Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our top 10 communications tips for March

As March comes to a close, our famous cherry blossoms are blooming in Washington, DC--and your choices helped these 10 tips and issues to bloom on the blog this month. Here are March's most popular posts:

  1. 7 ways to use QR codes for networking, marketing, and causes, from last August, continues to hold the top spot. (Check out this month's update on using hashtags and QR codes to boost your brand signature, at number 7 on this list.)
  2. Call it the CEO secret: Posterous's new features make it even easier to blog appeared in January, but is still on your to-do and to-read list this month.
  3. Block and Twitter: E-tactics that don't work in media relations uses real-life examples of don'ts, including not making your identity and role clear, blocking and unfollowing reporters who don't write the way you want them to, and forgetting that those backchannels can always become public. Don't get caught using these tactics!
  4. Get smart, communicators: Use curation tools to help reporters, experts, partners looks at using Evernote, Storify, Dipity and Projeqt for internal uses, replacing briefing books, source packages for reporters, and more.
  5. So noted: 20 things I'm doing with Evernote now for both personal and professional productivity. The more you use it, the more you'll find your own new uses.
  6. March 25th's weekend read of my weekly share on Twitter included some big news about embargoes, writing tips for short-form social media, a style guide to "like" buttons and much more, including this gem of a tweet: "Dance like no one's going to put it on YouTube."
  7. QR codes and hashtags come into their own as brand ambassadors offers data and case studies on how these identifiers are being used to drive traffic and engagement--and readers shared even more in the comments! 
  8. A scientist's elevator speech in 45 seconds, courtesy of biologist E.O. Wilson, is the longest-standing post on our list, dating back to last April. It's that good an example.
  9. Write me a guest post was a gauntlet I threw down in December. The option's still open--and this is a good writing exercise to try. 
  10. How Twitter helped revitalize a conference lineup is a guest post from this month, by Tim Nekritz of SUNY-Oswego. Learn from his real-life experience.
It's a good week to sign up for the free email newsletter at the links below--the next issue will be out next week. Thanks for reading!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Study: Take your head out of the social-media sand, respond to negative comments

Before social media, your company or organization could lose, ignore or wish away that negative letter, email or phone call from a disgruntled customer or user. After all, they had few ways to broadcast it, aside from old-school word of mouth. Now that every consumer has multiple platforms for publishing her discontents, some organizations still fail to respond, choosing instead to ignore the comments, avoid answering questions or, in a signal that they don't have a strategy for social media, take the offending post down entirely or shut down the site.

But a new Harris Interactive survey of retail customers' attitudes shows that direct responses to consumers who complain on social media sites can reverse their negative feelings. From MediaPost's coverage:
68% of consumers who posted a complaint or negative review on a social networking or ratings/reviews site after a negative holiday shopping experience got a response from the retailer. Of those, 18% turned into loyal customers and bought more. By listening and proactively responding on the social web, says the report, retailers have a chance to turn disgruntled customers into social advocates. The survey found that, of those who received a reply in response to their negative review:
  • 33% turned around and posted a positive review.
  • 34% deleted their original negative review.
You'll have surprise on your side, as well: The survey shows that a majority of consumers don't expect they'll ever get a response to a negative comment posted online about a bad experience.

After the study, a case study: Here's a great example of deft handling of negative comments via the United Way of King County's hunger challenge campaign.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

QR codes and hashtags come into their own as brand ambassadors

Maybe your branding used to include a toll-free number or a website URL. But evidence is mounting that a hashtag or QR code are today's version of the brand signature, the key that takes a casual viewer or reader directly to your website, call center or discussion. And integrating the codes into mainstream media of all kinds, from print to broadcast, helps engage and retain audiences and boost the use of what you're publicizing.

For starters, 72 percent of smartphone users in this study said they'd be likely to use a QR code to remember an ad, and more than half said they'd already used the codes to secure a coupon, deal or discount, or to get additional information. Companies and nonprofits are offering QR codes to save your place on a restaurant's waitlist and get a call when your table is ready, or to see pictures of Picassos and get a link to buy tickets to a museum exhibit of his work. While they're great for connecting a physical retail space to your online offerings, QR codes can be used in ads, reports, and in personal transactions (think business cards). If you've been packing material onto thumb drives and distributing them, stop. Use a QR code instead."

