Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May's top 10 communications tips and issues

Views on this month's popular post stacked up high--and fast. Seems like spring's a time for exploring new ideas and revisiting best practices. Check out what other communications directors found useful this month:
  1. Are your experts blowing off media interviews? How to avoid a no-show attracted far and away the most readers this month--which probably isn't a good sign.
  2. Before you bake that QR code, ask me whether I use them--like King Arthur Flour did offers a case study that's easy to replicate. Read how this baking products company used Facebook to query users, then to get their (very creative) ideas for where QR codes would be useful.
  3. What to ask reporters is a useful 2007 post referenced in this month's top post on blowing off interviews--it's a tool I share with my trainees so they understand how to work with reporters, rather than avoid the interview. A perennial favorite on the blog, and this month.
  4. 5 ways to blog or tweet less without anyone noticing was so popular that I know my readers have their priorities straight.
  5. My elevator speech on *your* elevator speech shares three tips to refocus that briefest of all presentations--with links to more resources for making your own elevator speech work.
  6. 5 new tools on my short list and how they work for communicators gives you an update on services I'm trying, from Zapaday and FellowUp to RSS for Facebook pages, URL shortener Bre.ad, and YouTube's new Town Hall feature.
  7. Great science comms job: AAAS seeks public engagement program associate shares a new job listing with you--please share this with qualified applicants.
  8. Both sides now: How I look at the cloud after a computer crash walks you through my own migration of record-storage in the cloud, and why I'm glad I'm on that path.
  9. The not-so-marketing book that changed my professional life is really about art...and fear. It's a post I contributed to a nonprofit blog carnival looking for good marketing books. 
  10. Promoting an expert? Watch the TED tryouts live on May 24 clued you in to TED's first-ever public tryouts and their effort to recruit new ways of presenting.
This is a great time to sign up for my free newsletter below--it'll be out soon with material before it appears on the blog. Thanks for reading!

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Closed for birthday


I wouldn't get caught posting on my birthday, would you? And that's today, for me. The DGC blog will be back tomorrow with our end-of-the-month roundup of May's top 10 posts. It's a great time to sign up for the newsletter, below, as it will be out next week. Enjoy your Monday!

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

Did you get caught behind the curve this week? Here's your chance to catch up, heading into the weekend. I've saved up the best articles and ideas I shared from other sources on Twitter this week, where I'm @dontgetcaught. In the U.S., this is a long holiday weekend for us, and I'm celebrating my birthday Monday--the anniversary of the day that my dad had to drive straight across a Memorial Day parade route to get my mom to the hospital. I'll never live that down. Enjoy your long weekend and weekend read!

And a couple of favorites, marked for later use:

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The not-so-marketing book that changed my professional life: Art & Fear


It's 122 pages long and one of the shortest reads around. But Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking is a game-changer of a book in my professional life. I'm writing this post in response to the nonprofit blog carnival about a *marketing* book that changed your professional life, so you might think I'm a little mixed up. Bear with me.

I came to this book not through work but through a hobby. I've spent a lot of my career working at or consulting for nonprofits. At one of them, I mentioned to a coworker that I was thinking about taking a class after work, maybe to refresh my French speaking skills. And she said, "Are you out of your mind? You work with language all day, every day. Take dance lessons, learn to cook, train to row competitively. But don't take up a hobby that's so much like your work!"

At first, I was taken aback, but I followed her advice. Tango. Guitar. Cooking class. Salsa. Theater voice training. But it was in an art course that I learned about Art & Fear, which gets read like a prayer book by aspiring artists. It gets at every uncomfortable issue a professional artist faces. Turns out artists have a terrible time "shipping," as Seth Godin says--and that makes it a bit like marketing. It's tough enough to create something with which you're satisfied, and quite another to put a price on it and display it for others to ignore, criticize or pass over...and then do it over and over again. Even worse to stand in front of it while people say things like, "I could make that" (Knock yourself out, lady) or "Could you tell me how you made that, precisely, so I can go home and make my own instead of buying yours?" (Not so much).

From this little book, you can take away useful lessons for the nonprofit marketer, such as:

  • Developing a vision
  • Understanding your audience, without letting what they might say paralyze you
  • Being as creative as possible, without fear of the consequences
  • Understanding why creativity is so difficult to achieve, something we rarely acknowledge but often are asked to do--especially at nonprofits
  • Finishing and shipping
  • Having the confidence to get out front and make a statement
  • Facing critics
  • Building confidence in yourself and your work

The language itself is a model for the marketer, with all the concrete, simple language missing from so many nonprofit marketing efforts. I've given this book to media relations officers afraid to place phone calls, writers who couldn't finish their work, marketers who thought their creative briefs weren't good enough, and many more people who'll never make art, but can make an art out of their work. Nonprofit executives--who compete for attention rather than profit--face the same audience issues as artists, just in a different plane and context.

