Friday, December 28, 2012

The weekend read

Let me light the way to the weekend--and the new year, coming soon. But first, focus your lights on the great jobs, reads, finds and wonders I shared this week on Twitter. Here's your final weekend read this year:
Employment light orchestra: Northeastern University is looking for a visual content manager...the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies wants a director of communications and engagement.

I'll be shedding light on the experts, scientists and policy wonks you work with at Be an Expert on Working with Experts, January 10 in Washington, DC. In addition to learning how to work with experts' default communications styles, rather than against them, you'll get to meet the top communicators who've already registered, coming from all over the U.S. But hurry: Registration closes next FridayThursday, January 3, or when all seats are filled.

What a year it's been! Thanks, as always, for stopping here to get your communications and social media smarts on and your weekend started. You're the bright lights in any week for me.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The blog's top 10 communications and social media posts for 2012

2012 had a presidential election, waves of new social media options and plenty of opportunities for the famous and others to get caught in the news media--so it's no surprise to me that posts on media strategies and social media savvy were the most popular on the blog this year. Kick back during the holidays and take a look at what my readers spent the most time with this year on the blog:
  1. Instead of a press release: Options to add to your press release diet: The press release diet itself appears later on this list, but a follow-up post noting what else you can offer your clients was far and away this year's most-read post. Here's to more variety in your media offerings for 2013.
  2. 17 things you can pin on Pinterest that are not pillows or dresses: I admit it, I was getting tired of the glib dismissals of Pinterest as a women's site, and wrote this popular post to help you brainstorm ways to use it for more than just catalog shopping.
  3. Embargoes or anything goes? 10 big myths about embargoes: Popular with both reporters and communicators, this post uses real embargo snafus chronicled by the blog Embargo Watch to illustrate and correct the mixed-up methods communicators are using to manage embargoed news releases.
  4. Etch-a-Sketch tests for your next analogy: 3 fixes to use took a political analogy that worked not wisely, but too well, and used the occasion to remind you how to check your great analogies to see whether they're working for or against your message. 
  5. Media interview smarts: Why you can't check your quotes like the campaigns do explains why you shouldn't ask reporters to let you review your remarks before publication, following the disclosure that some major news outlets were giving that license to the presidential campaigns. Sure enough, after the disclosure, many news outlets changed that policy.
  6. Data and dashboards to help you reconsider how you use Pinterest: 2012 was the year most of us tried to make sense of Pinterest as a communications tool, and this post rounded up a few aids for making that more manageable and measureable.
  7. The guest who came to Twitter: Hand over your social accounts: When it came to letting someone else take control of your social media streams, it felt like all the kids were doing it this year, from governments and foundations to companies. Some models and discussions about what various organizations are thinking when they turn over the social reins are included in this post.
  8. Can you go on the press release diet? A 12-step program: Communicators were debating this post even as many institutions decided to give it a try. The call to use your own organization blog to announce your news, rather than glutting reporters' inboxes with releases, has had a lot of love from reporters and from the brave PR folks who've already put it to use.
  9. Sparkwi.se: Easy dashboards of data help tell your story shared a visually captivating tool that also collects your social and other data in one place, making it useful as a type of annual report or ongoing update.
  10. Considering camcorders to replace the Flip, from cheap & easy to wi-fi capable came early in 2012 and is still consulted, as communicators start replacing the longtime favorite ultralight camcorders. The good news: You've got good options, so start ordering now.
If you're a communicator who works with experts--scientists, policy wonks, subject-matter experts--you can start the new year right in my workshop on how to Be an Expert on Working with Experts, January 10 in Washington, DC. At $350, it's a great and inexpensive way to begin your professional development and lay the groundwork for more effective partnerships with the smart folks you're helping. Registration stays open until January 3, or when all seats are filled, and we have a great group of communicators coming from all over the U.S. for the January session.

I won't get caught letting 2012 end without thanking you for reading, contributing to and sharing this blog. Let's work together in the new year! Thanks for all your support, and happy holidays to you and your family.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The weekend read

We'll need something to get through this Friday: Caffeine, for one thing, and a big pour of finds, reads and leads from my Twitterstream. Sip your way through the news that was on my menu this week:
Jobs with cream and sugar: Futures Group needs a health policy technical writer/editor...our friends at the German Marshall Fund of the United States are seeking an online communications specialist...the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research needs a illustrator...the A.J. Fletcher Foundation wants a director of online engagement...and my clients in the AAAS Office of Public Programs are looking for a senior-level writer.