Thoughtful use of hashtags also can boost engagement and viewers.Comedy Central's recent roast of Donald Trump featured the hashtag #TrumpRoast in the bottom right corner of the screen. The small but consistently used hashtag yielded "35,000 #TrumpRoast Tweets during the 90-minute roast. That’s an average of 6.5 Tweets per second throughout the show," according to this post on the Twitter Media blog. That doesn't include more tweets that omitted the hashtag, but tweets with the #TrumpRoast hashtag made up a larger proportion of the total, due to the on-air reminder. More to the point: It was Comedy Central's highest Tuesday night rating in the channel's history. Here's another case study of how BBC used a hashtag for all of its tweets about the budget debate in the UK, and how it benefited from keeping the tag onscreen. The Donald's hashtag looked like this on screen, lower left. It's subtle but effective, and you can do the same by watermarking your videos, photos and other offerings with a related hashtag:



The Twitter Media blog says that all hashtags are not created equal, and offers these tips for crafting an effective hashtag. Judicious use of hashtags (say, one at a time) also is recommended in this post asking The Economist, please cut it out with the hashtags on Twitter.

Are you using QR codes and hashtags to serve as your signature or "for more information" link? Share your examples with us.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites


Is it spring yet? The calendar says yes this week in the U.S., but conditions may vary. Here in Washington, we're veering between spring blossoms and the threat of a late snow.And there's plenty of variety in what I shared on Twitter this week, where I'm @dontgetcaught and Twitter hit its fifth birthday. Someone asked "Who did you not know five years ago that you know today through Twitter?" For me, that's a big list, and they all help me share these items. Here are the highlights, plus a special discount:
Here's the discount:  MOO.com, my favorite site for creative business cards, postcards, and more, is offering new users 20 percent off your order, valid until until 11.59pm (PT) 30th March 2011. The discount does not apply to Shipping, Rush Printing, or Logo Design. I may get my own discount if you use yours. Put referral code R5KKFB on your order.

And a few favorited items that I'm saving to mull at more length:

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

So noted: 20 things I'm doing with Evernote now

They say the more you use Evernote, the more you'll expand what you're doing with it. That's certainly been true in my case. I've been using it to help prepare speeches and presentations, as this CEO does (and I like his method of storing quotes, anecdotes and the like in their own notebooks, ready for searching later). I've been using my list of 8 ways with Evernote for communicators, especially for my client projects. But Evernote's becoming a bigger part of my utility belt, allowing me to handle more personal and professional tasks. Here's a sampling:

  1. Writing ebooks. I have a couple of ebooks in the works and I have a notebook for each one, with "notes" for the chapters, as well as for background material I want to include but haven't organized yet. When they're ready for copyediting and proofreading, I'll share the notebook with my assistant.
  2. Planners for customized media trainings. Many of my clients want a twist on traditional media trainings, with customization that might include specific examples of media interview gaffes in their subject area or field, as well as specific situations their company, university or nonprofit will be facing. Those notebooks include all the background they send me (from media coverage to internal memos), as well as video and audio examples I want to share, my slides, and any handouts or exercises we'll be doing.
  3. To-do lists. I don't make too many such lists, but I do keep a running list of client deliverables and deadlines in Evernote. And more important, I have a running to-do list for my virtual assistant.
  4. Shopping lists, so they're always in my smartphone--in fact, I dragged a link to this notebook to the main screen of my smartphone to save time in the store. I keep lists of staples I buy regularly, as well as a running list for what's needed now.
  5. Short audio records of things that I need to take note of, like how many miles I drove on a business task. This works great when you don't have an extra hand, let alone a pen, to jot something down. Evernote has partner services that will transcribe such notes, make them searchable or let you record Evernote audio by making a phone call. You could make your to-do list this way, or record the gist of a meeting by talking into your phone as you leave the building.
  6. Longer audio "notes" from interviews, conversations, and speeches I'm listening to. The option to have these transcribed or listen to them later is turning out to be very useful for me.
  7. Vital documents have all been scanned into Evernote. I never need to worry about having lost a passport, driver's license, birth certificate, whatever--they're all stored here, and are accessible around the world, as long as I can get to an Internet connection, or my smartphone. A great peace-of-mind option and one that means I don't need to be scattered in an emergency. It's all in one place.
  8. Contracts, estimates, invoices and administrative paperwork all have their own notebooks.
  9. Documents I want my virtual assistant to work on, from spreadsheets to reports, all are put in shared notebooks. It's a two-way inbox and library, all at once.
  10. Recipes. I don't share what I'm eating on Twitter. I share what I'm cooking. And I've never really liked clipping recipes or setting up recipe files on various cooking websites. Evernote has let me scan old paper recipes into notes, using the wonderful and compatible Doxie portable scanner, and anything I see online gets easily clipped with my desktop Evernote setup.
  11. Wine library.  Same deal with wine labels--I never liked soaking them off the bottle and saving them, or keeping a wine journal. Now, I use my Evernote mobile app to take a photo of the label. That's it. Any text on it is completely searchable, so I can find that odd varietal in seconds or remember what the label looks like when I'm in a store.
  12. Inspiration notebooks. Doesn't matter whether I'm redecorating a room in my house, working on a sculpture or coming up with a new content strategy for a client. These notebooks include photos, audio, articles, quotations, prices, sources, lists and more--they are where I "collect string" until I'm ready to work. Again, getting them into a notebook means I don't need to waste time looking for them later.
  13. Travel. I have a notebook for every trip, into which receipts, reservations and resources go. Places to which I travel frequently get their own notebooks that corral all the things that let me act like a local, from event calendars and running maps to which sushi restaurants deliver to which New York City hotels. If I have my eye on a restaurant for a client lunch or need a meeting room or manicurist when I'm on the road, it's in here. This notebook benefits from my ability to email things into Evernote, so if I get a travel offer or event notice in my email or RSS feed, it can be sent right into the notebook with appropriate tags and deleted from my inbox.
  14. Music. I've taken up learning how to play guitar, and when I can, I travel with a smaller-size guitar to keep my practice up. I have handwritten sheet music scanned into this notebook, along with models of guitars I'm looking at for my next purchase, tips my instructor has shared, a full list of specs for my guitar. All that means I can practice in a hotel room without toting additional books and papers.
  15. Panels and speaking gigs. In addition to the fodder for speeches noted above, I keep notebooks on panels I'm helping to organize--which can be shared with co-organizers--and on my own speaking gigs. Those sometimes include scans of room layouts, slides, information on the on-the-ground tech contacts, maps and other logistics information. When I've taken notes from conferences, I create them in Evernote and if needed, can share that notebook with friends, clients and colleagues.
  16. Coaching resources. When I'm coaching a communications staffer in writing, media pitching or public speaking skills, I often want to share specific fact sheets and resources based on her particular needs. I keep those "handouts" in notebooks based on the coaching topic, and can email them directly to my coaching client. My collection of good writing examples lives in the writing coaching notebook, too.
  17. Organization tools. I'm always on the lookout for coverage of new tools, software or gadgets that will help improve my productivity, and they go in this notebook. It's the one I'll read on a flight or train ride, when I have time and distance from my office to contemplate new workflow options.
  18. User manuals. For those user manuals that don't live online, I have a home here. For the online user manuals, I have a list with pointers and the actual model names and numbers.
  19. Medical histories. That might be for me, for my car, or for anything that needs repair and maintenance. The detailed services and checkups get scanned into the right notebooks, and then I have a searchable record of what happened when.
  20. Big-ticket purchases. When I'm considering a new computer, television, car or other major purchase, I send news and inspiration into this notebook, and ask my assistant to research and input other options. Then I can sit back and review them all. When I'm ready to pull the trigger on the purchase, I know what I want and why I want it.
What are you using Evernote for? Share your ideas in the comments. I'm an Evernote affiliate, and you can sign up for a free or a premium account by clicking on the "clip" button below.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The networked communicator: Learn from a student about revved-up resumes

Remember that old piece of advice to "dress for the job you want, not the job you have?" Today, we might say you should dress up your resume or online profile so it reflects where you (and your communications tools) are headed, not where they've been.

Here's a case in point. This isn't just an infographic. It's a resume. It belongs to the latest Huffington Post hire, University of Missouri journalism student Christopher Spurlock. He didn't mail it in--he posted it on Huffington Post College, where it got shared by a HuffPo staffer and went viral. From TechCrunch:

The original post, which amassing thousands of Facebook “Likes,” hundreds of tweets, and tens of thousands of pageviews, eventually convinced Kanalley to bring on Spurlock as a Huffington Post Infographic Design Editor, but not before Kanalley wrote a followup post “How to Make Your Resume Stand Out: 5 Tips From Chris Spurlock.” Indeed.


