Friday, September 30, 2011

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


This weekly post is where I DJ finds, reads, and resources I shared first on Twitter this week, where I'm @dontgetcaught. Give a listen to these greatest hits, boys and girls--we have a jam-packed lineup of hits for you this weekend:
A great job, in case you missed it: The American Geophysical Union is looking for a communicator to focus on member training and social media.

Favorites? Aside from you, here are a few I flagged for later reading:

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

From photos to publicity: 3 tips, tools for bloggers

Two ongoing challenges for bloggers involve finding a ready supply of free, fair-use photos for a wide range of subjects, and ways to spread the word about your blog to interested audiences. Here's are three tools and tips to help you do just that:
  • Need free, fair-use photos? Try Behold, a search engine for Creative Commons images on Flickr. Its database is more than one million photos, and it's a major time-saver, skipping all those "all rights reserved" photos. You can specify tags, whether you want to modify the photo as well as share it, and whether you plan to use it commercially.
  • Every blog needs evangelists, the folks who'll retweet, mention, link and share your stuff.  Problogger has a great guide to ways to recruit evangelists for your blog, including how to keep your communications channels open so you hear from them, how to reward them, and how to avoid asking too much of them.
  • Tired of social sharing your blog posts? Too bad--they're still the best tool around for boosting views of your blog. New data shows you'll get 160% more page views and 149% more inbound links. What's not to like about that? (Hat tip to Zan McCollochLussier for sharing this useful report.)

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bloggers: Play with ifttt, Evernote and other tools to build a content stash

They'll tell you that to blog, you need to read widely (and they're right about that). Social media means my reading covers a wider swath than ever. But what they don't tell you is how to cull, curate and store what you're reading to make it into a useful content stash, an easily searched warehouse of great ideas, fodder and resources.

I've been tweaking my system for saving and searching the sources I collect. Typically, I find blog content on Twitter and Facebook, in ebooks on my Kindle, sometimes in emails, in feeds I follow in Google Reader, and on the Internet. My modus operandi for finding good content sources is the same one I use at cocktail parties: Show an interest in everything, collect plenty of contact information, and save what you find to use later.

My primary storage warehouse is Evernote, and I challenged myself this year to use it more thoroughly. For feeding my blogs, I have notebooks devoted to each blog, as well as separate notebooks for ongoing series or features (like the "weekend read" on this blog that collects my retweets and favorites from Twitter). For series or articles that my freelance writer works on, I've got shared notebooks full of story ideas and source material that either of us can add, alter or use. Because I read widely and don't want to spend all my time moving and filing things, even in Evernote, I've kept an eye out for more efficient ways to save it all. Lately, ifttt has helped me get the saving process down to one or two keystrokes, or less. Here's how I get all that organized into a useful stash:

  • Internet-browsed articles go straight into Evernote, thanks to its fantastic Chrome extension. Right from the toolbar, I can clip a selection, the full article, or just the URL, and indicate into which Evernote notebook the article should go. Once in Evernote, the saved web article is entirely searchable, so I don't even need to remember its title, author or event the notebook in which it's located. This has put years back on my life, years I plan on spending in exotic locations eating good food and drinking good wine.
  • Tweets, retweets and favorited items on Twitter--all a goldmine of blog fodder--get automatically saved in Evernote in a couple of ways. Any tweet or re-tweet of mine gets saved through an ifttt automated task in a notebook that's specific to my "weekend read" feature. Right now, I can't specify only retweets, so they all go into this notebook. Each week, once I've noted the retweets in my weekend read post, they're deleted from Evernote--although I could just keep them there as an archive. I use favorited items differently. Some wind up in the weekend read, some in other blogs. Another ifttt task puts them automatically into the Evernote notebook for this blog, where I use them most frequently. This, too, has put years back on my life, during which I expect to start a third career.
  • Google Reader is perhaps the main net in which I catch all sorts of content sources. I subscribe to the Twitter feeds of people whose tweets I really don't want to miss; other blogs; news sources, and much more. Once upon a time, I kept subject files right in Reader. Then I used the email feature of Reader to send any post you want to save into Evernote, using your specific Evernote email and adding tags (an @Notebook name tag puts the item in a notebook, and a #tag tags it). But of late, I find I use fewer keystrokes and work by creating another ifttt task: Whenever I star an item in Google Reader, it gets sent to a notebook just for that purpose in Evernote. Daily, I go into that notebook and refile the items in the notebooks where they belong, via a drop-down menu selection. This has put enough years back on my life to allow a world of naps.
  • Email subscriptions are not my favorite way to collect content (not if there's an RSS feed, anyway). But when nothing else will do, I subscribe using my Evernote email, which dumps the subscribed email into my default notebook, where it can be sorted appropriately. Saves me the step of forwarding it there. Probably puts weeks back on my life.
  • Search: I use YouTube, Google, Flickr and other great search engines. In Google, however, thanks to the Evernote Chrome extension, my search results tell me when I have related items already in my Evernote stash. I'm expecting this to save months and later years of time, as my Evernote storehouse grows. Maybe another hobby, then?
Please share what you're doing to save your content and sourcing stash in the comments.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Taking a #cancer fundraiser blog post to the next level

Mone included this photo
of her son, Harry, and his
swim coach
There's nothing I like better than to hear from clients who are putting in action the strategies we've worked on together. Last week, client Amy Mone sent me her recent blog post Making Waves to Fight Cancer, on the Johns Hopkins University Cancer Matters blog. Mone directs public affairs for the university's Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, where I've worked with her team on using blogs to reach key audiences and developing strategies for sustaining blog coverage of the center.

Her post is a great example of a post that makes a nonprofit blog worth reading. It's not a pro forma announcement, nor a rambling 5,000-word feature. But its four paragraphs are packed with factors that take it to the next level, because it:
  • Shares her many personal perspectives to connect with readers: Sure, she's the director of public affairs, but in this post, Mone writes from a swimmer's perspective about the form of the Olympians at the event--and about involving her son Harry in the swim competition, a way for her family to remember her mother and grandmother, who both died of cancer. Recreational swimmers, moms, daughters, sports fans all might find something here. As I like to say, if you don't have a personality in social media, you need to go out and get one. That's not a problem here, and it makes the post sing. 
  • Reflects the doubts and wonders of non-participants: One great way to inspire more participants is to describe, in real terms, what this type of competition looks and feels like. So Mone shares the chilly weather that Sunday morning, her moment of wanting to get out of the pool and quit, the speed and skill of the top swimmers. Those are all details that a non-participant and not-yet-donor might want to know about--the very kind of detail that rarely makes it into a calendar notice or standard news release, but might inspire someone to sign up or pledge a donation next time.
  • Shares the motivations participants don't get to see: Mone takes the time to note that $400,000 was raised at this event, and takes the reader behind the scenes where the Olympians visited the pediatric cancer wards the day before the event. That adds the big picture, but also reinforces the success and meaning behind the event.
The Hopkins blog has taken this approach with other fundraising activities for the cancer center, with Why They Swim and Why I Walk posts from participants, to move the activity from a mass of people to individual perspectives. But there's no reason why staff posts shouldn't also share personal perspective.

One last thing: Mone's one of the best writers I've worked with--we started out in communications together at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She's always had a wonderful sense for conveying what patients and practitioners really think and feel, a skill that builds connections that can lead to donations and volunteers. Today, even though she's the director of her public affairs office, she's contributing to the blog with personal perspective and skilled writing, something more communications directors should do. It's a treat to read her work here.

