Monday, October 31, 2011

October's top 10 #communications tips & issues

What's raking if not a collection of the best and most of what's out there? In October, readers raked in these posts the most, making them the most popular on the blog:
  1. Lessons from announcing a Nobel win--and the winner's death shared a one-of-a-kind case study from my clients at Rockefeller University. We got the backstory, making this the most-read post of the month.
  2. Wished-for data in the sciwri11 plenary: Digital consumers of science news fills in some blanks with sources on this important online audience and topic.
  3. Pushing QR codes into creative, widespread use: 7 examples offered you more case studies from rooftops, wikis, business cards, and more.
  4. Free tools for social media monitoring mean that you don't need to pay extra for a dashboard to measure your progress.
  5. Media interview smarts: How to stop saying "That's a very good question" tells you why you should stop and offers alternatives for what to say.
  6. Your difficult expert: What reporters think shares perspectives from reporters from NPR and the New York Times on the tough types of experts they encounter and how they work with them.
  7. 4 apps to help you record those Skype interviews shares options that will let you create videos from your recorded Skype interviews and more.
  8. Women and social media: Where gender should factor in your content strategy looks at which social sites women are and aren't using, and how they use them. Great data sources here.
  9. Using your tagline to make your business cards stand out shared my latest option for biz cards. Just took these for a test run at a conference and they were a big hit--plus, everyone got my message right.
  10. October 14th's weekend read post, with my weekly share on Twitter, proved to be among our most popular posts. Find out why.
Thanks, as usual, for your reading, tips and ideas for the blog!

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with a great job opp

What's the formula to a great week? This week, my formula included coaching speakers on-site before live, high-stakes speaking gigs and interviews on stage. Most weeks, my formula involves finding lots of new ideas, resources, hacks and reads to share on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught--it's my combination news service, trusted advisor and goldmine. And this week, the finds just kept coming. Here were the highlights in my Twitterstream:
And a great job opportunity: The German Marshall Fund in Washington, DC, is looking for a press secretary. This is a great communications team that's been innovating in social media for some time; worth your consideration. Please pass it along to a qualified colleague!

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

4 new tools for presentations and conferences: Slides, polls and scans

Whether you're reaching folks in the room or on social networks, interactive presentations are the name of the game today. For your next conference or meeting, check out these four new tools to make your presentations that much more engaging:
  • Make presentations without Flash using Slidepoint.net, so they can be viewed on any device supporting html, css and javascript. You can include video and other features and make the slides shareable or embeddable. It's in beta now, and free to all.
  • Do more with Google Presentations, a Google Docs feature that just got 50 key upgrades, from animation features to 3D transition effects between slides. It's being rolled out gradually, but there are instructions at the link for activating the new features now, if you can't wait.
  • Scan without a computer when you're at a paper-laden conference and don't want to lug the handouts home. The Doxie line of portable scanners now includes the new Doxie Go, which can scan and store without a computer, and sync later. Doxie's compatible with Evernote and many other programs. If you already own a Doxie, you should have received an upgrade coupon, but use it fast. This is already proving to be a hot seller. If you're not a current Doxie owner, orders will ship on or before November 25.
  • Take a poll of your audience, either prepared in advance or on the spot with Polltogo, an app that lets them respond from their smartphones or laptops, without special devices. I haven't tried this new service yet, so let me know if it works for you.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Media interview smarts: How to stop saying "That's a very good question"

"That's a very good question" might be the most over-used response to media questions ever invented. Many listeners, this one included, start counting how many times it's used in a single interview. Before your live interview or post-speech Q-and-A session gets lost entirely behind this phrase, try these approaches instead:

  • Advance the answer while you buy time: Don't just delay. Share some detail while you buy time. If the query is unusual, you might say, "I've never been asked about that aspect of the project." Think out loud, as in "You know, I'd never considered what it would be like to change places with someone else. Can I change places with anyone, living or dead? Let me see..."   This takes practice, but the result will be a conversation that doesn't turn off the audience or the interviewer...because both are wanting the answer to start.
  • Redirect the question if you need to correct an assumption contained within it. "So you always wanted to be a fireman?" or "You must have enjoyed the lecture" can be countered first ("Actually, my first wish was to be an architect" or "Frankly, I've heard better"), then followed up with your real feelings, intent or perspective.
  • Clarify if the question isn't clear to you: Do so directly, with your own question. "Tell me more about what you're asking," is one way to find out the direction the interviewer's heading toward.
  • Find another way to compliment the interviewer: That can happen outside the actual interview, for preference, either before or after. Send an email, a tweet, a nice note. But don't waste interview time praising the interviewer.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wished-for data in the #sciwri11 plenary: Digital consumers of science news

I recently heard a plenary talk that was supposed to enlighten us about the digital news consumer, and since it opened the National Association of Science Writers annual conference, I was expecting data focused on consumers looking for science news. I came away feeling as if I'd left a banquet still hungry, mainly because the scant amount of data was mostly old and out-of-date. And there's much more to be had, if you want to begin to assemble a current picture of what consumers are seeking in science news.

Maybe you were at the meeting and didn't realize what you were missing. Maybe you weren't at the meeting, but have a part of your operation focused on corporate, university, government or nonprofit research--and need to reach public audiences with news of your findings and progress. Either way, you should know about these additional sources of information on who's consuming news about science in the digital world, and where they're finding it:
Want to see something more up-to-date about overall Internet trends, beyond science? Sure you do. Check out this excellent summary of  Internet trends from October 18 (just after our plenary) from the well-respected venture capitalist Mary Meeker. Slide 5's footnote indicates that its 2011 data were current as of October 11, just a week prior to the conference--a good standard to aim for when you're speaking about matters web 2.0.

KPCB Internet Trends (2011)

(Thanks to Tiffany Lohwater, Ginger Pinholster, Jennifer Santisi from AAAS; Karl Leif Bates from Duke: Jenny Leonard of Futurity; and Joe Bonner from Rockefeller University for sharing thoughts and pointers to get this post started. Please do add links and sources for more on digital consumers of science news in the comments.)


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Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

It's been a colorful week for me, since I'm in between conferences and getting lots of stimulation and ideas for the year ahead. How was your week? Time to kick back and check out the finds and reads I shared on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught and the stream (not mine alone) is now up to 250 million tweets a day. Aren't you glad I sort things out for you here? This was a jam-packed week for sharing things:
Thanks again for reading. Next week, I'm in San Diego for a conference. Have a wonderful weekend!

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Using your tagline to make your business cards stand out

I've just created some new mini-cards on MOO.com, specifically for a conference I'm attending where I know few people but need to get my message across quickly and briefly. My focus at this conference will be to promote my public speaking training services, and to explain my unusual business name.

Normally, I say that I make sure you don't get caught speechless, unprepared or minus a message, a quick sentence that works as my most miniature "elevator speech." One of MOO's options for its mini-cards is to put text on the card front, and to create several versions within one batch of cards. So I opted to pull that tagline apart, with three versions that read:

  • don't get caught speechless
  • don't get caught unprepared
  • don't get caught minus a message

The reverse of these mini-cards have identical content: My name, business name, phone, website and a plug for my public speaking blog, The Eloquent Woman. Can you do the same with your cards, and let your tagline become more prominent and more of a conversation piece? Let me know whether this is an option that would work for you.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Your difficult expert: What reporters think

At the National Association of Science Writers 2011 meeting, a session called "You're not going to print that, are you? Handling difficult interviewees" shared the perspectives of two top reporters on what your difficult experts look like from their vantage point--and how they handle them to get better interviews. I'll be sharing these perspectives in the next "Be an Expert on Working with Experts" workshop, coming this fall. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for more information.