Here's the thing, communicators: You don't need to be a fresh-faced college grad to get this creative. The moment I saw this resume expressed as an infographic timeline, I thought of Dipity.com, which lets you create interactive timelines--and link in documents and resources. But you might find your best expression in a YouTube video profile or About.me photo or some other social tool. If you've got just such a creative communicator's resume, share a link with us in the comments.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Do you react or respond? How not to get caught in an answer

I've spent plenty of time as a spokesperson and as counsel to spokesfolk. No matter who's front and center for your company or organization, your first job is to do what a psychologist would advise--remember that most of the time, the only thing you get to control is how you react.

Despite that, far too many communicators (and their leaders) opt to react, rather than respond. Reacting means you might get caught. Responding means you take control, in the form of taking the time to pause, think and answer the question--or explain why you can't. Perhaps, best of all, you've taken time well in advance to anticipate tough questions and how you'll respond, should they arise.

Choosing to respond rather than react also means not letting your emotions get the best of you. You'll see plenty of cautionary tales in this NPR story on Twitter gaffes, some of which got folks fired, but you need not involve social networks to broadcast your blunders. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley resigned this month after calling the Defense department's treatment of the accused Wikileaks leaker "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid." He spoke at MIT in front of a "tiny" crowd that included a BBC reporter, who reconfirmed the remarks were on the record before blogging them. And while I don't recommend "no comment" as a response, this journal editor could have benefited by using that--or almost anything else besides "None of your damned business" when asked by a reporter why a research article had been retracted.

It's not just a word problem. Physical reactions aren't as uncommon as you may think. 60 Minutes recently released this reel of interviewees storming off the set to end their interviews:


Some tips to help you think fast on your feet and avoid reacting instead of responding:
  • Remember what you get to control: That would be your reactions. Reminding yourself of that before you respond will help keep things in line.
  • Look to your physical reactions first: A scowl (even the kind you wear when you're just thinking hard), clenched fists, eyes rolling to heaven and other physical reactions are fair game even for reporters who aren't toting a camera...and can undercut any smooth words you've got prepared. Instead, take a deep breath and control the reactions of your face as well as your words.
  • Use active listening while the questions come out: Use the time in which the question's being posed to listen with care, thinking of your response rather than reacting immediately. If need be, use this time to pose questions to your questioner to clarify. You'll slow yourself down and respond better.
  • Plan ahead for the situations you can anticipate: The best way to avoid getting caught is to think through and practice the questions you want, expect and fear, and how you'll respond to them. This is how I shape my media trainings, and it's a great time to work out the kinks and surprises before you're caught unprepared.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

Did your week have some rhythm, a beat, maybe some jazz to it? I hope so. Time to wind down with my weekly sharing of posts originally passed along on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught.

Favorites follow--these are the posts I put aside for future reading and blogging:

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Strict social media policies: NYTimes benefits without one, Wall St. may need them


Early on in the world of blogging, Microsoft decided it didn't need a special policy for employees who blog about the company--except that all its existing policies would still apply. The company saved itself a lot of trouble by avoiding a draconian social media policy. And the same thing is happening at the New York Times in terms of its Twitter policies. Several Times reporters speaking at the Online News Association noted that the lack of a strict Twitter policy had allowed that news organization to thrive online. In general, the panel praised the lack of a tightly reined-in policy, although reporters acknowledged some awkward limits: 

[Senior styles web producer Simon] Oliver acknowledged instances when an editor has deleted tweets the editor found to be out of line ― which panelists agreed is a huge no-no. Just like you wouldn't delete a story, you shouldn't delete a tweet.
The experience is another sign that news organizations still struggle with the ethics and correction practices for social media. “I wish Twitter would come up with some sort of correction mechanism,” noted Liz Heron, social media editor at the Times. 
The Times's public editor this weekend weighed in on its use of Twitter, surveying reporters and editors informally, and even discussing what the business risk might be for the Times. But he sums up by saying:
So far, the laissez-faire approach has generated staff enthusiasm for Twitter, and nothing terrible has happened. Perhaps the most remembered misstep came a year ago when a reporter covering Toyota, in a fit of frustration with the company’s handling of a press conference, tweeted, “Toyota sucks.”
Fittingly, the Times's Patrick LaForge--one of its power Twitter users--posted the entire transcript of his interview with the public editor about his Twitter use so you can see all his comments.

Looks like investment firms may not be so lucky, however. Fortune reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission is scrutinizing firms' social media policies and posts, looking for violations of its rules. Regarding policies, the article notes, "The SEC is now asking registered advisers about their social media policies, and we have heard that examiners are writing up findings on firms that do not have written policies and documented procedures around the use of social media."

