Friday, September 27, 2013

The weekend read

Stop. Look. Listen. It's the weekend. Time to pause and check out the great ideas and info I found and shared on Twitter this week, still my favorite busy thoroughfare on social media. Stop thinking about your traffic and figure out how to get smarter by Monday, right at this intersection:
This week, a deal that will make you light up: Regular readers know that I use Evernote to power the weekend read. It's where I save string all week to curate for you the social media and communications news that leapt out at me in my Twitterstream. Now, if you use my referral link to sign up for Evernote, you'll get a free month of Evernote Premium

Always glad to have you pulled over here on a Friday. Have a great weekend!

Registration closes today for Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8. You really will regret not signing up for this one. Join us and register today!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Using Facebook to respond in a crisis: If it's personal, it's effective

In My picture was stolen and turned into a fat-shaming anti-feminist meme on Facebook, Kelly Martin Broderick describes the kind of social media-fueled crisis that no communicator can guard against: Her photo, part of a "This is what a feminist looks like" campaign, was hijacked, turned into a meme, and shared and liked thousands of times of Facebook and Tumblr.

Broderick--a university student, not an organization unto herself-- nonetheless handled the crisis like a pro. She confirmed a report she'd had from a friend about the meme to see it for herself and saved screen grabs of the offensive comments. She got in touch with Facebook to ask for the meme's removal (a process aided by having screen grabs, by the way). When Facebook refused to remove the meme, she published a response--one that disclosed her complaint to Facebook and its response to her, while thanking her friends for their support. Rather than get angry online in turn, she opted for a positive message while calling out the meme-maker and Facebook.

Broderick put the same social tools to use that had been used to hurt her. One response used Facebook to directly share the offensive post, which not only puts the offender and anyone else who has commented on notice, but offers direct proof of the bad behavior. During this time, she also learned the meme had been shared on Tumblr, so she created her own Tumblr on This is What a Feminist Looks Like, and encouraged friends to post there. And she started sharing her story, as in the article linked above from XOJane. Some smart crisis communications group should hire her, pronto.

Turns out that method can work for your organization, too. A University of Missouri study shows that organizations can help their public image by turning to Facebook to correct the record and respond to damaging coverage. Narrative posts worked better at improving organizational image on Facebook during a crisis, the study notes, so don't limit your post to the official talking points on your crisis. It's the very personal approach Broderick took in disclosing the crisis that makes her response effective and shareable. Unfortunately, the study authors didn't share the posts used in their research, but PRNewser has already put out a call for them.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Taking a blog from zero to 60: 5 lessons from @GuideStarUSA

(Editor's note: When Lindsay J.K. Nichols shared the good news that GuideStar’s blog was cited as a top nonprofit blog, I asked her to write about how she took that blog from zero to 60, because that arc is an important one to keep in mind when you are starting a blog--or starting over with one. Nichols is communications director and curator of GuideStar’s BlogTwitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest pages, among other social media channels. You may reach her at 

