Friday, September 28, 2012

The weekend read

Let's shed some light on any confusion there might be: The weekend's here, and it's time to stop crunching numbers and gnashing your teeth. This is the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not a train. Try this week's great finds from my Twitterstream--you'll look a lot smarter long before the weekend starts:

  • Big point of light: Washington Women in Public Relations is looking for a Washington, DC, metropolitan-area nonprofit serving women and children to be its pro bono client for the next two years. I can't stress enough what an amazing opportunity this is. Go here to learn more and to download applications, which are due by October 16--or send this to a qualified group today. I'm WWPR's 2002 PR Woman of the Year, and can attest to the impact this service project has had for many nonprofits in our area. Apply now, or pass this along to a relevant nominee.
Jobs at the end of the tunnel:  Central Michigan University wants an associate director of executive communications...and Starwood Hotels and Resorts is looking for a communications director for its distribution, loyalty and partnership programs.

If you haven't already subscribed to my free monthly newsletter, here's a dividend: A free report on how to promote your blog on Pinterest. All you have to do is sign up.

A bright light in my week: Having you on the reading end of the weekend read. I know I'm planning a fantastic weekend and I hope yours starts in 3, 2, 1....

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to promote your blog on Pinterest: Report free with signup

Subscribers to my free monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, got a special bonus today: A free report on how to promote your blog on Pinterest. It's a short guide that will help them use Pinterest's amazing traffic-driving ability to get their blogs a wider readership. For perspective, Pinterest now drives more traffic to blogs than Twitter, and more than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined, so it has become a smart choice for bloggers looking to build an audience.

The report shares ways to optimize your blog content for Pinterest, tools for promoting and measuring your blog's presence there, and lots of examples and data culled from my own observations on the site. The examples include Pinterest uses from bloggers in journalism, science, retail, personal care products, kitchen tools, politics, home design, travel, fitness, graphic design, crafting, marketing, and education. It also includes dozens of links to resources on optimizing your Pinterest videos, measurement tools and how they work, Pinterest demographics and data on the effectiveness of different approaches to using Pinterest to promote a blog.

Want a copy of this report? It's free for the month of October with a signup for my monthly newsletter. Each month, Speakers & Communicators shares useful advice, tips, data and resources on communications, media relations, social media and public speaking. Subscribers get advance notice of workshops and resources, special discounts and freebies like this report. Sign up now while the report is free...this offer expires at the end of October.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The weekend read

You can come out now. That storm of a week is almost past, and the sky of the weekend is clearing, I promise. The storms did us one favor, washing up these good finds into my Twitterstream. Lots of jobs, reads and leads for you this week, and a calmer weekend ahead:
Crazy good jobs: The University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee is looking for an associate director of athletics for external affairs...The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore wants an online content specialist...the McCormick Foundation seeks a program officer for its journalism program...the trade group Airlines for America is looking for two managing directors in communications...Crayola is looking for a social media manager with media relations skills...and the Washington State Wine Commission is looking for a communications director/senior manager.

To ease you into the weekend, here's a cracking good ad for a Michigan state supreme court candidate whose sister happens to have been on the cast of The West Wing. An impressive show reunion/campaign ad/public service announcement for nonpartisan elections and how to vote. My favorite line? C.J. Cregg tells Josh, "Explain this to me like I'm a two-year-old and try to pretend you're not." Just like old times.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Training research fellows to communicate: What I bring to the party

Plenty of communications trainers advertise their ability to work with scientists, but it's not always easy to secure a substantive training that the scientists themselves will appreciate. Many trainers recycle the techniques they'd use with any executive. They tell researchers to strip out all the detail. Some trainers, in effect, urge them "don't be such a scientist," to echo the book of the same title. Some perpetrate myths about presentation skills. Many aren't comfortable talking to scientists in any detail, or are comfortable only with one subject area. My favorite: The trainer who announced to a roomful of foundation executives "I can train anybody but a scientist." Ouch. They sure don't see the assignment as a party.