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to stop being a news release vending machine

gumball machine
"Change is inevitable--except from a vending machine," the man said. No, it won't happen overnight (or for 25 cents). But you can change the culture in your company or organization so that you feel less like a vending machine of news releases and more like a trusted advisor. Here's how:
  • Get your team's act together. I first came up with the "instead of a news release" idea when my team started grumbling about vending-machine syndrome. We had our own staff brainstorm what else could usefully be offered instead of a news release. Then everyone got the list, both to use as a guide for conversations with clients and to share with clients so they'd know what to ask for. In many cases, clients were merely unaware of their options. Make sure you and your team are delivering consistent messages -- about releases or anything else you no longer recommend.
  • Alert management. As communications director, one of your roles is to alert senior management when you're shifting gears. Let them ask questions and share your strategy--then ask them to reinforce it when their teams complain.
  • Breed some healthy competition. When you're able to convince someone to let you take a more effective approach, reward that good behavior. This is one time when a good internal blog or email about "what we've done for you lately here in communications" can work wonders. (My favorite was called "Got You Covered," a useful double entendre.) Such a summary can create internal buzz, share what's working and give your clients some internal visibility (for many, that's what they wanted in the first place).
Have trouble putting these ideas over? Need an in-house training session on alternative ways to boost your media relations without annoying all the reporters? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Instead of a news release: 21 options

I've got nothing against a news release--when you have news. But the form more often is used as a compact way to put out basic information, and because your colleagues don't know what else to ask for. (This leads to utterly ridiculous releases like this one, about which comments could not be made due to national security reasons.) A better plan? Make a list of all the options you're willing and able to use to make known the things that don't quite cut it as a news release, and start dispensing those instead. I've given you this as a starter list. What else would you add?
  1. A blog post.
  2. A video message, tutorial, or profile, shared on YouTube, Facebook and your website.
  3. An event photostream, published on Flickr or Facebook.
  4. A question--or answers--posted on Quora, Facebook, or LinkedIn to share expertise or start a discussion.
  5. Audio interviews, posted as podcasts.
  6. A backgrounder of raw materials for reporters and others to use, collecting photos, audio, video, databases and reports on an in-depth topic. 
  7. Live-tweeting of a conference or meeting and promotion of a hashtag before it starts.
  8. Posting meeting audio as a podcast on iTunes.
  9. A short Kindle Single ebook, made available on Amazon, for a published report, speech or summary. 
  10. Posts on Facebook and Twitter to direct readers to a report, database or FAQ.
  11. A letter to the editor.
  12. An op-ed.
  13. A comment on a post that concerns the client.
  14. A photo with a long caption.
  15. A phone call or email to a relevant reporter, tipping her off to the new report or resource with an offer to share it.
  16. A speech to an interested audience, internal or external.
  17. A mention in someone else's speech or presentation.
  18. A slide deck with which to present the news to interested groups, and share on SlideShare or Prezi.
  19. An in-person briefing with small groups affected by the news, or those whose support you seek.
  20. A letter or memo to the affected audience of members, alumni, customers, suppliers, supporters.
  21. A letter to specific people for whom the news will be especially useful if shared directly. For an award winner, a letter to his president or CEO; for a cause with a major fundraising need, a letter to a key legislator or top donor.
Have trouble putting these ideas over? Stay tuned for my next post on how to create a not-so-many-news-releases culture in your organization. Need an in-house training session on alternative ways to boost your media relations without annoying all the reporters? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Forget the buro? Bloggers already on the ground boost early reporting

Today's New York Times looks at a quiet trend in journalism that's thrown into high relief by major disasters, protests and other types of unrest in distant parts of the globe: the rise of early reporting from bloggers already in place in far-flung locations. The piece focuses on Global Voices, a platform with 300 volunteer bloggers outside the U.S. Says co-founder Ethan Zuckerman: “Our goal is to give you the voices of the people in a country like Tunisia, day in and day out, whether they are cementing rebellion or talking about local news and sports scores....We don’t parachute in. We are there all the time."

The shuttering of foreign bureaus of U.S. news organizations and resulting use of more independent journalists to report foreign stories have been known for some time. (Domestically, news organizations have scaled back other bureaus, including those in Washington.) As a result, even news organizations rely on those early tweets and blob posts from eyewitnesses and are weaving them into their stories when unrest occurs.

