't play favorites. And do get some great backup systems (more than one).  I use Backupify for most social sites, but I also archive tweets in Google Reader and use Evernote to retain things on a long-term basis.

What are you using to backup your social posts, explore new sites and move out of Delicious? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Are you making the most of comments? 7 options

Comments. Whether you're posting on a blog, Facebook, Twitter or some other social app, at first, you yearn for comments...and then you get them. But what are you doing with comments?Here's a handful of ideas to use them effectively. Leave your suggestions in the comments to add to the list:

  1. Ask for, and answer, questions:  It's simple, but commenters often are surprised when their questions get answered...which tells me too many posters aren't bothering. Your answers can point them to relevant blog posts, photos, links, and ideas, and build relationships in the process.
  2. Ask readers to finish your thoughts. If you write a post that answers all questions, or seems to, you might be leaving folks with nothing more to add. Throw the topic open to discussion instead--then do a follow-up post based on the replies.
  3. Use comments to fuel new posts of your own:  Your readers love to see themselves on the web, so cull answers from your Facebook page or Twitter feed, and summarize them on your blog, website or other showcase. Build posts around responses and answers, linking back to your respondents. This helps advance the conversation and encourage others to respond.
  4. Take comments to the next level: When a comment adds content, perspective and archival quality to your video, photo or other multimedia post, run with it. Annotate your video, audio or photo with selected comments. Here's how to link to a comment on your YouTube video and share it, with tips on annotation. And Foursquare has just announced photos and comments options for iPhone users--meaning, among other things, that you can show a picture of the restaurant meal you're complaining about, and you can directly comment on your friends' check-ins, without posting to Twitter or Facebook.
  5. Encourage a series of comments on a recurring basis.  Once a week, ask for particular types of comments, and let readers know what you're doing so they'll look for the opening.  On The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, I've tried "Talk to Me Tuesdays," encouraging questions from readers about public speaking and presenting--many weeks, we have long threads of questions and answers. You might hold "office hours," conduct a new-member question time, ask for customer feedback, and more.
  6. When you get reader questions, ask other readers to share what they know.  Sure, you could answer that question. But hold back a bit, and ask readers to chime in. You'll then have a host of ideas, potential new posts, and more engagement.
  7. Know when to hold back. You need not comment on every comment--and it's smart to wait to see how the conversation develops before you chime in. Let other readers share, and make sure your replies aren't inadvertently cutting off the conversation.
What are your tactics for making the most of comments? You know where to leave them....

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekly writing coach: Write me a guest post


UPDATE: I'm not soliciting guest posts, and this post is from an exercise I asked readers to do in 2010. Please, no submissions!

Oh, the guest posts I've solicited. Really, they could shut down my blogs, they're that good. They have smart insights, unique perspectives, jewel-like writing. They're just the right length. Better, they offer a perspective I can't muster, no matter how I try. They expand the views I can offer to my readers and clients.

Or they would, if I had them.

Mind you, guest posters who have come through tell me I make the process easier than anyone else. Edits are minimal or non-existent, my editor's notes brag about you without getting all goofy, and I'll even illustrate them and let you know how they were received. I don't set deadlines or word counts, and so far, haven't had to do so.

So here's this week's challenge: Write me a guest post by January 31, 2011--a little over a month from now.  Read enough of this blog (or The Eloquent Woman, my blog on women and public speaking, or Vegetables for Breakfast, my blog about local vegetables, cooking and participating in a community-supported agriculture subscription from a farmer).  You can fit it into one of my many series (like, say, weekly writing coach) or not. It needn't be long, perfect, or earth-shattering.  Send it to me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.  I'll publish those that fit, and heap praises upon you....and share my audience.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

Weekends are the cupcakes of the week, right? Short and sweet. That's what Twitter is like for me--it's still my favorite social network for discussing and sharing issues of the day, and certainly short. I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter and here are some of the finds I shared this week--call them the sprinkles on your weekend cupcake, if you like:

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Director's perspective: Clouds for communicators

(Editor's note: From time to time, I ask communications pros to share perspectives here on tools they're using and how you can benefit from them. Joe Bonner experiments early and often with social media and tech tools, so I'm glad we can learn what's caught his attention. Bonner is the director of communications and public affairs for Rockefeller University in New York City.)