And me? I'm submitting a body of work for my first solo show at a professional gallery, and haven't even tried to talk myself out of it. I just finished the piece shown here today--the paint's still drying, and you're the first to see it. Let me know what you think.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

5 new tools on my short list, & and how they work for communicators

You know I'm a frequent sampler of new social sites, apps and services. I do that so I have the best tools to plug into my routines, share with clients and market my own services. Lately, it feels like I've come across several tools and features that could be particularly useful for communications directors and their teams. Check out these new options:

  1. FellowUp might be a useful contact and interaction manager for you or your communications operation. You can integrate services like Facebook, Gmail, your calendar, LinkedIn. Then you can get daily emails from FellowUp that prompt you by matching all those interactions. So if your calendar includes a meeting with a Facebook friend, or it's your contact's birthday, you'll be served links so you can write on their wall, send a message or make a note--without going back to Facebook or LinkedIn. And the notes option lets you record insights or special information about each contact that are accessible, helping you to make those interactions more meaningful. I'd start using this to track and followup with reporters, donors, members, partners, even work colleagues.
  2. Facebook page owners have a new tool to widen their audiences: RSS feeds are rolling out for pages. You'll find them in the left column, near the links to recommend your page or add to favorites. (Here's the RSS feed for The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and I'm waiting for the feed for the don't get caught page on FB.) The feed will share status updates and links as well as blog posts you feed into the page as notes. And coming soon: Facebook's testing a feature that would let your fans recommend your page--on their walls and in their news feeds.
  3. I've told you about URL shortener Bre.ad, which not only lets you track traffic but lets you put a five-second billboard promoting anything you want, right before users move through to the link you're sharing. I've just scored an invite to test the site out, and welcome hearing from you with a cause you think I should use in my tests. It's got great potential whether you're branding a school, a business or a cause. And I'll be looking for you to click those links and try it out with me.
  4. If you watch Congress or national issues, YouTube's new Town Hall pairs members of Congress to debate issues in videos made just for the site, with each one explaining her point of view. Their parties aren't disclosed until you've voted on the viewpoint with which you agree, and a scoreboard keeps track of whose votes have "won the debate." It's great feedback on issues you're tracking, and can serve to amplify issues you are already behind--so think about sharing links on your sites to relevant debates as this new service evolves.
  5. I wish I were in on the beta for Zapaday, which pulls together a world calendar of events, from standing dates and anniversaries to scheduled events. To get them pulled together, it will take wiki-like submissions as well as scrape news sites. I'm thinking of it as a modern-day daybook, and hope I'm right. Keep your eye on this one--it will be a great way to get your events on a widely available calendar.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Both sides now: How I look at the cloud after a computer crash

I tweeted last week that I had a shiny new laptop, and a reader asked whether I'd be blogging about it. My first response: I'd rather blog instead about the cloud and what I'm storing in it, because that has made the new laptop transition easy.

I've liked the idea of cloud computing from the first I heard of it. Over time, I've put more and more of my activity "in the cloud" -- that is, based on the web rather than my hard drive. And I've found it pays to look at clouds from both sides, keeping eye on events that throw the reliability of cloud storage into doubt. TechCrunch points out that the cloud gives rise to a lot of unintended consequences. Amazon gave a lengthy explanation for why its cloud crashed. And Dropbox turned out to have more security issues than previously thought, although PC World decided the Dropbox privacy policy is "OK--just proceed carefully."

I've been migrating files to the cloud slowly and with care, and then my Dell crashed again, fatally this time. It's had 5 hard drive replacements, and was likely one of the nearly 12 million faulty computers Dell knowingly shipped (although that hardly explains the six weeks it took them last year to provide "overnight" system replacement I pay for).  So I'm now writing to you on a new HP, and thanks to the cloud storage, the transition has been nearly seamless--just what I was hoping for.

