Monday, February 28, 2011

February's top 10 social media, communications tips & issues

February was a busy month for me and for this blog: Traffic's at an all-time-high, thanks to you. This month, lots of contentious issues--from PR transparency to pitching methods--held sway, along with shifts in social media strategies. Find out what you missed and what were hits with others this month:

  1. Should PR have its own transparency? New trends and options looks at publishing your previously behind-the-scenes communications plans and policies in aid of transparency. This post first appeared in my free monthly newsletter, before it got to the blog. Sign up below to make sure you don't miss something this hot next month.
  2. PR, media relations folks: Tip more, pitch less shares advice from reporters and others on how to build relationships minus pitches, saving them for when you really need them.
  3. 7 ways to use QR codes for networking, marketing and causes appeared back in August, but still draws a strong readership each month. Catch up with the crowd on this one.
  4. Call it the CEO secret: Posterous's new features make it even easier to blog appeared late last month, with a strong following all through February. Find out how just sending an email is all you need to do to blog.
  5. Artisanal social media: Can we tell there are real people doing your postings? looks at how some communicators are undoing the auto-post and getting real in real time, and disturbing efforts in the opposite direction.
  6. National Park Service seeks tech ideas via new blog alerted you to the NPS effort to use more technology to aid people exploring the outdoors. It's a call to developers and users of the national parks.
  7. 8 ways with Evernote, for communicators appeared back in December, and is still going strong with readers. It's one of my favorite tools, and you can get started by using the "clip" button at the end of this post.
  8. Are you making the most of comments? 7 options leads you into comment territory you may not yet have explored. This late December post is still going strong, so catch up with your competitors and read it now.
  9. A scientist's elevator speech, in 45 seconds: E.O. Wilson grabbed a live-radio moment in which this senior scientist responded to a call-in request to make the case for biodiversity in 45 seconds. So he did. This post from way back in April of last year got a boost this month from its inclusion in one of The Eloquent Woman's all-time top posts, The all-in-one for eloquent scientists: Resources and role models.
  10. Top tech PR pros discuss fast-lane changes in communications shares video of a panel of some of the technology world's smartest PR execs. Listen as they tell you the way the world works--from speed and corrections to the erosion of embargoes and the rise of the exclusive preview. Another January post that's still being widely read this month.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter


I'll bet you've tackled a lot this week. Me, too. And on Twitter, where you can find me as @dontgetcaught, I've had days with almost no tweets, and days that probably qualified for overtime. But I've culled the best with you in mind, along with some favorites.
  • In praise of open systems: Higher Ed Marketing blog looks at keeping an open mind in your online wanderings. Andrew Careaga notes: "We seem to prefer our closed systems, even in the wide-open ecosystem of the Internet. We tend to focus on our narrow areas of expertise — higher ed marketing and PR, for instance, or higher ed web, graphic design or whatever our field happens to be." He argues the other side. This reflects my own experience on social networks.
  • 9 dynamic digital resumes that stand out from the crowd offers great (and visual) ideas for your online presence. If you thought you had it down, think again--will you try one of these?
  • In one year, Android market revenue grows a remarkable 862 percent begs the question: Why do you only have an iPad or iPhone app?
  • Snowpocalypse! Blizzaster! We're buried in snow-perbole offers a timely view of our language use this winter.
  • Disaster news prep: Google Person Finder tells you how to set up this tool in the case of a disaster where finding folks is key. Communicators, put this in your crisis communications toolkit, for everything from a campus shooting to a fire, earthquake or other chaotic event. And don't wait for a disaster to do a dry run on this, so you know how to use it fast when the time comes.
  • Lanyrd at SXSW gives you a picture of what a socialized conference can look like, using this site I've described for you before -- it aims to be the social network for conferences and meetings. Explore this post to see what it might offer you and your meetings, with real results from the popular music and technology fest.
This week, short on favorites to share for you--I was moving too fast! What were yours?

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

PR, media relations folks: Tip more, pitch less to reach reporters

I stopped pitching reporters when I started this business (although I still coach many clients in smart techniques for doing so). Now that I'm on the other side and getting pitched, I'm noticing more coverage of bad pitching and hearing more complaints from journalists and fellow bloggers. So I think it's time to recalibrate the practice.

Let's try to tip more, and pitch less.