Better than a Starbucks card. Really: Today's the last day to grab the $50 discount on registration for Be an Expert on Working with Experts, my January 10 workshop for communicators who work with scientists, policy wonks and other smart people. You can still register until January 3 or when all seats are filled, but the discount ends at midnight Eastern Time tonight. Are you in? I'd love to see you there, so help me save you a seat.

I hope your holidays are as warm and wonderful as a coffee drink, and that you get to linger over them with the people you love. Thanks for spending the holiday and weekend run-up with me here, as usual. Next week, you'll get a serving of the 10 most popular posts on this blog from 2012, and the very last weekend read of the year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

From the vault: 10 Top Chef-inspired "quickfire challenges" for writers

From time to time, my clients ask me to coach writers in their communications operations, and part of that process involves coming up with challenges that limit the amount of time or tools they can use to prompt some learning.

Although some suggest you should kill rules in order to boost creativity in your work environment, retreats and training sessions are different, a microcosm where we have to jump-start creativity in a short time period. Under those circumstances, this tactic is a great way to help writers learn how to jump into a task, or to find out what they can do in a short amount of time. I'm inspired, often, by the "quickfire challenges" I see on Top Chef, where the chefs have to cope with ingredients from vending machines or cans, or other liabilities, while preparing something fantastic in five minutes. Here are some quickfire challenges you can use with your team of writers, or just another writer you want to pair up with so you both can improve:
  1. Mise en place writing relay: On Top Chef, this is the preparation nightmare: Two relay teams have to decide who's fastest at several basic prep chores, like chopping a bowl of onions in fine dice or breaking down a chicken or separating eggs; the team to accomplish all those chores satisfactorily and fastest wins. Get creative with this one: Your mise en place might put teams through the process of finishing the microcontent that accompanies a news release or article, with the first person writing a headline, the second person finding an appropriate photo, the third person writing the summaries for the web and the keywords, the fourth person writing Facebook and Twitter updates. In that case, it should be a release they haven't seen before. Or, choose another writing task that involves a lot of prep, break it down and give it to the relay teams.
  2. Pacesetter practice: Get the fastest, strongest or most senior writer to set the pace by producing a short piece of writing as fast as she possibly can. You'll want to choose a format in advance. Run a timer while she does it; when she's finished, that's the time to beat--everyone else has to do the same writing exercise in her time, or less. When chef Tom Colicchio did this on Top Chef All-Stars, the chef contestants had to beat his time of just over 8 minutes preparing a complete entree. They all had a chance to see and taste his dish before their timer began.
  3. Canned-content challenge: Everyone gets a different stock photo and has to write a caption for it in 5 minutes--in a way that would allow it to work in one of your publications or websites. The chooser of the photos can have some fun with this.
  4. The missing ingredient test: Write a document (speech, letter, invitation, news release, quote) using no adjectives. Or, no use of the words "the," "new," or the common word of your choice. In one communications shop I worked in, that would have been the word "major." A variation: Give everyone the same document and tell them to edit it so that certain words don't appear, but are replaced with better alternatives. Don't let them use a thesaurus, and give them 10 minutes.
  5. Throwdown challenge: Draw names to pair up with another writer in the office. Write down something you write better than anyone else, then swap: She has to produce your special skill, you have to produce hers--in 15 minutes.
  6. Out of your box challenge: Write down three things: a) one format you don't like; b) one type of content you've never produced (or have not yet produced well); and c) your favorite style or writing trick. In 15 minutes, write something that combines a) and b), but omits c). Get a panel to read it and rate it.
  7. Pairings practice:  The leader chooses three existing written items about disparate topics--say, an event announcement, a news release about a new research study or product, and an award or promotion. Writers get 20 minutes to figure out a theme that will tie all three disparate items together, and to write the transitions that will make that flow through the three-item piece. How can you make them go together when they don't match?
  8. Writing mistakes bee: Have the entire team crowdsource a group of tough-to-spot writing errors and mistakes (grammar, spelling, formatting, you name it). Make a list of 25-50 items and get the team together. One person starts by identifying the error and its solution correctly; if she makes an error, she's out and the next contestant steps forward until only one person is left standing. (If someone can't identify the problem in 10 seconds, he's out.)
  9. MacGyver challenge: Create a news release without access to a computer or smartphone. If it has a battery or a plug, you can't use it. Or, do it with one hand tied behind your back. You have 15 minutes for this one.
  10. Divide and conquer challenge: In 30 minutes, using just a news release and its contents, write as many other types of content as you can: letter, tweet, Facebook update, speech, etc.
You can get more inspiration (or a great appetite) from Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook. And if you like these challenges, they're among the tools in my toolkit when I facilitate training sessions or retreats for communications teams, like these 5 creative communications retreats to get your team sailing forward on blogging, social media and more. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz to start planning your communications or writer retreat today.

