Monday, January 31, 2011

January's top 10 communications tips & issues

Did you hit or miss the mark in this first month of 2011? No matter. Here at don't get caught, I make sure you don't miss a thing. Catch up here with the most-read posts this month, covering communications, media relations, and social media. Here are January's top 10:

  1. Call it the CEO secret: Posterous's new features make it even easier to blog gives you some updates and links to the new features on Posterous, the blogging site that makes blogging as easy as sending an email. Lots of new tools here, from mobile apps to slideshows--all via email, if you like.
  2. Revisitng Twitter corrections in the wake of the Arizona shootings reflects a widespread discussion on that social-sharing site after one news organization misreported Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's death--and others retweeted the error. Good suggestions and considerations for your own Twitter correction plan--you do have one, don't you?
  3. 8 ways with Evernote, for communicators shares ways I use this popular note-taking and -sharing tool that comes with desktop and mobile applications, from storing clippings to keeping track of receipts and business cards. I'll be adding to this list with another post shortly.  A late December 2010 post that many more caught up with in January.
  4. My January 6 roundup of my weekly share on Twitter -- what I call your "weekend read" -- was jammed with great new tips and features, so I'm not surprised it made the month's top 10.  Check it out; I do a similar roundup every Friday.
  5. Top tech pros discuss fast-lane changes in communications features a video of a panel discussion with some of Silicon Valley's top PR pros. The trends they discuss--from corrections on Twitter to working without embargoes--are ones you need to get ready for, because they're heading your way.
  6. How social media *really* works at meetings gives you some real-life lessons that range from what it's like to arrange the IT and AV for a socialized meeting, to home truths about wi-fi at meetings. Good examples and cautionary tales here.
  7. Your content strategy: What kind of breakfast is it like? prompts you to reconsider offering an all-you-can-eat buffet and steers you toward the mobile breakfast sandwich approach when it comes to your online offerings.
  8. 4 from the floor: Reporters react to your media-relations strategies shares views from newsmongers that might help you adjust your approaches, from embargoes to meeting support for reporters to standing out from the crowd. Helpful, straight talk.
  9. Blogger press credentials: The Storified view from the street shares a compendium of real-life experiences bloggers have had trying to get credentialed, and what they have to say about it. Wince, but read this.
  10. Where to catch me rounds up some of my scheduled stops in January and February. Next month finds me in Chicago, Washington and New York City. Send me a message at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz if we can meet up.
The free monthly For Communications Directors email newsletter's out next week, so now's a great time to sign up...see the link below.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

In the week we're finishing, a friend visiting Washington said, "At first, you followed me and I thought, 'Who's this dontgetcaught person?'" That's me: I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter. And this week, among other things, I used Twitter to arrange several meetings in New York in early February, solicit a couple of guest posts for my blogs, background reporters. As usual, I shared lots of links and tips from others. Here's the best of what I shared and favorited this week:

  • Comments get a boost for online video: Google's going to use a recent acquisition to build integrated comments for its YouTube videos, aggregating comments from sites like Facebook and Twitter, where those vids are frequently shared. How frequently? Facebookers watch the equivalent of 150 years of YouTube videos every day.
  • Find of the week: Tweetdeck's Deck.ly:  Joe Bonner gets the hat tip for this find, but I'm already a power user of Deck.ly--Tweetdeck's new Chrome-based dashboard, on which you can monitor and post to all sorts of social sites. Just go to Tweetdeck.com for details. I'm using it to monitor and post to my Twitter account as well as two Facebook pages, my personal Facebook profile, and Google Buzz, so far. A power time-saver, and it's free.
  • When should you outsource your social media? Emily Culbertson shared this and I passed it along like a hot potato. A thoughtful read, worth considering.
  • Make the most of live public speaking: New Zealand speaking coach Olivia Mitchell's got a great blog post about using the "magic of live" when you speak--with all our online interacting, your speech or presentation gets a boost because of its in-person qualities.
And the favorites o' the week:
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Top tech pros discuss fast lane changes in communications [video]

I wish more of my professional conferences would put on panels like this one from the DLD (Digital Life Design) conference. Veteran tech journalist Kara Swisher moderates a panel of top tech communications pros that's worth the half-hour of your time it will take to watch.