There will still be plenty of times when you need to pitch something: a novel idea, an unusual concept, a surprising approach, an unlikely source. But for most other things, you'll build a better set of relationships with reporters and bloggers (and get better coverage) if you approach your media relations as tipping us off to something new that we will find particularly useful.  Think of it this way: Tips will help you build the relationship that later lets you pitch selectively, when you need it most.

That means you're not shoveling into our email boxes the same stuff thousands or hundreds of other reporters are getting, and making sure we can't somehow unsubscribe. You're reading and watching us, and understanding what each of us wants and needs and doesn't yet have, but might like. Better, it might be something on which we get to act first, rather than in a pack.

That's more essential than ever now, when there's more competition than ever for the scoop, the new quote, the as-yet-unheard perspective. And it's precisely the gap where media relations and the real-time real world haven't caught up with one another.

If you're about to say, "There's no time for that much hand-holding and individualized treatment," consider that you could stop doing any number of things PR folk have done for decades--things that aren't working especially well given the amount of work they entail. That list might include press releases for everything that moves and a few things that don't; embargoes, especially the poorly managed kind; press conferences; and all those blanket pitches, calls and emails. You're putting a lot of time and effort into tactics that don't work or those that result in "metrics" (like how many reporters confirmed receiving your materials) that don't actually matter. Yes, I said that. Instead of attacking every pitch as if every reporter had to have it, prioritize. Pitching someone who will never, ever cover your pitched topic does more damage to your organization or brand than not pitching at all. Avoiding the off-topic pitch strengthens your hand. Reporters I respect get way too much of the former and not enough of the latter.
What does the relationship-building tip look like? Here are a few options calibrated for today:
  1. Instead of a news release, attach a personalized note to a full document.  Once upon a time, pre-email, this was a lovely option that should be revived. It works well with the specialist reporter who has a deep knowledge of the topic. Skip the release and write a thoughtful short note; bonus points if it can say something like, "I think you'll find the conclusion on page 11 provocative" or "The authors will talk to you first, if you're interested." (See point 3 below for why you should especially use this for reporters who cover you well.)
  2. Give an advance heads-up call.  The one thing on which I think we can all agree about embargoes (aside from disliking them) is that they give all sides time to plan...for PR folks, that means time to plan and handle calls and information requests and set up interviews, and for reporters, to plan the coverage and do the research. Why not extract that and replace embargoes with a heads-up call?  "We've got these three studies coming up in the next weeks and months, and I wanted to get a sense of which ones would interest you so we can get you the info" is a call I'd always take.  Even a more hopeful, "Not sure we will actually have this nailed down, but wanted to gauge where you are if we had a response on this issue" call might work as an exploratory call.  Again, it's a case of replacing the blanket approach with more useful and effective targeted help.
  3. Give frequent-flier points to the reporters who cover you well and lovingly.  Here's what a reporter shared with me today: "I got the press release below a little while ago. I found it amusing, in a sour way, because what it is 'confirming!' is actually news that I broke, over the Congressional break....This issue is not something that this Congresswoman gets a ton of attention for — she's introduced this bill maybe 5 times now — and I'm one of the few people who consistently covers it. Wouldn't it be possible for an office to do a simple tailor of their media lists, so that they're sending (what looks like) a more personal note to the media who are friendlier to them? As it is, now I'm just annoyed at them. Seems like such an obvious missed opportunity."  Couldn't have said it better myself (see point 1, above). This reporter asked for my comments, and I imagined a note that said, "Thanks again for beating everyone else to the punch on this. Wanted you to know we're going to alert the latecomers so this doesn't take you by surprise. Thanks for covering us like a blanket and enjoy watching the others catch up to you. We've put a link to your article in the release, too."
  4. The best kind of tip: Give away something for which you're owed nothing, and to which you have no ties.  This has become a best practice on Twitter, where we value conversations with folks who aren't allergic to retweeting someone else's stuff or sharing a good tip for whom to follow or where to find something current. So: What's on your desk that a smart reporter might not know about, and that you can share easily? What are folks in your organization reading and to whom are they talking? What haven't reporters seen that you have? To whom should reporters be talking? It's easy enough to call a reporter (as I did last week) from a conference to say, "This speaker just showed a slide I think you need to see" and offer to snag the speaker's card, or something similar. You could call this karma or a favor, but I tend to call it good media relations. Or as my first media relations mentor told me when he talked me into the field after a journalism job: "Just do what you wish someone had done for you when you called." There are a million pitches they're expecting. Be the thing that comes as rare and refreshing fruit in the middle of the desert.
That approach might just yield you the nicest compliment I've ever had from reporters, something along the lines of "Denise, don't ever not call me." I help communications teams to come up with strategies they can implement--among them, strategies for media relations. I can train your team to pitch more effectively when you do pitch, learn how to figure out what's tip-worthy or--best of all--facilitate a team retreat that will help you come up with a new approach that works better for you and the reporters you work with. Just email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[biz] for more information.