Experts' less-than-winning behaviors were catalogued by NPR's Richard Harris, who sees three main categories of experts that are tough to interview:
  • The unintelligible scientist, to whom he suggests slowing down, offers analogies, or just cajoles them to use simpler language. Harris does a "truth check" at the interview's end by saying "Let me be sure I have this right: Are you saying..." with a paraphrase that he hopes will do the simplifying.
  • The recalcitrant scientist, who often retreats into repeating talking points, perhaps because the topic is controversial. Harris says he'll avoid asking a two-part question in favor of direct single queries, remind the expert "You didn't answer my question," or just wait quietly to get them to fill the void of silence with more remarks.
  • The egotist expert, like the sociologist who greeted his call by saying "Good thing you called. I am the world authority on this topic and this is a story you have to tell." (That genius was left out of the piece that aired.) Experts who demand their entire remarks be included, and those whose competition with rival groups is evident also fall into this category for Harris.
Warren Leary, retired New York Times science writer, added to the list of difficult experts with these types:
  • Picky: Those who challenge reporters from outlets other than the experts' favorite with "Why should I talk to you?"
  • Paranoid: Those who conduct interviews with several people--and tape recorders--in the room. His record? A White House interview with 6 people and 6 tape recorders present.
  • Burned: Experts who've been burned by a bad experience with a previous reporter that they remember for the rest of their career.
  • Mispoken and defiant: The expert who misspeaks but claims the reporter has misquoted him. Leary told of one expert who demanded a retraction, and when a tape of the interview was played back to him, kept saying, "I didn't say that" after hearing what he actually said...until he admitted "I didn't mean to say that."
  • The eloquent dodger: An expert capable of sustaining a long interview full of eloquent phrases but no substance or facts.
Both reporters emphasized the lengths they'll go to to save interviews with these types of difficult experts--but science communicator Joann Rodgers, also on the panel, urged communicators to work with their experts well in advance of interviews to help reduce or remove these barriers in experts' behavior. (The panelists agreed, however, that the egotist expert was likely beyond help.) Check out a summary of the session that focuses on tips you can use when interviewing your experts.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Women and social media: Where gender should factor in your content strategy

If your social strategy doesn't differentiate between the women and men among your users, you may be hitting all the wrong marks. Far from hanging back, women have leapt into using social apps and sites, often leading the way. Here's where you need to keep up with them:
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lessons from announcing a #Nobel win--and the winner's death

Tessier-Lavigne
When it comes to Nobel Prize announcements, "I always tell my staff that it's crisis communications, but we're preparing for a happy crisis," says Joe Bonner, who directs communications and public affairs for Rockefeller University. But this year, an unforeseen and unprecedented event gave Bonner's team two announcements to make on short notice last Monday morning: The award of the Nobel for medicine to research Ralph Steinman for his discovery of dendritic cells, keys to the immune system, and Steinman's death three days earlier.

The odd confluence of events set the university, Nobel officials and reporters scrambling throughout the day. I asked Bonner to share insights for communications directors from this unusual episode. Here's what happened and what you can learn from it:

Nothing beats preparation: Institutions with Nobel-worthy researchers typically have a plan in place for the week of awards, particularly since the announcements come with short notice and early in the morning in the U.S. Eastern time zone. Rockefeller has ties to a whopping two dozen Nobel Prize winners, with most of its winners coming from the faculty ranks. Last Monday, the groundwork was laid: facilities and security knew to expect a call from communications telling them to prepare for reporters and a possible press conference, a phone chain was in place, and bios for relevant researchers were up to date--as of the previous Friday. After learning of the death, Bonner called one of Steinman's daughters to discuss how to handle the twin announcements: "We agreed the best way to handle it would be to announce both at the same time," he said, "which meant that the template we had for a Nobel announcement was not quite thrown out the window, but was radically altered." Rockefeller aims to hold its news conferences about Nobel prizes by 10am and this day was no exception--so both announcements needed to be ready in a short window.

Anticipate extra steps: In addition to all the normal notifications about a Nobel winner on campus, Rockefeller President Marc Tessier-Lavigne had to call the Nobel committee to report Steinman's death. The New York City-based university focuses only on graduate-level research and its small and close community of 2,000 people needed to hear about the death before a public announcement. Every template prepared for the announcement needed a rewrite, from the website announcement that linked to a page with Steinman's bio to the president's message to the campus community. Without a winner to speak at the news conference, surrogates had to be enlisted from the faculty and the family members, who asked to read a statement.

