Friday, June 29, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

If you're toast at the end of the week, what does that mean? Crisp? Burnt? Just right? Only a side dish? Here's some wisdom to spread on the toast that was your week: The best reads, data, and other finds that I discovered and shared on Twitter this week. Served up with a heaping helping of weekend, I think this is a dish best savored together. Shall we?
Digital differences
What a week--for me, full of new clients and projects and just trying to keep up with you. I'll toast to that! Thanks for reading again this week.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Op-social: 8 more tools for using social media to express your opinion

Back in April, I blogged about The socialized op-ed: 4 new options for opinion pieces. But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning about all the new ways you can publish, track, participate in or learn about opinion articles and op-eds using social tools. Here are 8 more socialized opinion resources for communicators, along with some online and offline guides that should be in your toolkit:
  1. Want to argue back? There's an app for that: Rebutr, a new app that's attracted funding from key sources like the Knight News Challenge, can help you find counter-arguments to news you're reading. The crowdsourced resource will get more robust with more users and contributions. Poynter offers this review of Rebutr.
  2. Hangout with the opinionated: No slouch in innovation, the New York Times is using the relatively new Google+ Hangout On Air--a live-broadcast version of Google+ Hangouts--for what it calls "opinionated video Hangouts" with reporters or editors and newsmakers holding court on moderated discussions you can watch or get in on. That second link also describes other ways the Times is using Hangouts for opinionated discussion.
  3. Stay on top of opinions with Google News: If you haven't checked out the Google News "see realtime news" feature for your topics, you're missing a great way to keep tabs on opinion articles as they appear. It's one of the updates to Google NewsClick on "see realtime news" for any story, and you can scroll down to see such categories as "realtime," "in-depth," local indicators and "opinion," where you'll handily find all the current opinion pieces on that story.
  4. Should you express your opinion socially? If you're fired up by what you hear on talk radio and see online, Seth Godin's "Is Everyone Entitled to Their Opinion?" might just talk you out of sharing your thoughts, particularly if you run a business. A smart double-check from one of social media's big thinkers.
  5. Did you ever really learn opinion writing? If not, not even social media can help you. Turn to an update of a classic text, Opinion Writing 2nd Edition, and get schooled before you turn social with those opinions.
  6. Some comments are better than others: You knew that, but now, Gawker has tweaked its technology to favor conversational comments, rather than simply list them in time and date order. Learn about this new approach, and which opinions get moved up and highlighted.
  7. Not sure your opinion will carry the day? Social media can't erase this basic fact about op-eds and letters to the editor: If you're not willing to express an opinion firmly, you won't succeed. Consult    Writing Opinion for Impact to get more oomph into your op-ed.
  8. Want an ongoing Facebook tutorial on opinion writing? Become a fan of Margot Friedman's Op-Ed Talk. It's designed for progressive nonprofits and causes, but the lessons are smart reminders for anyone wanting to express and place an opinion. With real-life case studies pulled from the opinion pages, smart reminders and style tips you don't want to miss, this is well worth your "like."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

You may have had a long and winding road to get here, but the weekend's finally upon us. During all those twists and turns this week, I was collecting and sharing smart stuff from others in my Twitterstream--and I've saved the best for the end of the road this week, just for you. Yes, you:
A special shout-out to the smart communicators who participated in this week's Be an Expert on Working with Experts workshop--we had a day of learning and lively discussions, and participants are getting a loaded deck of resources from me today. One measure of success: Participants asked me to circulate their emails to the group so they can continue sharing ideas, resources and more.

I'm looking at holding another session of the experts workshop in August. Want to be sure you find out about it? Go here and check the box next to "put me on the list for the next Be an Expert on Working with Experts workshop," and you'll be among the first to know. Have a preference for a specific date or location, or want me to bring the workshop to your workplace? Email me directly at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz. So far, participants in the workshop series have included communicators from the American Academcy of Physician Assistants, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Farm Bureau, American Farm Bureau, Defenders of Wildlife, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Johns Hopkins University, National Science Foundation, Results, Vanguard Communications, UMBC, and more. I hope you'll be next. Enjoy that weekend!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Your "space junk" in social media: Need a cleanup retreat, communicators?

