Thursday, June 30, 2011

June's top 10 communications tips and issues

New tools, new tricks for old dogs and reluctant experts, and issues of longstanding (embargoes) all came to the fore this month, in the form of posts you read the most. As summer gets underway for real, take a look at what's on other communications directors' minds this month:
  1. Making public communication part of scientific responsibility shares an article I wrote for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Rather than turn down media interviews or shun public audiences, I suggest some alternatives--and make the case for making communication part and parcel of what scientists are expected to do.
  2. Button, button: Google and Twitter add buttons for your website shares the follow button for Twitter and the Google plus-one button for search results. (You can see them in action on the blog.)
  3. May's top 10 communications tips and issues includes some of our most popular posts ever...no surprise it's back this month.
  4. Spider-man syndrome: How long will an embargo hold? looks at long embargoes and why they don't work well.
  5. 5 new tools on my short list, and how they work for communicators is an update on new services I'm trying (or waiting to try). A late-breaking May post still growing in June.
  6. Creative ways with QR codes for conferences, locations and designers shares new resources that businesses and nonprofits can use to make QR codes easy and trackable, colorful, or as a sub for Foursquare.
  7. Stephen Colbert on your expert's fear of failure (and how to work around it) also shares a peek at the outline for a new workshop I'm offering--a train-the-trainer session to help communicators work better with experts. I can bring it to your workplace, or you can register as an individual for an open version of the workshop in August. Details on that are forthcoming.
  8. For your crisis kit: Social media ideas from 3 sectors brings you new approaches from business, nonprofit and education, including lookbacks that help you learn from others' experiences. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more are explored.
  9. The not-so-marketing book that changed my professional career offers a short, pithy read on creativity and fear...two things readers apparently have interest in, as it's still popular this month.
  10. Storytelling with support shares a new model in which the Colorado Health Foundation aims to encourage grantees to share stories--and offers incentives and training to make that happen.
If you haven't signed up for the newsletter, now's a great time to do so--a new issue will be out soon. As always, thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The paper of record says "maybe not"

Forget clippings. Who's going to save the many versions and corrections of the fast-moving digital news stories on newspaper websites? Apparently, not the New York Times, according to remarks its new editor gave to the paper's public editor.


Public editor Arthur Brisbane describes the  issues that result in the wake of changes and corrections: "It’s problematic when content just disappears. It can also be problematic in a different way when content changes more subtly as a story evolves through the course of the day....in addition to changes that vaporize information and leave people wondering, there are occasions when corrections are likewise vaporized and therefore go unacknowledged in the often-ephemeral digital domain." He offers examples of each situation, and then adds:
Right now, tracking changes is not a priority at The Times. As Ms. Abramson told me, it’s unrealistic to preserve an “immutable, permanent record of everything we have done."
Word to the wise, communicators: You may want to track fast-moving stories with screen grabs if the versions are important to you. Do you agree with the public editor that changes, corrections and outright replacements of stories should be tracked transparently?

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Storytelling with support: Colorado Health Foundation's new venture

Colorado KaleidosCOpe: Stories of a state's health is a new website from the Colorado Health Foundation that offers incentives to grantees for sharing stories about the people they serve. Stories can be written narratives, like this one from a teen in need of dental care, or videos. Here's the twist: Stories selected for publication will earn the organizations $5000 for a video or $1000 for a written narrative, in the form of grant awards for general operations--often, the hardest kind of grant to get, as it can be used for something other than a specific project. The foundation offers FAQs and guidelines, a webinar, technical assistance from a video producer, a toolkit and other resources to aid submissions, and the foundation adds professional editing and posting. The final results are shareable and the foundation is urging its grantees to repurpose the content on other channels to make it work for them.

Lisa Harris, who directs web and new media communications for the foundation, shared the new venture with me and described it as a mix of communication, capacity-building, and concrete incentives. She took the time to answer some of my questions about this creative statewide storytelling campaign so you can learn from this new model:

Why not just take grantee stories and interpret them as a form of communications support?