Of all the clouds-in-transition coverage, Louis Gray's thoughtful post on tackling my biggest impediments to cloud-centricity best describes where I am: Still translating my work into the cloud and with a long to-do list, one sharpened by my recent experiences. Because, as Gray points out, the cloud and its uses are still developing, I'm opting for lots of redundant systems and backups in the interim. Here's where I stand:
  • External hard drive:Everything on my hard drive gets backed up to an external Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk unit with 2TB of storage. But I'm keeping less on that hard drive. 
  • Music: I've uploaded almost all of my music to Amazon Cloud and I have to say that, unlike iTunes, it made the transition during this crash seamless. I use the desktop and mobile versions of Amazon Cloud (love that Android app), and any new purchase of music through Amazon comes with free storage. I'll need to upload more music here, but the core collection is in place.
  • Photos: I'm storing photos in Dropbox in a divide-and-conquer strategy (music here, photos there) that will likely change over time. If you use this link to start a free 2GB Dropbox account, we both will get an additional 250 MB of bonus space free (up to a total of 8GB).
  • Receipts: I send receipts to Shoeboxed, where they are scanned into a cloud storage that can be downloaded into Quicken (or other services like Evernote), and I keep them in Shoeboxed as a backup.
  • Documents: I'm migrating more to Google Docs, but due to clients' specifications, still have the majority of my documents on my hard drive. That's changing next. I'll be experimenting with a mix of Dropbox and Amazon Cloud for existing docs, and doing more in Google Docs for new ones. I'm also storing many core documents in Evernote--it's easy to simply email docs into Evernote, with the benefit that they are then entirely searchable, and can be emailed to or shared with others straight from that app. Evernote makes it easy to clip web pages and I scan almost every hardcopy document into it already.
  • Social networking archives: These are in the cloud to begin with, but not easy to archive. I subscribed to an RSS feed of my own Twitter feed in Google Reader, which is still working although Twitter and Facebook have both turned off RSS subscriptions to feeds on their sites. [UPDATE: Facebook has added new options to get RSS feeds from FB pages.]  For almost everything, I use Backupify, which covers Picasa, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and Gmail for free, with paid plans to cover all your Google Apps. And I've set my "favorites" in Twitter to go straight to an Evernote notebook, where they are saved in searchable notes I can use to put together future blog posts. (Click on the "clip" button to start a free or premium Evernote account, below.)
Not perfect, but then, neither is the cloud.

I'll probably follow Gray's lead and get a Chrome notebook for travel--it's so light, has great battery life and is an inexpensive option. The cloud's what really helps me in travel and in transitional situations, like this week's migration to a new laptop. If you're a content producer, you might think about optimizing your content for the cloud. I'd sure appreciate it.

How are you using cloud storage and what are your concerns? I'd love to hear any tools you recommend, or concerns you have.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Are your experts blowing off media interviews? How to avoid a no-show

A few years back, I was directing communications for a national professional membership group and a university communicator invited me to visit her campus and see the work of my group's members there. The media relations guy was tasked with taking me around to meet their experts, and in one lab, we met with a chemist I already knew as a longtime member and research powerhouse.

"Do you offer members media training?" she asked me. I said we offered certain kinds of training. What did she want to accomplish? "Oh, I get these messages to call reporters all the time, and I just throw them away," she said. "I'm not confident about talking to reporters and I don't feel prepared, so I just don't do them, even though I know I should."

Yikes. The media relations guy turned three shades of green, and we wound up having a useful discussion about the help she could get. But I wasn't at all surprised. Even if your information is newsworthy and timely, you've done the right things to get it to the right reporter, and your heart is pure (or even if it isn't), all it takes is an expert who blows off the interview to result in no coverage.