Those approaches really don't work with the scientists in the many prestigious fellows and scholars programs for early career researchers. They're eager to communicate beyond the bench--so much so, it's often the fellows themselves who are the ones requesting communications training. They want to be taken seriously, and they want to have fun learning. They do see it as a party, but they are serious about wanting to communicate effectively. While discussing the pros and cons of hiring communications trainers for scientists, a client recently prompted me to describe the advantages I can bring to the party that is science communications training. Here's what I told her:
  1. A high comfort level working with scientists and engineers in every discipline, from astrophysics and biomedicine to economics and zoology. I want scientists in my workshops to feel at ease sharing the details of their work with the sense that the trainer understands, appreciates and respects them and their research. I gained that versatility working for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the journal Science as communications director and consultant, and with clients like TEDMED, where I train physicians and researchers in many specialties.
  2. The ability to bridge between two highly divergent communications models, that of the scientific community and the public sphere, using hands-on training tactics. It helps that I know their default responses, and how to get past them to good communications skills. One corporate researcher said it best: “By putting us into ‘hothouse’ conditions, limiting our time and our ability to practice, you forced us to display our default behaviors, which made them apparent to us…and then we could fix them. Brilliant approach.” 
  3. A facility for working with introverted scientists. “Thank you for taking me outside my box, and thank you especially for warning us ahead of time that you were going to do that,” is typical feedback from an introverted scientist participant. I incorporate large- and small-group work and other methods  to allow both introverts and extroverts to shine in the workshop.
  4. Enthusiasm for the work of scientists and a strong belief that they can communicate about their research. Far from thinking they're untrainable, I enjoy working with them, and have trained thousands of academic, government and corporate researchers.
  5. Data-based communications training, to show scientist trainees that communicating and public speaking advice has its basis in research, from audience attention spans to speaking speeds and the psychology of nervous speakers.
  6. The smarts to take time with it: I have had a few clients, hoping to save time and money, who have asked me to teach a large group of scientists how to communicate with the public in an hour or two, or in a timeframe that would allow about 1.5 minutes of one-on-one time per person. That approach ignores who's being trained: Intelligent people who ask questions for a living, particularly when they are confronted with new and unfamiliar skills they find troublesome. I strive for more realistic time constraints for training them.
  7. Smart resources for smart people: When I train groups, every participant gets an email with links to takeaway and reference materials they can use again and again. Among the resources for scientists are posts from my blog The Eloquent Woman, where I feature a series called "Speaking Science," on new or interesting data about public speaking as well as posts about smart communications for scientists.
  8. Humor and a lively approach to training. Even in large groups, all participants in my training sessions have frequent opportunities to learn and try new ideas, ask questions and receive feedback. Slides and lecturing are kept to a minimum. Because some of the skills to be learned or short timeframes can feel stressful to some participants, I use humor to make the process enjoyable as well as educational. 
  9. The ability and credibility needed to call scientist trainees on their communications missteps, helping them to avoid overstatements, omissions of fact and other mistakes commonly made when attempting to translate from the technical. Far from “dumbing down” details, my scientific learn how—and where—to put details to use. If we're doing a media training, they learn to stop blaming the reporters for misquotes and instead learn how to manage an interview so it turns out accurate, while respecting the reporting process.
  10. A strong understanding of what works in communicating the details of scientific research, from the viewpoint of the nation’s top research journals and scientific meetings. I can help scientists speak about basic methodology or the most controversial areas of their fields.
Training research fellows to communicate is among my favorite types of work. They're enthusiastic and energetic, and they haven't yet learned too many bad habits in presentation and public speaking skills. Clients like these have sought out my workshops to get their scientific fellows focused and ready to do everything from presenting research to legislators to giving public talks at science cafes:
Find out more about my training services for scientists and technical experts at all levels and what my clients and trainees say about the experience. I have well-planned, time-tested workshop formats for full-day and half-day communications training sessions, which of course can be customized to your group's needs.Want to get your own fellows training party started? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for more information.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Media interview smarts: Do you have to answer the question?

Not sure whether to dodge or address the reporter's question? You might want to learn more about how the audience sees the question-dodger, instead of just worrying about outwitting that reporter.