Artisanal social media: Can we tell there are real people doing your postings?

Quick, tell me: What time of year was your Facebook page avatar photo taken? What time of year is it now?

I follow client Rockefeller University and was charmed to see the photo at left pop up as its new Facebook avatar recently--in the wake of all that New York City snow. It's a small thing, sure, and not precisely real-time. But it makes the page feel that way, and gives me a sense of the place, right now, in need of shoveling and shivering. Can I say the same about your page?
I've been listening to other clients and friends lately who describe moving toward (or just staying in) that kind of artisanal approach to social media. They're aiming for authentic, whether in their organization's postings, their own postings or what they're consuming on social media. It's a more transparent, real-time approach--one that lets us see there's a human in there. And now, a major observer of the PR field is decrying the opposite tack, the uber-automated faux presence on social media.

I was talking with one client about a training we'll be doing on crisis communications, and shared with him the caution about letting an automated Twitter feed continue unabated during a crisis like last year's shooting at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  "We're still posting to Facebook and Twitter by hand," he said, noting that they like to calibrate the timing and tone based on real events. (I have to confess I'm much the same way--while I will occasionally auto-post, more often, you're catching me in real time on Facebook and Twitter.)

Another colleague told me his preference these days is to follow people, not brands. That is, if you're someone posting as yourself, even if you represent a brand, he'll follow you--but not a branded account. The reason?  "The content is bland and uninteresting--too many brands don't really use their feeds well." Can't argue with that. My approach is to follow a wide variety of brands and people, but I can tell you I tire quickly of the auto-posted, repetitive, relentless selling of some brands. Some of the best moments on Twitter and Facebook have not been pre-loaded, but come from quick-on-the-draw and deft, funny handling of odd situations.

Still another colleague who's been posting under a handle that's branded with his organization's name switched and began tweeting under his own name--something I recommend especially when your only social media presence "belongs" to your employer.  My concept of the networked communicator includes thinking through your own branding, because employers are fickle, and social media is your friend.

Shel Holtz weighed in on the extreme version of automated social media in a post called The PR industry must condemn massive automated sock puppetry. He rightly goes after those using "persona management" tools to make small groups look like massive movements. It's a chilling read. No wonder my pals are pulling back from following brands.

Social media seems daunting to the communicator who sees it as a sea of nails needing a hammer, and some reach for the automated version. Some look for the traditional amount of control, avoiding the concept that traditional levels of control have left the building, thanks to technology and the public's embrace of that freedom of information and information tools. Just remember that works both ways: Your relentless feed may push opt-outs, rather than follows. The fact that you can automate it doesn't mean you should, unless you can make a strategic case for it--and note the exceptions and how you'll handle them.

Are you dialing back from the automated and the branded in what you follow? Reserving Facebook for personal things? Changing your handle from a corporate one to an individual name (like your own)? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.  (Photo courtesy Rockefeller University)

Related posts: Your social media plan needs its own crisis plan: 6 lessons from the #hopkinsshooting

United's deft hand with social media


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Science communicators: Your wish list for a newsletter, and a workshop?