Since 2007, grantee stories have been interpreted through our print and online magazine, Health Elevations. This year, we wanted to expand storytelling’s role at the Foundation and feature stories told from the perspective of people served by our grantee organizations. The Colorado KaleidosCOpe: Stories of a state’s health project is envisioned as a true partnership with our grantees and will benefit them through capacity-building and training opportunities along with grant awards for published works.

Do your grantees really have the time, resources and skills to contribute?

In addition to our grant funding, the Foundation supports capacity building for our grantees whenever possible. For example, we co-sponsored a 2010 social media training featuring nonprofit social media expert Beth Kanter. Beth so adeptly drove home the importance of storytelling and its significance for social media channels. After this training, grantees shared their enthusiasm about promoting health stories in their communities and told us they needed additional resources to get started. We listened and moved forward with storytelling campaign’s first steps.

The campaign kick off featured a grantee contest to name the entire campaign with the contest winner receiving a $5000 grant. This effort was the Foundation’s first venture into crowdsourcing and promoted the storytelling campaign’s partnership nature. We received over 50 contest entries and the submissions showed incredible spirit and passion for bettering health and health care in our communities. Plus, the contest helped get our grantees’ creative juices flowing.

As part of the Colorado KaleidosCOpe launch, the Foundation is hosting a Storytelling 101 training webinar featuring the award-winning experts at Chance Multimedia. The training will focus on best practices and technical advice for video and narrative works. Chance will also host a running series of office hours. Grantees can schedule technical assistance calls to talk through their submission ideas and plan how to best execute their stories. We felt these resources were indispensable in providing grantees with essential skills to promote their work beyond this campaign. The storytelling skill building focus will help grantees pitch stories to the media, support fundraising efforts and advance their advocacy work.

Our grantee partners range in size from very large groups to small, grassroots organizations. Some of our smallest nonprofits demonstrate time and again some of the most creative, savvy ways of instituting storytelling and social media in their organizations. We’ve heard from organizations of all sizes that they are very interested in participating.

Why the generous funding for selected submissions? What are you trying to reward or incent?

The grant awards were important to us as we deeply respect the time and effort our grantees put forth in the community. By asking them to participate in this project, we made sure their hard work and efforts benefited their organization in many ways including the grant awards. In addition to the grant awards, participating grantees will hone their storytelling skills through training and published pieces will be professionally produced for their own use.

Does this perhaps replace a more traditional form of communications? 
Our communications work is integrated. The Colorado KaleidosCOpe campaign is a natural companion to our existing work in media relations, both traditional and social, and is complimentary to our existing print and online publications. This project brings to light “real-life” health stories and will put faces on the health statistics around health reform, childhood obesity and other critical health issues. We will be repurposing Colorado KaleidosCOpe stories across all our communications channels and urge our grantees to do the same.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Making public communication part of scientific responsibility

Must scientists bother about sharing their work with the public? I've spent a lot of my career working with scientists and engineers to help them communicate with public and media audiences. Over time, I've learned that to many scientists, dealing with the public and the media is a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, an all or nothing proposition that doesn't work in their favor.

So I was delighted that the American Association for the Advancement of Science Professional Ethics Report invited me to write Making Public Communication Part of Research Responsibility: What Scientists Can and Should Do. In it, I share my observations on some of the factors that keep researchers from communicating with broader audiences, and simple steps they can take to make communicating an integral part of their research activities. My take: Scientists should view the public and the media as shareholders in their work, and approach them that way. I  offer some simple steps toward the goal of fitting communication into the scientist's research, and hope you'll share this with a scientist or expert near you.

But we're not there yet: Whiteboard insights

The devil and the deep blue sea extremes showed up in my most recent workshop for university researchers on communicating with media and public audiences. The group was small enough to let the participants introduce themselves and their research--and one thing more. I asked each of them to write down one word that described their view of the media, and here's what we got:
  • Semi-accurate
  • Curious
  • Fast
  • Diversity 
  • Advertising
  • Important
  • Change
  • Energetic
  • Gotcha
  • Partisan
  • Shallow
  • Exaggeration
  • Misunderstanding
  • Enthusiasm
  • Spin
  • Clarity
  • Hide
Most of those are self-explanatory, but "advertising" signaled one researcher's amazement that advertising drives the amount of space and time journalists get to write about or describe a topic, and "hide" was what one researcher said was her default method for dealing with interviews. Scientists who had journalist friends, or  just more experience with and openness toward reporters were able to share observations like "change" and "fast" to describe the nature of reporters' work.