Swisher put it together to showcase what she sees as dramatic changes in the communications landscape, particularly for companies whose products go "viral in seconds." Even if you're not a high-tech communicator with viral products, that world has been upending how the rest of us handle communications and media relations, shaping how reporters, bloggers and public audiences react to traditional methods of making announcements--and what they expect from us.

The panel includes Margit Wennmachers, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz; Brooke Hammerling, founder of Brew Media Relations; and Brandee Barker, the first communications executive at Facebook. Swisher does a deft job setting the stage by asking them what kinds of technology they used to do public relations when they first started out, and those descriptions will sound familiar: faxes, press kit stuffing, writing press releases. Barker recalls one job where the CEO required her put out a press release every Monday to pump up the stock price (like that works) and says she was the first person to convince Facebook to put out a press release--but once she went to work at Facebook, never allowed releases to be issued.

As the panel talks about how communications work today and how it's changed, some insights emerge, among them:
  • Communications and marketing play a more central role. Rather than have someone hand you a new product after months of development, communications is included from the start of a venture, and there's more strategizing done directly with the CEO.
  • All the time windows are shorter. You no longer have months to strategize--it's more like minutes or hours. It's become essential and possible to hear feedback from the community quickly, and to move equally quickly to answer them.  CEOs are getting used to not taking criticism personally and even to apologizing to users...fast.
  • The coverage culture has shifted to accommodate the need for speed, to a write-it-first, correct-it-later approach. That makes it more important for communicators to monitor and correct errors on Twitter and other channels.
  • Communicators need to adjust to the things they can no longer control, widespread embargoes among them. "You're not going to get to control who hears what when" says Wennmachers, who note that tech companies used to be able to brief reporters under an embargo with little to no risk of the story breaking before the designated date and time, but "that doesn't work anymore." That's not to say that embargoes aren't used, but with the decline in reporters' ranks, companies are spending more time on cultivating relationships with top reporters and offering exclusive and early access to a few reporters and influencers who will later blog about it. (The Embargo Watch blog reported on one such influencer's transparency in 'fessing up to his breaking of a tech embargo.) The result, noted Hammerling, is that managing embargoes and advance information has become more complicated than ever--just what you didn't want to hear, time-wise. The panel also has a useful discussion about another inevitable outcome of social media: employee-leaked information.
  • At the same time, going into your cave and refusing to engage just won't work.  The importance of embracing difficult situations and engaging reporters directly during a PR disaster is emphasized.



There's much more in this video, and the teaming of a reporter with top communicators, all of whom share a healthy amount of respect and inside knowledge of how the others work, adds a lot to its appeal for me. What are your reactions?

Related posts: Revisiting corrections on Twitter in the wake of the Arizona shootings

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Your content strategy: What kind of breakfast is it like?

Never write a blog post when you're hungry. This is what happens.