Know your backups: Bonner's check of the Nobel website at 5:30 am Eastern time found that the site had already crashed from excessive traffic, so he turned to Twitter, where he found and was able to confirm reports that Steinman had won. A few hours later, Rockefeller's planned live feed of the news conference also crashed due to unusually high interest, and while the team had hoped to live-tweet the news conference, that fell by the wayside. But some earlier backup plans came in handy that day. Because Steinman was so ill,  "we were prepared for the possibility that he wouldn't be on campus, something we think about for any potential winner, who might be at a conference or traveling," Bonner said. Because of his illness, a Skype hookup was tested for possible use at the news conference, and thought was given to scientific colleagues who could explain his work if he were unable to do so.

Mind your community:  By taking the time to talk to potential surrogate spokespeople and making sure the campus community heard about the news first, Rockefeller was able to bring a unique advantage to the coverage and the announcement. "The family was very generous in offering to answer calls and talk to reporters," Bonner said. (You can listen to this NPR interview with Steinman's son as one good example.) "We were dividing up who wants to talk about science and who wants to talk about him as a person." Steinman's longtime collaborator Michel Nussenzweig, who spoke at the news conference, was able to recall the skepticism Steinman faced about his discovery. "I don't know if Ralph would have talked about that, but it was important for Michel to get that point across," Bonner said.

Odd circumstances provoke questions: Before the news conference, the Nobel committee issued a statement of condolence, indicating that it had only learned of the death when the university called, and noting that the university had only been notified that morning after the announcement. The distinction was critical. Steinman's death threw into question whether he could receive the award posthumously, given the Nobel Prize rules. By the time of the Rockefeller news conference, "all we knew was that they had posted the condolence statement, and there were reports the committee would meet." Eventually, the Nobel Foundation announced that the award to Steinman would stand, calling the event of his death so close to the award "unique and, to the best of our knowledge...unprecedented in the history of the Nobel Prize."  The high-visibility, much-anticipated awards prompt weeks of speculation in the scientific community and among science journalists. Bonner said "we knew we'd get questions about the timing."  This time, it didn't help that, as reported by the New York Times, the Nobel Foundation varied its usual policy of making personal contact with winners before going public. For this prize, the foundation was not able to reach any of the three winners of this prize before the announcement. A couple of reporters questioned the timing of the announcement, implying that both the family and the university had motives to keep the death quiet in hopes of getting the prize. But "the simple fact was that we got the call about the prize and then we got the call about Ralph's death," he said.

Here are the university's news release and the video of the news conference, which includes speakers from the faculty as well as Steinman's family:



Compile lessons learned immediately: It's been eight years since the last time a Rockefeller faculty member won a Nobel prize, says Bonner, who has worked on four such announcements. "Now, we'll probably have this in the back of our minds, and we have this experience to look back on how we prepare for and execute tasks on the day of the award. We know some things worked and some things didn't--for example, we're going to figure out how to handle a higher server load." The sustained high volume of press calls far outweighed any previous Nobel announcement for the university, with interview requests still coming in this week.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

4 apps to help you record those Skype interviews


More and more, communicators and journalists are recording interviews on Skype--and you're not the only one wishing Skype had a built-in option for recording interviews. Journyx CEO Cut Finch does, too. He created this roundup of recording apps and how to get savvy using them on Skype. He notes:
I’m not happy with the technology I’ve been using to conduct these interviews. I use the speaker function on my office landline and have a voice recorder next to the speaker phone.  Sometimes the recording turns out fine. Other times, the person with whom I’m speaking is on a cell phone or has bad reception and the audio comes out fuzzy, making it difficult to transcribe. 
His favorites are PamelaMP3 Skype RecorderHotRecorder, and Vodburner. These Windows-compatible apps range from free to paid, with some recording only audio and some both video and audio. Vodburner lets you make a final video of the conversation. Which apps are you using to record your Skype interviews?

