Friday, January 29, 2016

The weekend read

Two lumps of coal and a carrot: That's what's left after you faced the week, communicators. Time to assemble those parts into a jolly snowman called the weekend, using these critical tools: my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Snow use pretending you aren't glad it's Friday:
Pile on the snow: Buy my ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels; tell your colleagues to put this blog in their feeds; sign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Jason Bolonski)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Public opinion surveys and cellphones: A tipping point?

The Pew Research Center just announced it will conduct more survey interviews by cellphone in 2016, as much as 75 percent of its interviews. And depending on how much you know about cellphones and public opinion surveys, that's either one kind of surprise--can they do that?--or another--weren't they already doing that?

Pew Research does a good job answering those questions, which more or less share an answer: You can call cellphones, but it's difficult and expensive to do so, sometimes doubling the cost of the interview process. It used to be that sampling homes with no landline was the biggest hurdle in accurate public opinion surveys; now that's still true, but with a cellphone to complicate things. Here's how Pew describes that:
Cellphone-only individuals are considerably younger than people with a landline. They tend to have less education and lower incomes than people with a landline. They are also more likely to be Hispanic and to live in urban areas. For this reason, excluding cellphones from a poll – or not including enough of them – would provide a sample that is not representative of all U.S. adults.
So if your company or organization cares about audience data in those populations--or just more accurate aggregate findings for U.S. adults--this is good news.

I think it's essential for communications pros to not only share and use public opinion data in their work, but to understand more about how these data are gathered, so methodology changes of this type are must-knows. I also love the reminders in this recent post, A Psephologist's Lament, which explains why sample size and margins of error may not be the significant indicators they appear to be:
A word of caution. Don't be thrown by sample size and the margin of error. For example, the margin of error is a statistical concept that largely relates to the numbers of people interviewed. It is often misunderstood in that it is not really an error at all but the acceptable range that poll findings would fall within had you interviewed the entire population. Who you interview, how you interview them, and how you model your data are more significant indicators of quality than the number of people in a poll. Put it this way, if you have a badly constructed sample, the more people you interview the more inaccurate your results will be. The errors in your data will multiply while the margin of error will shrink making the poll appear more precise and rigorous.
I'll be sharing that kind of thinking with two groups of clients I'm working with this month, starting with last week's workshop on Communicating with Non-Scientists: Audiences and Stakeholders for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and its Science & Technology Policy Fellows, scientists who come from all over the U.S. to work in Washington in congressional and federal offices needing science advisement. In that session, I shared lots of sources and findings from opinion research on non-scientist public audiences--and encouraged the Fellows to do the same, since so many of them work in agencies that hold treasure troves of such data. And I'll be presenting a review of public opinion on human-computer interaction to a board committee of SIGCHI, a special-interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery, with a special focus on audience data that may be useful in developing public messaging. In both cases, understanding more about the methodology in public opinion research helps these groups think through how useful--or not--it can be as a tool in public communication.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Garry Knight)

Friday, January 22, 2016

The weekend read

The weekend is here, it the marshmallow floating in the week that was your hot chocolate. Time to stir in my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter (except during that time when Twitter was down this week) and curated here just for you. Let's share a warming beverage, shall we?
Marshmallow on top: Buy my ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels; tell your colleagues to put this blog in their feeds; sign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Janice Marie Foote)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Should comms pros hang out with speechwriters?

In Eight reasons why general comms people should hang out with speechwriters at the spring meeting of the UK Speechwriters Guild conference in April, speechwriter and UKSG director Brian Jenner gets at an idea I've been advocating for a long time. That's because, while communications pros sometimes write speeches and sometimes supervise speechwriters, many of them have never learned the proper basics of speechwriting, let alone the more sophisticated concepts and trends behind the craft.

Fortunately, that's what you will get at this conference, one of my favorite gatherings to attend. I've keynoted, chaired, and led workshops at previous sessions and I have an amazing global network to show for it. This is a friendly, smart, funny group of people, and my only regret is that a client commitment in April means I won't be at this particular session.