I'll soon be facilitating a workshop for a client group that has started a blog, signed up teams of people to blog on it, and even produced content. They're just missing one thing: A content strategy. They're looking to make the blog one they can sustain over time, and they want a plan for doing that. So I'm going to propose breakfast, and the challenge will be to choose one approach from the following menu--the menu of choices I see other organizations making when it comes to content strategy:
  • The skipped breakfast:  You know this is bad for you, but you're avoiding it for fear of adding more weight--not to your waistline but to your schedule. Content strategies sound like work and time-wasting to some, just like breakfast. In fact, a good content strategy includes a content or editorial calendar, standing assignments, some room for variety or immediate responses (that "I feel like a donut today" option, if you will).  Far from weighing you down, it will free you up later, when you don't need to do this all over again.
  • The all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet:  This is the content strategy for those whose blogs or online content want to be all things to all people.  Somewhere in between the smoked salmon and the hush puppies, however, your audience won't know why it's there or who you really are...and you won't be offering anything specific enough to reach and engage them.  If you're strapped for time, money and staffing, make sure your eyes aren't bigger than your stomach--the old warning about loading up at buffets--and focus that strategy. You'll be glad you did.
  • The full traditional breakfast:  Here is a safe choice, you'd think. Eggs, bacon, toast, home fries, fruit, juice, coffee. But consider it in light of your content strategy:  A traditional full breakfast is full of content redundancies (two proteins, two starches, two beverages). It requires your audience to sit down and stay a while, to ask for additional condiments (hot sauce? ketchup?) and fills them more than perhaps they need.  While a smaller, more focused version of the buffet approach, it's still trying to over-cover the bases. And, like a full breakfast, many users order it without certain components or just leave them on the plate, in an attempt to customize it. If that's happening to content you're serving, time to think again.
  • The breakfast sandwich:  These days, I like this option best of all.  It starts with the premise of mobile option, rather than leaving that option as an afterthought. It's designed to be nimble, both for the server and the person consuming the content--no one wants to stand in a long line waiting for it.  It's fresh, hot and portable, something that can be eaten in small bites while adding up to a substantial meal. The user doesn't need a menu, and you can plan because you know what your regulars want. And they can consume that content-breakfast you're flinging in all sorts of locations: while walking, in the office, on a train, in the car. That makes you more, not less, of a constant companion.  And by the way: The cook who creates these small bites can tailor them better to the consumer of the sandwich. Works for everyone.
You can run through this menu for every type of online content, from blogs to Facebook pages and more. What kind of breakfast does your content strategy look like?


(Photo by cthoyes from Flickr)

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where to catch me: AAAS workshop for scientists


I'll be speaking at a special workshop at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Responsible Research Practices in a Changing Research Environment.  The February 17 workshop takes place in Washington, D.C. and is designed to help early career scientists develop a sense of ethical practices from accountability in their research funding to maintaining integrity when participating in the science policy process. My part of the program focuses on interactions with the news media:  what science reporters say they wish scientists would do in interviews, questions the scientists get to ask reporters, and understanding the difference between their role and a reporter's role in an interview.  We'll talk about scientists' responsibilities in public outreach as well.

Pre-registration is required for the session, which is limited to scientists only, and you can see the full agenda here.  I'm the former director of communications for AAAS, so this speaking opportunity allows me to reunite with longtime colleagues for a good cause.  Got a tip you want me to pass on to these early career scientists? Just leave it in the comments.

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Real-life lessons: How social media *really* works at meetings

While we're all still experimenting with using social-media tools at conferences and meetings, it's important to listen to and share real-world experiences.  Here are four viewpoints based on actual meeting experiences to help you wrangle a better meeting:
  • Spammers got hold of your hashtag? If you're using a tweet aggregator to showcase posts during your conference, check out how to keep your Twitter stream from being hijacked by spammers during a conference. Filtering's critical, and the post links to reviews of aggregators that will help you do that.
  • Trying to juggle seven kinds of social tech to share your meeting? This post on mastering the FlipCam for conferences and tweets shares experiences from the IT director for the National Wildlife Federation, focusing on a conference at which the social media A/V included Ustream, SlideShare, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and Cinch (the latter for audio podcast via a mobile Android app). A great hands-on post you'll want to save when planning how to capture and share your next conference.
  • Will the hotel wi-fi be enough to handle the load? Did you just win the lottery? You already know there's wi-fi overload at the conferences you attend, but in case you're planning a conference with someone who doesn't get it, share the New York Times coverage of this trend (at the link). Even Steve Jobs had to ask the audience to turn off their phones and laptops at a conference where he was trying (unsuccessfully) to demonstrate the iPhone 4.  As the NWF post notes above, look beyond wi-fi to power your social-media tools at the conference.
  • Can we make the meeting off-the-record in a tweetable world? Steve Buttry's post on NewsFoo Camp: Not fully open, but certainly not secret looks at how this worked in real life at a journalism conference which was by invitation only, allowed people to go off the record when speaking (even declaring things OTR after they'd been said). As a result, most tweeting or live-blogging was discouraged and no public report or summary was issued. The goal? More candor and sharing in person. This takes agreement between organizers and attendees, so don't take it for granted--make sure everyone knows about this policy before they show up.
Got some good tips based on your own use of social tools at a recent meeting? Share 'em in the comments.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter (FriendFeed edition)

