Friday, July 29, 2016

The weekend read

Oh, my Lord & Taylor, it's Friday, communicators. No need to shop around for ways to get smarter by Monday. Just check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you, like finds from a personal shopper:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by jenny.nash712)

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, July 27, 2016

The unintended metaphor and its consequences

Speakers have a tendency to assume the worst about audiences. They think their listeners aren't really listening or won't pay attention, or will find them boring. But in my experience, people don't put themselves in seats before you if they don't expect to get something from you: Insight, new perspective, encouragement, and most of all, meaning. Public speaking may be the most visible indicator of humans' quest for making sense of the world around us, and audiences have meaning in their sights, even if they don't realize it.

So it was no surprise to me that many observers, seeing Donald Trump give a speech on trade in fromt of what looked like a giant wall of trash, rushed to label it a metaphor.  Some did that with a heavy dose of irony, some in utter innocent effort to make sense of the odd visual. But meaning--the thing at which metaphor excels--was being sought.

The reality was a tad more pedestrian, and typical of a campaign stop: Given at a company that compacts aluminum cans into cubes for recycling, the speech had a backdrop of the company's product. But that pretty much got lost in the commentary on Twitter and traditional media. Election cycles aside, it's a great example of how a metaphor can backfire--particularly when you weren't reaching for one in the first place. That's one reason you should test metaphors (and test for inadvertent metaphors) before you mount any event, campaign, or announcement.

It's events just like this one that we'll be discussing in Edinburgh in October at my workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor, a pre-conference session at the Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference. We'll be talking about metaphoric wins and disasters, with lessons for you to heed and great ideas to steal when you're crafting your next speech. The day-long workshop will cover much more, expanding your understanding of metaphor, and you are encouraged to bring with you an existing speech that lacks metaphor to see how using metaphor would change it. We'll be meeting in the stunning setting of the Scottish Parliament, and there's a reception and tour of that space immediately following the workshop.

Registration will continue until the conference sells out but our best discount ends August 1, so you know what to do. Register at the links above or below, for either the workshop or the workshop and conference, which is my favorite gathering of communicators. I look forward to hearing your examples of metaphoric disasters there!

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, July 22, 2016

The weekend read

Let the troubles of the work week melt like a popsicle in the sun, communicators. It's Friday, time for you to focus on the flavors of the week I shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here, on a stick, for you:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Wade Brooks)

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, July 20, 2016

New workshop in Austria: "Be an Expert on Working with Experts"

"Be an Expert on Working with Experts" has long been among my most popular workshops for communications pros here in America. Now I'm bringing it to Europe in October, and I hope you or your colleagues in Europe will be able to join me.

Set for October 17, the workshop will take place at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, just outside Vienna. Its headquarters are in the Schloss (castle) Laxenburg seen at left and in the video below--a stunning setting for the work we will be doing.

"Be an Expert on Working with Experts" focuses on helping communications professionals better understand how to work effectively with experts they are putting in front of public and media audiences. Communicators who work with experts in science, engineering, technology, as well as those who work with subject-matter experts of all kinds, will find this workshop useful. The one-day session will teach you:
  • How to anticipate experts' default communications style, how to help them see it, and how to show them what public and media audiences want instead;
  • Why they don't need to "dumb down" their information to communicate clearly, and how to handle other common objections they raise;
  • How to assess your experts' skills and training needs, to help you approach coaching in savvy ways; 
  • Handling hands-on feedback to smart people, pushback and Q&A when you're training experts. Find out what they don't know--but won't tell you--and how to fix that.
I've spent most of my career working with every kind of scientist, medical professional, and engineer, as well as law and public policy experts, and this workshop lets me share my insights with you. This is the workshop I wish I'd had earlier in my career!

Registration is open now, and you can find all the details here. Registration is $400US or 360EUR per person, and many communications pros bring their teams, so they can continue to share insights after the workshop. We've had every level of communications pro, from newbies to vice presidents attend this workshop and find it useful.

Here's what two American participants had to say after attending this workshop:
"I found her instruction clear and insightful, her tips useful and her presentation style engaging. If you're looking for help as you try to get the best out of the people who speak on behalf of your organization, Denise can offer you practical guidance that you'll be able to put into practice immediately. I particularly appreciated her empahsis on understanding a speaker's needs and motivations in order to help them deliver the best possible presentation." -- Rachel Coker, director of research advancement, Binghamton University
"If you ever have the opportunity to take a workshop with @dontgetcaught, do it! Best training I've ever had. Informative and eye-opening." -- Ashley Berthelot, director of research communications, Louisiana State University
I hope you can join us on October 17 in Austria. Please share the details of this workshop with interested colleagues. Registration is limited to 18 people, so please register early--seats are already filling. I look forward to seeing you there!


(Creative Commons licensed photo by Andreas Steinkogler)

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, July 15, 2016

The weekend read

Do you feel as if you've walked the plank, or started your dive into the weekend, communicators? Put on that life preserver and check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you. Everybody into the pool!
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Bill Blevins)

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, July 13, 2016

Using video or livestream for news? Choose well by considering barriers

When I posted this article on Why people don't like to watch news videos on the don't get caught Facebook page, I wasn't prepared for the highly enthusiastic reaction it would get. Communications pros and followers of the page chimed in, supporting with their own experience: Reading beats watching news videos. Hands down, it's cited as more convenient and quicker.

