Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The courage to encourage

Somewhere today, someone's resolution for the new year will be to explore going out on their own. What will you say when they confide their dream?

When someone I know well asks me to talk over their desire to go independent or take some other entrepreneurial risk, I always take the time to share insights and encouragement. I used to also refer these wannabes on to another business owner for advice, until one of the wannabes came back to me in tears. She'd been so thoroughly discouraged by my colleague that she was shelving her dream, ashamed of even having asked the question.

Then I remembered that this colleague had long ago once admitted seeing independents as "the competition." At the time, I'd dismissed this as ridiculous. But now, I saw it translated into advice designed to stop competitors before they opened their doors.

As business strategies go, I don't recommend it. As Seth Godin points out, approaching your business by trying to eliminate your competition means your goal is to be the provider of last resort. Far from a good growth strategy, it comes from a vision of scarcity. I'm much more a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats person, myself.

One of my mentors warned me a little over 10 years ago that starting this business would be the most intellectual thing I'd ever do. He was right, and I love that about entrepreneurship. I spin new ideas, review missteps, and mostly, encourage myself to keep at it, since entrepreneurs are the chief encouragement officers of their businesses--even if you're a solopreneur. Maybe especially. Encouragement of yourself takes dreaming, underrated as an intellectual activity. You need to be able to picture yourself succeeding at something, or at least trying it.

But now I realize that encouraging others takes courage. You need to be able to picture the other person succeeding at something, or at least trying it, and have the courage to see it as something other than a threat to you. To encourage, you need to share courage, something impossible to give away if you don't have extra for yourself.

The root of courage and encouragement comes from the French word for heart, coeur. Another word for encouragement is to hearten. We spin dreams in the mind, and seat them in the heart. That conversation missed the warning in Yeats's lines, "I have spread my dreams under your feet./Tread softly for you tread on my dreams." Treading softly need not mean skirting the harsh realities ahead for the person you're encouraging. Far from it.  I like to talk to my wannabe independent friends about the risks, then quote Robert Redford, who says about his own entrepreneurship, "Not taking a risk is a risk."

I'm fortunate to have many clients who practice active appreciation and encouragement. But for everyday purposes, I've got a couple of partners in encouragement, which is a good way to keep that muscle in shape and use it frequently. We find each other's courage for our respective ventures infectious, and we know it's needed not just when a venture launches, but at many steps along the way. That helps us create opportunities for one another

How did that start? We connected in the way that Kare Anderson talks about in this TED talk on being an opportunity-maker:
What I'm asking you to consider is what kind of opportunity-makers we might become, because more than wealth or fancy titles or a lot of contacts, it's our capacity to connect around each other's better side and bring it out. And I'm not saying this is easy, and I'm sure many of you have made the wrong moves too about who you wanted to connect with, but what I want to suggest is, this is an opportunity....
She concludes with:
I truly believe, in my firsthand experience, the world is hungry for us to unite together as opportunity-makers and to emulate those behaviors as so many of you already do — I know that firsthand — and to reimagine a worldwhere we use our best talents together more often to accomplish greater things togetherthan we could on our own. Just remember, as Dave Liniger once said, "You can't succeed coming to the potluck with only a fork."
So if you have a friend who's taking the risk of taking a risk in 2015, don't just toast the spinning ideas and dreams when they and the year are fresh. Bring out the champagne and the courage and the thoughtful connections when it's least expected and most needed. And repeat. Having the courage to encourage, remember, means you have plenty left over for yourself. Watch Kare Anderson's funny, wise talk for a little more inspiration, and happy new year!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Zen Sutherland)

Friday, December 26, 2014

The weekend read

On Boxing Day, let's rummage through the presents and unwrap my finds of the week, shared on @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you, communicators. Push aside that ribbon and paper...I think there are still a few gems under this tree:
It's always a gift to see you here in time for the weekend, communicators. Tell your friends about the weekend read.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by The Classy Kat)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The DGC blog's top 10 posts for communicators in 2014