I love clouds, and I'm not referring to the 1969 Joni Mitchell album, though I love that, too. I'm talking about data clouds, websites where you can store files and retrieve them no matter where you are -- whether it's at work, at home, or in a coffee shop -- as long as you have an Internet connection. Before the advent of cloud services, I would routinely email files to myself if I needed to work on a document outside the office, or transfer the files to a USB storage device. My current favorite cloud service, Dropbox, makes things a lot easier for me, and has also saved me from getting caught without an important file on at least one occasion. 

The principle behind Dropbox is simple. You install the Dropbox application on your computer and create an account. Dropbox acts like folder on your hard disk. The beauty of Dropbox is that, every file you add to your Dropbox folder is synced on each computer that has the Dropbox app installed. Dropbox files are also retrievable from your account on the Dropbox website.

If that weren't cool enough, Dropbox also has apps for iOS, Android and Blackberry devices. And this is what saved me recently when a reporter called me after I had left the office -- just as I was about to hit the road for a five hour drive -- asking for a copy of a press release for a story he was on deadline for that evening. I had saved the document in Dropbox, and I was able to grab it using the Dropbox app on my Android phone and email to the reporter within a matter of minutes.

There's another Dropbox feature that I think has great potential for communicators: Dropbox allows you to create a shareable link to any file in your account. A lot of us are creating media -- video, audio or images -- to help us tell our stories, and if that story is an embargoed research paper, Dropbox makes it easy to create a link to that can be embedded in a news release instead of attaching a massive file. Just make sure that you share that link with trusted recipients. And if you do try  this, be sure to read Dropbox's advice on keeping your Dropbox files secure.


Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coming attractions in communications: What I'll be screening in 2011


red carpetComing soon to a theater near you: These are the communications and social media trends I see that will start to change the way you do business, if they haven't already begun to take hold in your work today. I'm already planning to incorporate these trends into my strategy-building and training for clients:
  • The changing roles of reporters and their online audiences--and the communicators who are go-betweens:  The Guardian's head of digital engagement has created a visual that shows where the new action will be. For journalists, it lies in how involved they get with coverage after it's published; for users, how involved they get before stories are published. And just where, communicators, do you fit in?
  • You'll see fewer lone "digital engagement" specialists at newspapers that have mastered the merge with social media (the New York Times has already redirected staffing in this area, the Guardian expects to do so). If your communications shop has enough experience with it, you, too, should be considering inculcating social media tasks across many positions, but building coordination into your social media policies--something I'm helping clients with right now.  (Some newspapers are still adding these positions, mostly to evangelize and train reporters in organizations where adoption of the new tools has been slower. See an update here.)
  • Mobile first, people--not secondary, not an afterthought. Too many communicators are focused on how much of a web page they can jam into a mobile interface, when in fact, they should be starting with the mobile offering first, and letting the rest flow from that. Steve Buttry's mobile first strategy for newspapers might help you start thinking this way. And consider that we've learned Facebook users are far more engaged and active when on mobile devices
  • It's not just where, but when, your audience is online that's important. Timing--both day of week and time of day--plays a critical role for communicators. More data is now available on when audiences are accessing information and sharing it: data for blogging, data on how online news sites are used and when, and data on when Facebook users are most active. Your communications plans, tactics and staffing need to start reflecting these data in 2011.
  • Limiting your publishing and broadcasting options to your own channels will backfire. If you're going to grow your audience, find audiences you don't know now and meet users where they wants to be, you'll need to get past your own publishing walls to use alternatives like Amazon, RSS, SlideShare and other publishing options. This advances your reach to the audiences who are increasingly seeking "on demand" media.
  • Some trends just keep getting stronger. Online video continues to stand as the most popular, most-used format in social media--again, not a frill or afterthought for your audience. Two billion videos are watched daily on YouTube alone, and 24 hours of video are uploaded every minute. Facebook's half-billion users span nearly every age bracket, and its pages are a basic communications tool for corporations and nonprofits. Next come innovative uses of those stalwarts--for example, we're starting to see more online commerce options on both YouTube and Facebook, among others. 
If you were already a subscriber to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, you'd have received this article much earlier--the newsletter features content before it appears here on the blog.  Sign up at the link, then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Making a Twitter list of science/environment/medical communicators at #scicomm

I'm making a list (but not checking it twice):  I'd like to know names of communicators working in science, medical or environmental topics who are on Twitter.  My goal is to come up with a thorough-going compilation of those communications pros, so we can all subscribe to that list.

