Friday, July 27, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with favorites

I'll let you put this sign on your door...at the close of business. That'll be the close of the week, too, which means it's time to put your feet up on the desk and contemplate the great finds, leads, data and ideas I shared this week on Twitter. Read this before you get interrupted by, oh, say, work. This was a busy week on Twitter, and there's a lot to share:
Before you shut the door on this week, remember: I'm glad you're reading here. Have a great weekend!

Registration is now open for the next Be an Expert on Working with Experts, for communicators and related professionals who work with subject-matter experts, policy analysts, scientists and engineers. The workshop is August 23 in Washington, DC, or I can bring it to your workplace. Get an early registration discount if you sign up by August 3, which is coming right up. Details at the link.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fill in the blanks for your experts on the public audiences they want to reach

I've spent most of my career working with subject-matter experts, and discovered early on that it pays for communicators to become the experts' advisor on audiences--the populations that experts need or want to reach, either directly or through the news media or social media. Experts always want the public to understand them, but understanding the public is another matter. Your expert probably hasn't paid attention to public opinion research, demographics and other clues to the public audiences she now wants to reach. What experts don't know about audiences could fill volumes. That's why using data to help your experts communicate is one of the topics we'll cover at my August 23 workshop for communicators, Be an Expert on Working with Experts.

So where should you turn for data?

I've got a handful of trusted sources and encourage you to look for more when you're educating your experts about the public. And if data doesn't exist on your intended audience, perhaps you can make the case to your experts for collecting that data and using it to inform your communications. In the meantime, here are four of my go-to sources:
  1. The Roper Center public opinion archives at the University of Connecticut collects all previous public opinion polls from all pollsters, dating back to the 1930s. Most is U.S. data, but dozens of nations are represented in the findings. There are free and fee-based options. Most useful: You can ask for all public opinion data on a specific question, topic or audience.
  2. The National Science Foundation's Science & Engineering Indicators cover all fields of science and engineering with useful data collected every two years (the 2012 set is just out), but most useful to communicators is chapter 7 on public attitudes and understanding of science, and where the public gets its information about science. This type of data can help you help a scientist calibrate explanations based on what the public knows...and doesn't.
  3. The Millennials: Connecting to America's Largest Generation will help your experts get a handle on younger audiences. Millennials--born between 1980 and 2000--behave and think differently from your experts' generations do, so if their focus is reaching young people, it pays to give them an update on this demographic.
  4. The Pew Internet and American Life Project is your source for how your audiences are using technology--an important subtext to discussions about how to do outreach. Its research includes specific demographic groups, such as teenagers, as well as broader pictures of technology user types. 
Of course, there's much more--this is just to get you started. Join me on August 23 to look at other ways to get your experts to connect with public and media audiences, and for more discussion of how to use data to help them communicate more effectively.


Registration is now open for the next Be an Expert on Working with Experts, for communicators and related professionals who work with subject-matter experts, policy analysts, scientists and engineers. The workshop is August 23 in Washington, DC, or I can bring it to your workplace. Get an early registration discount if you sign up by August 3. Details at the link.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sparkwi.se: Easy dashboards of data help tell your story

Twitter brought me word about Sparkwi.se, an easy-to-use tool designed to help nonprofits tell their stories by pulling data from around the web or out of their spreadsheets and displaying it graphically in simple widgets. You put your dashboard together in any way you choose, incorporating everything from your follower count on Twitter to MP3 files of audio to videos and photos. And it keeps track, in turn, of the counts and feeds you want to measure, from your Facebook and Twitter fans to much more.

This tool works internally and externally, allowing you to keep track of your data, but also share it with others. For example, if you haven't killed your annual report yet, Sparkwi.se may be your annual report killer, and so much more. With automated data updates, it can be a ready reference for anyone wanting to check out your organization or company--there's nothing to keep your firm, business, government agency or other institution from trying this tool out, and it's free to use. Best of all, it incorporates links so you can engage your audiences after sharing data with them, whether you're trolling for followers on Facebook or asking for donations. I can see everyone from book authors and bloggers to major corporations making use of this tool. And if you have a presence on many social channels, Sparkwi.se offers a pretty good dashboard with a wide range of metrics.