Science Friday looked at the psychology behind detecting the artful dodge in media interviews recently, and it's worth listening to the interview to get insights. Todd Rogers, one of the researchers, explains it here:
...we undertook a series of experiments in which we examined the conditions under which speakers succeed in answering questions that are different than the ones that they are actually asked. What we found was that, pretty frighteningly, observers have a very difficult time detecting when a speaker answers a question that is different, though similar, to the question they were actually asked. 
For example, if they were asked “What are you going to do about illegal drug use” and they say “we need universal health care because …” observers fail to realize that the speaker answered the wrong question and so observers rate the speaker just as honest and trustworthy as if the speaker had actually been asked about healthcare. And we found that answering the right question poorly is worse than answering the wrong question well. So delivering a stuttering, flub of a response that is direct and honest is punished, relative to answering a totally different question, but answering it fluently.
But audiences aren't that easily fooled all the time. According to the research, listeners and viewers get better at detecting the dodge in your answer in certain situations: 
  • When they are intent on detecting the relevance of your answer to the question, versus focusing on the topic at hand; 
  • When the question is superimposed on the video screen in writing while you are answering, as a reminder; and 
  • When the speaker egregiously ignores the question and answers something completely unrelated. 
Because of those findings, the researchers recommend that questions as stated be superimposed over video of politicians as they answer them in televised debates. That won't happen in your interviews, but remember that, even if the reporter doesn't stop you, the audience won't buy what you're selling if you veer too far from the answer.

At that point, as your trainer, I'd have to ask: What's your goal? To try to outwit the questioner or to convey credibility? In this case, you may be trading one for the other. It's far better to address the question, even if you don't like it and are not going to answer it, and explain why an answer is not forthcoming. (In some situations, that may be exactly the right thing to do--but you still need to address the question.)

You can read about these studies here and watch a short video of Rogers explaining the findings below. Looking for media training that teaches you how to participate effectively, rather than dodge, an interview? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

(Photo by Losevsky Photo and Video /

Friday, September 14, 2012

The weekend read

We won! We won! We made it through the week. Our prize: The weekend that lies just ahead. It comes with a Sno-cone full of leads, reads and finds from my Twitterstream, where you don't even need a ticket to get the benefit of these good ideas. Yes, you are tall enough to get on this ride:

Hope you have a good party in store, even if that looks like a nap. Thanks so much for spending the run-up to your weekend with me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Anniversary PR: Gr8 ideas for communicators

Handling communications for your company or organizational anniversary has never been a favorite project for communicators. But new tools and options abound for having fun with--and being more effective at--sharing your anniversary story. Here are my best tips, ideas and finds for those of you doing celebratory communications:
  • Consider a situational stylebook: If your anniversary is significant enough, or your organization has a lot of moving parts--chapters, divisions, affiliate groups of all kinds--you may want to create a special stylebook for your entire organization to keep anniversary facts and references consistent. This example is from last year's 10th anniversary coverage of the September 11 attacks, used by the Associated Press, but if your anniversary is significant, there's no reason you can't issue a stylebook as a source organization.
  • Use social media creatively:  When you communicate anniversaries social-media style, you can get creative with dates, perspectives, visuals and more. I think social media has single-handedly made archival material cool again, so break out the blogs, Twitter, and more for your special occasion.
  • Everything old isn't news, so consider using a blog to fuel attention for anniversaries, archival material and other hard-to-pitch non-news. My favorite is still the blogging of George Orwell's diary entries, which describe what daily life was like in the run-up to England's entry into World War II.
  • Don't forget context: When you're prepping speeches for your leadership, consider giving them speech inserts that describe what else was going on in the world at the time your company or group was founded. What else was discovered, accomplished or feted in your founding year? Put your anniversary in context in that timeline to give today's audiences a sense of how far you've come. This works even better when your leader's giving a talk about someone else's anniversary. You can let that organization describe its accomplishments--who better?--but have your leader take the role of describing what else was happening in history at that point. Bonus points if you can theme the shared anniversaries most meaningful to your group, as in citing other scientific discoveries that happened in the year your scientific group was founded.

Friday, September 07, 2012

The weekend read

You don't need a chart to tell you it's time for the weekend...or do you? Back away from the PowerPoint and bar graphs, and ease into a couple of days off with my best finds of the week from my Twitterstream. It's got more data, reads and leads than you can cram into a slide. Yes, even your slides:
And a job: The Society of Interventional Radiology, in Fairfax, Virginia, is looking for a senior director of communications, publications and marketing.