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Pushing QR codes into creative, widespread use: 7 examples

Like nearly any other new development in social media, QR codes have been doubted, scoffed at, kicked around, rejected and declared as dead. But the newfangled version of the barcode persists--and is pushing forward into more creative and widespread use as more companies and organizations experiment with it.

The easiest way to grasp QR codes' utility? They replace the URL for your website (or a portion of it), making it simple for mobile-phone users to point, scan and go to your site without thumb-typing. QR codes save your customers time and work, take up little space, and now that you can change the target without changing the code, they're much more useful over time. They're more compact than a URL and more visual, making it possible to incorporate them in a wider range of places.

Still, I'm finding (as usual) that the best way to help my clients think of ways to adopt QR codes is to share good examples of their use. Here are seven strong examples to help you imagine new ways to put QR codes to use in your communications:
  1. Up on the roof:
  2. An Austin, Texas, firm will put a QR code on the roof of your building, making it an aerial view advertising option. It's a clever way to let users of Google Earth and Google Maps get more information on your business, a useful way to expand what's available to the localized searcher.
  3. Shopping codes: Retailer JC Penney has rolled out QR codes to help shoppers check out its new collection, with the codes appearing in newspaper and magazine ads. Scanning the QR codes takes shoppers right to the latest fashion line, online, with options to opt-in for coupons and discounts. And now they're on Home Shopping Network, too. These will be cases to watch, as they have the potential to bring QR codes to vast audiences.
  4. Moving out of the annual report: Like many private foundations, the Ford Foundation still produces a printed annual report--but this year, incorporated QR codes to bring readers to more interactive features describing its programs and accomplishments online.
  5. Networking made easy:  Moo.com shares these creative ideas for incorporating QR codes into your business card, with case studies from a wide range of QR code uses. I like the idea of making the code fill one entire side of your card--check out the pictures.
  6. Presentation backup (or future?):  Clever use of QR codes, leading to your slides uploaded on SlideShare, can allow you to share slides with smartphone users in the audience, even if you don't have a projector.
  7. Voting with your codes? The 2012 presidential elections will likely be a hotbed of creative political uses for QR codes, from field organizing to campaign donations.
  8. QR codes, wikily: Wikipedia has launched QRpedia, a QR code-creator that lets you turn any Wikipedia URL into a handy QR code.  This was started by a museum, but now is available to all--a tool you should try out for your Wikipedia listings. ReadWriteWeb notes "Its adoption may be limited by the bravery required to point people to the collective consciousness, publicly editable discussion online about yourself or your organization."
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Friday, October 07, 2011

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

Time to untangle all the loose ends of your week, now, and plug into the weekend. I've got plenty of weekend reading for you, based on my finds on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught. Consider yourself wired into my world of resources, starting now:

And a few items I favorited, for later reading:

  • Let's repeat that again: This Tumblr of unnecessary journalism phrases (think "estimated at about" or "free gift") is useful as a reminder to any writer, or maybe just the laugh you need today. Reminds me of the NBA color commentary I once heard on TV: "You know Fred, to win tonight, Denver has to score more points than the other team." We might need another Tumblr of Obvious Journalism Observations, come to think of it.
  • Plugged-in network maven Scott Heiferman, founder of Meetup.com, shares his insights about the popular networking and social site in this video interview.
Next week, I'll be in Arizona for the ScienceWriters 2011 meeting. Let me know if you'll be there so we can meet up--and thanks again for reading the blog this week.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Free tools for social media monitoring

I remember my disappointment at having to cancel a premium account with a well-known, major social media dashboard...because it consistently delivered my results in Japanese. Then I realized that a few free tools gave me plenty of tracking options, tools I was already using for other purposes. That meant I didn't need to add another stop on the social-media highway to my day. Here's how to pimp your ride with free tools so you can keep an eye on your social-media interactions:


Start with your RSS reader 

Google Reader is my go-to RSS reader, and I use it to monitor selected Twitter posts, as well as feedback and engagement on my Facebook pages. I subscribe to the full Twitter feeds of a few individuals--the ones for whom I never want to miss a post. Just enter the URL for their Twitter accounts where you add subscriptions, and you'll see the posts right in your RSS stream. I also subscribe to my own tweets, which helps me monitor whether they posted and also gives me an archive. To monitor Facebook page engagement, click on "Notifications" on your page, then "See All Notifications," and click on the "Get notifications via: RSS" link. Then enter that URL into your RSS reader to subscribe. Now, when someone likes, comments or shares my Facebook page posts, I don't need to leave my reader to find out. For free.