You can look out on 2014 as a field of open sea and sky, or look down at the rocks on the beach, each a gem of infinite variety, color, and size. It's how I feel about the posts you read the most last year: Some, rock-hard, specific, colorful, and practical. Some with vistas for strategy and perspective. It's always a gift of the sea to see what you chose the most:
  1. New free guide to verifying digital content in a crisis really wasn't linkbait, despite the words new/free/guide/digital/crisis. This is one useful handbook to pass around your comms shop.
  2. 10 ways to get your nonprofit board behind you on social media was requested by a participant in one of my workshops on using social media for storytelling for nonprofits. It's always a great way to cut to the chase, and get answers you need.
  3. Writing a book in Evernote on women and public speaking tells you how I started collecting and organizing notes and web clips for this big project.
  4. The weekend read as a blog sharpening tool unveiled my secret agenda behind the popular "weekend read" posts I do every Friday on this blog. You, too, can create a weekly feature that's a go-to item for your readers and clients.
  5. #HistoryRelived at the British Library: A social media case study took advantage of a workshop I participated in during a trip to London to get a new perspective on using Twitter to communicate history. This was fun and insightful.
  6. I don't write blog posts until I'm ready to write. Here's what I do instead.  Without interns or assistants, I blog at least five times a week, on one or the other of my two primary blogs. Here's how.
  7. Down with acronyms (DWA): Don't get caught making these mistakes  If your organization is acronym-prone, some communications-oriented thoughts on where the tripwires lie.
  8. Strategic View: Q&A with Binghamton University communicator Rachel Coker. This interview series asks smart communicators for perspective, and here, a thoughtful science communicator's ideas really took hold with readers.
  9. Are you ignoring published research because it's not embargoed?  builds on a post highlighted on Embargo Watch blog, in which one science communicator called out her peers.
  10. What Hemingway wrought: Word-limited storytelling's 2nd wave looked at the six-word story phenomenon, both venerable and newly popular. It's also a useful tool in the age of Twitter.
If you work with scientists, physicians, policy wonks and other subject-matter experts, you'll find useful my popular workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts. The next session is February 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Register at the link by January 9 to get the best rate; all registration closes January 29 or when all seats are filled. Don't miss the workshop communicators call "informative and eye-opening."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Paperless and paper, yes: How social media has changed my ways

My consulting and coaching business is 10 years old this year, and almost immediately after I launched it in 2004, I found myself looking for ways to go paperless in the office. Blogging was just the start, serving as my primary marketing vehicle then and now; all my social media presences drive users back to the blogs. Today, my file cabinet's empty and much of my storage is in the cloud. But this year, I went back to paper--for just a few uses, all of them designed to leave my office rather than stay there. Here's what has changed, and how you can get discounts on the services that help me use, and lose, paper:

To get paperless:
  1. I gave up scanning receipts and business cards and got Shoeboxed, which gets an envelope of my receipts and business cards from contacts every month, scans them, recycles them, and makes it easy for me to download them in a variety of useful formats. Get 10 percent off Shoeboxed with my link. For anything else that needs scanning, I use a portable Doxie scanner. It mostly lives on my desk, but is small enough to pop into a suitcase if I need it on the road.
  2. My reading's electronic, whether I'm listening to audiobooks from Audible or reading ebooks on my Kindle and scanning RSS feeds in Feedly Pro. Several years ago, I donated hundreds of books to a local charity and kept just a few hard-to-find references and art books. 
  3. I stopped signing paper contracts (with the exception of one slow-to-modernize client) and sign everything with DocuSign, which has helped me process and sign contracts all over the world with ease. Use my link to get 30 days free and 10 percent off DocuSign.
  4. I gave up my file cabinet and transferred the contents and most of my brain to Evernote Premium, and now I create new documents in Evernote and clip articles from the web right into my notebooks. I've integrated my email, Feedly Pro, IFTTT, DocuSign, and a host of other programs with Evernote, making it easy for me to capture what I want to save. Use my link to get a free month of Evernote Premium once you register, install, and sign into your first free Evernote account.
I go paper-yes these days when I want to market on a personal level. The catch: Everything I order is designed to leave the office eventually! For this, I use MOO's ever-expanding range of products, and recently ordered the following for 2015:
  • Revised letterhead and envelopes, primarily used to send handwritten, personal notes to clients, particularly clients I've coached 1:1. It's a more intimate form of outreach that suits the business relationship, and makes a major impact. Inc. magazine offers tips for writing standout thank-you notes, in case you've forgotten how to do it.
  • Updated business cards. With more and more international contacts and clients, my cards now include ways to reach me on Skype as well as by phone and email. I include a photo of me on both cards and letterhead so the new contacts I meet can remember me better, and I chose a MOO design that coordinates my card and letterhead visually. I've even ordered a rush set of MOO cards when I ran out right before a conference in Amsterdam, and had them delivered to my hotel via MOO's European site.
  • Customized holiday cards for my clients, collaborators, and suppliers. MOO lets me print a custom message with room for a handwritten one, and adjust the back of the card to remind recipients I'd like to work with them in 2015, how to refer me on LinkedIn, and what my core business offerings are, briefly and attractively. You can add logos or pictures, too. The cards come with envelopes.
  • A two-sided postcard flyer about my coaching services. It's the briefest of summaries to let clients know that I coach speakers 1:1, in training groups, and backstage or in advance for conferences, as well as my credentials and contact info. Again, envelopes are included, although these also may be used as handouts at workshops.
  • Invitations for a series of client parties I'll be hosting in 2015. The design allowed me to customize a standing set of contact information, leaving plenty of room for a handwritten invitation.
  • For my houseguests, a series of cards they can tuck in their wallets with my home address so they can find their way back, landline and cell phone numbers, and most important, the codes for my secure wifi. These stay in the guest room for easy access--no need to wonder when to ask for the info!
Right now, my office looks like a paper processing plant, but not for long. Those letters, notes and invitations are headed out into the world! Use my link with MOO to get 10 percent off your first order, or more if you choose MOO for 10+ employees across your business.