That would seem to fly in the face of the common wisdom that video rules the social sphere, but it's a real bit of user experience. From the article:
A recent poll of 50,000 online users conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that only 24% of people had watched any news videos online in the last week. This chart from Statista shows the reasons why people say they don't watch news videos online. The number one reason: reading is faster and more convenient.
Basically, the video itself was seen as a barrier to getting the news quickly.

At the same time, we've all had a graphic demonstration of the power of livestream video to share news as it happens. Livestreaming of the aftermath of the police shooting of Philando Castile by his girlfriend has caused a furor. It also prompted many users active on black Twitter (you did know there's black Twitter, right?) to vow to start using livestream services such as Facebook Live and Periscope. For activists and others, livestream video takes down a barrier and widens their audience.

For its part, Facebook issued new guidance about livestreaming and how it expects to handle violent video, noting "context and degree are everything." Its policy creates barriers for some, and removes them for others. From Business Insider:
In the case of violence in particular, Facebook decides whether to remove a post depending on whether it seems to celebrate or glorify violence or whether it condemns it or bears witness to it to spread awareness.  
In the latter case, it will allow the video to continue to stream, but will add a warning to it and the video won't auto-play or be visible to users who are under 18. 
Some are saying that these livestreams, with audiences that come close to rivaling the network TV news broadcasts, are removing incentive to watch television's last stand, the live event. Again, it's removing a barrier and broadening access.

When you're choosing whether to use video, and which kind of video to use, you might benefit from framing the choice in terms of barriers. Ask: In posting this, am I creating any barriers to watching my news video, like omitting text and a transcript? Or failing to include sharing and embedding tools? Or forcing users to watch on just one platform? If your video posting or livestream will eliminate a barrier, perhaps that's its reason for being, as members of Congress found out during their recent sit-in.

Let me also note that we need all types of video: explainers, parodies, paint drying, everyday news, how-tos, and horrific acts in progress. There is no one-size-fits-all on social media, folks. Despite that, some news organizations, like Tribune Publishing, are going for bulk and automating their news video operations--with a goal of issuing 2,000 videos per day. That's a lot of incoming, people.

The Reuters Institute study is summarized in the video below--but you can find the full report here, text lovers. It has a wealth of trend info on digital news consumption of all kinds, including news avoidance in the digital world, the continued preference for personal recommendations, and more. If anything, the report--and recent events--are just a reminder that there are no magic bullets when it comes to online content and that news value and content still matter.



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, July 08, 2016

The weekend read

Stick a skewer in this week and call it done: It's the weekend, communicators. Time to turn on the grill and check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Clotee Allochuku)

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, July 06, 2016

How to view your communications pro: At "the edge of inside"

If you work with a communications pro--a public affairs or public information person, a comms consultant, a speaker coach or speechwriter, a press officer--chances are good that their ways are at best foreign to you. We can tell, you know: every once in a while, when we're working with you on something that isn't public yet, you'll say something like, "Now, don't leak this," or "Don't go publishing this." Like that's something we would do. You see us working at the border between private and public, unreleased and well-known, and see it as a tightrope off of which you might fall. You're not quite sure about us. After all, we get along with reporters, don't we? Who are we really working for?

Having been in that situation many times in my career, both as an in-house communicator and as a consultant, I was delighted to see this article by New York Times columnist David Brooks. He called that precarious border on which your communications pro works "the edge of the inside." And while he didn't intend, necessarily, to describe comms pros, he does a good job at it anyway. Brooks borrows the concept from Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, and I recommend it to you as a different way of looking at the communications professionals with whom you work. From the article:
A person at the edge of inside can see what's good about the group and what's good about rival groups. Rohr writes, "A doorkeeper must love both the inside and the outside of his or her group, and know how to move between these two loves."
If you can see your communications pro in this way, you're one step closer to my concept of don't get caught. If you include that professional in your thinking and planning long before you ever need or want to avoid publicity, and if you let them occupy the edge of inside with vigor, you'll have more careful, thoughtful, and effective communications.

What does that look like? You'll see it in a communications pro who says gently but firmly, as I used to do, "We're not that desperate for the publicity," when you suggest a tactic that will be more embarrassing than effective. She'll bring you information about stuff headed towards the fan, weeks before it hits, so you can do something about it. She'll point out what stinks about a situation and let you know whether that can be fixed; I used to say "I can make this look slightly less bad, but that's it." She'll let you know what reporters are saying, and when you really need to talk about that thing you don't want to talk about, for the good of the order. And she'll help you figure out how to do that, under a deadline and all sorts of pressure.

Many organizations, of course, don't do that at all. Here's what Brooks says that looks like, and why it's the wrong path right now, and maybe always:
When people are afraid or defensive, they have no tolerance for the person at the edge of inside. They want purity, rigid loyalty and lock step unity. But now more than ever we need people who have the courage to live on the edge of inside, who love their parties and organization so much that they can critique them like a brother, operate on them from the inside as a friend and dauntlessly insist that they live up to their truest selves.
Please share this, not with your communications pros, but with your colleagues who work with them. This is a smart approach to encourage throughout your organization. I'm grateful to Jan Sonneveld, senior speechwriter at the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science, for bringing Brooks's column to my attention, and pointing out its relevance to speechwriters and communicators.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by cliosguy)

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, July 01, 2016

The weekend read

Worth a flag wave: It's the weekend, and a long weekend here in America, to boot. Declare your independence from the work week (dare we call that a Wexit?), communicators, and check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Bill Blevins)

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.