If you've ever used an app like Twitcleaner, you've seen what I call "space junk" -- those social media accounts you follow or own that don't produce what you expected. They can disappear from your radar pretty quickly, because, well, they're not doing anything for you...and that's true in many senses.

Twitcleaner shows you which Twitter accounts you follow that have no nutritional value--all or mostly links, quotes or RTs, for example--as well as those that post infrequently or not at all. Most of us could stand to do this across the social media dashboard, at least once a year. It's a sound premise for a communicators' staff retreat, a day where you bring in pizza and get together as a group to clean out your accounts and discuss priorities. And it's a chance for you to turn the mirror on your own company's posts, as well as clean out those of others.

Here are the cleanup items I'd focus on if you're going to devote a day to your "space junk" in social media:
  • Start with your own accounts. What are you neglecting?  Have someone on your team who follows your Twitter account run it through Twitcleaner to see where it shows up. Are you mostly RTs? Haven't posted in 3 months? Only on autopilot? Chris Brogan documented how some major grocery products' neglected Twitter feeds were a public embarrassment to their companies. Inc. magazine calls neglecting your corporate blog a "big mistake." (Think SEO.) Facebook has started emailing admins of neglected pages, so figure this out before they find you.
  • Should you keep those neglected accounts? Start by looking at the social accounts you've abandoned, or those to which you post too infrequently to matter or build relationships. Better no account than one that's obviously neglected. Remember, you don't need to have a company page on every social network that offers one--particularly if you're not going to keep it up. I'd rather see you doing one account well before you expand to others.
  • Are your followers real? If you've hired a consultant or firm to get your social media accounts up and running, you may just have bots following you, according to this analysis. That's just one reason that I focus on helping clients develop strategies that they can manage on their own--no padding your friend list when you work with me. Having a lot of followers from the ranks of your PR firm's staff doesn't really cut it. Better to have fewer, real followers than a lot of shadow accounts.
  • Don't junk an account just because of your fan count. It pays to keep in mind that 31 percent of Facebook pages have fewer than 31 fans and 56 percent have fewer than 256 fans. If they're the right fans, you may want to keep that relationship going.
  • Who's neglecting you? Seth Godin, in Multiplying or Dividing?, gives you two options with a customer or subscriber list: You can work at expanding it broadly, or winnow it down to the customers who are actually wanting to buy something from you. If your goal is the latter, start by cleaning out subscribers who haven't opened your newsletter in the last quarter, then follow Godin's advice on finding out which ones want to buy from the remaining subscriber list.
  • Where are you listed? Who has you on a Twitter list, and why? Where do you appear on blogrolls? Who's quoted, retweeted or shared your items most in the past year? Have you engaged with or thanked them, or figured out who they are and what you can be doing together?
  • What are your feeds neglecting? Maybe that blog you subscribed to isn't what you thought it would be, or just never posts. Clear out those RSS readers and unsubscribe from their emails.
  • What do your feeds look like to the outside world? Any team member who follows the corporate accounts can use, say, Twitcleaner to see how your accounts and posts on Twitter are viewed. Where do you come out when others are cleaning their feeds?
I like to structure these types of retreats by providing some data before each round of cleanup, so participants get a quick refresher on best practices and norms right now, or on new tools to use. Keeping track of your cleanup data (who lost the most accounts? who's striking the right balance?) can help motivate the team, and allows for an end-of-day discussion around what you've learned from the cleanup.

Ideally, you'll also spend time thinking about how to make better use of your time on social networks. Then--and only then--I like to include time for the team to share a few recommendations for accounts and feeds they think their colleagues might want to follow. But just a few. Let me know if you need a facilitator to help you take your social media space junk out of orbit, at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Were you hoping to be a new kind of gatekeeper?

Now that newspapers and other traditional gatekeepers in the media are on the wane, you might be thinking, "Our role as a gatekeeper is going to be Even More Important" or "Now's our chance to take over where journalism failed."

Well, maybe. There's no denying that more organizations and companies are taking their communications straight to the public audiences they want to reach. But when it comes to controlling the gates, it's worth considering whether that gate is attached to a working fence before you get all dreamy-eyed.