Communicators hoping to connect experts with reporters might want to try this exercise. Have you asked them this question?

Related posts: Your expert's fear of failure

Helping communicators gain expertise in training experts: A new workshop (Register here for the workshop and learn more)

Are your experts blowing off media interviews? 

And a related post from The Eloquent Woman blog: The all-in-one for eloquent scientists: Resources and role models

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

I'm winding up the week leading a communications training for faculty experts at San Francisco State University today, so this week has been one of tweeting-while-traveling for me. And I'll be back here next month to do my new train-the-trainers session for communciators who work with experts. I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, and here are the things that caught my eye on that platform, still my favorite source, this week:
And some favorites for later reading:


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

For your crisis kit: Social media ideas from 3 sectors

Early on, social media users figured out the form's utility during emergencies, and using social channels for crisis communications has been evolving ever since. Here's a handful of ideas, results and examples from several sectors to add to your crisis kit:
  • When fire guts a business, some business owners blog. Restaurant owner Bruce Buschel blogs for the New York Times about running his business, and has kept that up in the wake of a fire that all but destroyed the restaurant. It's a compelling read, and one I bet will have customers feeling even more connected to the eatery when it reopens. Buschel's taking the time to share lessons learned via the blog, something I'm sure business owners are wincing at and reading.
  • Crowdsourcing the crowd after a crisis: Building on a service Google has offered in the wake of natural disasters, the Red Cross now offers this "safe and well" site that allows you to notify loved ones that you are safe and what your status is--or lets your family search for you. Current disasters are noted for you to choose from, and local Red Cross chapters are promoting its availability.
  • Campuses use a full-court press during crises: Two universities that had close calls with gunmen on campus took the time to review and share lessons and data from their recent crises. Missouri University of Science and Technology shares its lessons here; director of communications Andrew Careaga shares how he used a blog format on the university's "in case of emergency" website, and how local media reported using the campus Twitter and Facebook feeds for updates. The University of Texas communications team offers this thorough recap, with data and assessments, of how it handled a similar crisis; useful are the questions they pose for you to consider, and what they would do differently. Client UMBC had a different kind of "lights out" with a multi-day end-of-term power outage that affected the entire campus. Here, a YouTube video explains after the fact how the outage occurred and why the whole campus was affected, using a nice mix of low- and high-tech to quickly show and tell. Don't underestimate the desire for this kind of basic information in the wake of a crisis.


Special thanks to Patric Lane for sharing some of these sources.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Take a look at the "unicorn of camcorders:" The Flip UltraLive

Read it and weep: Scott Peterson writes for Mashable about the "unicorn of camcorders," the never-released Flip UltraLive, and, since he had one of a handful that actually made it into stores, shares photos and details on the capabilities you'll never get to try. At least, this time. But take heart. Peterson concludes "The reality is that Wi-Fi will likely make its way into more pocket camcorders in the future, and the Flip UltraLive, although unreleased, represents the first of its kind."


I'm working on my list of Flip alternatives, and welcome hearing about yours, in the comments.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Creative ways with QR codes for locations, conferences and designers

Like most new social tools, QR codes are met with lots of dubious statements like, "But you can't use them for [fill in your goal here]." In fact, these "quick response" codes--today's barcode--have plenty of applications. Here are four options for location-based businesses, conference organizers and graphic designers and publishers:
  • Want to engage customers at a location without making them check in? QR codes can be a Foursqare alternative, as this New York Times piece on "Cracking the QR Code" makes clear. That might mean codes with specials, limited-offer coupons, clues to a scavenger hunt, links to your social-media pages and more. The article includes useful resources for generating codes and one restaurant's experiences.
  • Want a platform that makes managing QR codes easier for a small business? Try SmartyTags, which will give you detailed analytics on how and when the codes are used, and offer lots of options for what you put behind the code. It also lets you use a single QR code and switch up the underlying link, rather than require a new code every time--a savings for your printing budget, by the way.
  • Want to make your conference program do more, weigh less and engage attendees? Check out these "Awesome uses of QR codes in a conference book" that serve up surveys, videos, background on keynoters, and links to all the session handouts--now, there's a tree-saver.
  • Want to use QR codes, but get branded--and more colorful? Go right ahead with these QR code design tips that will help you find room for your logo without messing up the code, and add dimension and color.
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Spider Man syndrome: How long will an embargo hold?

