Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Is livestream now mainstream?

It took an act of Congress--well, some of it--to prove that livestreaming's got serious potential for communicating broadly. When members of Congress staged a sit-in on the House floor to force votes on gun control and the official cameras were turned off to limit the reach of their protest, members turned to their smartphones to broadcast live via Periscope and Facebook Live. C-SPAN  decided to share these live broadcasts on cable television, and the latest livestreaming stars were born. The results were impressive: 3 million views on Facebook Live. One member's Facebook Live streaming yielded 10,000 comments. C-SPAN boosted broadcast to 100 million households. And Periscope, said by some to have been the platform of choice for this livestream, hasn't released data on the audience reach.

The sit-in and its livestreaming moment came hard on the heels of a report that Facebook has signed more than 140 contracts with brands, celebrities, and media companies, paying them a reported $50 million to livestream with frequency--an effort to prime the pump and show the world how it works, or can work. But in an afternoon, the non-tech-savvy members of Congress managed to boost livestreaming faster than all those contracts put together.

For those of us who aren't members of Congress, or brands being paid by Facebook to livestream, is livestream really mainstream?

Livestream's Jesse Hertzberg thinks so. In Finally, The Year of Livestreaming, he makes the case for this moment as a pivotal one, and outlines some of the trends and forces that make it so. And he acknowledges the importance of a pivotal factor, one you can't really buy:
Gathering a live audience has always been the biggest hurdle. For live video to achieve its potential, enough people need to watch to create a shared experience. If you don’t have the built-in fan base of Apple, SpaceX, or Jazz at Lincoln Center, it’s difficult to build a substantive live audience around your events and announcements. This problem has been solved by platforms like Facebook and Twitter that combine knowledge of your interests with the ability to immediately engage a community in the moment. But drawing an audience still requires amazing content and strategic distribution. You want to reach your audience across platforms and devices, wherever they may be.
Communicators, it's time to start rethinking the potential and use to which you can put this new tool. To those of you with live events galore and an ability to gather people to you, congratulations. You own the secret sauce of livestreams. But here are some more angles to consider when you're brainstorming how livestreaming fits in your plans:
  • Scarcity of people, location, or advance notice can all create good conditions for livestreaming, as the congressional sit-in proved. So what if only members can be on the floor of the House? So what if the official cameras were turned off? Can you let your audience get a look at an event that they would otherwise be unable to attend, like TEDSummit? A place they can't get to? 
  • Scarcity of reporters for your news events: If you scientific meeting is in a distant location and reporters have interest, but can't attend in person, livestreaming sessions or press conferences is easier than ever. Consider pre-ordering the Mevo camera, which lets you edit on the fly, stream now or share your video later, and offers high-quality production values in a tiny package. (See video below.) It's about to deliver at the end of July.
  • A view to which only you have access: As with non-streaming video, sharing a behind-the-scenes look at something only your company or organization can see expands your possibilities with livestreaming. That goes double for views of an event as it unfolds, like the live cameras streaming to watch wild or zoo animals being born have shown. You might do the same as a building rises, as an archaeological dig progresses, and more.
Finally, YouTube has expanded its livestreaming options to its app, an important consideration for those of you who want your livestreams to be found. It's worth a reminder that, owned by Google, YouTube is the second most-used search engine around. Facebook Live just announced several upgrades, including the ability to do a two-person broadcast from two locations.

 Here's a short video about the Mevo camera, which you can pre-order here:

Friday, June 24, 2016

The weekend read

The pools are open. What's standing between you and a deep dive into my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you? It's Friday, people. Plenty of time left to get smarter by Monday:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by MrTinDC)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Building relationships with reporters

"And if you print that, our relationship will be terminated."

"Sir, we don't have a relationship."

That exchange between Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and Clark MacGregor, then a White House congressional relations aide to President Richard Nixon, is captured in the movie All the President's Men (available free on Amazon Prime just now). It's also the classic example of what NOT to do when you're thinking about building a relationship with a reporter.