I hear complaints all the time from reporters who've been pitched with access to experts, only to find their calls don't get returned. One tactic PR pros have developed, as a result, involves sitting in on interviews--but reporters read that as a desire to control or intimidate the research subject. So what else can you do? Try these tactics:
  • Don't assume agreement: There are plenty of arguments against doing interviews, from an already busy schedule to colleagues who'll talk your expert out of participating. Don't lob interview requests, let alone pitch an expert to reporters, until you've established her agreement to be responsive.
  • Make it clear that missing an interview request diminishes reputation: Turn to your well-worn copy of Aesop's Guide to Modern Public Relations and read "The Expert Who Cried Wolf" to your sources--and make it clear that you'd rather they declined to you upfront, rather than blow off the call.  This may work well with experts who blow off the call to show it's not important to them. Outing the bad behavior and explaining why it's damaging to more than your experts is the best cure.
  • Understand your corporate culture: In many companies and organizations where I conduct trainings, management or colleagues actively discourage experts from giving interviews--which means no amount of pleading from you will make it happen. (In some especially sharp-elbowed places, those who give interviews and get coverage are shunned.) That kind of culture requires you to work from the top to gain leadership approval--and from the bottom, to build a grass-roots desire to play. It's a longer path to success, but better than pitching folks who don't ever intend to answer those calls.
  • What's in it for them? Can an interview help your expert get closer to meeting donors, collaborators or more and better exposure? Find out what her goals are, then make sure she knows what the interview can do to get her there.
  • Divide and conquer with friendly competition:  Faced with several different sources of surly subject experts, choose one group that's willing to try and focus your media relations efforts on them--being sure to widely share their successes internally. I guarantee this will raise complaints along the lines of "What about us?" in a useful version of reverse psychology. Just be careful what you wish for, here.
  • Make sure they know you're there: Wince all you want, but I encounter subject experts every day who don't know that they have a communications/public affairs/marketing/media relations shop that can help them with media requests, let alone why they should respond to your messages. A little gentle internal promotion can work wonders.
  • Find out which barriers you can help surmount: One of my best experts used to said, "Media interviews represent 10 percent of my calls and they take up 80 percent of my time." That's a fixable problem, much of the time. Let your expert know about the resources you can offer to help make the interview happen. (This particular in-demand expert wound up doing regular phone briefings, so he could brief several reporters at one time.) Ask what isn't working for them.
  • Give experts the basics about reporter interactions: There's no reason experts should understand even the most basic ways in which journalists operate. Must they call back right away? Should they be ready to be interviewed immediately, or can they set up a more convenient time? How can they avoid misunderstandings without asking to see the story before it runs? Those sound obvious to you, but they're also the most common questions I get when conducting media trainings. Share with your experts my list of 11 questions to ask reporters, many based on reporters' suggestions, so they'll be ready.
  • Offer practice time and training: The best way to make interviews familiar is to practice. Offering to run through tough questions or train your expert on what to expect in an interview can let them work through their worst fears and most dire concerns in practice--with less risk. 
If you've got good tactics for getting reporters' calls returned, please do share them in the comments. And reporters, feel free to chime in. I'm happy to hear from you about how we can shape a training session to get your experts focused and ready for media interviews; just email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Related post: Stephen Colbert on your expert's fear of failure, and a new train-the-trainer workshop to help communicators work with experts

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

We've got the keys to the weekend here...but before you shut the door on this week for good, take a look at some of the reads and finds I shared this week on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught. This was a week full of finds:
And a favorite saved to read later:
Thanks for reading--have a great weekend!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Great science comms job: AAAS seeks public engagement program associate

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, a current client and former employer of mine, is looking for a program associate in its Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology.

Located in the AAAS Office of Public Programs, the Center created the Communicating Science, workshops I've been facilitating for AAAS. This is a great opportunity to work with an outstanding team. I've included the full position description below with a link to the AAAS secure job posting site. Please share this with qualified candidates:

Program Associate, Public Engagement (Req. #1925) (Full Time) 
Location: Washington DC


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) seeks a Program Associate to play a key role in developing and executing new and ongoing initiatives of the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology.


Major duties and responsibilities:

  • Provide programmatic and development support for the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology
  • Schedule, organize and coordinate activities associated with public engagement workshops and events
  • Write and edit print and online materials, including communications to public engagement stakeholders
  • Plan and implement new projects for public engagement, including researching funders and assisting the Public Engagement Manager with writing grant requests
  • Devise and implement strategies for increasing the visibility of AAAS and public engagement in science
Minimum qualifications:
  • Extensive university or college level training leading to a Bachelor's degree in a relevant field
  • Three to five years of related work experience (in communications preferred)
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills; particularly regarding interpretation of scientific and/or technical information
  • Proven proficiency in handling multiple priorities and projects, often under tight deadlines 
  • Ability to coordinate programs and events 
  • Advanced research, writing and editing skills
  • Strong computer skills, particularly in Word, Excel and PowerPoint