It took me three years to get the hang of blogging for a brand. A couple of weeks ago, the blog that I poured so much blood, sweat, and tears into—the GuideStar Blog—was ranked by Top Nonprofits as #15 among the top 150 nonprofit blogs, giving me a reason to jump for joy. This recognition gave me a moment to pause and reflect on what worked – and what didn’t – when building a successful organizational blog. I thought I’d share with you the five things I learned along the way:
  1. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. When I came to GuideStar, I inherited two blogs, and the disparate missions of each. I spent a year pulling my hair out trying to make them work before I decided to give up and start over. And that’s the nugget I want to share here: sometimes it’s just better to abandon ship than to throw water overboard bucket by bucket. I decided to close the blogs and create a new and targeted blog with a clear mission, purpose, audience, and editorial calendar. That doesn’t mean that everything on the former blogs were unhelpful or worth wasting. I used WordPress to create the new blog, and there is a helpful export/import feature that allowed me to bring in the old content that was relevant and worth saving. But the new blog helped me rethink everything, and that was vital to getting it right. 
  2. Know your audience. As in all things communications-related, you have to know who you’re writing for, speaking to, learning from, etc. We all know that, right? Then why is it so hard to remember that when we’re blogging? Frankly, I think it’s because we (or the powers that be) want to be all things to all people. Most of us don’t just have just one target audience for our organizations; we try to reach multiple groups with one channel, like a blog. I found out quickly that this approach doesn’t work. When I created the GuideStar Blog, I focused on one clear audience: nonprofit professionals. Sure, there is a lot of range within that audience—there are people who work at nonprofits that just graduated from college, and there are people who lead nonprofits who have 40 year careers. But the crux is that they all have the same goal: to be more effective and efficient. And that’s the mission I have in mind when I tailor the content for this audience. 
  3. Curate quality content. What is content curation? As social guru Beth Kanter has said, content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. That was really important for the success of the new GuideStar Blog. The two blogs I had inherited were meant to focus on GuideStar expert-written content solely. I spent a year begging, stalking, and pleading with my colleagues to give me content about their various work. That didn’t work: people are busy, and blogging is often seen as a distraction rather than important to their bottom-line. So – I decided to look outward, and that has helped me immensely. There is so much content out there that can help nonprofit professionals, and when I first launched the GuideStar Blog, I spent a lot of time seeking these experts out to give me content. It has been so successful that now I rarely have to proactively search for that content. People understand GuideStar Blog’s purpose, and they deluge to me with content—a good problem to have. I spend a lot of time sorting through what’s coming in to make sure that content is helpful to GuideStar Blog’s target audience, and shareable. And, it should be noted, my internal experts now see the value of the GuideStar Blog and they come to me with their own content that I had begged for earlier. A total win, in my book. 
  4. It’s simple: If you don’t build it, they won’t come. After launching the GuideStar blog and spending so much time finding quality content, I was only posting sporadically, and while that was appropriate at the time – because I would be damned if I posted something that didn’t fit the blog’s mission and context – it didn’t help grow my audience. The fact is, the more you post, the more people have a chance to understand your blog’s role in the field, and the more the target audience can rely on the blog to get the information they need. It’s important to find good content, but it’s also really important to post consistently – I usually post at least three times each work week, if not five days. 
  5. Use images: There are endless amount of articles out there proclaiming that images make content inherently more interesting, and that’s doubly true with blog content. There are so many blogs out there, and if you want to be able to break through the clutter, you need to be visually appealing to catch their eye. At the minimum, I include photos of the author, because I think it helps people connect a real person with the words. If I can include another image – an infographic, photo, or even a video screen shot – I will. The important thing is to use the images purposefully so the overall look is clean and fresh rather than cluttered or confusing. 
These aren’t the only lessons I learned along my way, but they are the most salient points I wanted to share with you. These tips helped me move the GuideStar Blog from relative obscurity to #15 out of the top 150 blogs, and I hope that they help you decide the right course of action for your own organization’s blog. I’d love to hear from you. What did you find helpful when creating a blog? What is holding you back from creating one? Please let me know in the comments below!

 From Denise: I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall: Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The weekend read

Today, I'm in Brussels, chairing the autumn leadership and communication conference of the European Speechwriters Network (and alternately dodging or indulging in frites, which seem to be everywhere). I hope your week hasn't felt like the deep-fryer station, and I've still got my usual assortment of great leads, reads and ideas shared on Twitter this week--in fact, the gang at this conference mostly hangs out on Twitter, the place where I converse with people on many continents. One order of world view with those frites...
Crisp up your resume for these great communications jobs: Los Alamos National Laboratory is looking for a social media project manager...Pandora wants a public affairs director...the Portland (Oregon) Opera needs a senior manager for communications.

I'll be back at my usual station next week. Thanks for taking a virtual trip with me today, and every Friday.