I've had amazing relationships with some reporters, the kind where they've said, "Denise, don't ever not call me." But each one was earned--and nurtured--over time. Here are my tips for building good, productive relationships with reporters:
  1. Avoid assuming you have a relationship with any particular reporter, no matter what your position or connections are. The relationship is individual to individual, typically; in other words, just because you work at, say, the White House doesn't mean you have an automatic relationship with any reporter. You're starting from scratch, every time, Mr. MacGregor. 
  2. Tip more, pitch less: Let me say this as simply as I can: Pitching does not build relationships, and pitching with cut-and-paste emails REALLY doesn't build relationships, as this roundup of reporter tweets demonstrates amply. Giving reporters tips, instead of pitches, does more to advance a potential relationship. That means sharing info that doesn't necessarily benefit you or your organization directly, being willing to point them in the right direction, keeping them in mind on something they might not otherwise see. Be useful first, before you have the need for coverage.
  3. Hit the bases, and the basics: Do you know your stuff/topic/advertised subject matter? Are you willing to share it? Do you correct yourself when you've made an error? Do you respond in a timely way? Go the extra mile to call after hours or accommodate someone in another time zone? Answer the actual question asked? See questions as genuine inquiry as opposed to an attack? Set up interviews with experts who actually show up (or, if you're the expert instead of the communications pro, show up for interviews booked for you)? Answer questions about other matters in your field, even when you don't have a press release out on them? Do your statements hold up under scrutiny? Will you respond on negative as well as positive stories? These basics are all good signs to a reporter of your reliability, range, and real-time willingness to help. Call it the groundwork for a good relationship.
  4. Learn what they're learning: Most reporters' professional groups either don't admit communications pros and experts as members, or charge them more as "associate" members. Whether you join, attend their conferences, or just read their coverage of what their conferences yielded, stay active in learning what journalists are learning. Read their professional journals. Being savvy to their issues will make your relationship less rocky and keep your own expectations in check.
  5. Listen to what they're saying: One of the great gifts of social media is its service as a microphone for cranky (and sometimes happy) reporters, all of it fodder to help you improve what you offer reporters. There's a public explosion of info out there for the taking, starting with Twitter--but do some research to figure out your reporters' favorite social media platforms. For example, you'll find loads of leads in slide presentations given by reporters and posted on sites like SlideShare. If you're worried the advice won't be specific, don't:
  6. Cultivate an internal atmosphere that supports relationships with reporters: This London School of Economics post--shared with me by a reporter--describes a seminar in which academics and communications pros were encouraged to cultivate relationships with reporters, and given advice on how to do so. Are you doing the same in your organization?
Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The weekend read

Everybody into the pool that is the weekend...soon. First, check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you. Dip your toe in the water and get smarter by Monday:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Matthew H)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Will speaker coaching or media training turn you into a robot?

The short answer is no. Or, it should be. 

Training subject-matter experts to robotically repeat their messages over and over, no matter the question, just isn't a best practice in media training. Yet it still happens all the time. And in public speaking, the gold standard is authenticity, not a cookie-cutter approach.

In a Republican presidential candidate debate, the repetition became a sticking point for Marco Rubio, needled by Chris Christie for repeating his talking points:
But Mr. Christie had instructed the audience to listen for what he dismissively called the “memorized 25-second speech,” adding, with a twist of the knife, that it was “exactly what his advisers gave him.” 
When it was his turn to reply, Mr. Rubio — inexplicably — seemed to fulfill Mr. Christie’s prediction, repeating the main idea of that same memorized-sounding speech about Mr. Obama. Almost word for word. 
“This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing is just not true,” Mr. Rubio said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing.” 
Mr. Christie pounced. “There it is,” he said icily, turning to Mr. Rubio and jabbing his finger at him. “There it is, everybody.”
Neither of them, of course, won the party's candidacy. But the dig stuck, and sounded familiar--because audiences pay attention when all you do is reiterate your three key points.

So do reporters. In some situations, like long-form interviews, they really don't want you and your robotic message. I believe you can and should develop depth on your key points; then you can use them in interviews or speeches as a kind of menu, going in depth when the audience or interviewer expresses interest.

For me, the most important reason to avoid skimming the surface of your topic by returning to your key points again and again lies in credibility. If you avoid answering the question at hand and instead go back to one of your comfortable points, audiences will view you with more skepticism. Is that what you were aiming for?

If you're concerned about this approach, and you're the speaker or interviewee, open up a discussion with anyone you are considering as a coach, or the coach to whom you are assigned. A good coach should be able to help you go deep with an answer, as well as keep it brief, without making you look like a repetition machine.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Rog01

Friday, June 10, 2016

The weekend read

It's Friday, communicators. Time to mow down the overgrowth of the week and check out my latest finds, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you in time for the weekend, where the grass is always greener:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by David Whitehall)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Seth Godin: "Metaphors aren't true. But they're useful."

Seth Godin, one of marketing's top storytellers, just wrote about metaphors, calling them "useful" in helping professionals to "teach, learn, and understand." From the post:
Because all metaphors aren't actually true, it takes confidence to use them well. If you're having trouble understanding a disconnect, or are seeking to explain why something works or doesn't, begin with a metaphor. "Why is this new thing a lot like that understood thing..." Metaphors aren't true, but they work.
We take metaphors for granted, but do you really have the confidence to fully use this powerful communication tool? You'll have that opportunity in Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech, one of the pre-conference workshops at the Edinburgh Speechwriters’ and Business Communicators’ Conference October 20-21. Pre-conference sessions take place on Oct. 20.