I'm @dontgetcaught, and this week, my share is like its own episode of Lost. I discovered that, due to a glitch in Twitter, a number of my posts shared from other sites--like Google Reader--didn't actually make it to Twitter. Fortunately, they get saved elsewhere, so this week, even my Twitter followers haven't necessarily seen all of these shares. Here's the best of my finds and shares this week, with some favorites at the end:
And some of the favorites for the week:
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Do you verify compelling stories before you promote them?

On the Reporting on Health blog, William Heisel has been taking a multi-part look at the hoax that resulted in a decade of misinformation about vaccines and whether they cause autism, and the series is itself a must-read. But it's part 3 of the series that will help make sure you don't get caught when promoting or publishing compelling human-interest stories from your customers, patients, donors or volunteers.  It's called "Trust Parents of Autistic Kids, But Verify Stories With Health Records,"  and you should make it required reading in your communications shop--even if you don't deal with patients. Somewhere, you're sharing stories, stories that people relay to you, stories with great anecdotes and conviction.  And you, no less than a reporter, should do your best to verify them before they see the light of day.
Heisel points out that reporters hesitate just as you might when thinking about asking for verification:
It seems rude and obtrusive, perhaps, to ask the parents of ill children to “prove” their stories by providing records. You don’t want to accuse them of lying about their case. Other writers don’t want to get involved with the details. They just want a quick quote to create the semblance of balance in the story. That’s why, after Brian Deer’s series about Andrew Wakefield’s discredited attempt to connect vaccines to autism appeared in the BMJ this month, parents of children with autism were allowed, unchallenged, to speak as authorities on the link between vaccines and autism all over the country....
So there's another side to your responsibility as a communicator. Ask for verification of the story before you put it out into the wider world, certainly.  But when a reporter comes to you with such an anecdote, work to find verification--and if it can't be found on your end, make sure that's abundantly clear in your statements.  Have you run into this issue? What's your policy for handling it? (Hat tip to Ivan Oransky for sharing this on Twitter.)

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Weekly writing coach: How many documents can you wring out of one?

I was inspired last weekend listening to NPR's story about a local newspaper editor who rewrote the police blotter as poetry.  What came to mind is the type of writing test I might give communications writers today:  How many different types of writing can you wring out of one document, using your rewrite skills?

The test goes something like this. Take one all-purpose document--let's say an already-written news release, for preference. Using no other document, what else can you write or rewrite from it? My list looks something like this:
  1. A statement (that's all quote, no narrative)
  2. A fact sheet (the opposite: All facts, no quote)
  3. A series of tweets about the news being announced
  4. An op-ed (all the data in the middle, and your opinion on it clearly stated in the opening and closing graphs)
  5. A speech that includes the news being announced and why it's significant to the audience
  6. A blog post or series of posts that focus on one particular aspect of the news
  7. An FAQ about the topic
  8. A letter to the editor (just a shorter version of an op-ed) using facts to make a case
  9. Several Facebook updates that ask readers questions about the announcement to elicit opinions; share the news with an angle especially apt for your FB readers, or tying the announcement to another event
  10. A question-and-answer set on different facts in the release, for one of the many question sites out there: LinkedIn, Quora, Facebook questions.
  11. A news release targeted at a different audience or aspect of the topic.
What else could you wring out of a news release? Share your list in the comments.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Have you rewritten your online profiles for mobile networking?