Fast Company has a good article about Sparkwi.se here, and it's easy to test-drive and try out for yourself (and has had a thorough going-over by grantees of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the project's underwriters).  Their Sparkwi.se page is above, and here's another dashboard to show you some of the possibilities. Will you try out this new tool? (Hat tip to Elizabeth Miller at the Knight Foundation for pointing me to this one.)


Registration is now open for the next Be an Expert on Working with Experts, for communicators and related professionals who work with subject-matter experts, policy analysts, scientists and engineers. The workshop is August 23 in Washington, DC, or I can bring it to your workplace. Get an early registration discount if you sign up by August 3. Details at the link.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

For communicators dealing with big-ego experts: 8 guides

Communicators who work with experts eventually run into the big-ego expert--the one who's all too aware of his importance and wanting to be sure you are, too. I had a boss who used to refer to them as people who were "reading their own press releases and believing them," and I call them the ones I have to pull away from the microphone.

No matter what you say about  them, the big-ego expert's a real challenge for communicators. Often, it's that ego that reporters notice when they're dealing with your difficult expert, and big egos are sometimes behind the behavior of experts who blow off media interviews and other opportunities. An egotist's expectation that you'll be lining up those promotional opportunities creates a demand that sometimes means other, less pushy, experts get less attention.

What's a professional communicator to do? For now, I say: Retreat to the bookshelf to get smart about that ego. I've worked with my share of big egos, and have found it takes extra help to develop the non-anxious and effective methods you'll need to handle those hotheads and microphone-grabbers. Here are eight useful references you should consult--and share with your team--so you can get better at handling big egos, even if only in self-defense:
  1. Why Is It Always About You? looks at the narcissist and, more importantly, how you can set boundaries to keep one from running right over you. A short, good read.
  2. The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't is worth reading and then passing on to your manager. The first chapter alone documents the cost of maintaining a corporate culture with a**holes in it. For communicators, a good internal discussion could revolve around how and whether you'll tolerate these characters among the experts you're promoting, and how your team will handle those situations.
  3. Type Talk at Work (Revised): How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job will help you learn how to deal with experts of all types, although you'll find most of them type under ISTJ. Use the book to learn how to deal with them effectively. It may not be ego you're running up against, just their personality preferences.
  4. Introduction to Type: A Guide to Understanding Your Results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator gets you even deeper into personality types. Be sure to read the "in times of deep stress" portion of the profiles to see how your experts might behave when you push them outside their boxes.
  5. The Power of a Positive No: Save The Deal Save The Relationship and Still Say No is a great negotiation tool for communicators who need to say no to important experts and still preserve a relationship.
  6. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most helps you get to the meat of the matter in thoughtful and careful ways.
  7. Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work is recommended by some of my readers, focusing more the the boss as bully. It's a Kindle book, and Amazon Prime members can borrow it for free in Kindle ebook format.
  8. Team Geek: A Software Developer's Guide to Working Well with Others is a guide communicators can read first, then hand off to the coders they work with. The book recommends adopting the "servant leader" approach and advises smart coders to "lose the ego." There's even a useful chapter on "Working with Poisonous People" that might come in handy for you.
Big-ego experts are always on the agenda at Be an Expert on Working with Experts, my workshop for communicators and related professionals who work with subject-matter experts, policy analysts, scientists and engineers. Registration is now open for the next workshop on August 23 in Washington, DC, or I can bring it to your workplace. Get an early registration discount if you sign up by August 3.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Elephants never forget, but you're not an elephant--so if you want to forget this week, you have Official Permission. For myself, I want to remember it all, one reason I like to catalog my best finds on Twitter once a week, right here. You must remember this, kids: The weekend's almost here. While you're counting down the hours, don't forget to sample my finds of the week:
Don't forget to have a weekend, whatever you do. Thanks so much for reading again this week.

Registration is now open for the next Be an Expert on Working with Experts, for communicators and related professionals who work with subject-matter experts, policy analysts, scientists and engineers. The workshop is August 23 in Washington, DC, or I can bring it to your workplace. Get an early registration discount if you sign up by August 3. Details at the link.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How will your expert handle public mistakes?