It's a great way to build up a tsunami-sized wave of...resentment among reporters. I'm talking about the embargo without end, one that expects reporters to sit on a story for way too long without reporting on it. That policy may have done in the Broadway musical Spider Man: Turn off the Dark, which opened this week to reviews with leads like this one in the New York Times:
First seen and deplored by critics several months ago — when impatient journalists (including me) broke the media embargo for reviews as the show’s opening date kept sliding into a misty future — this singing comic book is no longer the ungodly, indecipherable mess it was in February. It’s just a bore.
That's just the most high-profile case of an ever-shifting embargo with plenty of time for reporters to get resentful, bored and defiant, with a tendency to share those reactions in their coverage, to boot. But if you think that's reserved for the bright lights of Broadway, think again. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine embargoed news releases for its annual conference weeks ahead of the meeting, but made them freely available on its website at the same time. Embargo Watch blog highlighted the case, and has been successful at convincing other groups to stop making embargoed information freely available during the embargo period. But that still leaves the long wait time.

You might not care about the resentment and comments you'll get for setting an over-long embargo, but you're certainly risking an embargo break with such timing--or just boredom and no coverage. The question is how long? In the science world, journals with weekly publication dates tend to adhere to weekly embargoes, and conferences allow more time on the presumption that the large amount of research being released en masse demands it (leaving aside those freely available data). What's the longest embargo you'd set--or accept? Leave word in the comments. (Photo from cameraslayer's photostream on Flickr)


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Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites and jobs

Did the weekend sneak up on you? Well, it's here, anyway. Time to kick off those work shoes and relax with some good reads, and no pressure. Here are the shared items I passed along on Twitter this week, where you can find me as @dontgetcaught. Hope you'll find these as useful as I did--this was a big week for new data:
And here are some favorites, items I marked to dig into for my own weekend reading:
Finally, lots of great communications jobs. Tell 'em you found it here:
Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stephen Colbert on your expert's fear of failure (and how to work around it)

Maybe your company or organization has experts who blow off media interviews or blow up your attempts to provide them with communications training--or they just insist they don't need it, evidence to the contrary. Maybe every time they're interviewed, it's all misquotes and errors  on the reporter's part. They duck the opportunities you have in mind for them. Why? Take it from Stephen Colbert: They're experts--except at this communications thing you're asking  of them--and they're afraid to fail in public.

Colbert just went outside his own performance box, appearing in the New York Philharmonic's star-studded reprise of Stephen Sondheim's Company. In an interview, he told NPR's Terry Gross why he never mentioned this special appearance on his popular TV show:
...I had no idea whether I wanted anyone to know I was doing it, because I knew how hard it was going to be, and I was afraid I would suck....So if you're a perfectionist, and you know you're about to go something, for instance "Company" at Lincoln Center, if you know you're about to do something at which you cannot be perfect, you know this ahead of time, then that is daunting because you know what your heart is like and the way you approach your work. So it's difficult to know you're not going to be perfect. And I guess I just didn't - I was afraid to invite people.
What's the trick to getting experts past that fear of failing at the unknown in communicating? For the trainer, it's giving them a safe place to fail. That means putting them at ease, making sure you don't add to their embarrassment, knowing which specific fears to anticipate, offering tips and work-arounds apparent only to them, time to practice in confidence, and more. And yes, you can learn how to do all that.