Take it from a longtime journalist who embraces a "digital first" philosophy: Steve Buttry's thoughtful Gatekeepers need to find new value when the fences have blown away is aimed at journalists, but is worth reading if your company, foundation or organization is thinking of jumping into the void left by journalists. Buttry points out numerous misses journalists made even when they had the gatekeeper role, and identifies the areas where he believes journalists still have a role to play in a social-media or "digital first" world. But the main takeaway: You can't have gates and gatekeepers if the fence is broken. And that's true beyond journalism's borders.

Foundations have been supporting journalistic forays increasingly in recent years, from support for public opinion surveys to journalism fellowships and competitions like the Knight Challenge, funding community news efforts (you'll find the latest winners, announced this week, at the link). And recently, the Ford Foundation gave $1 million over two years to the Los Angeles Times to support coverage of issues like immigration. It's a controversial grant, prompting New York University's Jay Rosen to say on Facebook, "The grant isn't about finding a sustainable model...So when the money runs out, what has been gained? Two years of unsustainable coverage ? Four years of it? The logic escapes me." And yet, I've heard plenty of journalists think out loud about finding some nice foundation to fund their efforts--despite the fact that other nonprofit models haven't fully lived up to that goal. For example, Chicago's nonprofit news group, the Chicago News Cooperative, recently announced it was suspending operations. And this foundation-funded effort intended to improve environmental reporting has faltered when no major news organizations signed on.

This isn't to say that foundations are angling for control of the gate when they fund news organizations. But any organization that hopes to fill a void created by journalism's demise might just be missing the point. The days of control are over, for the most part. The days of command-and-control, even more so. I'd be looking for ways to fuel the crowd that took the gate down, myself, or maybe the field that everyone's running over.

If you want to listen in on the discussion between foundations, researchers, academics and others, take a look at As traditional media decline, do opportunities for philanthropic organizations rise? Communications Network's Bruce Trachtenberg shares a discussion from the recent Council on Foundations meeting in Los Angeles on "how trends in digital media offer foundations, policy organizations, think tanks and others unprecedented opportunities to increase their dialogue with the public by taking their messages directly to audiences and key constituencies." It's a long video of a roundtable, but as Trachtenberg points out, you can run the audio in the background while you work and just listen to the discussion. Please share your comments on the video and the issue.

"Philanthropy and the Digital Public Dialogue" was hosted by the Center for Digital Information at the Council on Foundations annual conference in Los Angeles, April 30, 2012. It addressed the challenges and opportunities facing philanthropic foundations in a rapidly evolving digital age.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Let's clock it together: The weekend will be here in a split second, or at least I hope that's true. This week, the good finds in my Twitterstream were speeding by at a rapid pace, so let's slow down for a recap. Here are the best reads and resources I shared on Twitter this week:
And a job: Via @zanarama, Planned Parenthood Northwest, based in Seattle, is looking for a Director of Marketing and Communications.

Don't all race to the exits at once, but do have a wonderful weekend. I'm glad you made a pit stop here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

7 books for the business communicator's most-neglected skills

You don't need to write a press release or publish a website to be a business communicator--in fact, most of our communicating takes place in more mundane settings, from meetings and conference calls to networking events and emails. What's more, they're the communications points we complain about the most. When was the last time you raved about a conference call or a well-done email? Seems as if we're neglecting the skills that really drive our everyday business. I've found seven books that home in on these basic but essential talents so you can achieve more with less effort:
  1. Networking, offline: Face to Face Networking It's All About Communication will get you ready for your next networking event, business lunch or other offline encounter with a potential partner or prospect. In a social-media world, this in-real-life networking book focuses on skills that are still a must.
  2. Email: SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better comes from no less an expert than Bloomberg View editor and former New York Times op-ed editor David Shipley. There's no reason--is there?--that your emails can't improve. Pass this one all around the office.
  3. Note-taking, visual style: Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity takes one of the latest trends in visual scribing and helps you translate it to your team brainstorms and meetings.
  4. Speaking up in meetings: Women Speaking Up: Getting and Using Turns in Workplace Meetings is a smart investment if your workplace wants to get at why women get talked over in meetings or just don't get a turn to speak. An unusual meta-analysis of research into meeting behavior and how to turn it around, it's a must for both male and female managers.
  5. Note-taking, minutes style: Taking Minutes of Meetings: Set the Agenda; Identify What to Note; Write Accurate Minutes might be the best gift you can give the marvelous person who gets stuck with recording your meetings, whether you're a manager or a committee staffer.
  6. Networking, online: Social Networking for Career Success: Using Online Tools to Create a Personal Brand offers you insights into how to turn those social tools into your best career friend. Time to open, or just time to use online tools to complement your in-person networking? Here's your friend.
  7. Conference calls: No More Lame Conference Calls: The 6 Principles You Need to Lead Great Meetings gets at the most common kind of public speaking we all do. If you've never had a good conference call, start here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How can I get experts to be more responsive to reporters' interview requests?