This post updates one I published in 2011.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The weekend read

On the road that was this week, there's an exit and a rest stop up ahead, I promise: It's the weekend. To help you hang on till we get there, here are my best reads, leads and finds this week from the roadside diner that is Twitter:
Exit here, job-hunters: Ohio State University is looking for a media relations director for its cancer center...the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism seeks a temporary senior/writer editor...and the Pew Research Center Forum on Religion and Public Life wants an assistant editor. I'd skip this job opening, but you will want to read the description. It'll make you feel good about whatever you're doing right now.

Exit through the workshop: You've got one more week to get the early registration discount for Be an Expert on Working with Experts. Your $50 discount allows you to register until December 21 for just $300; after that, the price goes up to $350. This day-long workshop will take place January 10, and all registration closes January 3 or when all seats are filled. It's a present you and your professional development deserve.

Let's close the exits on this week and head to the diner together, shall we? I'm always happy to hang around with you on a Friday. Thanks so much for enjoying the weekend read with me.

*The very best stage direction in Shakespeare, from The Winter's Tale.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

For the job-hunting communicator: Gifts from my blog

This isn't a blog about job-hunting, but because so many of my readers need to keep an eye on the market for one reason or another, from time to time you'll find information here that's useful to communicators seeking new opportunities. And many weeks, I get several emails saying "If you know of anything that might suit me, please let me know." Since the Wall Street Journal reminds us that the holiday season is a good time for job-hunting, here's a start at answering that question:
  1. Everyone works on Fridays: Every Friday, this blog includes my "weekend read" of the best items I shared on Twitter, including a small selection of currently open communications jobs that I think would most interest my readers. It's not at all comprehensive; that's the point. But it does contain the job openings that come across my screen, including those my clients wish to share. You'll also get a roundup of current news about social media, media relations and communications issues--a great way to look smart in your next interview. Want to check past editions for recent jobs? Here's the feed for all the weekend read posts.
  2. Stay up-to-date on today's comms issues: Those weekend reads are good for more than just jobs.  They're my weekly repository of the best news, ideas and finds I made on Twitter about communications and social media, so you can look smart by the time of your next interview. You can follow the blog several ways, including RSS, Facebook or by following me on Twitter.
  3. Rethink your online profiles, 7 ways: This is one of the blog's most-read posts, and I hope it will help you rethink how you present yourself online. I've updated it with this post on one of the web's most popular places to be found: Pinterest, where you can pin 12 different career attributes to make an online portfolio. And if you're not convinced about online profiles, think of them as curating your own best work.
  4. Early-career communicators, these are for you:  If you're new to communications, check out my crowdsourced advice for the rookie public information officer and advice for the rising communicator, both good ways to get started and figure out where to head next. Then check out these stories from communicators on how they got their starts.
  5. Considering the independent communicator life? Lots of communicators want my take, and you'll find it here in Should I take the leap? ask would-be indie communicators, with the questions I'm most frequently asked, and the questions I think you should be asking yourself.
  6. Introverted job seekers, rejoice: You may want to consult one of the books I recommend to my introverted public speaking clients, such as Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected, the well-titled Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, and Network Like an Introvert: A new way of thinking about business relationships. They're quiet and useful ways to rev up your job hunt.
If you're looking for a new opportunity, good hunting to you...and I hope I'm first on your list of consultants and trainers when you get to where you're going. Are you about to launch a search for a great communicator? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz to find out how I can help you amplify your search using social media strategies.

If you're a communicator who works with smart people--or wants to--come sharpen your skills at my January 10 workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts. Sign up by December 21 to get a sweet discount, or sign up until January 3 or when all seats are filled. You'll meet some interesting communicators at all levels and get a new outlook on working with experts.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The weekend read

Let's hope a chandelier need not fall on your head to make this crystal clear: The weekend is nigh. And I've got a chandelier's worth of illuminating, glittery, and occasionally breakable insights, reads, data and leads culled from my Twitterstream and shared there (and here) for you. Check out these gemlike finds:
Let's shed some light on these jobs:  The Department of Defense seeks a writer/editor at Fort Meade, MD...  the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Office of Public Programs wants a web manager and a new media and public relations assistant...the United Methodist Church's General Commission on Religion and Race needs a strategic communications director...a communications fellowship is open at the Hitachi Foundation.