Colbert's coach gave him permission to fail right before the performance:
And then you have to forget all of it and sing, or as - my voice coach is Liz Caplan, and Liz would say - we would work and work and work. We worked for months. And then she said: Oh, just sing stupid. It was just a few days before we went. She goes: Just sing stupid. Just sing like you dont - like we've never discussed any of this and just make every mistake you can think of but just sing the song with all your heart.
I specialize in communications training for experts, including scientists and engineers, and now I'm offering communicators a train-the-trainers workshop so your team can become more effective at coaching your experts on a day-to-day basis. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for more information, and stand by for a workshop for which individuals can register. Clients are already booking this one-day session as important professional development for their communicators--how about you?

You can read the transcript of the interview here, with the portion above coming at around 20 minutes in, and listen to the audio here. Below is a video clip so you can see just how "out there" Colbert was.




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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Helping communicators gain expertise in training experts: A new workshop


bombWhen it comes to making sure your company or organization doesn't get caught, training is key. But what if the out-front people--your experts--don't want to submit to training? Many times, instead of opting out in advance, they'll choose to blow up the training. Some take all the time allotted without letting training happen. Some stalk out, or come in announcing they can't stay the whole time. The worst of it: Because they've gone through the training, you're still paying for it.

Even so, blown-up trainings can be instructive. Here are some lessons for communicators I've observed:
  • You have to start where the trainee is: Too many communicators start training at a level they're comfortable with. But your experts don't know what you know...yet.
  • Often, your expertise is the one skill they don't have: Some of the smartest experts I know never learned how to communicate. Don't show them up. Do show them how. 
  • Understanding personality is key: Introverts can be great public speakers and interviewees...with prep. Extroverts can learn to rein it in...with prep. And each type is great at pretending they're not that way, which can trip you up. You can learn to recognize who's an introvert, or get them to tell you about it, with practice and observation.
  • You need to reflect their concerns to build trust: If you can't express what they're feeling--especially what's holding them back--or let them do so, they won't trust you. It's essential for trainers to build this level of credibility with trainees.
  • Those who blow up trainings reveal much more, so you'll learn things like where your expert is likely to step in it, verbal patterns, what she'll blurt out, and what his assumptions are. Soak it in, counter what you can, and use the intelligence to strategize better.
If I'm your trainer-for-hire, even if your expert blows up a training with me, I'll share a full set of observations and recommendations with you--and I ask a series of questions before we start to make sure trainings appear to be viable before you engage me. But you and your team will be doing plenty of training in less formal ways with your experts, doing pre-interview coaching, building an ongoing relationship, and helping them learn how to face new public situations from speeches with a Twitter backchannel to an especially challenging interview. Is your team consistent--and competent--in training your experts? Are you structuring training for experts so it works for them, as well as for you?

Clients have asked me to develop this workshop to help communicators work effectively with experts--a train-the-trainer session to make sure their communications teams understand how to counsel, coach and train experts for public appearances, media interviews and speeches. From understanding how your experts approach communications to learning effective techniques for training, sharing feedback and helping them learn by doing, the workshop offers ample opportunities to discuss tough cases, practice tactics and get feedback on your training style.

I'm bringing this workshop to clients privately this summer and would be delighted to do so for your company or organizational communications team. In addition, I'm working on dates for a special session this summer that individual communicators can attend in Washington, DC.  Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for information about a custom session at your workplace, or about the session for individuals.
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Conference engagement: 11 tactics to steal as TED's online talks turn 5

June 27 marks five years since the TED conference took its talks online, and in that time, it's broken barriers and set the bar for conferences that want to engage audiences beyond the ballroom or auditorium. Here's the thing: The actual TED conference is small, exclusive and expensive to attend. But all the engagement options listed here are generous, wide-open and free. The combination's compelling.