Can I help your team come up with a blog strategy--or ways to sustain what you've already created in terms of building content, promoting your blog to build readership, or training your team to report and write a blog more effectively and efficiently? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

How did you paint the week? Bright or dark colors? A Jackson Pollack splatter-fest, or colored inside the lines? Color me happy it's the weekend, and time to share the posts I retweeted or passed along on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught. I found plenty of resources and reads to ease you into the weekend:
And a favorited item I'll play with this weekend, ideal for those of you who need to communicate size, scale or other data-based comparisons: Two BBC online tools, How many really? and How big really? let you compare the scale and size of world events (like floods) or objects (like the moon) to things in your world.

Thanks again for reading, and enjoy your weekend!


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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Promoting experts gets creative

Some are hyper-local, some worldwide in scope. But for communicators looking to expand the ways in which they make experts available in public settings, here are three creative options to consider:
  • Dial 'em up: Local Hero, currently an iPhone app with an Android version on the way, "connects to your Facebook account to determine your skills and location, and uses it to connect you with friends and others on LocalHero looking for advice." Yes, that means legwork for you, making sure your Facebook account displays your expertise and participation in the Local Hero community. But for those with a robust presence on Facebook, this is a great way to build connections with an audience.
  • Check them out: The "human library" is a program of the new Surrey, British Columbia, public library in which you can check out an expert instead of a book to learn more about a topic. The experts are volunteering their services; library patrons will be able to request them and chat with them in the library cafe. This is an easy enough program to implement no matter your mission, and one that might involve your retirees, members, donors and more. And while it's low-tech and high-touch, I can see this option easily promoted on social networks. Think about being able to provide a subject expert, live, on a day when her specialty's in the news.
  • Widen the lecture hall: Online courses may have been an option you dismissed as a means of promoting experts, but think again: Stanford University's online artificial intelligence course has attracted a whopping 58,000 people from 175 countries around the world. This effort differs from early-era online courses by including not just uploaded lectures on video but interactive games, streaming video and interactive quiz and grading functions. The new functionality means experts get more of a presence and personality in online classes--something that can help shape their image with news media, collaborators and others watching, like Bill Gates, who sent a comment in to MIT about one of its solid-state chemistry lectures, thanking the university for making it available online.
Got a novel way to put your experts forward? Share it in the comments.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall cleaning: For Communications Directors newsletter

I like an opt-in system for my newsletters, and want to make sure active readers make up those lists. So every year--roughly in spring and fall--a cleanup is in order. If you haven't opened several recent issues, your name has been removed from that list. (And you've been missing out on several new features, like free monthly downloads, discounts on workshops and more.)

Want to make sure you're still on the list? Use the link below.  The next issue of For Communications Directors will be out in a couple of weeks.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Been waiting for Ifttt? If this, then that now open to all

Ifttt took nine long months to beta test its service, which lets you set up "recipes" for tasks that occur under an "if this, then that" scenario. I was part of the beta test phase, and I'm delighted that you can now try the site out.  Thanks to all that testing and eager new users, iftt has a hefty 143 page list of the most popular tasks that users have come up with, from downloading tagged Facebook photos to Dropbox to "let me know if it's going to rain."  You can use iftt to carry out tasks involving your phone, the clock, your social sites, your file-sharing and note-taking software and more, and the service can help you back up your social posts by saving them in programs like Evernote. It's compatible with many of your favorite functions and services.

Iftt can be somewhat intimidating--the possibilities seem endless--so browse the recipes and spend some time thinking through your tasks and the things for which you'd like a prompt, a backup, a note-taker or some other assistance. Yes, there are plenty of sites that let you schedule things, but this site will let you customize it finely, and across a wide series of tasks. Try it out and share your reactions in the comments.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Your pinata strategy: When your topic gets hijacked by a political campaign

HPV vaccines, jobs data, high school chemistry, bridges and roads, solar panels--they're just some of the topics that have popped up in the course of the presidential political campaigns' efforts to differentiate their candidates from the pack. Here in Washington, we call campaign season "silly season," but the results aren't funny if your topic gets thrown into the national spotlight and beaten like a pinata full of cash money.