It's the single biggest barrier to coverage of your issue or topic: The subject-matter expert who won't respond at all to interview requests, or cuts them short, or stomps out of them. The top scientist who deletes messages that ask to set up an interview or  who always seems to be traveling, wanting to respond three weeks too late. Or the policy leader who claims he has to re-read the Constitution in order to answer one question about a court case happening today. Experts blow off media interviews all the time.

 "How can I get experts to be more responsive to reporters' interview requests?" might be the most commonly asked question from participants in my June 19 workshop for communicators, 'Be an Expert on Working with Experts.' Here are some of the tactics we'll be talking about to handle the expert who balks--or just disappears--when reporters call:
  1. Figure out the difference between a delay tactic and a real need to hold off: If you haven't had a heart-to-heart about your expert's feelings about and attitude toward the news media, including any valid concerns or fears, you won't be able to tell the difference.
  2. Make sure she knows the media's methodology: Reporters' deadlines and the need for quick turnaround are part of your bread and butter, but not necessarily known to your expert. Have you emphasized that it's preferable to communicate "I can't do the interview this time" quickly, rather than ignore it altogether? Make sure you're not assuming too much about what your expert knows about responding to reporter requests.
  3. Find out whether someone else is discouraging her participation. In some corporate cultures, there's a general taboo against "showing off" by talking to reporters. Is your expert just going with the flow in not responding?
This will be a big topic of discussion at the workshop. Registration is now closed, but you can sign up for the waiting list for the next session. Find out what other kinds of questions and challenges the participants want to discuss, and learn about the great network of communicators who are already participating.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

As the Men in Black would say: The bad parts of the week we're just finishing? Never happened. Your secret is safe with me if you're wishing for the weekend. I've locked up the very best reads, data and ideas I found and shared with my Twitterstream this week, so you can steal away knowing you'll be even smarter, come Monday. Here's my stash:
And a job: The George Washington University is looking for a Director of Communications and Marketing for its School of Media and Public Affairs.

Workshop deadline nears: This weekend is your last chance to register for my June 19 workshop, 'Be an Expert on Working with Experts.' Registration closes at midnight ET on Sunday, June 10. Save your weekend time for fun and register today. Communicators who have taken or will take this workshop come from top scientific membership societies, federal research agencies, major universities, PR firms, and nonprofits working in foreign relations, poverty, environmental conservation, agriculture policy and more. Join us!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The deep end of the pool: 6 training options to push yourself as a communicator

The higher up you go in the organization, or the more specialized you get,  the tougher it is to find professional development with depth, flexibility and impact. You're looking for the deep end of the pool to dive into, and finding yourself in the kiddie pool instead, most of the time. And if you're like me, you're getting tired of your usual conferences and wanting to meet new people who'll challenge you in different ways, on top of wanting to learn something particular to your level of experience.