Glittering training opp: Communicators already registered for my January 10 workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts, are coming from all over. At last count, smart participants from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, and Louisiana will be attending. And you? The unbreakable early registration discount ends December 21, and I'll keep reg open till January 3 or when all seats are filled. Is that clear? Crystal? Today, I'm welcoming more communicators to my lunch-and-learn about making the case for training your experts, a smart precursor to the experts workshop.

I love the way you look under the chandelier that is the weekend...somehow happier, since it's Friday. Thanks for gathering here with me again this week!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Adjusting when your favorite social tools disappear

You fell in love with some wonderful tool in social media....and now it's gone, the victim of a change in corporate ownership or outdated technology or fierce competition or changed policies.

I've felt that way about Flip cameras, the most popular ultralight HD video cameras, and more recently, about Twitter's API changes that prevent third-party sites from using actions on Twitter to trigger their services. Twitter's policy change messed up a series of triggers I created on IFTT.com (If This, Then That) to automate saving my retweets and favorites so I could write the popular weekend read posts I do on this blog every Friday. Flip cameras were a great tool not just for me, but for trainees in my communications workshops, where I needed cameras anyone could learn to use in a few minutes. And then Cisco killed the Flip after acquiring it.

In both cases, however, my ability to adjust has benefited from a few strategies I've long had in place for my social media habits--and have been able to rebound quickly to keep my systems running well. Here's what stands me in good stead no matter what changes in social media:
  1. Redundant systems: In the case of Twitter, IFTTT let me know ahead of time that actions triggered by Twitter wouldn't work. But some time ago, I subscribed to the RSS feed for my own tweets, so I've re-routed that action using my Twitter RSS feed through IFTTT, putting my tweets into an Evernote notebook; unfortunately, it saves all my tweets, not just my RTs, but it works for now. That will last no longer than March 2013, when RSS support disappears from Twitter. (Honestly, I'm seeing it disappear now, so use that as an ultimate end date.) I'm also back to using Reader tags and IFTTT to share items in my feed to Twitter, after which they get put in an Evernote notebook, and using favorites on Twitter to collect what I want to save in one place.And I'm experimenting with Twilert, a relatively new service that will take my search terms and send me a once-a-day email with all the tweets containing those words; those emails get sent to my Evernote notebooks.
  2. An ear to the ground: As annoying as notification emails can be, I generally subscribe to them when I'm using a new service--a move that pays off when policy changes are announced. Most of the time, between my reading and staying on those mailing lists, I know about what's coming ahead of time, so I'm less surprised by it. You also could choose options like following your favorite services on Twitter, Facebook or other social sites.
  3. An eye on the options: I use surprisingly few social networks on a regular basis, but I try dozens of them to see options my clients might need. That helps me understand the competition and what else is available, a key to not feeling high and dry when the tide goes out on my favorite services. Keeping an eye on options also helped me learn that the folks behind the Flip camera's software have created a free social iPhone app called Givit that will make your iPhone much better at taking video--including 5GB of free storage, great editing tools and the ability to socially share or email your videos. Yes, I'd love an Android version, but at least there's an option out there. I've also thought through why I liked Flip cameras in the first place, and have come up with reasons to get two different types of replacements. You may need a different strategy, but check out my options in this post on camcorders to replace the Flip. The good news: You can come close to replacing it, or go way beyond it in capacity and function.
  4. The willingness to try new things: Along with that comes the willingness to keep my toe in the water with new services, at least long enough to test drive them. It's a good muscle to keep strong in social media. 
  5. A sense of when to say goodbye:  Flip had one of the longest goodbyes I've ever seen for a product. First the prices went rock-bottom and Cisco, the parent company that shut the brand down, was giving them away to nonprofits by the dozen. But the cameras still worked fine, and mine didn't need replacing immediately. When I noticed that support was disappearing for a feature I use--the ability for my trainees to receive and download the videos via email-- I was ready to put alternatives in place. That's when I sold my old Flip cameras, still in good shape, to Amazon's electronics trade-in program, which gives me a credit in the form of an Amazon gift card. By the way, go check prices on Amazon for Flip cameras. Now that they're no longer for sale from the manufacturer, I've seen prices as high as $300 for a new Flip camera (minus manufacturer support, of course) -- a far cry from their much lower prices once upon a time.
I'll get to test my own resilience soon, as it's being put about that Google is starting to neglect Feedburner, the source of my RSS feeds for this and other blogs I publish. I've got lots of feeds set up on Feedburner and haven't yet experienced a problem, which might suggest another rule: Don't panic too soon. Fortunately, my ear-to-the-ground approach means I'm already forewarned and am reviewing my options.