My money's on the savvy communicator to be at work now, so you can move fast, and speak authoritatively when your topic gets taken for a political ride (and you don't need to be in a political operation for this to happen). Here are a few resources and ideas to help:
  • Speed your corrections by making them visual.  Need to refute stretched facts, fast? One new study suggests that a visual approach to correcting political misinformation may be your best bet.  Researchers asked study participants to assess three kinds of controversial data, on the U.S. troop "surge" in Iraq, the Obama administration's impact on jobs, and global climate change. Nieman Lab notes: "graphical presentation of corrections (and of controversial information in general) can be more powerful than their textual counterparts in terms of convincing people to amend their misperceptions." The post goes on to suggest prominent placement for infographics when presenting information on controversial topics.
  • Take that a step further with a mapped visual:  Make it easy for local reporters, regional public officials and supporters to find and feature your viewpoint by using a visual map to highlight the impact of a political proposal. Save the Post Offices has done just that, compiling a series of Google Maps highlighting where proposed closures of Post Office facilities would take place. It's a double-whammy: Immediate visual impact, with local data behind it, in one graphic.
  • Get a key endorser who's not a "usual suspect:" One of the scientists who just did a star turn for research on a heretofore unknown "diamond planet" used his moment of celebrity to write a column noting how different his experience would have been had he been publishing data on climate change. His remove from the topic allows him to avoid the tag of bias in favor of his field, and he uses that to point out the similarities all sciences share in research and how it is conducted. Can you find someone to back up your points who's an astute observer--but not in the thick of the fight? Do it.
  • Prep your spokespeople: It's often painfully obvious when experts aren't prepared for a media-coverage blitz occasioned by an offhand political comment or pointed debate argument. This past week, it's been difficult to avoid HPV researchers reiterating the basic facts about that vaccine, some more clearly and crisply than others. Take the time to identify your likely pinata topics, then get those spokesfolk ready by offering training, including a review of hot-button words and terminology that might get further taken out of context; help them brainstorm alternatives and strong messages that share the facts in a neutral way. I don't know any experts who would fail to welcome that extra help, even if it turns out to be unnecessary. Don't forget to hand them a variant of Ronald Reagan's best and least anxious debate line to counter broad, ridiculous charges: "There they go again."
  • Challenge reporters to get beyond "he said, she said" coverage on controversial topics: Use this Jay Rosen post to urge them to get to the truth--especially if the truth is on your side.
  • Learn how to correct a moving record on Twitter, which might be your fastest option to keep rumors in check. It helps if you've built strong followings on Twitter and your other social networks, long before you need them.
What else is part of your pinata strategy? Share your tips in the comments.


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Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

If you feel like you've been dancing as fast as you can, the weekend should mean a slowdown's ahead--at least, I hope so. This week has been fast and furious for me, and nowhere more than Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught. Here are the week's finds and good reads that I shared there:

This week, I want to devote some space to three great conferences coming up in October. There's another excellent lineup at October's Web 2.0 Expo in New York City, and discount codes for your registration here. At the HighEdWeb conference in Austin, check out this session on reinventing your university news site. And today's the last day to get the early registration discount for the Science Writers 2011 conference in Arizona. I'll be at the latter--let me know if I'll see you there.

Here's an item I favorited on Twitter that you should pass around the office: A new Tumblr blog by one of Mashable's editors, called "Everyone's Excited in Press Releases," featuring clips from release in which the quoted individual says, well, how excited his is about whatever. Try not to give him any more new material, willya? Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Your video update: News, skills, scribes, chat, traps and edits

Still the strongest trend in social media, online video's been evolving fast and furious. Here, some ways it's changing, with resources and tools you can use to make the most of your video options:


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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Now, forager: Who brings you quality content and how do you reward them?