I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall: Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Where to catch me: Autumn edition

I talk a lot here about not getting caught when you communicate. But in fact, you can catch me communicating in a variety of places this autumn. Here's my ambitious agenda:
  • The write stuff: Today and tomorrow, I'm in Brussels to chair the autumn leadership and communication conference of the European Speechwriters Network. We're convening at the stunning Residence Palace, shown at right, in the International Press Centre, with attendees coming from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I'm looking forward to seeing friends and collaborators, and expanding my network and thinking on speechwriting. We'll be talking about using social media to promote speeches, putting humor and quotations to work, the challenges of speaking in a second language (with perspectives from NATO, the European Union, and central banks), what Churchill's contemporary audiences thought of his most famous speeches, and more.
  • Nonprofit communications: I'll be attending the annual conference of the Communications Network, a group of philanthropy communicators that's been a part of my professional life since my days at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.We have a varied and exciting agenda at this meeting in New Orleans, with speakers on everything from visual storytelling to communications strategy. Prior to the conference, I'll be in the city for my own annual company retreat, making sense of a fruitful and productive year.
  • Workshops galore: I'm convening two workshops of my own in October, and you can still register for either Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Also in October, I'm facilitating workshops for two clients in North Carolina, including an unusual workshop on Telling Stories Three Ways: Using Visuals, Spoken Word and Social Media for nonprofit executives in the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium, sponsored by the Cone Health Foundation. And October also sees me conducting a workshop for researchers at Duke Medicine. 
  • On the page: You can catch my writing in Toastmaster, the official magazine of Toastmasters International, in the September and October issues. (Members get the magazine first, so I'll post links when the articles are more widely available.) I especially enjoyed researching an article on how technology has changed public speaking, from the days of Abraham Lincoln to TED talks, and what the ramifications are for speakers and audiences today. Look also for a piece on advice from top speechwriters, as well as ways you can use the same tools the pros do to enhance your speechwriting efforts. 
Of course, I'll have my eyes and ears wide open at the conferences I'm attending for other good ideas to publish here and elsewhere. Please do let me know if we can meet up at any of these events this fall. I love having the chance to meet in real life readers of the blog or folks with whom I'm connected on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

If you must use embargoes: 10 guidelines from Embargo Watch

I was looking for the *finally* button again last week when I saw that Ivan Oransky published If you must use embargoes, here's how to do it right. It's a collection of 10 guidelines--each one based in real-life issues communicators and reporters face when dealing with embargoed material, based on cases covered in Oransky's blog, Embargo Watch.

Oransky, a physician and journalist, is vice president and global editorial director of MedPage Today and the founder of Embargo Watch. His collection of guidelines looks at such issues as:
  • how much advance time to give reporters with embargoed material;
  • whether you can embargo information that's already on the web; 
  • about sanctions for reporters who break embargoes; and 
  • what to do when you have to lift the embargo early.
I'm delighted to see this set of guidelines. The journal in which it is published offers a free download in PDF form, so please grab it and share with your colleagues. The guidelines also offer you an authoritative back-up if you're getting pressured to bend or break the rules. Pass these along...

I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall, and you get good discounts if you register this month for Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The weekend read

This week, you've been as sharp as a pencil, and perhaps as colorful. Let's draw a line from that point straight to the weekend, so you can see the great leads, reads and ideas I shared on Twitter this week:
Thanks, as ever, for penciling me into your Friday calendar. Love having you here...

I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall: Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Getting coaching for yourself, minus cookie cutters: A communicator's dilemma

Communications pros, you know the truth: You can only go to so many brown-bag lunches with guest speakers or annual conference panel discussions before you run out of suitable professional development opportunities for yourself. There are plenty of cookie-cutter options, but you yearn for something different. You may be in charge of cooking up training opps for your board of directors, CEO, or volunteers, but find yourself in the training version of a food desert when it comes to your own progress.