What's been your toughest loss in terms of social tools and sites? What do you miss most?


Monday, December 03, 2012

Do your experts blow off media interviews? How to avoid a no-show

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

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

Yikes. The media relations guy turned three shades of green, and we wound up having a useful discussion about the help she could get. But I wasn't at all surprised. Even if your information is newsworthy and timely, you've done the right things to get it to the right reporter, and your heart is pure (or even if it isn't), all it takes is an expert who blows off the interview to result in no coverage. When I train scientists and physicians, I like to note that, in my experience, the biggest barrier to getting media coverage of their topics is whether they show up for media encounters.

That's because I hear complaints all the time from reporters who've been pitched with access to experts, only to find their calls don't get returned. In many more places, you'll find experts who just won't talk to reporters at all.  And I've written before about experts who want do-overs, via checking interviews before they go out--a practice reporters have started to note right in their articles. One tactic PR pros have developed, as a result, involves sitting in on interviews--but reporters read that as a desire to control or intimidate the research subject. So what else can you do? Try these tactics:
  • Don't assume agreement: There are plenty of arguments against doing interviews, from an already busy schedule to colleagues who'll talk your expert out of participating. Don't lob interview requests, let alone pitch an expert to reporters, until you've established her agreement to be responsive. 
  • Read the signals correctly: Sometimes, blowing off a call, a media training or some other pre-arranged appointment isn't about being busy. Instead, it may be your introverted scientist's escape hatch from a stressful situation, or the reaction of a highly organized type who feels out of control in this setting. 
  • Make it clear that missing an interview request diminishes reputation: Turn to your well-worn copy of Aesop's Guide to Modern Public Relations and read "The Expert Who Cried Wolf" to your sources--and make it clear that you'd rather they declined to you upfront, rather than blow off the call.  This may work well with experts who blow off the call to show it's not important to them. The best cure: Outing the bad behavior and explaining why it's damaging to your expert's reputation as well as your institution.
  • Understand your corporate culture: In many companies and organizations where I conduct trainings, management or colleagues actively discourage experts from giving interviews--which means no amount of pleading from you will make it happen. In some especially sharp-elbowed places, those who give interviews and get coverage are shunned. That kind of culture requires you to work from the top to gain leadership approval--and from the bottom, to build a grass-roots desire to play. It's a longer path to success, but better than pitching folks who don't ever intend to answer those calls.
  • What's in it for them? Can an interview help your expert get closer to meeting donors, collaborators or more and better exposure? Find out what her goals are, then make sure she knows what the interview can do to get her there.
  • Divide and conquer with friendly competition:  Faced with several different sources of surly subject experts, choose one group that's willing to try and focus your media relations efforts on them--being sure to widely share their successes internally. I guarantee this will raise complaints along the lines of "What about us?" in a useful version of reverse psychology. Just be careful what you wish for, here.
  • Make sure they know you're there: Wince all you want, but I encounter subject experts every day who don't know that they have a communications/public affairs/marketing/media relations shop that can help them with media requests, let alone why they should respond to your messages. A little gentle internal promotion can work wonders.
  • Find out which barriers you can help surmount: One of my best experts used to say, "Media interviews represent 10 percent of my calls and they take up 80 percent of my time." That's a fixable problem, much of the time, and you know how to do that even if your expert doesn't. Let your expert know about the resources you can offer to help make the interview happen. This particular in-demand expert wound up doing regular phone briefings, so he could brief several reporters at one time. Ask what isn't working for them.
  • Give experts the basics about reporter interactions: There's no reason experts should understand even the most basic ways in which journalists operate. Must they call back right away? Should they be ready to be interviewed immediately, or can they set up a more convenient time? How can they avoid misunderstandings without asking to see the story before it runs? Those sound obvious to you, but they're also the most common questions I get when conducting media trainings. Share with your experts my list of 11 questions to ask reporters, many based on reporters' suggestions, so they'll be ready.
  • Offer practice time and training: The best way to make interviews familiar is to practice. Offering to run through tough questions or train your expert on what to expect in an interview can let them work through their worst fears and most dire concerns in practice--with less risk. 
Want more insights like these? Sign up for my popular workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts, designed just for communicators who work with smart people like scientists, engineers, policy wonks and more. The workshop takes place January 10, 2013--but you get a great discount if you register sooner, by December 21 at midnight, Eastern Time. Bring members of your media relations team with you...many smart communicators do. The workshop also works for government relations and development pros.

