Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to use your elevator speech in a media interview without sounding like a robot

I've already coached you to think of your "elevator speech" or three-point message as a menu with three courses that you can offer your listener. That helps you boil down what you want to say into its briefest form, and serve it up so your listener follow along and remember what you said later. But when it comes to media interviews, you'll often hear three-point messages repeated over and over. That may seem safer, but makes you look and sound like a robot (and robots are rarely called back for more interviews). On February 13, I'll be working with the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Science and Technology Policy Fellows on how to use their elevator speeches in media interviews--without sounding like robots. If you're smart about it, you can do the same, using a message to:
  1. Let the reporter get a word in edgewise: If you take a deep breath and start delivering an hour-long lecture, that's not an interview. Instead, offer your three elevator-speech points and stop. You've now offered the reporter three different directions to take the interview, and left her some room to do so.
  2. Remember the points you most want to include: Nothing's so disappointing as finishing an interview only to realize you never said the most important thing. Limiting yourself to the elevator speech's three-point outline means you just have to remember three key points or categories, not 100. Groups of three things are easiest for you to remember--and likewise, easiest for your audience, so the interview will be memorable on two counts.
  3. Go deep where you need to: If your restaurant customer wanted to order another portion of a certain dish, you'd serve it to them, right? If you start the interview by laying out three points, and the reporter wants to follow up one part of that menu intensively, then go deeper into that topic. You should always be prepared to say more about each of the three points in your elevator speech, and while that's rarely a problem for the expert being interviewed, remember that the ability to say more about each point is what makes you different from a robot interview subject.
  4. Get creative: If you can string your three points together with an analogy, use alliteration or liken your issue to something in popular culture, you can make it even more memorable. Melinda Gates does that in this TED talk about what nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola with a clever analogy that lets her dive deeply into what might otherwise be arcane points.
  5. Be consistent and prepared for many interviews:  Just as an elevator speech means you're ready for the impromptu question in an elevator, it can get you ready for a series of interviews and ensure you get across your most important points in each one. At the same time, those interviews may go in different directions, and you'll be ready for that, too, by offering up the same menu and seeing where different reporters choose to take the conversation.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Wild horses couldn't drag you away from your workweek? I bet they could, especially since the weekend is upon us. Time to round up the wild horses of your week and my finds on Twitter--that's where I shared these finds, reads and tips as @dontgetcaught. Read to the end to hear the Stones sing you into the weekend:
January hit a new record on this blog for readership and page views--thank you, as always, for your attention.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where's your social media basecamp? Reasons to stake a claim

Do you know where you basecamp lies in social media?

I don't mean your base of followers (although they should be visiting that camp frequently). I mean where you base yourself, whether you're a company, solo entrepreneur, university, nonprofit or government agency. Where can I go to be sure I'm not missing anything from you?  Must I follow you in five places to do that? And I'm not talking about your website, but your social presence.

I got this question from a reader on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, an ancillary presence for my blog on women and public speaking. "I want to be sure I don't miss anything--should I follow this and the blog?" she asked. I could assure her that if she followed the Facebook page, she'd see everything that was on the blog--because in my content strategy, my blogs are my basecamp, the places that provide the content for everything else. Sure, I have side discussions on Twitter or my Facebook pages, but often, those get repurposed into new content for the blogs and fed back into the other channels.  Anything substantive that happens to me in social media winds up on my blogs. Anything on my blogs winds up on my social channels.

Another way of thinking about this is to figure out where you want your content to appear first. Where is your publisher of record? After that, the other social networks become ways to amplify what's new and draw users from those networks to your basecamp; they also can be listening posts, where you gather feedback and discuss what emanated from your base. That is, if you need other places to be. Some folks do just fine with a Facebook page alone, for example. But if you do have multiple channels, make sure their roles are clear, and connected to that basecamp.

This isn't new thinking in the social media space, but more and more, I see communicators feeling overwhelmed by the many networks and options available. If you--or your team, or your audience--can't answer the basecamp question, that tells you a strategy needs to be more evident and aforethought. It's not as simple as "We push everything out to all the channels," either. That tells me you haven't really thought this through, and that you're not at all interested in what your readers need, who they are or where they're playing in social spaces. Time to pick and choose, I say.

Choosing and focusing your content strategy on a base has other advantages. It's difficult to develop a strong voice and reputation if your efforts and posts are scatter-shot, but speaking from a base can help you evolve into a source readers know and trust.

Share your social media basecamp in the comments, and, if you wish, why it's working for you. Or do you find a widespread strategy more effective? I'm happy to hear views on all sides.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Secret no more: Closed-door meetings, trashy news Fridays get high-tech visibility

Here's even more reason for communications directors to make friends with their information technology teams: Your organization or company's closed-door boardroom meetings may be vulnerable to hacking through the videoconferencing system, and reporters on Twitter are starting to call out groups that put out stinky news late on Fridays. Here's what you need to know:

Take out the trash Fridays gets a hashtag

One clever use to which Twitter is being put: Calling out organizations, agencies and corporations who use the tactic of "taking out the trash" on Friday afternoons, by releasing stinky news stories late on a day when they're likely to get little attention in the Saturday press.

