Wednesday, January 02, 2013

How not to get caught in your 2013 communications

For those who haven't been with the blog forever, my communications philosophy of "don't get caught" is a framework for communicating effectively.  It goes like this: If you're prepared, knowledgeable, trained and ready, you won't get caught by surprise, a clever interviewer or an irate audience member.

People get caught when they're communicating every day. That happens mainly because they haven't taken the time to come up with a plan or to prepare for what they're going to say and how they're going to interact with an audience, whether that audience is live and in front of them, a reporter behind a microphone or a smartphone, or "friends" scattered and on social networks. But if you're also a professional communicator, you can get caught in more ways that one: Publicly, like everyone else, and behind the scenes. They're equally fraught with peril.

This time of year, I often express my own goals and course corrections as ways to avoid getting caught--it's a life philosophy as well as a business name. While you're coming up with your own list, take a look at one that I have in place for myself, most of the time. Let this be the year that you won't get caught:
...without a sense of what your questioners will ask and how you will answer them
...without editing and proofreading your work, again, before you submit it to your editor/boss/next-level reviewer, which would remind them that you made them do the work for you
...ignoring that sand-in-your-shoe feeling about an impending problem
...getting too fond of a particular feature or option in social media, or an entire site or service
...announcing you'll never need a particular social media feature, option, site or service that presentation without practicing it enough, or at all
...forgetting to keep track of your accomplishments, large and small, and all the things you did right this week
...ghostwriting the CEO's blog
...using the same presentation style you've used for the past 10 years
...forgetting to build a relationship with that reporter, employee, boss or client
...trying to do it all in social media, poorly, instead of doing one thing well
...maintaining a Twitter feed, Facebook page or other social presence that you never participate in or update
...reading and believing your own press releases too much
...starting somewhere other than where that reporter, employee, boss or client is, whether that's a million miles behind you or a step or two ahead of you
...ignoring the calendar of what's ahead in your world and the world at large, where your competition lives (if nothing else, the competition for attention)
...using a clever analogy, metaphor or any message without having thought it through first
...forgetting to network before you need to because you're that "behind the scenes" communicator (and if you're not sure, use Lifehacker's "layoff test")
...failing to invest in your own development, no matter how senior or junior you are
...failing to plan for crises and how you'll communicate during them
...leaving training money on the table this year
...thinking that you need to be a 'natural' to do well at speaking or presenting
...using tools like embargoes, exclusives and off-the-record without actually knowing how they're supposed to work
...hanging on to communications tools and tactics that aren't working well anymore, no matter how longstanding they are or how much you dread the search for alternatives
...skipping the opportunity to review, reconsider and refresh your approaches to social media, public speaking and media strategies at least once this year
In 2013, I've got my own plans for refreshing my approach to this blog's content. You'll see more frequent posts, along with a wider range of content--interviews with communicators with case studies to share, more professional development resources for communicators, ebooks and more. I'm also introducing a "tip jar" for paid subscriptions or one-time donations to support the additional research, writing and curation activity anticipated in the coming year. And I've eliminated ads entirely from the blog, although I will continue to include affiliate links for books and other products that I recommend. I hope you'll consider participating as a subscriber or donor if this blog is among your secret weapons for not getting caught in your communications. Happy new year!

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