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

5 ways to blog or tweet less without anyone noticing

If keeping up a blog makes you yearn to put out that "gone fishing" sign, you need a few tricks in your back pocket that will let you blog or tweet less, without losing readers or momentum.
  1. Don't be afraid to take a day off here and there:
  2. While it's true that you'll get more--and more consistent--readers with frequent and regular posts, taking a day off won't kill you or your blog.
  3. Pinpoint--and avoid--normally low-traffic days: By shifting posts to the times and days your audience is most active, you'll yield the highest benefit from sites like Facebook, Twitter and your blogs. Then leave those low-traffic slots alone.
  4. Post a short question and let the crowd discuss: This tactic should be a part of your routine listening activities, anyway. Plan and schedule posts that ask questions, then sit back and listen. If you've done it right, the responses might lead to a future blog post, and you'll be learning from your audience about what it wants.
  5. Cut your posts in half--and recycle the second part: If you tend toward the comprehensive, long-form post, you're missing the chance to do less work and still post. Cut long posts in half, create series out of them, or use the parts to provide continuing coverage. (Easiest method: Write the long post, edit it into parts, then schedule them ahead of time--being sure to update them right before posting.) It'll look like you're working twice as hard as you are.
  6. Plan and announce a non-posting day: The blog Reference Library doesn't post on Mondays. How do I know? A post appears every Monday, saying simply, "Closed Mondays." Talk about an ultra-useful way to implement auto-posts--and a good reminder to readers that, while you're away, you're not away for long. You might want to take the time to make your non-posting announcement suit your themes and topics, while you're at it.
Related posts:  How to blog or tweet more without working too hard

(Photo from mafleen's photostream on Flickr)

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Before you bake that QR code, ask me whether I use them--like @KingArthurFlour did

I've seen posts suggesting that QR codes are not long for this world or on the fence about whether they'll achieve mass adoption. And I'm seeing more QR codes in publications and storefront windows, and on ads and business cards. It's true that QR codes aren't in mass use yet. Many geeks have moved right past them and are ready for the next alternative. Consumers say they like the idea of QR codes, but need help to learn how to use them (or just better technology).

Given a climate that's uncertain but full of potential, it makes sense for brands to reach out and ask their users what they know about and want from QR codes. So why did it take until this week for a brand I follow to ask about QR codes?


The smart brand was King Arthur Flour, which posted a picture of a QR code on its Facebook page and simply asked users whether they knew what it was. After most respondents said they knew, a follow-up post was used to explain the answer and to elicit more specific feedback about how to put QR codes to use:
WOW! The people speak... Looks like the vast majority of you know what this is. For those who don't: Meet QR codes, the new way to go from mobile device to just about anywhere online. Once you download a free QR-scanning app to your Internet-enabled cell phone, iPad, or other Internet-connected mobile device (I use one called "Scan"), simply hold your device up to this code, and it'll pop up a specific Web page - in this case, our King Arthur Flour home page. We intend to start using these in our catalogue this fall, linking to selected recipes. Cool, huh? What other ways can you suggest we use QR codes?
Responses to that question were creative, with readers suggesting where to put them (think QR codes on flour packaging to share details on where the wheat originates, on packing forms in shipments, or at the edge of wheat fields to identify them as King Arthur's sources) and what to link to: Recipes, in-store discounts, instructional videos, contests, customer service for returns, or ingredients you want to add to your online shopping cart. By the end of this comment thread, several respondents had been inspired to download code-scanning apps and were trading recommendations with each other.

The yield for King Arthur Flour? By asking about QR codes first, rather than just rolling them out, the company was able to:

  • Transparently share a concept under consideration before its implementation;
  • Verify customer comfort levels with the still-new technology;
  • Let wary customers vent concerns and early adopters reinforce their approval;
  • Offer reassurance on the spot that QR codes wouldn't replace standard modes of communication, just augment them--a concern raised by respondents. That will help keep rumors and anxieties from building;
  • Gather ideas direct from product users and fans and learn what users are seeking in convenient formats;
  • Engaging and educating the user base, while building community. The second post garnered close to 80 "likes" of the post or particular comments, and dozens of replies. Having readers help other readers figure out how to use QR codes suggests a strong comfort level and community.

Have you asked your users about QR codes (or other new features) before you roll them out and bake them? If not, give this approach a taste-test...

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Promoting an expert? Watch the TED tryouts live on May 24

Even if you didn't enter a one-minute video for yourself or your expert in the TED conference's recent and first-ever open tryouts for speakers, you're dying to know who made the cut, right? Wait no more. TED has announced the 17 speakers and performers who've made it to the next round, which will be a live presentation on May 24. That round will be livestreamed, so you can actually watch the contestants and see what a TED-talk-in-progress looks like.

Another reason to watch: The TED theme for 2012 involves rethinking the art of public speaking, so you may be able to glean ideas about new speaking tactics. The call for speakers asked for things like:
  • a ‘slide-blizzard,’ a presentation containing more images than words
  • a talk accompanied by an imaginative soundtrack
  • a talk given in front of a custom-animated movie
  • clever ‘choreography’ between a speaker’s words and what we see on-screen
  • improv / audience interaction
  • intense campfire-style storytelling
  • a brilliant performance (music, spoken-word, dance … surprise us!)
  • a rant delivered at blitzkrieg pace, an intelligent comic routine, a mystery
  • a remarkable new invention
  • or… just an amazingly good classic TED talk with an ingenious ‘idea worth spreading’
If you're wishing you could still get your organization's expert on the TED agenda--or yourself as a speaker--don't forget the route that has always been open. Use TED's Suggest a Speaker Form, but be sure to read the FAQ for prospective speakers first. (Hint: Multiple nominations for the same person don't help.)