All the more reason, communicators, for you to build solid relationships with your local bloggers, no matter what their subject is--you never know when they'll come in handy, and they may be placing the first phone calls you field in an emergency.

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Give your spokesperson 5 useful shortcuts to strong statements


Your company's or organization's spokesperson--not you, but your prinicipal, CEO or expert--has a tough job. She's likely spent less time than you have figuring out how things should sound or the effect of a casual comment. Offer these shortcuts to help your spokesperson find the road to success faster in spoken comments. They're all from our sister blog on public speaking, The Eloquent Woman:
  1. The 6 strongest speaker statements:  This list starts with one of the toughest (but most effective) statements for people to say in public, "I don't know," and moves on from there. These are great statements to have in your back pocket for all sorts of situations. Note that each one begins with "I"--since I'm a big advocate of spokespeople speaking for themselves.
  2. The 5 weakest speaker statements: These statements help your prinicipal avoid wasting time and watering down a statement--or overstating data and ideas. And while you may not be able to stop your spokesperson from saying these statements right away, I hope the post helps you convince him that they weaken, rather than strengthen, his position.
  3. Why "I don't know" may be the expert's best Q-and-A tool: Here's a great first-person account from someone who has to answer public questions authoritatively, and how she learned to embrace "I don't know" as a powerful (and accurate) statement in the face of questions, when appropriate.
  4. 7 reasons I want you to talk more shares the times when your spokesfolk should expand on their thoughts, whether in response to a question from a reporter or an audience member.
  5. 7 reasons I want you to talk less doesn't let your spokesperson off the hook. Share these with your long-winded experts.
I do media training, speaker and presentation coaching and message development. If you need help shaping your top spokesperson's statements and her ability to put them across, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

Been chasing things this week, leading the pack or trying to stay ahead of what's chasing you? No matter, it's Friday. Time to cool down and catch up with some of the good reads and resources I found and shared on Twitter this week, where I post as @dontgetcaught. Today's a special 10-year anniversary for me, so I'll be doing an extra victory lap before the weekend gets underway.  Here are some prize-worthy finds from the week:
Before the finish line, some favorites I marked for later use:

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guest post: How Twitter helped revitalize a conference lineup

(Editor's note: Tim Nekritz is the associate director of public affairs at SUNY Oswego, where he also directs web communications. This post caught my eye because it's a great case study and a unique angle on how Twitter can help your conference or event. Nekritz writes the blog Inside Tim's Head, on which this post first appeared; he has graciously granted permission for us to reprint it here.) 

About three years ago, almost no one outside New York state had heard of the annual SUNYCUAD Conference. Last month, some of the top experts in their fields were celebrating, via social media, being accepted to speak at SUNYCUAD.

So what happened? In large part, Twitter. Not entirely, but the microblogging community really created much more buzz — and, moreover, real-life connections — than before.

The first SUNYCUAD conference I attended years ago featured many vendors speaking. “If you buy our service, this is what you can do,” spilled from a few sessions, and others just didn’t give much in the way of takeaways . Even though I love the organization — for development and communicators throughout the State University of New York system — and the event itself, the conference was watered down with too many tracks and not enough fresh speakers or ideas.

When I first joined the programming arm of this group, we already had good speakers, sure, but too many of them, and often the usual suspects over and over. So we compressed the tracks, favoring quality of speakers over quantity. But then a funny thing happened in 2009. We started live-tweeting some of our awesome speakers, and people all over North America said: “I have no idea what SUNYCUAD is, but sounds great!”

Last year we added a panel of top experts we termed our faculty-in-residence, starting with a panel presentation to set the conference tone. I’m proud to say that this year’s conference faculty will include Mark Greenfield, a headline-level speaker around the world and SUNY employee, whom I would not know well (nor have asked to speak) if not for Twitter.

We’ve created a call for presenters, and perhaps the most successful method of distribution was via Twitter … either the @SUNYCUAD account or various retweeters. Among those who applied and we selected as speakers, many were folks I wouldn’t have known without Twitter, many wouldn’t know SUNYCUAD existed if not for Twitter and some wouldn’t have applied if not for the Twitter announcement of the call for speakers.

So whenever people pooh-pooh the prospect of Twitter building brand or business, I can point to a pretty cool conference in Saratoga Springs this June as proof it works. If you can’t make it, expect to see some pretty cool live tweets!