In TED's secret to great public speaking, TED curator Chris Anderson recommends metaphor to build on concepts already familiar to your audience to make your ideas better understood. He says they are especially useful in helping an audience grasp an unfamiliar concept, noting that "metaphors can play a crucial role in showing how the pieces fit together, because they reveal the desired shape of the pattern, based on an idea that the listener already understands."

This workshop is designed to help both public speakers and speechwriters improve their use and understanding of this important figure of speech. In this one-day session, you will learn:
  • Why metaphors get your points across and how they work on your audience
  • Metaphoric disasters and wins: Lessons to heed and ideas to steal for your next speech
  • Why conferences like TED are encouraging speakers to make more use of metaphor
  • Why and how you should test metaphors after you fall in love with them, but before you put them to use
  • Un-mixing metaphors and other fixes for metaphor users
  • Cross-cultural considerations when using metaphor with global audiences
  • Extending use of metaphor throughout an entire speech, from words to visuals
  • Pitching your speaker to advocate the use of metaphor
You are encouraged to bring with you an existing speech or script that lacks metaphor or uses it only briefly for a “metaphor makeover” exercise, to learn how metaphor can enhance the speechwriting you’re already doing.

By taking this workshop, you’ll gain an expanded array of metaphors to consider or avoid for future speeches, and a stronger sense of when and how to deploy metaphor in speeches. Participants will get a curated list of books and resources to build their metaphor bookshelf for future reference.

You'll get the best discount if you register by August 1. Please note that it is possible to attend only the pre-conference workshop, the conference itself, or both. Register and find out more here. I hope you'll join me for this hands-on workshop at my favorite conference.

Friday, June 03, 2016

The weekend read

At the end of a long week, communicators, I'll just remind that the grill marks are supposed to be on the steaks, and not on you. Happy Friday: Time to check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here, like juicy hamburgers on the grill, for you:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Chris Makarsky)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Tell It Better: Why you should "plant the seed" for a storytelling payoff

I'm a longtime fan of The West Wing, the Aaron Sorkin television series about the White House, and not just because it began while I served in the Clinton Administration, capturing so much of our daily work. The reason I go back to it again and again is for the sheer power of the storytelling, and a recent interview about one powerful episode lets me share a vital skill for storytellers of all kinds.

In "In Excelsis Deo," episode 10 of the series's first season, actor Richard Schiff's character, Toby Ziegler, gets involved in the burial of a homeless vet after Ziegler's business card is discovered in a coat worn by the homeless man. There's a story-within-the story about the President's secretary, Mrs. Landingham, played by Kathryn Joosten. In an exchange with the President's aide, she reveals that she's reminded at the holidays of her twin sons, who served and were killed in the Vietnam war.

On The West Wing Weekly, a new podcast hosted by West Wing actor Josh Malina and Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder, actor Schiff recalled in an interview that that moment had been foreshadowed a couple of episodes earlier, when President Bartlett remarks to two staffers that she'd had sons who were killed in the war. (The podcast goes episode by episode from the beginning of the show, a real fan's delight.)

He used it as an illustration of a two-step in storytelling that can make your stories more powerful: 1) Plant a seed early on, and 2) Come back to it later for the payoff. It's a great way to give your story the impact it may be lacking. Instead of just telling the story from top to bottom, in one go, you're in effect dropping a clue or two early in your talk, article, video, or post, then circling back to underscore why it is meaningful, for a payoff that works for both storyteller and audience. Here's how Schiff describes the technique:
The great writers and the great storytellers earn every moment. If you do not plant the seeds, then the reveal isn’t impactful. All you’ve got to do is look at Breaking Bad and they plant seeds three years before the payoff. Someone said the other day, “That was like a five year movie--an ongoing novel.” And Aaron does the same thing. He does not just go for, “Oh, it would be cool if she lost her two kids.” He plants it, and then it pays off. 
This may take some work if you are trying to shift from a standard informational approach to your presentations, speeches, articles, and other storytelling devices. Planting a seed and waiting for the payoff--and planning where it comes--is exactly the opposite approach. Your viewer or listener or reader may not realize (and probably should not realize) when a seed has been planted in your story...at least, not until the payoff. That realization is part of the payoff, and a critical way to engage your audience.

Take a look at the payoff in this instance. What was a passing reference a couple of episodes ago, when the seed was planted, suddenly becomes a vivid and moving story in the context of the holiday on which this episode focused. Can you use this tactic in your next storytelling efforts?



(The West Wing photo)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.