This post updates and expands one I published in 2011.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The weekend read

This just in: There's a weekend approaching. But first, my version of a rip-and-read newscast, loaded with the news, tips and good reads I shared this week on Twitter. Tune in so you'll look smart come Monday:
Teevee...lunch? Today's the last day to register for my December 7 lunch-and-learn for communicators who want to make the case for training your experts. We'll serve up lunch along with data, ideas, and endorsements for training programs so you can make the case to the powers that be, the experts, or your communications colleagues. Join us by registering here. And if you want a deeper dive into how to work effectively with scientists, experts and policy wonks, you can still grab the early registration discount for Be an Expert on Working with Experts, a day-long session on January 10. Put the two together and you'll get the most out of these unusual professional development opportunities for communicators who work with smart people.

Jobs TV: The National Museum of Women in the Arts seeks a manager of communications and media relations...the Annie E. Casey Foundation wants a senior manager, communications...Wake Forest University is looking for a science writer...the Donors Forum in Illinois wants a director of development.

This Friday and every Friday, I'm glad you're here to get the weekend started with me. Thanks for reading! Please share the weekend read with your colleagues, and enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Want data to work for public audiences? Think like a calendar

This month, some new data on climate science caught my eye, precisely because the writer had a calendar in mind. The headline read: If you're 27 or younger, you've never experienced a colder-than-average month.

That transformed data from dry to dinner-table-discussion-worthy. Why? You could have said exactly the same thing this way: "Temperatures have been above average every month for the past 27 years." Or, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did, "This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature." Both do the job accurately, but don't put the data in terms of the audience's age, as the author did.  Most of us won't immediately grasp the scope of 332 months, frankly. But telling us how we relate to the data matters. In this case, the headline doesn't just reach those 27 and under, but those of us with more perspective, who may have plenty of 27-year-olds or 27-wannabes in our lives. In effect, you've given us a yardstick against which we can measure our own experience, and relate to the data.

When I'm training experts and scientists who wield lots of data, it's often a surprise to them that they need to think of the audience first, instead of what they have to say. After all, these smart folks are loaded with content. Shouldn't the problem be how to fit it all in? But in fact, taking the time to consider your audience, and its calendar, can take a presentation or speech from good to great. On that imaginary calendar, you want to juxtapose your data's progression with the audience's age and situation. It's a great way to ensure that the expert isn't making assumptions about what the audience knows or has been taught.

In Am I Making Myself Clear?: A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public, Cornelia Dean shares even more examples. And as this was written a few years ago, now, even these are slightly out of date:
No one over thirty today learned about stem cells in high school or college--the field was too new. Similarly, antimissile defense, privatizing fisheries and even climate change were not in the curriculum when most American adults were in high school.
If, as most experts are, your experts are focused on their research and not on the wider demographics of the audiences they wish to reach, communicators may need to fill in the blanks for experts on public audiences, by staying current with and sharing data about those audiences. It's just one of the tactics we'll explore at my January 10, 2013 workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts, where you can learn about the default communications styles experts and scientists use, as well as how to use data and demos to help them communicate more effectively with non-technical audiences. You get a discount for registering early, by December 21.

And if you're a communicator who wants to figure out how to make the case for training your experts, I've got a lunch-and-learn session on that topic coming up December 7. Part brainstorm, part briefing, this session will give you data, ideas and the rationales you need to make the case for communications training. But hurry up: Registration closes November 30.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The weekend read

For U.S. readers, today is the day after Thanksgiving...a holiday that didn't slow the influx of great reads, data and finds in my Twitterstream Here's a calorie-free cornucopia of treats and ideas to ride you further into this long weekend. You'll look very smart by the time Monday rolls around:
A week from today is the last day to register for my December 7 lunch-and-learn on making the case for training your experts. You've got until December 21 to register for the day-long workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts, which takes place January 10.

And in lieu of job postings on this long weekend, here's a good read for job-hunters, shared with me by one of my readers, who said, "This looks like the sort of thing you would post." It's Forget the cover letter. Write the pain letter, instead.