I just spent a weekend with many of my favorite science communicators, and want to continue here a conversation I started there, informally, with those of you who also work with scientists and help them communicate with public and media audiences. Here's what I want to know: What would your wish list look like for a train-the-trainers-type workshop specifically focused on helping you learn about training scientists in communications skills?
Regular readers of this blog know that many clients hire me to train their researchers in framing what they want to say so that it's clear to non-scientist audiences--I've done that in a series of workshops on communicating science to the public for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as for universities, corporations, and other nonprofits. But I'm well aware that many colleagues working in those organizations have to do some version of that training on the spot, in the workplace, every week. So I'm considering the development of a train-the-trainers workshop that will offer a toolkit you can take back to your operation, along with practice in and discussion of tactics that work (and don't work), and an understanding of what might motivate your scientists to learn and try public communication skills.  I'd like that workshop to be based on real-time needs, so please share your thoughts in the comments, or email them to me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Part two of this request: Perhaps not surprisingly, I have a lot of scientist-followers, particularly for posts on The Eloquent Woman that are focused on science communication.  Scientists aren't my only client focus, of course, so the topic comes up only infrequently. I'm wondering whether there's a place for a regular newsletter aimed at helping scientists communicate with public or non-technical audiences. I'm thinking of a paid subscription newsletter that would offer an inexpensive but regular source of encouragement, examples and education about how to make technical topics clear.  But before I launch, I want your feedback at the email above, or in the comments below. What would you find useful in such a newsletter?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm looking forward to hearing your ideas.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is your website ready for socialized TV and tablet use?

I got myself one of them-there newfangled Internet-capable teevees (a Vizio), and it's done something to my vision: Suddenly, I can see a range of new options for communicators to consider with television, a medium that you might not have been focusing on as much, lately.

Here's just one change it's made in my viewing: Instead of looking at two screens (one on my laptop), I followed my Twitterstream during the president's State of the Union speech in an on-screen widget. Vizio's Internet-capable TVs come with preloaded content from a variety of providers and I'm expcting more web-based options soon. I can watch photos from Flickr, my Facebook feed, Netflix and Amazon streaming movies and documentaries, and much more. 

This week, Amazon--already offering streaming video on my new TV--has quietly rolled out free streaming movies and TV programs for those who have memberships in Amazon Prime,which costs $79 and gives you unlimited two-day shipping. Adding free movies and TV to that membership might just drive me away from Netflix and Hulu Plus. (To see what's available, click on "Amazon Instant Video," then click the box to the right in that search result to see what's "Prime eligible.") And it's unlimited free streaming.

What about your website?

But is your website ready for me to watch on my new teevee?  It's worth checking, if you want to get a step ahead of this new option that combines the lean-forward and lean-back audiences.  Handily, Google has just issued resources to help you optimize your website for TV, including new templates and a UI library.

The same goes for tablet computers. If you haven't yet tested your website on tablets, ReadWriteWeb offers Is your website ready for the coming tablet explosion? with practical recommendations that range from getting rid of flash to making your website more "app-like." 

Next weekend's Oscar broadcast will be a good time to watch how TV network providers are working to integrate socialized viewing, as ABC is planning a wide range of social options for that broadcast as well as other shows. From the New York Times coverage:
“In a sense, you are in the living room, watching together,” said Jeff Probst, the host of “Survivor,” who used Twitter to talk with fans during the show’s season premiere last Wednesday while flying from New York to Los Angeles. Mr. Probst plans to make such viewing a weekly habit this season.
The article made me think that a next step in your communications strategy might involve finding ways to "watch along" with your audience when your company or organization is featured on a broadcast.  Note that the TV world is now counting on promotions not just before and after a show, but during it--and it's reviving the medium, according to observers.  (Affiliate links)

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Heads up, op-ed writers: NYT 'Week in Review' to get major overhaul, expand online opinions


Huffington Post reported late last week that the Sunday New York Times "Week in Review" section will be completely revamped, according to an internal memo. From the memo:
We think it is best described as a Sunday commentary section that will feature the rich menu of the best Op-Ed columnists around; our Editorials; some fine analysis and observation from our best writers in the newsroom; the best outside opinion writing (more like the classical Op-Ed pieces); a much expanded and enhanced readers' section (Letters to the Editor on steroids in the 21st century), as well as new kinds of features and new voices and ideas.

This section will physically live primarily in the editorial department, but since we want to preserve a way for reporters and correspondents to write rich analytical pieces on their beats or the stories they are covering, some portion of the staff will remain anchored in the newsroom.
Op-Ed editor Trish Hall will oversee the new section. The paper also plans to "expand its online opinion offerings," HuffPost reports. The memo describes it this way: "That will involve even more voices, video, graphics, art and illustration, more social interaction. More everything."