This QR code, short for "quick response," can be scanned into your mobile device and takes you to my LinkedIn Profile. I created it using a new beta service called PingTags -- and as soon as I tested it, I rewrote my LinkedIn profile so it would better display on a mobile device, making it shorter and more to the point in the summary that's shown via this code.  And that's prompted me to start rewriting all my profiles based on the tighter, shorter views you see on mobile devices. Time for you to try that, too.

QR codes are one of the dense-packed networking tools you can consider at The Networked Communicator Lunch-and-Learn on February 18. You'll learn about using your social-media and online profiles to best advantage--and network with other communications pros. Spaces are limited, so register at the link today!

After you're gone, what happens to your social media archive?

This gives a whole new meaning to deathless prose. It's another item that should be embedded into your social-media policy--your personal one and the one you're involved in professionally: Who gets access to what when you're no longer around to manage your social accounts.

That could mean when you leave the organization, or it could mean after your death--the latter being the main focus of the authors of Your Digital Afterlife: When Facebook, Flickr and Twitter Are Your Estate, What's Your Legacy?, and creators of the website The Digital Beyond, which can serve as a planning tool for you.  I think the principles in the book are smart ones to consider even for everyday reasons. A promotion, transfer, change of job or a catastrophe could mean the sudden loss of access to important accounts, passwords and information. What's your backup plan?

In this useful Fresh Air interview with the authors of Your Digital Afterlife, you'll hear a variety of considerations to keep in mind, whether you're concerned about a photo archive on Flickr or your Facebook posts. If you're already backing up and downloading your content from social sites, don't forget to leave instructions for how those can be accessed--and listen to the authors talk about the situations where you don't want anyone to see your data later. Then do some succession planning for yourself and your work accounts.


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Monday, January 17, 2011

4 from the floor: Reporter reactions to your media relations tactics


My media-relations mentor plucked me out of a journalism job, and his guidance was merely this: "Do what you wished PR people would do when you were a reporter." But if you don't have journalism experience or a wise mentor, fear not: Reporters are not shy about sharing their preferences. I'd call them special requests, but honestly, these complaints are about ordinary exchanges and materials. Become beloved of reporters and tweak your media relations approaches thusly:
Sound basic? Well, someone out there isn't listening. If you're not guilty of these, figure out what's not working in your world. I invite the reporters who read this blog and good PR mentors to chime in with more do's and don'ts.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

The networked communicator: Have you curated your own best work?

(Editor's note: We'll be talking about these types of creative uses for your online profiles at The Networked Communicator Lunch-and-Learn coming up on February 18 at the National Press Club. Come lunch, learn about better uses for your online profiles, and network in real life with fellow communicators. You get a discount on registration if you subscribe to For Communications Directors newsletters--subscribers also saw this article first.)

By now, I hope you've rethought your online profiles and expanded your online presence. In the new year, there's a new step you can take by curating your best work and presenting it online, using all the new profile options to advantage. So many of our online profiles and resumes are focused on showing who we are and what we do now.  I'm suggesting that we want to see more of you, the multipicity that is your career so far.

Why get so creative with my profile?

Four words:  So you stand out.

Everyone else has gotten great at cut-and-paste keywords. LinkedIn scanned user profiles and found that the words "extensive experience," "innovative," and "motivated" were the most-used (or over-used, as the case may be).  They say that hiring managers will see those words as "empty."

And companies sometimes go that route as well. Danny Brown's post "Are you making yourself attractive enough?" goes after company job postings and their hifalutin language, but it could apply just as well to your resume or online profile. If all we see is your "extensive experience" and that you're "innovative and motivated," we won't really know what you can contribute or which niche you can fill.