Even if your meeting or conference doesn't do everything TED does online, its list of engagement options is well worth reviewing for ideas you can steal, options to try and just plain social-media inspiration. Here's the list to work against:

  1. Make the talks fit a length that automatically works for online video: All TED talks are firmly kept 18 minutes or less, and speakers are assigned time increments that range from 5 to 18 minutes,  the perfect size for sharing online. It's a time-saver for production, speeds the path to publishing online--and probably pleases the in-person crowd at the same time.
  2. Post them all online: As of yesterday, that meant 965 online videos posted by TED. This is another area where a highly selective process to begin with helps. Viewers know these videos have passed a litmus test and aren't usual conference fare. But making sure they're all online allows TED to play to specialist interests and group its videos into themes, which in turn lets users browse based on topic.
  3. Help people find them: TED talk videos succeed by being everywhere you want to be. In addition to posting the TED talks online, TED shares them on RSSTwitterFacebook, YouTube and other social networks; makes it possible for TV stations to broadcast TED talks for free; and helps you keep track of them with this simple, updated spreadsheet of all the TED talk videos. Want to play the TED videos without having to get online? TED gives you a free, open-source player pre-loaded with talks; it updates itself to include the new ones.
  4. Make them shareable: TED talks get share buttons for social media sites, as well as provide embed codes that let bloggers and others make the talks part of their posts. TED talks are copyrighted under a Creative Commons license that allows for showings and sharings, and it offers these usage guidelines. They encourage sharing with Ways to spread TED.
  5. Make them accessible: TED offers subtitles in a variety of languages, interactive transcripts, and a cadre of volunteer translators (the latter a useful way to engage your audience to help others in the audience). Those "ideas worth spreading" go further when they can be accessed by a global audience.
  6. Show what happens behind the scenes:  Lots of speakers imagine that prepping for a TED talk is a challenge, so TED made this short film to show how two speakers got ready, demystifying the magic.
  7. Encourage speakers to apply: TED selects speakers, but makes it easy for aspirants to nominate speakers, with a form, FAQ and guidelines.
  8. Make the real conference a community of its own:  TED's online talks only appear well after the conferences, which makes the live experience exclusive and exciting--and in fact, you have to apply to attend. TED refers to its conference attendees as community members, offering them a book club (with Kindle or hardcopy options) to continue building on ideas from the conference, and livestream access for associates who aren't physically there but want to see the talks in real time. And the real conference, with its high-powered speakers and attendees, makes for out-of-this-world networking.
  9. Get beyond the videos:  With its new TED Conversations, online watchers and non-attendees can chat with speakers, share ideas and debate points in the talks. It doesn't just further the engagement, but brings it back to the TED website. TEDx events let others replicate TED's live experience by organizing mini-TEDs in other locations and sometimes on focused topics, within strict guidelines.
  10. Build your own pipeline of future speakers:  TED Fellows are idea-shapers from all over the world who win the chance to attend TED, and perhaps to speak at a future conference; TED's recent first-ever public auditions allowed a wider group to try out live for future slots.
  11. Offer running commentary:  TED's blog not only helps roll out the videos, but gives watchers a heads-up on what's coming, behind-the-scenes insights, and views of things you can't see in the videos, like TED's recent first public tryouts for new speakers.
How does your conference engagement stack up to that list? Share your examples in the comments.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

For Thursday: For Communications Directors newsletter

Got an expert with a short fuse who likes to blow up any attempt to train him for media interviews or public speaking? Or one who just blows off interviews? You'll want the tips and insights in this month's issue of For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter. This issue includes two tools you can use to deal with the reluctant expert: A handout that's my favorite to use in media trainings, and the outline for my train-the-trainer workshops for communications teams, to help your group learn the most effective ways to handle your in-house training of experts. A jam-packed issue with solutions you can put to use right away. Sign up at the links below, and feel free to share this with your colleagues.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Take a real maestro's approach to conducting your team's social media posting

From time to time, I encounter communicators who try to manage social media the way they think a symphony conductor would, furiously directing staff members as they attempt to post in real time.

But according to longtime conductor James Levine, they've got what a real conductor does backwards. He prefers to conduct furiously in rehearsals only, and avoid grandstanding gestures when it comes time to perform--and I think there are lessons here for those of you who manage social-media teams. In this recent NPR interview with Terry Gross, he explains what a real conductor does:
...the most satisfying performances that I hear live are usually conducted by conductors who have a very clear-cut idea of what their function is at a rehearsal and what their function is at a concert....in a rehearsal you use everything, every persuasive thing at your disposal to make the orchestra conscious of as many details of the conception as you can. But when the concert comes, or the performance comes, the orchestra has to be empowered to function within this conception without having to check with the middleman....it's not possible to feel and play and respond to what you feel inside and keep looking to have a constant kind of alignment, shall we say, with the gesture of the conductor....People like to imagine that the conductor does lots of things he doesn't do...I think one of the most important things we don't do is get in the way of the artistry of the musicians who are playing.
In his mind, there are three reasons to avoid over-conducting in real time: It's distracting to the audience, it's distracting to the players, and it means you haven't done your work in rehearsal.  So it's not just a matter of keeping your hands off the process when your team is posting, but of spending enough time discussing options and expectations offline and ahead of time, in your version of "rehearsal."