Can you help?  Send a tweet addressed to @dontgetcaught on Twitter, include the hashtag #scicomm, then list the Twitter handles of anyone who should be listed.  I'll report back with the list.  Feel free, also, to put your suggestions in the comments on this post, if that's easier for you.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Weekly writing coach: Tap-on-the-shoulder edition

So, let's face it: Writers need prompts, nudges, reminders, taps on the shoulder or taps of the foot to get things done. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know here. But how to do it?

Rather than have them come from, oh, your editors, why not schedule your own reminders with Alertful, a free new service that sends cute email reminders at intervals you choose. I'd use this type of reminder service for:

  • Ultimate deadline reminders
  • Prompts to self-edit a few days before submittal
  • Prompts to proofread
  • Reminders about followup phone calls or interview questions
  • Encouraging messages during a long slog
  • Reminders to go take a walk or other break
Download Squad describes the service here,  and you can see a sample message below:


Would you try this--or have you tried another, similar service? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Is a small staff an advantage when it comes to social media?

“Our members know who all of us are and what all of us do.”


That's a social-media advantage cited by one association executive with a seven-person staff, who commented on this post on Small staff associations: Ahead of the social-media curve?  Organizational culture, individual behavior and a simpler internal process are among the social-media strengths cited as pluses in the post. 


But you don't need to work at a nonprofit society or association to appreciate these qualities--you might be at a small business, a law office, a tiny communications unit at a university, a one-person marketing team.  All you need is a small staff.  (You might want to subscribe to the Memberclicks.com Splash blog, with its focus on small-staff organizations, for more inspiration.)


And let's not forget the reason so many small organizations turn to social media:  To expand their reach and do more with less budget. Here's an example: how the Knight Foundation is using Skype to make simple, inexpensive videos to use in announcements, speeches and more.

You'll find more ideas for small staff organizations using social media in the new book Open Community.
What's your example of something social you've found to be easier/better/more effective with a small staff? Share it with us in the comments. (A hat tip to social and web strategist Emily Culbertson for pointing me to these resources.)


Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

New case study: State court proposes big change in blogger credentials

Here's another case study to put in your blogger credentials file: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court is proposing sweeping changes in the state's "cameras in the courtroom" law to cover all electronic access, Twitter, and blogging--and expanded the definition of who may cover and report on court cases.

When you consider that the previous law allowed for one fixed video camera and one fixed still camera, with images shared among news organizations in a pool arrangement, the new proposal widens the possibilities considerably. Media Shift/Idea Lab's post spells it out, giving you a lot to work with as a model:
....web news editors, reporters and bloggers would have the same privileges as traditional media outlets. In addition to electronic recording devices like still and video cameras, journalists will be able to use their laptops and smartphones to cover the state's courts. The journalists will be allowed to transmit text, audio and video through these devices allowing them to provide live coverage of the courts.
All members of the media, large and small, would be required to register with the state's chief public information officer. The registration requires that the member of the media comply with the rules outlined in the new statute and that they regularly report news in some form. The statute is intentionally broad in its definition of what constitutes a member of the media and allows the state court's public information officer to make the final determination. 
Reporters from mainstream news organizations, a local blogger, lawyers, judges and clerks of the court participated in the proposal process, also offering you a great model for proceeding with your own blogger credential policy.  The Media Shift/Idea Lab post walks you through that process, as well as the proposal.

Where do you go from here? I'd suggest using this proposal (and the process) to rethink your own approach. Can you convene a few reporters, bloggers, experts, and contributors to craft a proposal for your new policy?  Include partner organizations' communicators if you often issue joint news announcements or otherwise collaborate in making news. Who else needs to weigh in?  Your proposal will have that much more credibility if the users are involved in the process--and you won't miss crucial details.

You also can read the proposed amendment and participate in the public comment period here.  Comments must be submitted on or before January 28, so share this with reporters, bloggers and public information officers now.

Related posts:  7 savvy ways to incorporate bloggers in your media relations

Credentialling bloggers: 13 examples


Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter and this week, I shared lots of good reads and useful tips from others. This week was no exception, yielding a great weekend read for you:


And here, two items I favorited this week, also on Twitter:
But wait! A bonus just in from Nancy Schwartz of Getting Attention! blog: She's just issued the Nonprofit Tagline Database with 4,800+ organizational, program, fundraising campaign and special event taglines, along with a report to help you think through and craft taglines and other nonprofit messages. See all the resources here.

Enjoy the weekend!

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.