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Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter and at the end of this week, I'll be catching up with a lot of my tweeps in real life at a conference here in Washington, DC. It's been a packed week for me, with a training for corporate scientists in Chicago, blogging for my business and for clients, and helping yet more clients to plan trainings, recruitment of new communications execs and more.

Now's a great time for me to look back on a week of tweets and share with you the items that caught my eye enough to be shared with my followers. How did your week go? If you're going to be at the AAAS meeting here in DC, please message me so we can connect!

And a couple of favorites for the week:

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Should PR have its own transparency? New trends and options

I just heard a speaker talk about dealing with a major emergency, during which her company didn't make announcements or take press calls--an approach that fell flat with her audience of communicators, who work in an increasingly transparent world. Communicators today are being called on to share even more of what's been behind the scenes in our work. Are you ready? Here are policy shifts and approaches you may want to consider to boost transparency.

Would you share your communications plans?

This goes against decades of tradition, and perhaps your common sense, but Shel Holtz is among those asking Has the time come for PR professionals to disclose client plans? That means sharing your strategies, which audiences you're targeting and even your key messages. If that sounds far-fetched, consider this as you would any other potentially controversial item: You'll look better if you put it out there, compared to waiting for it to be leaked. Some organizations are already taking this step: In USDA's recent release of the new food pyramid eating guidelines, talking points and key messages were published alongside other press materials. That, in turn, allowed a noted nutritionist to note that the talking points--but not the report itself--reminded consumers to "enjoy your food." So remember: transparency demands consistency.

More Transparent Media Relations Policies

More transparent embargo policies were on the 2011 wish list of reporter Ivan Oransky, who writes the Embargo Watch blog. Note that he points out that self-interest isn't a bad thing--unless you don't disclose it among your reasons. He has draft language he'd like to see included at the link, and notes that "journalists need to look in the mirror just as much as journals do" on this issue (Of course, if you're going to publish your media relations policies, it's also good if you follow them. People are watching...)

What's Next in Transparency: Trends to Watch

Calls for transparency are coming from all sides. Here's a roundup of recently trending topics in transparency that might prompt you to change your publishing policies:
  • Unlock those PDFs urges this blog post, noting that when you make it impossible to search, clip or print a PDF, you're limiting your readership to on-screen viewing only. No way that one's going viral.
  • Sharing live video coverage of your company and publishing your business practices are two transparency moves that are becoming the norm for corporations. Check this list of good examples from Edelman PR.
  • Tell your potential partners how you want to be pitched -- not reporters per se, but suppliers, cosponsors, fundraisers, you name it.
  • Open APIs for developers. From the post, "API or application programming interface, is...one part of a software program that makes it easy for other programs to make use of a piece of its functionality or content." Making them openly available lets developers expand and build on your brand. If you're creating a new platform, consider this.
  • Don't think like a portal: Make that video available was the message to the Columbus Dispatch, which removed the video of the "homeless man with the golden voice" from YouTube and put the video on its homepage. And while you're at it, make sure that video's shareable.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Popular posts now cover the month's activity

I've made a small change to the blog, so that the "popular posts" listed in the right-hand column will give you the posts top-ranked-by-readers in the past 30 days, rather than all time. It's another way I hope to give busy readers a quick way to catch up on what's trending on this blog, along with my weekend reads of each week's shared items on Twitter, and the monthly top 10 posts roundup I issue at the end of each month. Enjoy!


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Friday, February 11, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter


I'm looking for those zen moments on a Friday sandwiched between two busy weeks of travel, workshops and meetings for me. How's your week been? If it's like mine, you've got a weekend reading list, and I hope this post is part of it. I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, where I share finds, tips and articles from others, as well as my own stuff. This week yielded plenty of gems:

This week, no time for favorites! Enjoy your weekend...

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dropbox offer for readers: Online file storage with a bonus

More and more, I keep my valuable documents and data in the cloud--both for portability across devices and as a redundant backup. Dropbox is becoming a new favorite for storing existing files so I can access them anywhere--no more USB drives! It's a boon for the traveling communicator. Follow this link to sign up for the free 2GB storage on Dropbox or a premium plan, and you and I will both get an extra 250MB of storage. Then pass on the offer to your colleagues...