The conference includes pre-conference workshops on speechwriting skills, and the conference days feature no panel discussions--a refreshing rarity. You'll find the program and registration information here and early-bird discount tickets are available until 29 January. Grab this chance to expand your speechwriting horizons in a great setting with this delightful group.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Pablo Fernandez)

Friday, January 15, 2016

The weekend read

Dam it. The sum of the week has accumulated and all you can see is icicles and that crack in the roof shingles. Time to gently warm the ice dams with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you, communicators. The weekend thaw is upon us:
On ice: Buy my ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels; tell your colleagues to put this blog in their feeds; sign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Grant MacDonald)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How my audiobook habit helps my blogging (& your media relations?)

2015 was a year in which spare time was in short supply for me. But I still managed to do extensive research for my blogs, read for pleasure and self-improvement, and, develop a repertoire that can influence networking and even media relations--all with audiobooks.

Audiobooks have been my secret weapon for many years, but last year saw my listening go into overdrive. I'm not the only one. New York Times reporter Amy Chozick, who's covering the presidential campaign, wrote about how audiobooks break up her long driving trips and offer insights useful in her coverage:
I try to choose books thematically. Events focused on race and criminal justice in the South, for instance, called for Mr. Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” which he reads himself. His deep voice delivered a punch to the gut and a perspective that stayed with me. Hours later, when Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted one of Mrs. Clinton’s events, Mr. Coates’s musings to his son still echoed in my head: “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body.”
You might start asking reporters you work with whether audio formats are more useful to them.

As a blogger, audiobooks make it possible for me to easily do more in-depth research and find a wider range of inspiration. Being able to dive into a book in this way means I get to hear many more bits of data, anecdotes, facts, and perspectives that translate into dozens of posts. My audiobooks of choice are from Audible, and you can use this link to try Audible and get two free audiobooks. You can even return audiobooks you don't find to your liking--a great deal. As a blogger, I do sometimes want to refer to written text, particularly if I need to quote a long passage. In those instances, I get the Kindle version of the book and it syncs automatically with the Audible version, a huge advantage.

Here are some of the books I turned to in 2015, and how they helped me:
  1. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness is a great place to start if you want to meditate and don't know how or think you don't have the time to do it. Jon Kabat-Zinn's intro to meditation is a book I re-listen to at least annually, and I use his guided meditation series to meditate while I walk, take the bus, or wait in waiting rooms or for the rest of the passengers to board the plane. This is my real secret weapon for all purposes. On The Eloquent Woman blog, I used it as a starting point for a post on what meditation can do for public speakers.
  2. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough surprised me with anecdotes I'd never heard before of the brothers' mixed relationship with the news media of the day, a little journalism history that lends perspective to today's media relations. And it's a stunning history of two truly original minds. In audiobook form, I sailed through this very long biography in no time, and it inspired this post on the don't get caught Facebook page--you are following, aren't you?
  3. Poetry for the Winter Season is going back into rotation this January. The collection of poems about winter, from many perspectives, is a great accompaniment when I'm striding around the city with the subject matter illustrated before me--it helps me "see" winter differently, and that inspired this post on playing the winter games in social media on this blog.
  4. Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World gave me the background I needed about a famous public speaking turn by Ginsburg for a post on my blog, The Eloquent Woman...and gave me a great path through modern feminist and legal history at the same time. I found inspiration for many more posts in its pages.
  5. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by mega-producer Shonda Rhimes could have been a satisfying read in an ebook or hardcover edition. But because so much of what she said "yes" to in that year involved speeches, the audiobook includes actual audio of her delivering the speeches, so I could hear verbal nuances and audience reactions--perfect for a public-speaking blogger. Her "You are not alone" speech to the Human Rights Campaign Fund was featured on The Eloquent Woman, and now I have her perspective on that turn. In addition, I found that enough of the book dealt with public speaking to warrant another post, Is 2016 your public speaking 'year of yes?'
  6. Rising Strong, the latest book from Brené Brown, is read by the author and, as Brown likes to share stories about her own public speaking, from her TED talks to everyday lectures, it's another rich source for my public speaking blog. In this case, I chose a new anecdote about her first TEDx talk to write Happily ever after? Why you shouldn't neaten up personal failure stories.
  7. The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by chef Dan Barber shows a master storyteller in action. Bonus for media relations types: There's a disastrous dinner he served to a table full of editors from Gourmet, and their disgusted reactions put him on a path to exploring sustainable seafood. It's a truly vulnerable moment, one that not many famous leaders could pull off. This is a compelling listen, and I was sorry to reach the end. It's also a book that taught me to look differently at food, a subject I think I know a few things about...and that's a great lesson. Haven't featured this on the blogs, but I use it and the TED talk based on it when I'm coaching speakers.
  8. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming is a natural for a blog called don't get caught. I'm listening to sharpen what Hemingway called a "bullshit detector," in our age of trolls and falsehoods on the Interwebs. This is pure background for me, but if you're a communications pro, or you work in a controversial area, it should be a must-read.
  9. Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear isn't just helping me change my footwear, but my walking, so it's a natural for listening when I'm trying out my minimal shoes, which is most of the time these days. Katy Bowman's a great guide to moving more and better. Look for me and my Vibram five-finger shoes in the airport or downtown Washington, DC. I'll have my earbuds in, listening.
Thanks to a tip from my brother, I've just done the audio version of inhaling Tom Bergeron's I'm Hosting as Fast as I Can!, and in addition to being entertaining, it holds a trove of gems useful to public speakers in a variety of situations. Stand by for that post...