Or maybe you're not like me, and haven't checked out new training options in a while. Why not explore in depth the things that challenge you most, from mastering social media or getting more organized in a digital world? Try these options--some general, some specific--that I've explored and would recommend to you:
  1. Learn to communicate as a manager:
  2. Management, you'll find, has a lot to do with settling disputes and getting people to give and take. It's hard to do better than these two negotiation options: The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, with its courses on dealing with difficult people or difficult conversations, or the Washington, DC-based Center for Dispute Settlement's Mediation for the Professional.
  3. Get training for the newbie manager: If you are new to your leadership role, Bud to Boss is a focused workshop designed just for managers who have recently left the ranks of their peers. The workshop moves around the U.S., and there's one coming up in Alexandria, Virginia, in late July. Use code BMG10 to get 20 percent off your registration.
  4. Sit in on innovation: Evernote's Trunk Conference brings together not just developers and partners--the "trunk" is the collection of apps that work with Evernote--but also users. (It's in San Francisco in August.) What a great chance to have real-time input into what's coming next, or just find out about it before the crowd. It's worth checking whether your favorite app or program has a similar gathering.
  5. Get pushed: Hearing what others are doing can sharpen your approaches, and your focus. Problogger suggests 5 fantastic reasons you should attend a blogging conference, and I agree--which is why you'll find me at BlogHer 2012 in August in New York City. Look for a blogging conference that targets your topic or audience, or the business of your blog--or all three.
  6. Get speaker or presentation training: I'm continually running into top-level professionals who have never learned how to give a great speech or deliver a dynamic presentation--yet they spend all their time speaking in meetings, public appearances, conference calls and media interviews. The higher you go in the organization, the more prized is this skill. Promotions often go to those who present most effectively, since the higher you go, the more likely it is that you'll be asked to present to the board of directors, senior management or investors.
  7. Learn how to work with your experts:  My own focused training for communicators, 'Be an Expert on Working with Experts,' takes place next week, and seats are still available, so register now--I'll close registration at midnight on Sunday, June 10, or when all seats are filled. I'm planning to bring that training back again in August--so if you want to get on the waiting list for it, go here to sign up. I'm also happy to bring any workshop direct to your workplace or city for your group or team. Just email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for details.
You can see more about the training options I offer to communicators and my communications training options for experts and scientists, and if you want to design a customized communications retreat for your staff or your board members, look here. What kind of training are you looking for to advance your skills?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

How can I give negative feedback without discouraging the expert?

The expert you're prepping for that speech or media interview just made a huge mistake while practicing. It might be an awkward gesture, an unintended double entendre, a weird facial expression or an honest-to-God error of fact in her area of expertise. You've got to let her know...but how?

This is where many communicators waver and go all positive, telling the expert first and foremost what a good job they've done. But if you're walking on eggshells when you give feedback to the expert you're working with, frankly, you're doomed to fail. At the same time, you don't want to scare or annoy your expert right out of the task at hand.

"How can I give negative feedback without discouraging the expert I'm working with?" is one of the questions and challenges posed by participants who'll be attending my June 19 workshop for communicators, 'Be an Expert on Working with Experts.' Here are some of the tactics we'll be discussing:
  1. Let the trainee do the honors: "How do you think you did?" is always the first question out of my mouth after an expert tries a practice run for an interview or speech. Once they've told you what they noticed, you get to chime in.
  2. Speak in "I" statements: Work on providing feedback from your perspective as an expert communicator. Rather than an accusatory-sounding "You shouldn't do that," try "I'd prefer to see you state it this way, so we avoid the appearance that you're dodging the question. I know you aren't trying to do that, but I couldn't quite tell from the way you said that--and it may leave a question in the audience's mind." If you can explain and reinforce with "I" statements, you'll have a more willing listener for your negative feedback.
  3. Provide a solution along with the feedback: Don't dish out negative feedback without a healthy side dish of useful tips to fix the problem. Your expert will get refocused on change faster if you can suggest a path for how to do so.
There's much more to discuss on this topic, including some recent research about experts and negative feedback that you'll learn at the workshop--and there are still seats available. Go here to register, find out what other kinds of questions and challenges the participants want to discuss, and learn about the great network of communicators who are already participating. Registration goes through Sunday, June 10, or until the seats are filled.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Took a lot of risks this week? Not sure you're going to sweep the stakes? I've got a sure bet for you: The weekend is almost here. That means it's time to share my best finds and reads from Twitter, where I always feel just like I won the lottery when it comes to getting new facts and ideas. Here's the best of my finds this week:
The early registration discount is over, but you can still register for my June 19 workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts--until June 10, or when all the seats are filled. The odds of getting a seat are getting tougher, though, so don't gamble on this opportunity.

Thanks so much for reading this week. I'm glad you're willing to bet on finding things here.