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11 ways we can tell you don't have a social-media strategy

It's okay--you don't need to confess that you don't have a plan for social media. We can tell by your actions, content and approach. Are you being transparent...unintentionally? Here are 11 clues to evaluate your not-so-structured approach. I could have gone on, but why don't you help me finish this list and add a comment: What tips you off to the absence of a social-media strategy?
  1. You take things down in a crisis. Posts, entire pages, or admins disappear the moment negative comments appear, rather than answering the comments--or just letting them stand. Pulling the plug tells us you didn't anticipate and plan for a view other than your own.
  2. You leave things on auto-pilot during a crisis.  If you preschedule posts--and why not?--be sure your crisis communications plan includes a step to stop the auto-posts, or you'll look oddly out of touch to your users and others.
  3. You take things down because they aren't ready.  Rather than let the typo stand or the missing picture go missing, you're editing by deletion. Try taking the time to get it right before you post.
  4. You take things down because you made an error. While the consensus on how to correct posts is still being discussed with every crisis and accompanying mistake, the latest thinking is to leave the erroneous post up, but to include it in a later corrected post, as soon as possible.  And for garden-variety errors, well, face it: They happen to us all. No need to delete for that errant typo.
  5. You're missing from an important conversation on your topic.  Are you understaffed? Not monitoring? Trying to stay out of it? We can't tell.
  6. You're posting even when you have nothing to say.  A downside of delegating all your social-media posting to the youngest team members: It sometimes results in posts like "Whoo-hoo! It's Wednesday and we need to post something" or "Here's a picture of a kitten because everyone likes them." Be sure the standards for posts are clear--and don't post if there's no content.
  7. You're all push and no pull.  If we don't see @ replies or conversations, responses to questions or other signs of life (other than auto-posts), it's clear you haven't thought through the "social" part.
  8. You get defensive.  You're out there in social media--really out there. So have a plan for what you'll do and how you'll respond when criticism comes up. Getting defensive looks automatic and unplanned.
  9. You're nameless. If everyone's blogging as your company's name, or as "admin," and no one who's posting has a bio or background story I can find, you're wasting a major opportunity to engage your users and customers (and perhaps frustrating the curious).
  10. You haven't updated your status in more than a week.  Far from worrying about posting too much, you have the opposite problem--one that can be solved with a calendar for content.
  11. The photos on your site don't fit the season.  Timeliness can be measured in more than words. Do your visuals take advantage of the season? Photos of a sunny day don't convey as much as photos of your headquarters in the blizzard, when it's winter. Get real with those visuals.
Keep the list going in the comments--I'm looking forward to learning what you have noticed.


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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

National Park Service seeks tech ideas via new blog

The National Park Service is looking for individuals, tech companies and "emerging media providers" to submit information about products they thing could help the service improve interpretation in the parks. And they're making it transparent and easy: Just post your idea to TechThinkTank, NPS's blog for this purpose. From the blog:
For anyone who has ever had an idea for the National Parks or want to present to the National Parks - post to our blog http://www.techthinktank.org/. We are collecting submissions for emerging media providers in service to the National Park Service.
We are looking for short articles that tell us how they see their products helping the National Park Service and to give an example of this use. We are looking to feature media and technology providers who offer a unique solution to the interpretive needs, as well as accessibility, safety, and building community. Please join us in coming up with tomorrow's education solutions for park interpretation. Post your ideas here: http://www.techthinktank.org/.  
The blog accomplishes a number of worth goals for this government agency: It brings transparency to a submission process, makes the proposals instantly public so everyone can consider them, and creates a blog whose entire purpose is action, in the form of submissions and, presumably, later comments on them. It's a government echo of a trend in philanthropy to make grant proposals transparent--which allows outsiders to see proposals before they're selected, make comments or suggestions on them, and ultimately see which ones are successful in gaining funds. (Check out The Knight Foundation's blog and very public resources for its news challenge grants as a working example of this trend.)

Put this new blog in your "ones to watch" file. Have you made a blog that's a call to action? Share relevant links in the comments.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

For scientists who communicate, pass this on

Over on The Eloquent Woman blog, I've pulled together all the posts related to or inspired by scientists' efforts to communicate with public and non-technical audiences--with 14 posts on all aspects of public speaking and presenting (including one from this blog). They cover considerations for scientists from structuring content to including needed detail. Some great role models, videos and examples are included to get your favorite scientist inspired to improve these skills.