Used only a few times so far, the Twitter hashtag #tottf (Take Out the Trash Friday) is one way reporters and others can share stories or practices that fit the bill. "Take Out the Trash Friday" hails from the television series The West Wing, and even gets its own page on Wikipedia so you can come up to speed. While the focus there is on the White House, many organizations have used this tactic over the years--and I think the hashtag may have the neat result of nipping that in the bud, eventually, since it's an idea we should have trashed some time ago. Let's put "Take Out the Trash Fridays" on our resolution list for change and reform, shall we?

Videoconferencing hackers may see inside your boardroom

If you've got videoconferencing capabilities in your meeting rooms and boardrooms, take this New York Times article on how easily videoconferencing rooms can be hacked right to your IT director and facilities managers.

The chief security officer at a Boston-based cybersecurity company "...has found it easy to get into several top venture capital and law firms, pharmaceutical and oil companies and courtrooms across the country. He even found a path into the Goldman Sachs boardroom. 'The entry bar has fallen to the floor,' said Mike Tuchen, chief executive of Rapid7. 'These are literally some of the world’s most important boardrooms — this is where their most critical meetings take place — and there could be silent attendees in all of them.'

How prevalent is this problem? The company's security officer scanned 3 percent of the Internet and found "5,000 wide-open conference rooms at law firms, pharmaceutical companies, oil refineries, universities and medical centers. He stumbled into a lawyer-inmate meeting room at a prison, an operating room at a university medical center, and a venture capital pitch meeting where a company’s financials were being projected on a screen." Setting up the system inside the firewall is one step toward blocking this vulnerability, as is getting a system with security protocols, typically more available on newer systems. The hackers can see well enough to read slides on a screen, notes on the table and certainly who's in the room. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

No matter how your week went, I'm quite sure you didn't trip and fall into a lifeboat--and I'm proud of you for that. No question we're all ready for the weekend, so I'm rounding up the best of the tips, reads and resources I shared this week on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught. Now, get ready: Put on your lifejacket, cue the band and someone call the Coast Guard. I can see the weekend in the not-too-far distance:
Here's to your weekend--I know you earned it this week--and thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Get a grip on your pitching to reporters: 10 resources

I'd much rather see you revive the lost art of giving tips to reporters, rather than pitch them (and so would the reporters). But, dear communicators, if you're going to continue pitching, at least get a grip on the ball. Here are 10 resources, inspirations and examples to help you rethink and retool your media relations pitches for better success, or at least, less-cranky reporters:
  1. What you can spend time doing instead of pitching: Bad Pitch Blog points you to a more useful activity, sharing examples of how national media are using social media to elicit leads and ideas. Call it the reverse pitch, and a more successful use of your time.
  2. Here's a shocker: Journalists pitch, too: Of course, when journalists pitch, they're approaching editors with story ideas they want to write and get paid for writing. But their insights, and those of the editors who accept or reject those pitches, can help the savvy communicator better understand what's wanted, too. The Open Notebook, a behind-the-scenes trove about the best science coverage, shares these tips on how not to pitch, based on feedback from editors at seven major publications.
  3. Just because you can automate it doesn't make it right:  That's one of the underlying messages in Jason Falls's very good PR guide to email pitching. You'll learn how to avoid being spammy, among other things.
  4. A pitch a reporter yearns for: Environmental reporter and blogger Andrew Revkin is great about sharing what does and doesn't work for him regarding pitches. Here's a pitch he called "smart, efficient, useful on both ends,"  from Karen Bailey of EcoSummit. What's even more valued: It isn't really a pitch, but an effort to find out his level of awareness and his desire to learn more about a specific upcoming event. And it's just three questions, one of which offers multiple-choice answer options. Make it easy for them, people, in a good way.
  5. Even PR publications get pitched the wrong way: PR Newser shares five pitching tips from a Los Angeles journalist, with gems on how to add value and basics like "Please don’t hide your client’s PR contact info online like it’s the CEO’s bank pin." And then PR Newser adds three pointers of its own, including the succinct "Call when it’s important. Want to follow up? No need. Want to make sure I got your email? I got it. Want to see if I need to speak with someone? If I need to, I’ll ask. I’m not shy. We can use email to schedule interviews, or I’ll call you if there’s something that is more easily handled with a quick conversation. The other stuff is just annoying."
  6. Did you pitch in error? Correct with just as much enthusiasm: Reuters Health reporter Frederik Joelving reports on a Centers for Disease Control social-media holiday campaign for heart health that made a blanket recommendation about taking a daily aspirin--even though that advice is rejected by many established health authorities. Even the CDC normally includes a caveat when it promotes aspirin use, but not in this case, which was pitched to reporters for their coverage, and then corrected.
  7. Yes, you can test for pitching knowledge:  The Flack blog updates an old test of PR knowledge for today's technology (and you're supposed to take it without access to the Internet). But you do know the answer to the final question: "When is it OK to pitch a story idea via a Twitter direct message?" Don't you? And in some cases, the answer may be don't pitch them on Twitter at all.
  8. Pitch the picture: These days, you may find yourself pitching infographics, and Arik Hanson has you covered on the how-to. Funny, but these pitches also need to be relevant to the reporter or blogger.
  9. Here's a pitch to you, PR people: This writer wants you to stop chasing "earned media" and focus more on "owned media" for the things you're now pitching to reporters.
  10. Here's what the reporter experienced right before your pitch: After she didn't respond favorably to a pitch, she was called "a fucking bitch" by the PR vice president. More than two weeks after the new year, he got a pitch saying the new year was just around the corner. Try, people, to be as rare and refreshing as a drink of water in this desert, will you? And get a calendar.
I don't pitch reporters any more these days, but I can help train your team of communicators in effective pitching (or better methods). Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz if your team needs a refresher that takes today's methods into account.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