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

It's been another busy week, and Blogger was down for the past 20 hours or so. I appreciate your patience, but now it's time for the weekend read and we're even closer to the actual weekend. I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, and here's some of what I shared on that platform this week, all good reads and data:
And a favorites I flagged to read later:
Enjoy your weekend, and thanks for reading!


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Thursday, May 12, 2011

What auto-posting can't do for you: 3 convincing reads

Auto-posting offers an easy option for enterprises large and small to work social media tasks into already packed schedules. But what else is it reducing, along with your time and effort? And what might you gain by unhooking your feeds from the firehose? Three recent finds in my feeds offer a few fresh ideas. And even if you don't auto-post, you'll find great ideas on engagement here.

First, a practical set of reasons: Some social sites give less space or prominence when you auto-post. In 3 great reasons to post manually on Facebook, Nicky Kriel looks at how auto-posts can have a negative effect on whether your post is seen and how it's ranked, based on user behavior as well as the ways Facebook handles third-party apps and rates of engagement.

That may be reason enough for you, but the mechanics aren't the only consideration. Less auto-posting might be the key to a better customer experience. "Reading news online feels like flying Economy," says Oliver Reichenstein. He's making the case for providing better content and a better user experience behind a paywall, but autoposting is a big part of the negative experience your users encounter in social media. Step back from your social shares, and put the paywall aside for a moment. What would it take to get your posts from economy to business class-level service? Somehow, auto-posting everything doesn't seem like the right approach.

Finally, you want that experience to get you to the ultimate goal: Getting your users to share and say enthusiastic things about your services, products, places and more. The Psychotactics blog looks at how companies are creating "accidental evangelists," customers surprised by individual, timely and out-of-the-ordinary extras and thoughtful responses...that are tough to automate. It's a smart marketing tactic that you can employ in your social-media engagement. The post describes how this should work in your workplace: "People listen and act on specific situations. And when they (as in you and me) act, the customer is startled, bemused, surprised, excited and suddenly there’s a smile on the customer’s face." That sequence--listening, acting on a specific piece of feedback, and engaging the customer--is just what social media's good for, and auto-posting isn't.

You'll find more good examples of how my clients and other companies and groups are dialing down the automation of social-media posts--and delighting customers in the process.

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

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Here it comes: Flip cameras start to limit sharing options

Even though Cisco has announced it's killing off the Flip camera,its desktop and mobile software will function and get support until the end of 2013, 2.5 years from now. But this week, Flip announced it will start phasing in limits to the sharing options for Flip videos on certain platforms. Here's what to expect:
  • What's been shared can still be viewed: Anyone with whom you've shared a video can continue to watch, download or save it.
  • Short-sharing stints start this month: As of May 12, 2011, if you share Flip videos with one person, a group, on a Flip Channel or on Twitter, your viewers can only see it or download it for 30 days after it's sent. And Flip notes that "the 30-day limit will also apply to videos shared previously."
  • Some platforms are better than others: If you shared your Flip videos (or continue to share them) on Facebook or YouTube, or store them on your computer in FlipShare, they will not be impacted by this change and will not have a 30-day limit.
You can find the full support-in-transition FAQ at support.theflip.com/flipshare. How will this change affect your Flip videos?

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About.me boosts online profiles with QR-coded biz cards

If you were smart enough to grab an About.me landing page for your online profile, you can now take advantage of a natural extension of that service: business cards with a QR code that loops back to your profile.

The bonus: The cards are free, or nearly so, thanks to a partnership with MOO.com, another favorite vendor of mine. Your cards will feature the customized background from your About.me profile on one side, with the back free for your QR code and contact information--and you choose what to include. The cards cost just $5.50 with a modest reference to MOO.com on them, or more minus the advertising. (It's subtle, on the lower front right in the photo above.) If you have an About.me profile, you'll see "offers" on your dashboard with information about this offer here.