I'm grateful for your readership of the blog, in Thanksgiving week and every week. Enjoy your weekend...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Get your timing straight in social media, 6 ways

I can tell that you have time on your hands or a break in the action, finally...or that your boss just asked why you haven't posted lately...or that you're reading your RSS feed...or that neither of your two bosses actually touches Twitter and you are posting for them both...or that you use auto-posts to share to many sites at once...or you are working through a backlog of items that should have been posted in a more timely way...or that you issue all your news releases on Tuesday mornings...or that you only dive into social media once a week. Not only can I tell, I can tell those things down to the minute, most of the time, or the part of a minute, if you're fast.

I'm drowning in a pool of insights, here, but they aren't the insights you were hoping I'd get about your organization from its social media presence. That's because you haven't taken the time to learn the art of timing your posts to social media sites. And if that sounds basic, why am I seeing these mistakes so frequently in my feeds? Often, the underlying reason is that no one behind your feed has researched timing--that is, the times of day and days of the week that yield the best levels of engagement for your business, brand or organization. Other times, post scheduling starts feeling like a chore, a chore that eventually gets pushed off the to-do list. If so, it's time for a change. Here are the tools and tactics you need to get your timing straight in social media:
  1. Make sure you have a calendar for content, and share it: Spontaneous and in-the-moment posts are great, but for most company posts, you want a plan, one that's shared with the rest of your internal team. When I see both your founders tweeting simultaneous content or all your news releases jammed together in my Facebook feed, I can tell you misplaced the calendar.
  2. Use timing apps smartly:  Apps like Buffer--sometimes used in concert with other apps--can help you spread out your tweets and Facebook posts. Here, Buffer's co-founder offers tips for how best to use the app to make your posts less of a flood and more of a manageable stream. It's not your only option, either. Facebook page posts can be scheduled right on FB in 15-minute intervals up to 6 months ahead. Tweetdeck, owned by Twitter, allows you to link and post to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more; and IFTTT (If this, then that) lets you create your own "recipes" for automating posts.
  3. Don't overdo it:  As a speaker coach who advocates getting used to the Twitter backchannel in the room, and as a social media consultant, even I was taken aback by the self-congratulations in this post about a reporter who was said to have "won" the backchannel because she figured out how to faux-live-tweet her own remarks, using scheduled posts. So authentic and transparent (not). This screams "I'm not comfortable with the audience deciding what to post, so I'm going to control the sponteneity." Not a good look. 
  4. Stop ignoring the weekend:  Saturdays and Sundays are often the days with highest engagement on sites like Twitter and Facebook. For example: "Publishers also enjoy a 29% higher engagement on Saturdays, when consumers are presumably catching up on the news of the week. Yet only 7% of tweets from publishers actually occur on Saturdays."  Start experimenting with weekend posts and compare the data to your weekday efforts, then schedule a better presence on the weekend if it's warranted. 
  5. Check settings on third-party apps to review your auto-shares: From Facebook apps with social sharing to Klout, YouTube and many more, your use of other sites might be flooding your Facebook or Twitter feeds with notifications that add to your post totals. (Even Congress has considered legislating extra permissions to stop this unintentional flood.) Make sure you check the settings for any third-party app to turn off these auto-shares and save your stream for content that counts. Don't forget to do this when you're sharing posts in your RSS feed, a dead giveaway that you're in read-and-review mode.
  6. Double-check your assumptions about scheduled posts:  At no point should you "set it and forget it" when it comes to scheduling posts. Check out these best practices for scheduled posts and take a look at this case study that demonstrates why you should unhook your auto-posts during a crisis or emergency. PR Newser rounds up some recent automated social media faux pas, from the Romney campaign's auto-published victory website--the modern version of "Dewey Defeats Truman"--to the National Rifle Association's automatic "good morning, shooters" tweet, which appeared right after the Aurora, Colorado, massacre. Pass these cautionary tales around the office.
By the way, yes, I wrote and scheduled this post ahead of time....and took the time to check it in the ensuing weeks to make sure it was still on point, updated and accurate.

Don't schedule this for too far in the future: November 30 is the last day to register for my lunch-and-learn for communicators on making the case for a training program for your experts, coming up December 7 in Washington, DC. Are you in?

Friday, November 16, 2012

The weekend read

The bloom is off the rose, is it? Well, it's Friday, and I never promised you a rose garden. But I have a bouquet of beautiful reads, leads, tools and ideas for you, plucked from the garden that is Twitter--all things I shared this week with my tweeps. Stop and smell these roses before you head into the weekend:
Jobs in bloom: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is looking for a communications officer focused on its programs to increase health insurance coverage for Americans...TEDMED is looking for a program officer for its Great Challenges program...an online campaigns and engagement associate is needed at the Natural Resources Defense Council...Mercy Corps (in Portland, OR) needs a vice president, marketing and communications...our pals at GuideStar are looking for some smart PR interns...the Girl Scouts of the USA seek a communications officer...and the United Nations Foundation is looking for a senior communications director for campaigns and initiatives, here in Washington.