I just listened to an interview in which Chef Alice Waters explained the concept of employing a forager for her Chez Panisse restaurant. Instead of chanterelles, I was thinking of content and how many of my clients quest to sustain their blogs and Twitter feeds with quality content, but feel they're falling short. Here's what Waters has to say about doing the same in terms of the restaurant's core content, its ingredients:
...we had to come up with these ideas...we had to go out and look for those ingredients...it probably took us 10 years of foraging to come to that realization [that the restaurant was about its ingredients]. And we hired a forager, in fact, who became part of the staff of the restaurant, whose job it was to go out and to find the people who were growing or raising animals, everything from fish to eggs to fruit to vegetables. We were looking for people that really cared about what they were doing and could provide us with the ingredients for the restaurant. 
In fact, we did write-ups on the different farms. We'd invite them to come to the restaurant for dinner, and we'd make this arrangement with them to be a reliable buyer so that they could sort of grow for us and be assured of an income.
I've begun thinking of my best sources of information as foragers for my blogs. Who's foraging for you? You can start by making sure your team, donors, customers and supporters think of themselves as your foragers, but dig deeper. Who retweets you or otherwise shares your content? How do you let them know what you need? One of the best Google+ ideas I've seen so far involves making a circle just for people who share your content--they're your known foragers.

You can create foragers by asking your followers for content, too: questions, fill-in-the-blanks, polls, or good old direct requests. Once you start letting people know what you're looking for, they'll get better at bringing it to you, either in the form of requests or leads you should know about. Do as Waters did, and keep profiles of your most prolific finders. What are they good at finding for you?

Finally, reward your foragers. That means give them credit, inside information, or something they'll value--which means you need to ask them about that, too. Start a deeper dialogue with your good sources. You won't regret having foragers for your blog, website or social posts.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Get up to speed with government's use of social media


Governments are changing platforms, policies and personnel--in social media, that is. Once wary of social media, governments at all levels have embraced and expanded everything about social networking, from who's using it to what they're using it for. Here are some updates I've noticed that offer you new data and examples:


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Friday, September 09, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter


This Friday, two of my clients--Bucknell University and Binghamton University--are under flood waters and serving as evacuation centers. Both also are doing a great job handling crisis communications and using social media to keep their campus and surrounding communities apprised of the situations they are facing. We can all agree: Here on the U.S. east coast, we've had more than our share of water and rain this week.

I still turn first in emergencies to Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught. This weekly post passes along the best of the reads, finds and resources I came across on Twitter. Here's hoping your weekend is uneventful:
Did you miss the For Communications Directors newsletter this week? Find out about being a trusted advisor, plus news on my new services and on what clients are asking for to customize my "Be an Expert on Working with Experts" training for communicators. I'm happy to discuss options with you, too.

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Is your content strategy an a la carte, or family style menu?

What is a restaurant menu but an edible content strategy? I've watched a lot of Gordon Ramsay cooking shows, and one way he reforms errant restaurants is to suggest they move away from extensive a la carte menus and start serving family-style meals. Think converting from individual cheese souffles to, say, a big casserole full of mac-and-cheese for all at the table to share.

That's not just good business sense for a bistro or cafe, but a content strategy that might work for your blog or website online. A family-style content strategy can make your online offerings:
  • Easier to make ahead: Kitchens and content managers fail every day when the work gets too complicated. Content you can make ahead, whether it's a roast chicken or a rich data set, helps you share it in a timely, accessible way. And there's no diner or user who'll object to getting your meal on time.
  • Simpler for the chef: Fewer choices makes it easier for you to plan and execute content, just as family-style dishes make it easier for the chef to get food out to diners' tables. Narrowing and focusing your content categories may help you do the same.
  • Easy to understand: Simplifying the menu you offer makes it easier for your users to make their choices and get what you're offering. Just like that greasy spoon that offers everything from pho to ribs to burgers, you won't reach your users if they can't quickly grasp your focus. And it's tough to tell what's good when you're offering one of everything.
  • Generous and limited all at once: In a restaurant, the genius of a family-style dish is that it blurs the lines. It limits the diner's choices, but offers big portions. Can your content strategy take a disadvantage--a limit on what you offer--and make it look equally generous? Remember, the hallmark of family-style echoes the mama who urges you to have seconds...or thirds. In content, that might mean opening up a database full of facts, but not prepping extensive materials shaping people's views of it. Or perspectives only from CEOs, folks who are tough to access; your site could be the one place where they share generously. If you choose right, your site becomes the go-to restaurant for the right users.
  • Easy to share: At the end of the day, or the start of the meal, family-style means a dish that's easily shared. With social tools, your content should do the same. Family-style content should help build community as your content gets passed around the table. Put a spoon in that dish, willya?
  • Familiar favorites:  These heaping helpings ring familiar with diners. Is your content offered up in ways that make it immediately familiar to your users? 
Here's one example of how that strategy works in a restaurant, in a clip from Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. In a communications shop, what does family style content look like to you?