I've been on both sides of this dilemma, in search of challenging training opportunities for myself as well as creating them for the clients I coach. Here are some training opps that don't come out of a cookie cutter:

  1. Get coaching for a specific task or event: As a coach, I've helped many clients prepare for specific tasks that range from TED talks and emceeing events to testifying before Congress or appearing on television with an aggressive interviewer. I've been getting ready to chair an international conference, and sought coaching for that demanding role myself. This approach focuses both trainer and trainee. You don't have to cover every eventuality under the sun, and you'll see results quickly. I recommend this type of coaching when you assume a new role--say, president of your professional society or a management promotion--as well as for specific events.
  2. Get an observer for your work: Once in a while, I'll ask a coach or colleague to observe me in action, usually while I am speaking or training, so they can share what they see. This takes a bit of nerve, but can be among the most rewarding forms of coaching. I guarantee you'll learn a lot from a different set of eyes. Try asking a coach to observe you in meetings, while managing a project, or during presentations.
  3. Ask about a custom option: Potential clients are always calling to say "I need training geared for an introvert" or "a scientist" or "women," all specialties of mine as a Washington, DC-based coach of speakers and presenters. But some take it further, creating truly customized options. That introvert might want coaching to be more effective in networking during a busy season of conferences. The woman might want to be heard during business meetings, and the scientist might want to better reach a non-technical audience, like the guys down the hall in marketing. You'll never know what a coach can do for you until you ask for what you really want--and I'm always open to hearing your ideas.
  4. Look for training sessions in your niche: One reason I created the Be an Expert on Working with Experts workshop was to share the insights I wish I'd had earlier in my career about working with scientists, engineers, policy wonks and subject-matter experts. There's another experts workshop coming up October 8 if you want to check it out, and I also bring the workshop to professional conferences of communicators, like the National Cancer Institute's Public Affairs and Marketing Network conference next April in Columbus, Ohio. Use your networks to ask about good training opportunities geared toward your niche.
  5. Break the challenge into smaller bites: Maybe you want to become a better public speaker, but need to get over that first hurdle by building confidence in public speaking situations and learning how to manage your nervousness. Or you'd like to start a blog but want to figure out a planning process and editorial calendar first. Breaking your training goals into smaller components may help you tackle the task and find appropriate training. 
  6. Go outside your own profession: I sought training in negotiation, a legal specialty, to do a better job coaching and managing, and in visual art, to build creativity and a different way of seeing. In my own work, I work with scientists learning how to reach public audiences, something outside their box. Finding training from a relevant profession beyond your own can help you expand your range of skills and your perspective.
  7. Get out of the country: I had the chance to keynote the spring conference of the European Speechwriters Network and UK Speechwriters Guild, and am going back this month to chair the next session--and I'm so glad I pushed out of my geographic box to do that. Hands down, that conference is among the most productive I've ever attended, expanding my networking, letting me discover new collaborators, and pushing my thinking on my own work. We've all been to conferences we go to year after year, complaining about the content and talking to the same 10 people. Why not try something new, somewhere new? It makes sense for communicators in an increasingly global economy.
Please do let me know if you're a communicator in search of more challenging coaching and training for yourself. Just email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz to get started.

(Photo from the ambientoasis photostream on Flickr)

I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall: Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The intertwined lives of TV and social media: Recent trends

While newspapers and other mainstream media struggle with incorporating social media into their mix, television has had surprising success. Far from holding social media at arm's length, TV has embraced it--and you can learn much from the myriad ways social media is in use in the television world. Here are some recent trends:
I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall: Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!

Friday, September 06, 2013

The weekend read

I never promised you a rose garden. But I can promise you this: It's Friday, and the weekend is almost here. Stop and smell the roses I gathered for you this week on Twitter--my best finds and leads, just for you:
A rosy future in these jobs? The George Washington University needs a director of communications and marketing for its School of Media and Public Affairs...Duke University wants a senior science writer for its engineering school

It's like getting a bouquet every week, seeing you here. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall: Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Hiring journos to do PR: The walrus exercises [VIDEO]

I got talked out of journalism and into PR a long time ago, but I still remember stomping into my very patient boss's office every couple of minutes, saying, "Can you believe they want me to....?"

The adjustment sounds easy-ish, both to the communicators hiring journalists, and the journos taking the job. But in reality, it's often awkward and full of mistaken assumptions on both parts. I've wanted to write about this for some time, but haven't been able to find words as apt as the video below, shared by a former journalist I know who jumped to a PR firm and jumped back out to independent writing. He says this captures the experience perfectly. Watch the video, then add a comment: What advice would you give to communications pros hiring former journalists to do PR? What would make the transition work better?

I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall: Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!