If you work with scientists, physicians, policy wonks and other subject-matter experts, you'll find useful my popular workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts. The next session is February 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Register at the link by January 9 to get the best rate; all registration closes January 29 or when all seats are filled. Don't miss the workshop communicators call "informative and eye-opening."

Friday, December 12, 2014

The weekend read

Let's take the spotlight off you and this messy week, shall we, and put it where it belongs: Lighting a path to the weekend. In the starring role as we roll toward that bright object are the data, reads and leads I shared in my Twitterstream this week. They've been culled and curated here to spotlight only the best news for communicators:
For me, the end-of-week spotlight is always on you! Thanks for coming back again.

If you work with scientists, physicians, policy wonks and other subject-matter experts, you'll find useful my popular workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts. The next session is February 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Register at the link by January 9 to get the best rate; all registration closes January 29 or when all seats are filled. Don't miss the workshop communicators call "informative and eye-opening." And if you are an expert, please share the workshop with a communicator near'll pay off in the long run.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Scientists, docs, experts: Send this to a communicator

This is for all the experts--scientists, engineers, physicians, policy wonks, and other subject-matter experts--who want to love the communications pros they work with, but find it difficult.

You get that participating in legislative testimony, donor meetings, and media interviews can be helpful. But those requests are taking up too much of your time, coming at the last minute, and you're feeling generally unprepared for them. So more often than not, you're not available or at best, uncomfortable.

I've seen you out there, and worked with many like you in a long career of working within organizations loaded with scientists and experts. These days, I've created a workshop I wish I'd had when I first started working with experts, and I want you to share it with a communicator you want to love.

Be an Expert on Working with Experts gives communicators what they rarely see: A look at the world from your perspective and preferences. The goal is better cooperation and better understanding of how communicators can support experts and meet communications and public-facing goals at the same time...without anyone getting hurt. Communicators call it "informative and eye-opening," and said "I particularly appreciated her emphasis on understanding a speaker's needs and motivations in order to help them deliver the best possible presentation."

Registration details are below. Pass them on to a communicator, fundraiser, or government relations pro near you, and anticipate a better working relationship to come. This workshop fills up fast, so don't delay in sharing it! If you're at a university, it may help your communicator to know that the February session follows the CASE District II conference in Washington, DC, and is an easy public transport trip from the conference hotel.

The next session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts is February 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Register at the link by January 9 to get the best rate; all registration closes January 29 or when all seats are filled. Don't miss the workshop communicators call "informative and eye-opening."

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Winning the long-form interview: Fewer talking points and CEOs

Any reporter or producer will tell you that the long-form interview, particularly on radio, requires a different level of preparation. And that goes double in this Communications Network interview with NPR Fresh Air radio host Terry Gross,

Gross, whose hour-long program routinely features 20-to-40-minute interviews, shared some insights on using talking points for preparation, and using technical jargon. Here's what she had to say about an interviewee loaded with repeatable talking points:
Yeah, it’s like the last thing we want. There are some [shows] you need to go in with talking points because the person interviewing you is not going to know what to ask you. They’re not necessarily going to get to what’s interesting. And you need to come in armed with the points you want to get across. But you don’t want to sound like they’re talking points; you want them to sound spontaneous. On some shows, cable news shows, if they sound like talking points, maybe that’s not a bad thing. But we’re not that show. So you have to know where you’re sending the person and arm them accordingly.
And then she was asked about CEOs who tend to use what one of my clients calls "jargonese," in this case, a phrase like "building systems." She equivocated not at all:
No, no, no, no, no. You cannot use those words. If people are talking about building systems, they are not going to be on our show. There are times when I think the CEO shouldn’t be the person who should be sent out—it’s the person in the field. If you want to talk about effective teaching strategies, maybe you want to send an effective teacher, who can tell first person stories about what works and what doesn’t in the classroom.
So, media relations types, there's your target: A CEO who can handle a long-form interview without sounding like either a robot or a jargon-laden strategic plan. Can you manage that? If you want media training for that CEO to increase storytelling and conversational interview skills, email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.