AAAS revamps "Communicating Science" resources, seeks workshop hosts

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has made significant updates to its useful "Communicating Science" resource website for scientists and engineers--which also is useful for the communicators who support their work. In particular, an expanded section on using online media to communicate science is now included, and updates have been made to other resources on the site.

AAAS also is seeking institutions and organizations that would like to host a "Communicating Science" workshop via the site, and offers resources for scientists who've already gone through a previous workshop and want to continue communicating and building on what they've learned. I'm proud to have facilitated many of the previous "Communicating Science" workshops, and would encourage you to explore with AAAS the option of bringing one to your organization. Check out this new resource!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Yup. It's that time again...time to ease out of the work week and into the weekend. I've taken the time to pull together my best finds from others, reads and resources that I shared this week on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught. Here's what got my clock ticking this week:
One thing you shouldn't put off till the weekend: I extended the discounted registration for "Be an Expert on Working with Experts," my February 1 workshop--but it ends at midnight tonight. Just $300 to get smart about the smart people you work with. Seats are filling, and I'd love for you and your team to attend. (You can still register until January 25 or when the workshop's full, but at a slightly higher rate.)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Extended discount for "Be an Expert on Working with Experts"

Due to a glitch in an email notification, I'm extending your chance to register at a discount for the upcoming February 1 "Be an Expert on Working With Experts" workshop. Now you have until the end of January 13 to pay just $300 for this all-day workshop, a discount of $50 from the regular registration fee.

If you work with experts who skip media interviews and public appearances, don't want to translate from the technical for public audiences or just aren't team players with your communications goals, find out why in this workshop--and what you can do about it. The session is designed to help communications, fundraising, public affairs, speechwriting and other pros. You'll learn about:
  • Experts' default communications styles and how to anticipate them;
  • Why what you're asking them to do is usually exactly the opposite of what they've been trained to do; and
  • Tactics, materials and approaches you can use again and again to better succeed in your work with scientists, experts and other smart folks you're representing.
You can attend this workshop on your own, or, as others have done, bring a team of people with you (a great tactic for ensuring a consistent approach and shared learning). You'll think differently about working with experts after this workshop, and get better results. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz with any questions you have about the workshop--and register now!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

How was your first week of 2012? Not sure yet? Let's raise a glass to the weekend, anyway, since it's upon us. I found plenty to toast on Twitter this week, where I'm @dontgetcaught and share my favorite finds, reads and tips from others. Here's what looked good to me this week:
And a communications job: The Pew Health Group is looking for a senior officer, research and writing.

A heads-up to newsletter subscribers: Since the majority of subscribers to For Communications Directors also signed up for Step Up Your Speaking, my newsletter for The Eloquent Woman blog, the two newsletters are merging. Speakers & Communicators newsletter debuts this month--stay tuned!

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Winter workshops: Social media resolutions & working with experts

Starting the year with a good, thoughtful workshop can be as refreshing as a cool drink of water: You can revive your approaches, refresh your skills and renew your commitment to a sound strategy. I have two workshops coming up--one with an immediate deadline--for you to consider:

  • Your 5 best social media resolutions for 2012, a lunch-and-learn session in Washington, DC, takes place January 10...but registration closes today, January 4. We still have places left, and you'll want to join the other communicators who will learn new trends and tactics that will help them do more with less effort in the social space.
  • Be an Expert on Working with Experts is a February 1 day-long workshop on ways to better understand and work with scientists, subject-matter experts and other smart folks you represent--but you'll get a significant discount if you register by January 10. You'll learn their default communications styles, why they don't always cooperate with what you're asking them to do, and how to develop better working relationships with them to meet your goals--with materials and tactics you can use again and again.
Got questions? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz. Bring yourself or your team to these winter workshops!