About.me profiles are especially useful for those wanting to change jobs, the unemployed, the self-employed or anyone who wants control of their online bio. You can link your blogs and social media sites here, and you even get a dashboard with statistics on views of your profile. Find out more about About.me here--I've been using it since the beta test. I've also been using MOO.com, which prints all my business cards and specialty correspondence cards (and I'm compensated by neither company). Let me know how this offer works for you.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Finding your blogging and tweeting voice

You might be a longtime writer, but finding blogs and tweets a format that's making you rethink your approach, or a newbie writer thrust into it now that publishing tools are free and easy to use. That's why, if you read enough blogs and tweets, from time to time you'll see articles rounding up nonprofits who've found their voices on Twitter or bloggers reminding themselves to work on finding their voices. But what does that mean?

Finding your voice sounds elusive enough, but in reality, it's not that far out of reach. The found voice has a sureness about it. If you've ever thought of a good found voice as "knowing," your instincts are sharp, because a found voice is all about the knowing. It knows what it wants and what it won't do, under any circumstances. It knows what makes it laugh or cry, and isn't ashamed of that. It knows who's listening or reading and what makes them laugh and cry. It knows how and when to respond to a question, a different point of view, a challenger. It knows when it wants to share, and what it wants to share--and it wants to share some personal details, so that readers can get to know it all the faster. It knows whether it would be caught dead saying things like "shilly-shally" or "leading from behind" or "antidisestablishmentarianism," and then it says them. It knows when to stop and where to start.

A knowing voice isn't a know-it-all voice, however. Perhaps most important, a found voice knows when it's forcing or faking or unprepared to speak or just plain lost, and shuts up at those points. So if you're a blogger who's written a post apologizing for not posting more frequently, no need to say you're sorry. You're still exploring. Readers won't mind, by the way, if you do some of that exploring by thinking out loud on the blog or in your tweets until you settle on something. We like watching works in progress, and you'll learn faster that way.

All those knowns about your blogging or tweeting voice are, in effect, boundaries that tell you--and everyone else--where you stand, and where you don't. Then we know what to expect from you, and so do you. That's where the sureness comes from...well, most of the time, anyway. If you can't yet define those boundaries for your blogging and tweeting, it's where you should begin the quest for a voice.

When I started blogging, for example, I was more careful and proscribed with my posts and what I chose to cover, a kind of learning to swim by hanging on to the edge of the pool approach. Over time, I've reached further back to my roots of writing humor and practical advice and personal essays, remembering that I like to be direct, practical, personal, and funny when I can manage it. Because I report to myself and my clients seek me out for perspective, I try to have one--that, and a personality. If you meet me in person, you should be well-prepared, having read my blog posts and tweets.

Sometimes, finding your voice involves trying and discarding things.I played with the editorial "we" voice and then abandoned it as I got surer of the sound I wanted--and I do think of it as the sound of my voice on this blog and in my tweets, conversational as they are. I've deleted more draft posts and tweets than you will ever know, enough for another blog, when they didn't sound like me. You must be likewise ruthless in protecting your voice, once you find it. In the meantime, throw stuff at the wall until you find out what sticks.

I hope the idea of boundaries helps you see this as a narrowing-down process, not a hemming-in process. Found voices are distinctive, not just because they're identifiable, but because they can let us hear more than one note in the symphony in your head. Showing your infinite variety is possible even on Twitter, and sharing a variety of subjects and views just makes you a more interesting human.

You can journal or brainstorm or mull your way to figuring out all the factors that go into your side of a found voice, and you'll learn how they work by writing that way, over and over again. But to make sure it's found by someone other than yourself, you need readers. Who are they? Can you write profiles for your typical readers? It's a great exercise that will help you recall, when you're writing later, the approaches that will and won't work for your readers.

Because it comes down to this: A found voice is heard, understood, appreciated as something apart from the buzz and smoke. It resonates with someone, with many someones. (And by "resonate," I might mean provoking anger as well as excitement or agreement.) To get to a found voice takes a two-part process: First you have to find your voice. Then we have to find it. The clearer your voice is, the easier it will be for us to hear it.

And if you're looking for a crystalline found voice--the clearest example I've found of late--or just a diversion from finding your own, read Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef.It will set your hair on fire and push you to find a voice that fits you as well.

Related posts:  How I balance personal and professional on Twitter

Behind the scenes on this blog: How I find the time and the ideas

How to blog or tweet more without working too hard

I've also written about finding your voice as a speaker on The Eloquent Woman blog--a similar problem, only in three dimensions.

(This photo--how could I have used another?--comes from Pedro Klien's photostream on Twitter)

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Holiday road: Putting holidays to work in your social media content

Back when organizations created "National Fill-in-the-Blank Week" celebrations to raise their visibility, I used to spend a lot of time explaining that media coverage was not so likely and suggesting that energizing the base might be a more productive goal. Today, social media tools have made that much more possible--and there's a resurgence in mentions of those national days, weeks and months, as well as other anniversaries, on Twitter and Facebook.