Too often, and in the rush to cram social media into an already full schedule, I think many communicators are skipping rehearsal and then conducting like they were in the Bugs Bunny overzealous version of a symphony (see below). Next time, try more communicating with your team to walk through scenarios and less flailing around with that baton, and see what happens.



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Monday, June 06, 2011

Can smartphones replace ultralight videocams like the Flip? Pros, cons and resources

Although the high-tech crowd credited smartphones with the demise of the Flip camera, the jury's still out on whether you can really replace the Flip with your phone. For starters, smartphones aren't prevalent enough, yet. New York Times tech reviewer and Flip fan David Pogue notes: "Of the one billion cellphones sold annually, a few million are iPhones. The masses still have regular cellphones that don’t capture video, let alone hi-def video. They’re the people who buy Flip camcorders." And as easy as they are to use, smartphones have a way to go to match the Flip. Pogue notes "I’ve got all these great videos of my toddler son in the back seat of the car, because he’d suddenly start singing a hilarious made-up song, and I’d grab the Flip from the center console, hit the button, and I’d have it. I would not have had a prayer of getting those songs if I’d had an app phone."

Another stumbling block: Sharing video on smartphones isn't simple.  In a recent roundup, the New York Timesoffers a pithy summary of "why most of us resort to sharing video by holding our phones in front of other people’s faces" -- many current apps involve hard-to-find multi-step upload processes that thwart the user. There's hope here. The article also reviews more recent apps that make video uploads from your phone easier, including Socialcam, Thwapr, and Skype's Qik Video Connect.

On the plus side, smartphones--always at the ready--have proven that they have a face for radio .Live reporting with iPhones can be heard on NPR in some circumstances, and you'll want to follow that link for the details on how they use it so you can replicate those tactics.  And the visuals can be theater-quality, given enough time and editing software. This roundup of 7 superb films shot with mobile phones shares the ideal. I'm guessing these took plenty of time to put together, but speed and convenience aside, you'll get a good idea of the possible from these short films. Smartphones will continue to get smarter in this way, as speculation builds about 1080p camera sensors and other enhancements ahead.

To go this route, I'd want smartphones to start adding the things that made the Flip useful: An external mic jack, a tripod mount jack to stabilize the camera and make it hands-free, and one-button operation. For group trainings, however, only a simple ultralight camcorder will do; I need to be able to hand cameras on one platform to many participants with varying skill levels, and still get video back that's quick to upload and share. So I'm looking at some newer camcorders that go beyond the Flip and will have updates for you soon. If you've had good experiences using the smartphone instead of an ultralight camcorder, please share the details in the comments.

Related posts: Flip camera users to get sharing, support until end of 2013

Here it comes: Flip cameras start to limit sharing

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Friday, June 03, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

What happened in your world this week? End of the week, for me, means a look-back to get perspective. I've gotten into the habit of using Twitter as part of my notes for the week, and this weekend read list helps me recall what caught my eye and got shared. I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, and here's the best of my sharing this week:
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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The all-in-one for communicating CEOs

Maybe you're fortunate: You have a CEO who wants to communicate, but she needs help. She might want to blog but not want to learn the software, or to sharpen up her speaking skills to sound stronger, or to be sure she's communicate a message that will help shape her legacy. Get a running start on that project with these tips from the blog:
Training CEOs, presidents, senior executives and executive boards for media interviews, developing messages and public speaking or presenting are all among my services. I hope these tips will help you and your CEO get started on a smart communications strategy. For more on my training services, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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