What's my best work?

Your "best work" might include work from all the parts of your career, examples that both show where you've been and whom you've reached, as well as those that let us see your most elegant writing, your big and small-but-useful ideas and your deftness with a variety of media. If you were in the right place at the right time (more than once, or just once), those examples might go in the grouping.  So give us that early and staggeringly smart essay, the photo that takes my breath away, the funny video--especially if you now write plainsong prose, do stock photography or only record presentations. Likewise, don't be afraid to show me your plain but essential competencies. If you're known as a stickler for proofreading or a whiz with solving design problems, find an example and explain what you did with it.

You might need help with this curation project, because that is, after all, what you're doing--but for yourself.  It's a wonderful question to ask close friends and colleagues from all parts of your past and present, as well as your biggest fans and followers:  Tell me a piece of my work you admire or like and why. You might mention it needn't be flashy or famous, just significant in their eyes. Ask your blog readers what their favorite posts are, and stand back. I'll bet you hear things that surprise you, and that are must-includes in this collection. Let them know you're trying to curate your best work, large and small, and see what they share. Those recommendations also can turn into content for your curated profile; take a look at how I've pulled together Facebook comments, tweets, emails and LinkedIn recommendations about my public-speaking training and blog here.

Then what?

When you have that list of rarities, bootleg versions and old masters pulled together, find a creative way to get it into your online profiles. Do you need to compile a slideshow with captions or audio narration? Make a video, surrounded by your non-digitized samples of yore or get interviewed by a pal about them?  Let yourself get creative (again, a friend can be a big help here) and you'll enrich your profiles--and our sense of you. And that can only help you in networking, building relationships and audiences, and gaining fans.

Related posts:  What a curator did with Tim Burton's collected works (a good example of letting someone else help you see your collection)

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Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

This week, Twitter once again proved its mettle during the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. I turned there first for updates, and I have the utter luxury of getting those from some first-class reporters who tweet, including NBC's Jim Long or @newmediajim (who tweets from the cameraman perspective); NPR's Andy Carvin or @acarvin, who's a live-tweeter of the first order; and the New York Times's Patrick LaForge or@palafo. Nice to have that kind of expertise to fall back on. Even the reporting errors got quickly corrected, and ways to handle breaking news discussed.  Mashable did a good roundup of the shooting from the social-media perspective.

I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, and here are some of the insights, good reads and news I shared from others this week, followed by items I favorited for later reading or writing:
And now, a couple of  favorites:

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Using a blog to fuel attention for an awards archive

In communications, it were ever thus: Well-meaning executives and boards come up with awards "to get attention and publicity" for a cause, organization or issue, and their communications pros know that on the list of things reporters will cover, awards are dead last. They're more significant within an organization or company than outside it...but try telling that to the person seeking the attention.

Now, a more sensible way to share what awards honor comes from a foundation that's been giving them to poets since 1950. The New York Times reports that the National Book Foundation will launch a blog about past poetry winners of the National Book Awards, which it administers.  Emerging poets of today will write appreciations of poet winners from the past, highlighting their work; live events and panel discussions will bring the current poets together for more discussion; and the blog will become a digital archive of sorts, collecting not just the winning poems, but related images and documents.

If you're not delving into your own archives for material like this, it's time to start.  Using archival material and making it publicly available will gain you new audiences and partnerships--and you've already done the tough part in amassing the content.  Check out the links below for more case studies in using historic and archival material to create content for new blogs, video channels and more.