I'll be walking the talk on that score later next week when I lead a session at this workshop at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, with a focus on scientists' responsibilities when they work with reporters.  The session is for early career scientists and they must pre-register in order to attend.  Please share these resources with the scientists you work with!

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Using promoted Tweets to push a news story

The Twitter Media blog looks at how Al-Jazeera--which broadcasts in English in just 3 U.S. cities--used promoted tweets to push its coverage of the Cairo protests up in search results.  A key insight that might affect how you push your next major news story:
According to , head of social media at Al Jazeera English, the team is operating their Promoted Tweets campaign just like a news desk.

As stories pick up steam—for instance, word gets out that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is about to make another statement—the team tweets relevant information and promotes it, making sure it’s ready and waiting if and when “Mubarak” becomes a Trending Topic and Twitter users click his name, looking for more information. (Remember, the the Washington Post did something similar on Election Day 2010.)
Promoted tweets, as the post notes, can be re-tweeted or replied to like any other tweet--but they stay at the top of search results. Twitter cites this experience as creating a new form of TV distribution, minus cable networks. If you're going to try this approach, it's worth reading about the new research on why people do or do not use hashtags, when they dive in and which hashtags work.

I'm curious about how communicators might consider using a moving story and promoted tweets. How often do you plan to have your promotions work "just like a news desk," responsive to breaking situations? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Answers about questions sites: Quora and more


Quora's hot spike in popularity has the social media world buzzing--personally, I've never been followed so fast by so many people. Question sites aren't new, but even the longstanding sites are revamping their game in the face of the competition.

Which will you use? Here are some useful questions (with links) to help you strategize:
Which question sites are you using, and how? Share some experiences in the comments.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

Time to grab your sled and trudge off into the sunset? This has been a busy week for me, and as you read this, I'm heading north for meetings and family time (not in that order) myself. So let me leave you with these great reads, tips and finds I shared on Twitter this week, where I'm @dontgetcaught.
And here are a few items I favorited:
  • Wonder how to pitch hyperlocal news sites? They have 10 common features, according to this analysis by 10,000 Words.
  • Writers will like need this:  A handy online guide to common errors in English usage.
  • Quora quibbles:  First, tech guru Robert Scoble fell in love with Quora, the new questions site. Then, it wasn't all he'd hope. In between, he answered hundreds of questions and drew in a lot of new users. This post looks at why that's good and bad for Quora and will bring you up to speed with what's going on with this new site. (The good news: Still works for the rest of us.)
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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Tweetdeck wins my heart, all over again

I was a relatively early user of Tweetdeck, a cleaner and more versatile way to access Twitter. Tweetdeck helped me learn a truism among Twitter-lovers: It's great to use Twitter, unless you use it on Twitter.com. Tweetdeck keeps proving itself to me over and over again, and you should know about its latest features--options that might well change how you manage all your social media interactions with ease, with fewer limits and still for free.

Tweetdeck initially won my heart with its clean white-on-black interface and multiple columns. It has steadily made loads of upgrades and improvements, step by step. It really won my heart when I had technical problems downloading an update, and found myself trading emails with Tweetdeck CEO Iain Dodsworth--who nicely asked whether I'd mind trying several downloads of several versions so they could isolate my particular issues.Why, yes, I'd love to. Some high-powered help desk you've got there. We talk a lot about commitment and engagement with customers, but rarely experience it as trading emails with the CEO in the wee hours in his time zone. I've been using Tweetdeck's desktop app for a long time and its Android mobile app more recently.