Will Rogers may have called an expert "a man 50 miles from home with a briefcase," but Nobel laureate Niels Bohr was harsher--and more honest. His definition of an expert: "person that has made every possible mistake within his or her field." But can your expert admit that in public or in a media interview--and does she know when that's a good thing to do?


It's one of the questions we'll be discussing at my August 23 workshop for communicators, Be an Expert on Working with Experts, where you can learn about experts' default communications styles and how to work more effectively with them. So what might be standing between your expert and effective handling of public mistakes?
In fact, avoidance, overstatements and blame are poor defenses but all-too-human responses to public mistakes. Helping your expert learn how to admit mistakes frankly, fully and fast (or avoid them in the first place) will build--or re-build--trust with public and media audiences. I hope you'll join me at the August 23 workshop to learn more. What are the issues you encounter when experts admit public mistakes? Leave 'em in the comments.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More ammo for the press release diet: Blogs as sources for journos

Since asking Can you go on the press release diet? A 12-step program, I've heard from lots of grateful reporters (nothing endears you to reporters like telling people to stop churning out releases). Better yet, I've heard from communicators who are going to try this idea for a pilot project, and resist putting out releases in favor of blogging their news and using non-release alternatives.

For those of you taking that next step to make the case for going on the press release diet, I've got some more ammo to strengthen your rationale: New data that looks at how journalists view blogs versus releases as sources of news they might cover.

The data on how news is sourced in social media come from the fifth annual Oriella Digital Journalism Survey, reported by Social Media Today. Here's the part that's relevant to you press-release dieters: Press releases are declining as a source of news and blogs and other social media are gaining.
More than half of our respondents (55 percent) said they use microblogs to source new stories, and 44 percent use blogs in the same way – but only when the source behind it is known or trusted by them. For unknown sources, reliance on social media roughly halves – falling to 26 percent for microblogs and 22 percent for blogs...Journalists won’t accept ‘pre-packed’ news from brands (and their agencies) in the form of releases, and they are looking for far more variety in the kinds of stories brands talk about, and the way they are told. And, they expect brands to be properly engaged with the relevant social networks: not as a box-ticking exercise driven by the PR department, but a genuine engagement at all levels of the business.
And before you unknown, as-yet-untrusted sources head for the comments, consider this: Blogging and tweeting more and engaging with your audiences will help you show your expertise and build credibility, not only with journalists but directly with the audiences you want to reach. This post on what makes a blogger credible?, designed for nonprofits but applicable to all, will get you started on the right path. And if you're really smart, you'll use your blog to tip, rather than pitch, reporters about what's worth taking a look at.

If you're going on the press release diet, let me know--I'd love to hear about your progress. Below, to help make your case, is an infographic summarizing the survey data:


Friday, July 06, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Time for a pop? Or are you ready to pop? Save that burst of activity for the weekend--the pause that refreshes, if you will--which is almost upon us. Lots of good sources, reads and ideas bubbled up in my Twitterstream this week, and I'm happy to break open a few to share with you:

Save the date and sign up: Registration is now open for my popular workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts, for communicators who work with subject-matter experts, which returns on Thursday, August 23, here in Washington, DC. Sign up before August 3 to get a great discount. Previous sessions have drawn communicators from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the American Farm Bureau, the American Psychological Association, Defenders of Wildlife, the German Marshall Fund, the Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, the National Science Foundation, Results, UMBC and Vanguard Communications. Are you in this time?

And a job: Smithsonian Magazine soon will be looking for a new DC-based science editor. Message Laura Helmuth for details.