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Image Catalog)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Better media interviews: 13 tips & resources

Forget the reporter: Most of the time, the mistakes that you fear in a media interview are the ones in which you trip yourself up. (We don't call this blog don't get caught for nothing, you know.) Here is a baker's dozen of small steps, tips, and resources you can use to keep your interview, and yourself, on track:
  1. Keep it short: If your answers are so long-winded that you get cut off thinking "But there's more I had to say" in an interview, you should learn how long the modern soundbite is. Think single digits, in seconds. Besides, a short answer gives the reporter a chance to do his job and ask another question. Be sure you leave time for him, too.
  2. Use your message wisely, not too well: Once you've figured out what you want to say, how do you use that message in an interview without repeating it like a robot?
  3. Remember: You don't have all the answers: Have you overstepped or overstated something just to come up with an answer? No need. In fact, sometimes "I don't know" is the most valuable thing you can contribute, especially if you're an expert. Here's how to fix that or avoid it in the first place.
  4. Check the calendar: Using an analogy to answer a media question crisply and vividly is a great idea. But is your analogy out of date? Then it may hurt more than help.
  5. Step carefully through that answer: The devil's in the complex question, so it pays to think through how to answer them and avoid the chance of getting misquoted.
  6. Watch for the traps you set yourself:  There are lots of ways you can get caught when you're answering a reporter's question--and most of them are traps of your own making, not the reporter's. In some cases, correcting your impulses will make for a better interview for both of you.
  7. Your turn to ask: You get to ask questions in an interview, too. Here are 12 questions to ask reporters--some suggested by journalists--that will help you feel better prepared and yield a better interview.
  8. Find other ways to buy time: Stop saying "That's a very good question" as a way to buy time before you answer a media interview question. It's a longer version of "um," I'm afraid. I've got ideas for how you can better advance the interview, redirect the question or clarify a misperception.
  9. Respond, don't react, to questions: If you disagree with the reporter in the middle of a recorded interview, that might become the story. A real-life case study with suggestions for doing it differently. In general, it's a good idea to remember that you should respond--not react--to the reporter's question.
  10. Get to the point: How interview answers differ from lectures: If you keep telling the interviewer that you're going to tell him soon the answer to his question, he (and the audience) might not want to wait around. Here's how to stop that bad habit and get to the point faster.
  11. Making news all on your own? Sometimes the "interview" isn't an interview. You might become an accidental broadcaster and make news another way. Here's how to avoid making that kind of misstep.
  12. Correct yo'self: Don't wait till the interview's over, then complain about mistakes. Instead, use the two opportunities you have to make corrections--both of them right during the interview--to have a pain-free result.
  13. When training helps: If you're facing a particular kind of interview, you might need more specialized media training. Here's what to ask for. I'd be glad to work with you on your preparations, whether you are building skills you can use again and again or focused on a particular interview. Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.