Now, Tweetdeck has rolled out a couple of improvements to which communicators should be paying attention. One is a new and free Chrome web-based application that lets you manage multiple social-media accounts with an ease that even I find surprising, and another is Deck.ly, the Tweetdeck option that lets you go beyond 140 characters with your tweets. News organizations also are using Tweetdeck, both on-screen and behind the scenes, so media relations specialists should be paying attention to this trend.  Here are three updates to note:
  1. My new favorite, Tweetdeck on Chrome:  When Tweetdeck tells you that this new web-based version of the service is different from the desktop application and incorporates features of the mobile app, they're right--and then some. The Chrome version allows me so many more features in terms of monitoring multiple social accounts and posting to them that it's now my go-to social media management platform. (If I had two wishes, it's that I could do everything on the desktop version that I can do with the Chrome version. And scheduling posts isn't as intuitive on the Chrome version as it is on the desktop.) As an example: I can manage my Twitter account, my Foursquare account, my personal Facebook profile and three Facebook pages, and monitor LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare (and there are more options). It lets me add media, create standing searches and more. And it's free. I've played with paid monitoring services and Tweetdeck manages to make them undesirable. Here's an introductory video:
  2. Deck.ly, in case you're tempted to overstep the 140-character limit:  This feature means Tweetdeck has figured out how to let you ramble on a bit more--perhaps dangerous. In Tweetdeck, you can see these longer tweets; on other services, your followers will see a truncated tweet with a link to the rest. It's important to note that the longer-tweet feature does not extend to private DMs.Again, a video explains:
  3. Media companies using Tweetdeck:  Major news organizations are starting to use Tweetdeck as a reporting and broadcasting tool, and you can see examples at NBC NewsSky News, and The Guardian. And many networks now use Tweetdeck on-screen: one blog post made fun of how the networks have discovered Tweetdeck as a visual tool. That suggests that communicators, too, can be making use of it--and should be paying attention to Tweetdeck as a media-relations tool.
Are you using Tweetdeck and its new features? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What's the best advice you've gotten--and used--about being a good communicator?

On don't get caught on Facebook, I asked readers to share the best advice they've gotten--and actually used--about how to be a good comunicator.   It's shaping up as a good discussion and compendium of tips, and it's not too late for you to add to it. Here's what we've heard so far:
  • Gregg Bender said, "Know your audience."
  • Russ Campbell offered, "Shut up and listen."
  • Harvey Leifert shared, "Return reporters' calls quickly, if you want to remain relevant."
  • Robin Ferrier noted that "Perception is reality... perhaps not advice, exactly, but one of the most honest statements related to your company's or organization's reputation and what you need to keep in mind as you put together your company's communications, marketing, or community outreach plan."
  • Beth Schachter reminds us to "Practice, practice, practice when you're a beginner. Then you do become more comfortable with the process and don't need to practice as much."
  • Tiffany Lohwater shared, "Learn from your audience what works and what doesn't."
And you? Share the best communications advice you've received--and actually used--in the comments here or on the Facebook page.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What communicators can do to aid new policy on photographing federal buildings

Somewhere in my travel photos is one I took when the Vatican City polizia were about to eject me from St. Peter's basilica to clear it in preparation for a major ceremony honoring the Pope.  The reason? I was photographing the polizia. (It's a great shot, too. And yes, I avoided arrest.) Here in the U.S., photographing official buildings just got a little bit easier, whether you're a tourist or a pro photographer.

This lets me update one of this blog's most popular posts "No, really, officer: It's not illegal to photograph federal buildings"   about the struggles camera folk have had in doing just that.  Now there's a policy--and the form to go with it. Gizmodo reports that there's a new directive from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security advising federal officials that it's legal for anyone to photograph the outside of a federal building.

Living as I do in Washington, DC, surrounded by both photographers and federal buildings, I'm frankly relieved. The directive even notes that "officers should not seize the camera or its contents, and must be cautious not to give such ‘orders' to a photographer to erase the contents of a camera, as this constitutes a seizure or detention." Nice, all-encompassing information. You can get the official document here. 

Many blogs are calling on photographers to print out the form and carry it with them. But I say communicators, particularly those in federal buildings, can get proactive here: 
  • Share the policy with your security team and front desk folks, and anyone else engaged in building maintenance and security, including relevant managers.
  • Take it a step further and talk to your building security team. Ask: What would you do if someone was photographing our building? I did this in a media training with one organization's security force, about reporters coming on premises in a crisis, and the first response was "Arrest them." We spent more time on that--I said "Imagine what the headline would be," for starters--and you may need to as well.
  • Go transparent.  Link to the policy on your press page or about page, and make it clear to visitors that photos of the building are okay. Share a copy of it with any visiting photographers or camera crews.
If you're doing more to disseminate this swell new policy, share it in the comments so we can all learn.

(Photo from Steve Clancy's Flickr photostream)

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