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Get smart, communicators: Use curation tools to help reporters, experts, partners

Communicators don't just tell stories to the outside world. More often, our versions of curation and storytelling involve pulling together background for a reporter or prepping a speaker or interviewee. And in some cases, we tell our stories when we're networking or looking for new job opportunities. To do this, we used to have press kits, briefing books, piles of documents, honking email attachments, portfolios and other cumbersome ways to collect what we needed to brief and source a story. What would you use today to share information, background, leads and sources? I'm seeing more options than ever for public and private sharing of sources and knowledge in several new curation and collection tools. Here are some of my emerging favorites:
  • Evernote: You can collect all sorts of source material in an Evernote notebook, then publish it for anyone to access, email it to a particular user privately, or grant access invitations via email to a group of people. That makes it perfect for backgrounding reporters, prepping your spokespeople, communicating with a panel of experts before a news conference, sharing materials with your communications counterparts at partner organizations before a big announcement, and much more. You can include any medium from photos and video to text and audio, and placing source material in Evernote makes it searchable--which saves time on all sides. I'll just add for my reporter friends: Giving them access to notebooks in the cloud is preferable to emailing those honkingly huge attachments that often don't make it past their system filters. You can offer and rescind access at any time, too--but play nice with this feature. Here's an open invite to communicators: If you make a sourcing notebook in Evernote and want to share it here so we can all learn, I'll feature it on the blog. (I'm an Evernote affiliate; click the elephant "clip" button at the end of this post to find out how to set up a free or premium account.) Check out Evernote's "Getting Started" guide, and look at how your entire organization can get Evernote with a sponsored premium account.
  • Storify: This service is still in beta, although you can sign up for invites to join. Storify makes it easy for you to collect string from Twitter, online videos, photostreams and more. Then you can publish, share or make it easy for others to embed your "story." Here's how I'm thinking communicators can use Storify:  to chronicle a breaking or emergency story as it unfolds for sharing with reporters; collecting coverage of an issue, conference news, or a particular expert at your company or organization, for sharing with reporters or publishing for your members, employees or supporters; letting your grantees, volunteers, donors, or partners share their side of a story. (Storify lets you appoint contributors and editors for each story.)
  • Dipity: I'd be running to Dipity, which helps you create interactive timelines, if my company or organization had an anniversary coming up or had played a key role in another bit of history (for example, the 30th anniversary of the first reports of AIDS in the Centers for Disease Control's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report is coming up). The options for communicators are many: Want to show the significance of a step your group's responsible for, or background reporters on the difficult but little-known history of your issue? Want to show a progression, the backstory, some context from history--recent or ancient? Setting the record straight or establishing provenance? Want to show your career progression and achievements, you shooting star? This is the place. The Dipity blog highlights this timeline from Steuben Glass to get you started.
  • Projeqt: Here's another service you'll need an invite for, at this time. Projeqt calls itself a storytelling platform, and is highlighting its compatibility with social services and with mobile platforms--another dimension for your curation and sharing. It was developed initially for a website, to be a Flash-free option that worked across many platforms; now it's billed as a portfolio option for creatives and a presentation tool for brands and businesses.  In that vein, communicators might want to use it, variously, to prep experts and speakers; as a creative resume/portfolio tool to showcase their own work; for internal presentations; or to share a range of visuals with reporters covering a story. (And that's not counting how you might use this for external storytelling direct to your key audiences.) The mobile option's appealing if you are briefing or prepping far-flung sources or folks on the move. Here's what it looks like:



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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Communicators: Keep up with NYT, NPR changes

Change is afoot everywhere in journalism, but at heavy-hitters like the New York Times and NPR, you might need a scorecard and some popcorn to keep 'em straight. Here, some updates and background to share with your media relations team:

At the New York Times:
  • Shifts in science, 9/11 coverage: The Times has a new science editor, Barbara Strauch, who formerly edited health coverage; former science editor Laura Chang will oversee the cross-departmental coverage of the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. Both shifts take place next week, March 15. The science role isn't limited to the weekly science section, and oversees science, health and environment reporting throughout the paper.
  • Renaming and reframing: The magazine has begun a major overhaul, one that will be phased in over several weeks. Yahoo! News has a sneak peek at changes at the NYT magazine, from renaming the letters column "Reply All" to a monthly column by a physician and a photographer Q-and-A coming in as regular features. Not all features will be weekly, suggesting greater variety over time.
  • Editors' credits emerge: The magazine also has begun including editor credits, in addition to reporter bylines. Nieman Labs thinks editor credits are a good thing, helpful for accountability, though others disagree. NL also looks at the credits' format, which includes editorial email addresses.
  • Pulling content from the social sphere: I've read plenty of Times coverage that viewed social media askance, with a type of "this is still happening?" tone. But this weekend, the New York Times magazine published an essay, "The Tire Iron and the Tamale," that would be great content anywhere: It's a heart-tugging, beautifully written personal essay. It just so happens that they found it on Reddit.com, a social site, a move that's already getting good reviews.
At NPR:

Stand by for more changes, and feel free to share your observations in the comments. (Photo from churl's photostream on Flickr)

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Develop a strong social media voice with "@NoReservations"

Anthony Bourdain's been in my face lately, particularly on social networks. And that's probably just where he wants to be, given the celebrity chef's strong so-what, try-anything way of operating. He reminds me why it's so important for you to develop and maintain a strong, recognizable voice on social media networks--whether you're a brand or an individual.

Take this book review on the Kindle blog. Bourdain reviewed for Kindle the chef memoir Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Hamilton, chef of New York City's Prune restaurant. He didn't mince words. Hell, he chopped them:

I wasn't prepared for exactly how goddamn brilliant the thing was, or how enchanted, difficult, strange, rich, inspiring and just plain hard her life and career--her long road to Prune--had been. I was unprepared for page after page of such sharp, carefully-crafted, ballistically-precise sentences. I was, frankly, devastated. I put this amazing memoir down and wanted to crawl under the bed, retroactively withdraw every book, every page I'd ever written. And burn them.
That's grab-by-the-throat writng. and much more content and flavor than we get in most blog posts and status updates. It's memorable, and that works for the brand. Kindle and the publisher may figure you don't know the author, but you're likely to know Bourdain--and he's not easily impressed. I'll bet this endorsement sold more than a few books and e-books.

And so was this experiment, in which Bourdain himself live-tweeted the premiere of his show on the Travel Channel, No Reservations, using the show's Twitter account @NoReservations.

The Twitter Media blog (Twitter's effort to show what news and entertainment journos are doing with Twitter) took this look at live-tweeting with No Reservations. More and more television shows are tapping into viewers who are also using Twitter and Facebook during important shows or episodes.

Analysis from the blog follows. On the chart, the yellow line represents mentions, and the blue line represents new followers acquired during the arc of the program:
On the vertical axis you can see both follows and mentions per minute. When the episode begins, and Anthony Bourdain starts tweeting, both metrics leap as if electrified. All told, Bourdain gained about 10,000 new followers on Monday—more than 3,000 of those during the hour-long premiere itself.
What did the trick? I'm guessing it was in part due to live, real-time access to Bourdain, but mostly due to his salty and sly commentary: behind-the-scenes tidbits (like who was drunk and how drunk they were) and his usual don't-hold-back attitude. Something might happen any second when he's live-tweeting, which makes the curious want to watch...and follow. Followers expand the brand's reach the next time it wants to reach and engage viewers.

Developing a strong voice takes time, but pays off. Your readers will come to know what to expect from you, and you'll be giving them more to which they can respond, compared to bland "safe" postings. Think about delineating your specific focus for posts. What will you post about? What will you not post about? What will the exceptions be? Why? What's your specific angle? What void are you filling? Whom are you speaking to? What are you trying to accomplish? Who cares? Who doesn't? What do you care about? What makes you laugh? What gets you angry? What's frustrating in your work? What can you support wholeheartedly? What would you decry? Then start planning and inserting those views into your Twitter or Facebook posts, your Quora discussions, your online videos and more.

You can see from the questions that I think you need to have an opinion, or several. (I like to say that if you don't have a personality in social media, you need to go get one.) Your point of view helps make your posts unique in a sea of social networking. Playing it safe removes you from risk and the fray, but also removes you from connecting with us, which means we can't always grasp who you are and what you're doing here. Try posting with no, or at least fewer, reservations and see how your voice develops.

(Photo by Sifu Renka on Flickr)

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

Lots of glittery things caught my eye on Twitter this week, where I'm @dontgetcaught and like to share interesting news and insights from others. And even though I led a two-day training this week and had many deadlines, I managed to find, share and favorite some good stuff. Here are my favorite shiny and substantive reads from this week's Twitterstream:
I owe you some favorites, don't I? This was a week in which I used Twitter's "favorite" while flying past things I knew I could only read later:
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