Finally, with my thanks for reading the blog again this week, a cautionary tale for those of you who put words in others' mouths: Make sure you know whether they like to dole out lots of puns in their speeches, lest you suffer the fate of the speechwriter  who earned the "Who wrote this shit?" mid-speech from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Methinks everyone got caught here. Speechwriter, meet bus: 







Thursday, July 05, 2012

7 new takes on media relations: What to know now

When the landscape keeps changing, your skills and approaches need to change with them, communicators. I've been scanning the landscape for you, and found seven new perspectives that I think will be shaking up your media relations plans for the forseeable future. Don't get caught behind the curve on these changes and trends:
  1. Figure out how news curation teams will work:  Steve Buttry has started a conversation on news curation teams as part of Digital First Media's "Project Thunderdome, which will handle national content for the 75 daily newspapers and their websites of Digital First Media (scattered across 18 states across the country), as well as some niche content that may be used by the sites of our weekly papers."
  2. Get on top of what the crowd's observing: In the New Yorker's Could Social Media Have Stopped Sandusky? is a line most companies and institutions could apply to their own not-yet-public problem areas: "What if all the boys had had phones on them they could have used to text to their friends or record or tweet about what was happening?" Ah, but today they do. What would citizens with cellphones be able to record about you and your organization or company? This is media relations with a twist, since you may see the results in two waves: From the citizens first, and later from news media seeking sources.
  3. What's your refrigerator strategy? Neiman Journalism Lab asks this question of news organizations, as a way of saying you should be thinking now about the next generation of Internet-enabled devices, from the fridge to Google Goggles. And so should communicators. What formats, uses, audiences should you be anticipating now? This goes beyond mobile to what's coming next.
  4. What are reporters' work lives like now? In How much can one journalist do well? you'll get one picture of the impact of overworked reporters using too many mediums under pressure. On the other hand, here are one online reporter's 10 reasons why online reporters are better than their predecessors. What are your reporters experiencing? It'll be tough to serve them well if you are working only from assumptions.
  5. What are the new bad practices in pitching bloggers and journos? By now, you'd best be including bloggers in your search for coverage--but not this way. Peter Shankman's "No, You Cannot 'Borrow My Audience'" reflects the bad pitch approaches many of us bloggers have faced. Don't add to the agony. While you're at it, check out this roundup of journalists tweeting their PR pet peeves.
  6. It's not a news cycle. It's a Twittercyle: The recent announcement of the Supreme Court's decision on the health care law is a great example of why the Twittercycle trumps the traditional news cycle. Have you factored this early warning system into your work cycles? You can stay a step ahead by following AP Planner on Twitter -- it's the Associated Press advance look at major events coming in the week ahead, otherwise known as a daybook on steroids.
  7. Figure out how new and traditional media are working together: Before you dismiss traditional media formats like magazines, take the time to find out how they're incorporating and working with new media. This SlideShare offers one perspective. How will this mashup change your pitches? (Hat tip to Zan McColloch-Lussier)
Registration is now open for the next Be an Expert on Working with Experts, for communicators and related professionals who work with subject-matter experts, policy analysts, scientists and engineers. The workshop is August 23 in Washington, DC, or I can bring it to your workplace. Get an early registration discount if you sign up by August 3. Details at the link.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Course correcting? 4 great little guides to steer your social media

Maybe you're new to Facebook, Twitter, or social media strategy...or maybe you jumped right in without taking the time to work your way through the basics. Or perhaps, like many, you've hit a wall with your approach and just want some guidance. I've got four great little social media guides that will get you back on track in no time--and best of all, they're either free or low-cost, so much so that you could consider buying up a batch for your team or an in-house training session:
  1. Photos are vital on social media sites from Facebook to Pinterest, and you may be struggling with how to size your photos for optimal viewing in the various formats available. Here's a free and useful infographic, the Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet, which walks you through sizes for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. 
  2. Facebook pages may be thwarting you, with recent format changes (like cover photos) and options from pinning posts to scheduling them. The free Stupidly Simple Facebook Features Guide walks you through the key features of FB pages. Even if you're up on your page use, this guide will make sure you're making the most of that page.
  3. Did you forget to have a strategy in social media? Or is your team trying to find its way in creating a strategy? The compact Social Media Road Map: A Social Media Optimization Guide is just $7.95, so you can buy a barrelful for your team, members or volunteers to use in setting goals, creating messages, thinking about different platforms and making good use of your time in social media.
  4. Twitter's still my favorite social tool for business, and there's no better guide than The Twitter Book, now in a revised and updated second edition. With loads of curated examples, it illustrates all the business uses of Twitter, offers smart tips and advice, and will bring you up to speed on a host of tools and apps to make your strategic tweeting sharper and more successful. The paperback is currently 35% off on Amazon.