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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Follow the group tablet: Website, audience, ad shifts

Maybe you want a tablet computer or e-reader, or have managed to talk yourself out of one. But if you take your eyes off the product shelves, you can train them on the many groups that are being issued tablets en masse--a move that signals more widespread use of tablets, and with it, changes you need to anticipate for your marketing and communications. Don't rule out the e-reader, either: Its use is booming, with changing audiences to match.

Which groups are using tablets because they've been issued them? All of Yale University's medical students have been issued tablets, iPads they can use until graduation for texts, course materials and even patient information. British Airways, with improved customer service in mind, is experimenting with flight crew iPads that will hold everything from customer data to safety manuals, crew schedules, special customer requests and a library of company documents. At United and Continental airlines, pilots get the iPads -- 11,000 of them -- for navigational charts and flight manuals.

The motivation from those companies and institutions is cost savings in paper, printing and distribution. At Yale:
The program will distribute 520 iPads. If that sounds expensive, consider this: Dean Schwartz notes that the school spends about US$100,000 per year to copy, collate and distribute course materials. So far, he's spent about $600,000 on the iPad program. Within a few years, Schwartz notes, money saved on printing costs will pay for the initiative.
Ditto the airlines: United estimates it will save, per pilot, some 38 pounds of documentation and 16 million pieces of paper each year. That will shrink storage space, postage and shipping, design and printing. Can your briefing books for boards of directors and public officials be far behind? 


All this is to give you a heads-up on following your audience. If your intended target audience is likely to move to tablet or e-reader use, spurred by being handed one for daily use, how will you need to change your operations and plans to communicate with its members?  Are you publishing in formats that work on tablets and e-readers? Here are some additional data and options to consider:



How are you changing your communications and social-media strategies for tablets?

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Monday, September 05, 2011

For Wednesday: For Communications Directors newsletter

You know you're a talented communicator. But are you a trusted advisor? That's the topic of this month's free newsletter, For Communications Directors, which will be out on Wednesday this week. The newsletter features content before you see it on the blog, along with discounts, early word about new workshops and training options and a free download each month for you to use. Don't miss this issue: Sign up before Wednesday morning, using the links below.

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Friday, September 02, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

It's been an exhausting week here on the East Coast of the U.S., where many are worn out from hurricane prep and recovery--we seem to have had more than our share of natural disasters of late. Here's to a week that I hope ends uneventfully, at least in terms of the weather. I still managed to share lots of good reads and tips I found on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught. Like many in my region, a lot of my tweeting shared immediate-use information and resources related to the hurricane, but here, you get the best of the rest along with a few new ideas sparked by the storm that have wider application:
Thanks, as always, for reading and enjoy your weekend!

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Thursday, September 01, 2011

New pages about my services

I've updated pages on the blog to better reflect my services and the clients that use them--they serve as a compass for clients and potential clients looking for communications consulting and training options. Steer yourself over to these destinations to find out more about what I'm up to these days:


I'd love to hear from you about your communications strategy and training needs. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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