A garden of learning: Registration closes today at midnight ET for my workshop on public speaking for introverts, which takes place November 27...I've extended the registration deadline for my December 7 lunch-and-learn for communicators who want to make the case for a training program for your experts, so you now have until November 30 to register...and registration is open--still at the early reg discount--for the popular Be an Expert on Working with Experts workshop, coming up January 10. Don't delay, though. Seats are filling for all three sessions, and I'd love to see you there.

After this weekend, there are just a handful more left in 2012, so let's savor this one, people. Thanks for coming to my garden this week, and enjoy your weekend.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The weekend read

If you had to eat a diet of nothing but apples, you wouldn't last long. That's why I love what gets served up in my Twitterstream: Plenty of variety, new angles and wider perspectives than my own. That's true even in a week of big changes from hurricanes, federal elections, snow and more. I've got a bushel of new ideas ready for you this week. Polish these up to get your weekend off to a smart start:
No need to give this teacher an apple. But do join the smart communicators who've already signed up for these upcoming workshops of mine, and pass these around to interested colleagues or let me know if I can bring one of them to your city or workplace. Dates don't work for you? Send me an email at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz to tell me your open and closed windows for the next time around:
A bushel full of jobs: The U.S. Pharmacopeia is looking for a vice president, global communications...the American Hospital Association is looking for a speechwriter/senior communications specialist, and the American Bar Association expects an opening for a speechwriter in December; email resumes to Jacqueline.Salmon@americanbar.org...The Nation seeks a publicity director...the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation wants a communications associate...the Knight Foundation seeks a communications professional and a strategic assessment officer.

And I love you a bushel and a peck for coming back here ever Friday. I feel more certain than ever that we all earned our weekend this week!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

2 smart training opps for communicators who work with smart people

Communicators soon learn it's tough to find satisfying professional development opportunities that help them deal with everyday, persistent issues. That's one reason why I've begun to focus on helping communicators who work with smart people--the policy wonks, scientists, engineers and other subject-matter experts that communicators bring forward to meet the press, donors or legislators. And I've got two smart training opportunities coming up in December and January that are designed to help communicators do a better, more thoughtful job in helping their experts reach public audiences of all kinds:
  • Make the case for training: Most communicators themselves see the value in having some form of ongoing training to help experts bridge the communications gap when they need to reach public or media audiences. But when it comes to making the case for a training program to the powers that be, the experts themselves or even fellow communicators, many good intentions fall short. I'm convening a lunch-and-learn December 7 in Washington, DC, to help you figure out how to make the case for training with data, feedback, and other evidence. Part brainstorm, part briefing, this two-hour session will give you new tools to advance the discussion. You'll get lunch, good ideas, a great network of fellow communicators and a follow-up email with links to all the substance and resources we discuss. Registration is open until November 20, but you get a sweet discount if you register by tomorrow, November 9. This session was proposed by participants in my last experts workshop (see below) as a logical next step, but it's designed to work even if you haven't been to the experts workshop.
  • Be an expert on working with experts: Most of my clients and work experience has involved working with smart people, thousands of policy analysts, scientists and engineers in every discipline, government leaders, corporate executives and other subject-matter specialists. It's both rewarding and challenging work for communicators, who have a completely different approach to communicating than the experts they're hoping to put forward. My popular one-day workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts, returns on January 10, 2013 in Washington, DC, to help you better bridge that gap and work more effectively with your experts, wonks and scientists. You'll learn about their default communications styles and why you may be inadvertently working against them, rather than with them, plus tactics and tools to use to help them communicate effectively with public and media audiences.  During lunch, I open the floor for any question on this topic, to be sure we have enough time to address your specific challenges in a popular "the doctor is in" session. Registration for this session is open until January 3, but you'll get a good discount if you register early, by December 21. Communicators at all levels will find insights here, from vice presidents to junior associates, and previous participants have come from PR firms, universities, scientific societies, advocacy organizations, membership organizations, policy institutes, government agencies and more.
I hope you'll join me for one or both of these sessions and expand your expertise in working with experts. Please email me directly at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz if you have questions or need more information.