Related posts: Older videos are just as good as new when it comes to driving traffic

Reviving an historic speech online: The Marshall Plan

New media adapters: From archive to blog with George Orwell's papers

Anniversary PR that looks at history social-media style

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where to catch me

If it were earlier this morning, I'd have said you could catch me shoveling the bit of snow we had overnight in Washington--just enough to be pretty, just enough to require shoveling. Now that that's done, here's where you can catch up with me in the next month or two:
  • Audience on alert:  Tonight, I'm going to hear Dan Gillmor speak at the New America Foundation here in Washington about his new book Mediactive, a User's Guide to Democratized Media, in which he tells audience members how to "upgrade" themselve to be better consumers and creators of information. Gillmor directs the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University. Happy to ask questions you send me in advance--and I hope to blog about this talk, too.
  • The art of women and business: The Corcoran Gallery of Art Busines and Professional Women's networking luncheon will find me at the gallery on January 18. A tour of the current color school exhibit is promised, as well as some good networking.
  • Crisis communications:  I'll be at the IABC-DC breakfast meeting January 20 at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Maryland to hear how communicators there handled an on-site hostage-taking in September 2010. Email me if you want a question asked, or join me--I can register you as a guest at a discount.
  • Communicating science:  I'll be working with food scientists in Chicago on February 15, doing a private workshop on communicating scientific information clearly to non-scientists--in the workplace and in public.  I have some windows of time on the 14th and 16th while there, so let me know if you want to meet.
  • Improving and updating your online profiles:  Back in Washington on February 18, I'm hosting The Networked Communicator lunch-and-learn at the National Press Club.  You get to network with other communicators and eat a great lunch while learning which options for online profiles--some stand-alone, some on social networks--will best show off your skills, drive traffic to your website or serve as your website. Please do register at the link and share with colleagues.
I'm also working on workshops, training and other client work in Baltimore, New York City and San Francisco in the coming weeks and months. Let me know if I'll be seeing you at one or more of these events--2011 is shaping up to be a busy year so far. (Affiliate link)
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Weekly writing coach: 3 new utility infielders

You want the process of writing to be easier. You want to catch more mistakes, or make fewer in the first place. Here, three great gloves to put on that will make you a noted utility infielder on your communications team:

  1. Markdown:  Edelman's Steve Rubel calls Markdown "a skill every modern communicator should learn," so you have your marching orders. He notes that "anyone who wants to spread their ideas far and wide--and that's pretty much every modern communicator--will focus first on digital means to do so. Markdown, to me, is becoming an essential lingua franca that makes writing and preparing digital-ready copy a snap."
  2. Checklist for reporting:  I have lots of clients seeking ways to help their writers do better interviews, and these solutions are offered with them in mind. Steve Buttry of TBD.com has come up with his own version of an accuracy checklist for journalists (and one any writer can use). It's based on this list by Craig Silverman, author of Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech.We featured Silverman talking about corrections as a means of increasing your transparency, with the smart idea to issue an RSS feed for your corrections. But his list and Buttry's list make it possible to avoid them in the first place.
  3. Checklist. Craig Silverman. Regret the error
  4. Homonym help:  I've written about homonyms, the pesky words that sound the same as others with entirely different meanings, and how they can trip up writers.  Now comes an idea that may help: Using Google Voice Search as a voice-operated dictionary.  All you need to do is speak "define [word]" to get results.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Talking the boss into social media? Those fears of hers are historic

Those bosses, clients and colleagues who don't want to try social media options are great at coming up with disaster scenarios and catastrophic consequences for what might happen. And that response is a time-honored one, used for every major new technology that's come along. So says a new book, I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted.

In this Marketplace Money interview with the author, New York Times technology reporter Nick Bilton , he goes back in history to describe some moments when fears about new technologies of the day turned out to be unfounded. Like the telephone:

The front page article: March 22nd, 1876, on the New York Times, describes what this technology is but then the writer says it's going to empty concert halls and churches and people will never leave their home again. The same thing we're hearing about the Internet, right -- people are going to use Twitter and Facebook and they'll never leave their home again or have social interactions.
Someone let me know where those empty concert halls are--I'd like to get a good seat. The printing press offers a great example of how new technologies can change things for the better--and move more slowly than the apocalyptic reactions  would have one think:
...when the printing press came out, it didn't change society instantly like we think that the printing press did. It wasn't until the 1500s, when a gentleman by the name of Aldus Manutius invented the mobile book. Before that, books were 50 to 100 pounds apiece. It took like two people to turn a page. And the mobile book really changed everything because you could take it with you. And I think the same things happened with mobile phones. For a long time, computers were the way that we accessed content and we sat in our bedroom or our office and we didn't leave. And people don't want to do that, they want to be out. These mobile devices that we all carry around I think have become that, essentially the mobile book of today.
They're good historic arguments to have in your back pocket for those necessary conversations to coax the unwilling to try new technologies. But there's hope out there:  Read this blog post, "The Old Man and the Internet," by Jay Goltz, a small-business owner in Chicago who's starting to get why his business future lies in more technology, not less.(Affiliate link)

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Revisiting corrections on Twitter in the wake of the Arizona shootings

News organizations on Twitter--and the rest of us who follow breaking news--are learning every time a major news event takes that channel by surprise. This past weekend, it was the shooting rampage in Arizona, during which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was erroneously reported as having died.  And it's happened with plenty of other events. Amidst the scramble to report updates, tweeters are working to establish norms for handling corrections for the almost-inevitable inaccurate news that gets shared.

We've talked before about correcting a moving record on Twitter, noting that one correction may not be enough to put out the fire, and that you may need a backchannel for additional discussion.  But this weekend's episode yielded more insights from Scott Rosenberg, a co-founder of Salon and director of MediaBugs.org. His take: Your policy should be to correct that erroneous tweet, but don't delete it. He offers this example, supposing you had already announced Giffords' death; it involves re-tweeting your original as written, with a correction note appended in front of it:

CORRECTION Giffords wounded, in critical condition RT @NPR BREAKING: Rep. Giffords (D-AZ), 6 others killed by gunman in Tucson

The reason? Transparency, and retaining an historic part of the narrative. You can read more about that concept in Are corrections part of your transparency policy?, which yielded another good tip:  Create an RSS feed for your corrections--and do that before the next crisis, so it can help you correct the record with speed.  Time to make sure your social media policy includes a policy on how corrections will be handled.


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Monday, January 10, 2011

Managing communications in crisis: Discovery Channel's experience

The September 1 hostage-taking at the Discovery Channel headquarters--and how communications was managed during that crisis--will be the subject of an IABC Washington breakfast meeting later this month.  And in the wake of the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and many of her constituents and staff, I'm expecting this session to attract even more attention.  I'll be attending and covering it to share insights with you, as many of my clients have asked for trainings and strategies that anticipate similar crises.

If you have questions you want me to ask at the session, leave them in the comments or email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz. Local to the Washington area?  I'd be glad to register you as my guest at a reduced rate (that's only if you are not already an IABC member) -- just let me know. And if you haven't dusted off and reviewed your organization's crisis communications plan, it's a good week to do so, to make sure it encompasses recent lessons learned.

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Blogger press credentials: The Storified view from the street

I've compiled lots of policies, case studies and examples of who is and isn't offering press credentials to bloggers.  Now Save the News has
used Storify to compile video, tweets and other posts from online reporters who were denied press credentials or entry to news events.  It's a different view from those of you who issue credentials, and worth delving into.  The introductory post by Josh Stearns notes that as traditional news outlets have increasingly closed their statehouse or Washington bureaus, it's more important than ever for non-traditional media to gain access. Do you agree? Share your thoughts and policies in the comments.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

We're about to get snow here on the East coast of the U.S., although perhaps not enough for sledding where I live in Washington, DC. If you're snowed in or just curious this weekend, check out the great reads and tips I found and shared this week on  Twitter, where I'm http://www.twitter.com/dontgetcaught. At the end of the list, you'll find my "favorites," saved for my own weekend reading:
And here are my favorites for the week:

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