I'm so glad you put down the presentations and remotes and spent the start of your weekend here with me. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The price for avoiding bad publicity just went up: Penn State's latest price tag

What if I told you that you could have $17 million to defend the reputation of your company or university or nonprofit? Sound good? Unfortunately, it's a price tag that comes with its own price tag--because it's what Penn State University is spending on its PR and legal defense in the wake of the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Ironically, it's $17 million spent to fix the outcome of a cover-up that itself was supposed to help avert a PR disaster. “'In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity,' the most powerful leaders of Penn State, Mr. Freeh’s group said, 'repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large'."  That's how the New York Times summed up that cover-up effort, and thus far, the most visible "fee" is the NCAA's $60 million fine and penalties that force Penn State to forego lucrative post-season play for four years

But this week, word came of the new bill for image-protection. Here's how it breaks down: "Nearly $16.8 million in costs through June 30 were broken down as almost $10 million for internal investigations and crisis communications, close to $4 million for university legal services and defense, and nearly $1.2 million in other expenses. The total also included about $1.6 million for legal defense of the school's officers..."

Harder to price: The damage to Penn State's football motto, "Success with Honor." The word "with" might be the only part of that motto left with its original meaning in the wake of the scandal. Recently, in What if your slogan is true?, Seth Godin put this in perspective for me:
If the story of your work is consistent, if it resonates with your audience and if you can defend it, then you're likely to succeed. And if your slogan reflects your story, good for you....So sure, start with a slogan. But don't bother wasting any time on it if you're merely going for catchy. Aim for true instead.
One of the downsides of the Penn State scandal for communicators is its scope, duration and level of deception. At first glance, it's easy for other companies and institutions to dismiss it, saying, "Of course, that was awful, but nothing like that will ever happen here." But in my experience, even the finest of organizations and businesses has issues that it wants to keep from the light of day--and it's a light they'd rather not shine too brightly on their own statements, taglines and mottoes. 

If anyone had suggested getting out in front of this negative issue by making it public quickly and elevating the discussion--especially if that happened when the first complaints came to the administration's attention--we might be talking about Penn State as a national leader in corporate social responsibility as well as a powerhouse of football. And that kind of effort should fit in anyone's budget.

As it is, communicators (and their CEOs) had better keep sharp ears out when anyone says, "We have to do whatever it takes to avoid bad publicity." Smart communicators will be sharing this price tag with their leaders as a reminder of the cost of doing business this way, and holding up their slogans and taglines up to the light to see whether they match up with your worst internal nightmares. Are you ready to do that?

(Photo from Caitlinator's photostream on Flickr)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Arresting photographers: What should your security team do in an age of cellphone cameras?

If you're a communicator working for an entity with a security force--from corporation to university to government agency--do you know whether your security force thinks it can arrest photographers?

It's worth checking. Arresting photographers, whether they're journalists or just passers-by with cellphone cameras, has been a particular issue when the cameras are turned on police or police activity. The practice has come under scrutiny in conjunction with police action against mass protests, like the Occupy movement. I'll admit, there's nothing that guarantees coverage like arresting someone trying to cover something...just not in the way you might want. Arresting reporters screams "First Amendment problem" and worse.

Reporters aren't taking this lying down. Journalists--particularly independent reporters--are using social tools to help one another in support networks designed specifically for covering contentious situations. These ad hoc networks help journalists plan for and carry out coverage of protests (like NATO protests or the Occupy movement) where arrests and other risks put reporters in harm's way. A smart-thinking communicator might well help set up such a network when coverage of a protest, emergency or other major event can be anticipated.

For more on the arresting ways of police confronting reporters, see my post "We'll just arrest the reporters: What's your security team communicating?", and take the time to read through the transcript of this useful talk show segment on issues that arise when either citizens or journalists attempt to photograph the police. Here in Washington, DC, the metropolitan police were reminded via an official order that they are not to interfere with people taking photos or video, even when the police are the subject of the shot. This discussion includes representatives from the Washington police union, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Press Photographers Association, so it's a useful take on all viewpoints. You can read more about the issue in this interview with the NPPA's general counsel.

In the program, you'll learn some smart alternatives to suggest to your security forces for handling similar situations. Pre-social-media, cops might've seized that cellphone, camera or SD card if a photographer caught a crime in progress. Today, a more sensible alternative would be having the security officer provide an email for the photographer to share her photos on the spot, rather than seizing the camera or cellphone. Small and useful workarounds like that might keep your security forces from getting covered for overdoing the protective part of the job when it comes to photographers. Read or listen, then share with your on-site police or security team to get a discussion going. (Photo from Toban Black's photostream on Flickr)