Make full use of Tweetdeck and Favstar

I've loved Tweetdeck from the get-go. It's now owned by Twitter, but still retains my favorite feature: You can add accounts for Facebook individual accounts or pages, Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Google Buzz. You also can add columns for each of those accounts, and post to them accounts without leaving Tweetdeck. Set up search columns in Tweetdeck to monitor specific keywords, hashtags, or your own posts. Use Favstar.fm to  track who's favoriting and retweeting your tweets; you can also set up an RSS feed so Favstar notifications come to your Google (or other) Reader.

Stay alert to new, free tools

Sometimes, all you want to do is monitor your own Twitter feed, especially when you want to retrieve an ancient tweet that's needed now. That used to involve endless scrolling through your tweets on Twitter, or, if you set up a feed in Google Reader for your own tweets, a search there. Now the CloudMagic browser extension for Chrome or Firefox takes searching your Twitter feed up a notch and makes it even easier--I've been using it all day and wondering where this has been all my life. Try this. You won't regret it. And if your geographic reach is important on Twitter, take a look at TweepsMap will show you your Twitter followers by country, state or city, in map or list form.

Want to save all these free records? Follow the tips in this post on using ifttt, Evernote and other tools to create a content stash.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

For Thursday: For Communications Directors newsletter

If you're still having the same discussions about social media you had in 2007, delegated everything to the intern, or find you can't find any followers, don't get stuck--get going. This month's issue of my free newsletter, For Communications Directors, looks at how to get un-stuck in social media. You'll also find this month's free download, links to our top posts, advice on training and more. Sign up now to get the next issue, out early Thursday morning...

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Monday, October 03, 2011

September's top 10 communications tips & issues

Readers make their preferences for posts known loud and clear, through retweets and reads and shares. Who needs further amplification? Here are the most-read posts from the blog in September:
  1. Bloggers, play with ifttt, Evernote and other tools to build a content stash shared how I've tweaked my system for collecting and saving leads for blog content. It's our most-read post this month.
  2. Your pinata strategy: When your topic gets hijacked by a political campaign followed some early hijacks coming out of the political debates. Concrete prep steps for communicators here.
  3. Been waiting for ifttt? If this, then that now open to all shared one of my favorite finds. I was in on the beta test, and happy that you can now make use of this amazing automation tool.
  4. Get up to speed with government's use of social media gave you examples drawn from state, federal and international governments' use of social media--from making laws to connecting with constituents.
  5. Follow the group tablet: Website, audience, ad shifts looked at how the trend of issuing tablets to large groups--medical students and airline pilots, for example--is changing how you should shape your content for these identified tablet users.
  6. Is your content strategy a la carte, or family style? steals a menu-reform idea from chef Gordon Ramsay and applies it to your content online. This is a great way to simplify your offerings, in a way that users can appreciate.
  7. From photos to publicity: 3 tools, tips for bloggers shared a few sources I've found for fair-use photos and for building ways to get your blog noticed--including useful data to explain why you need to share your posts.
  8. Taking a cancer fundraiser post to the next level shows off one of my client's smart, personalized posts, elevating what could have been a pro forma notice and making it a compelling fundraising post.
  9. The jam-packed Weekend read from September 30 included plenty of tips, apps and a great job opening--no wonder it's in the top 10 for the month.
  10. Your video update: News, skills, scribes, chat, traps and edits shared a treasure trove of resources and insights on online video and how it's changing. Still the most popular form of social media, it's an area that isn't standing still by any means. Find out why.
Thanks again for reading this month, and for sharing posts on your social networks--I appreciate it!

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