If you're going to put those special holidays to work, of course, you need to think beyond your own company's or organization's holidays and anniversaries so you can take advantage of other points in the calendar that are relevant to your members, customers and supporters. And you'll need to know about what's competing with your special days.

Here's my favorite back-pocket tool for just this purpose: You'll find tens of thousands of special days, weeks, months, anniversaries and commemoration events chronicled each year in Chase's Calendar of Events, the longstanding reference on this topic. Today, you can follow Chase's on Twitter or just check what today's holidays are. Smart content planners will keep Chase's handy when forecasting the year ahead--it's a great way to fill out those empty weeks on your content plan--as well as to check from month to month as content needs or conflicts arise.
(Photo from Elvert Barnes's photostream on Flickr)

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Time to unplug (at least a little?), with the weekend upon us. I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, and work to share at least as much or more from others. Thankfully, there are plenty of plugged-in folks passing along great reads and resources. Here's what caught my eye this week:
I'm excited that you can now subscribe to this blog on your Amazon Kindle--and my post shares the links you need to publish your personal or company blog there, just another way to make sure it's searchable and findable where readers are lurking. And if you haven't already done so, check out this week's popular posts, an ever-changing list. It's in the right column of the blog, every day.

Barely time to "favorite" extra reads this week, for me. What looked good to you on Twitter?

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

New! Subscribe to the DGC blog on your Kindle

You know I love my Kindle, so it's a delight to let you know that readers of the blog can now subscribe to these posts on Amazon's e-reader. A month's subscription is just $1.99, and includes a free two-week trial. Go here to subscribe to the don't get caught blog on your Kindle. (Find all your options for subscribing to this blog on RSS, email and more here.

You also can subscribe to our sister blog, The Eloquent Woman, for the Kindle here.

Want to try this for your blog?

If you're a blogger, setting up your blog to publish on the Kindle platform is easy. Go to the Kindle publishing page, where you'll be able to set up an account and fill in a simple form with your feed, masthead and blog image, tags and a tagline, and some account information. After a short wait, your blog will be "published" and available for subscribers. You'll want to read through the lengthy terms of use, of course, but the setup is simple.

I hope you'll use this new option, or one of the many ways to keep track of the blog. Thanks again for reading!

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

For Thursday: For Communications Directors newsletter

How do you figure out what's next in social media? I call that focus on the future "nexternal relations," and I've been cultivating an ear and eye for big and small trends--or the sources where you'll find them--so you don't have to. In this month's issue of my free email newsletter, For Communications Directors, you'll see some of my latest finds, real-life examples of social media applications I think you can use and trends I think you should get in on early. You'll also get pointed to places you can watch to spot new ideas and trends on your own, plus other updates.

The newsletter is free and comes out Thursday morning, so sign up now using the links below...



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Monday, May 02, 2011

My elevator speech on *your* elevator speech

If I were trapped in an elevator with you for a few floors and you asked me, "Quick--how do you come up with a great elevator speech?" I'd give you, well, my elevator speech on elevator speeches:
  • Offer the listener a three-course menu: Use the rule of three, which is easiest for both speaker and listener to recall. But think about it as a short menu of three courses, any one of which might prompt a question or more interaction. That's what you're after, right? So tell me three things designed to prompt questions and interest me.
  • Don't list all the ingredients: Assume you'll get questions, and leave things out. Your three points or "menu items" give your listener the headline, but the conversation that ensues is the real meat of the exchange. Saving up what you know for answering questions makes you look smart, too.
  • Serve up a memorable (if brief) meal: Keeping it short and in three parts helps keep it memorable. But to make it worth repeating later, plan ahead if you can to dress up your three points with an analogy, alliteration or a cultural reference. "I make big, bold, beautiful signs. They're as big as a 20-story building. They're boldly colored. And because I use cutting-edge artists, they're beautiful" is a simple example of using alliteration. You also could say "The signs I make are like the ones you see on the highway: They give clear direction, they tell you how to drive smarter, and they get you where you want to go."
Catch me in an elevator, and I'm ready with my three points. Will you be? This takes practice, but the time will be worth it. And remember: A great elevator speech is just an outline you can expand for short, long and longer presentations and speeches, and serves as an effective plan for your slides. Read more about public speaking and presenting tips on our sister blog, The Eloquent Woman. I'm available to help you or your team develop effective messages, short or long, and to learn excellent public speaking, presenting and media interview skills. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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