Friday, January 08, 2016

The weekend read

I defy you to think of them as leftovers. These are my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. I even labeled them to help you find the dish you need to get smarter by Monday. Now, get cooking:
Let it go: Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, buy my ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels;  or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at gmail dotcom.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by lisaclarke)

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Promoting your new book? Get creative with social platforms

I'll never forget the time I was speaking to a writers' group about Pinterest, and showed a slide with one of the members' books displayed on that site. The author was surprised: She wasn't a Pinterest user, and had never thought of it as a vehicle for promoting her book. But readers did, and shared the image and link to where they bought it. And if the image was linked back to Amazon or another sales site, they were probably buying it right from the pinned image.

It was a lesson to me that book authors need to get creative when it comes to using social media as a promotional tool. The ideas aren't complex, but require that extra step authors are sometimes reluctant to take. Here, some ideas from my observations and my and others' experiences:
  1. Follow the readers: Before you write even one promotional tweet, do some searching for your book or similar books. Where are users posting about your book, or your topic? Like the writer who wasn't looking on Pinterest, you might be missing a ready-made community that will help you promote. Don't discount a particular platform until you've done some research. 
  2. Establish your own platforms long before your book exists: I know, I know, you're busy writing. But it's wise to start with an established audience before you need to sell the book, so you have fans ready to share and review. While I started the Moderating Panels blog to promote The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels, I already had a sizeable readership interested in public speaking for The Eloquent Woman blog, and cross-promoted it on both sites. Having a ready audience helped me target promotions and build a bigger base, faster. Even more important for authors: Publishers' promotions come and go. Build your own base for perpetual promotion of your book.
  3. Choose social sites with a nose for search: YouTube, Pinterest, and now Facebook are powerhouses of search, so if someone's looking for your book or something like it, chances are good that they'll search on one of those sites. Search isn't just for Google anymore. If you need to prioritize your time, choose a social site with excellent search capability.
  4. Get creative with reviews and kinds words: Tell us how it feels to get the review you got, instead of just sharing a link to it. "Bummed to see the Times review, which missed a critical point..." or "Thrilled at this thoughtful review by the Express, because..." are lines that help readers relate to you and learn more about the book. Every review is a chance to respond and share your thinking, authors, whether you do that on a blog, Facebook page, Twitter, or all three. And if the reviews suggest ways to use your book, highlight what readers and reviewers are saying. My book on moderating panels sometimes inspires moderators to share it with the entire panel, and that's going to be the focus of an upcoming blog post with the power of suggestion. 
  5. Think visually: Use PicMonkey, Canva, or another graphic-creation site to make word-art
    with quotes from good reviews, or even choice quotes from the book, like this one from Dorothy Parker Drank Here author Ellen Meister. Then post them on sites where visual quotes are popular, like Facebook, Pinterest, even Twitter. While you're at it, be sure to share plenty of images of yourself and your book cover. The same goes for videos, which can be shared not only on YouTube, but Pinterest and LinkedIn and Facebook. Answer reader questions or explain why a reviewer got it right...or wrong. Do a short reading. Show us the office where you wrote the book, or sites included in it.
  6. Play the long game: Traditional book publicity focuses on your book's publication date, but you need to play the long game on social media, so future audiences can find your book and to keep sales moving. Don't devote your only posts to the month or two after publication. Even a tweet a day can help improve sales, and can be scheduled ahead. You'd be surprised what a steady drip-drip-drip of posts will do to help newcomers discover your book.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by quattrostagioni)

Friday, January 01, 2016

The weekend read

Let's end the week and start the year with all our toes in the water, communicators. Consider the pond my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Come on in and chill for the new year:
On ice: Buy my ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels; tell your colleagues to put this blog in their feeds; sign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at Happy new year!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Glenn Euloth)