Friday, October 28, 2016

The weekend read

Feel like you've been chopping wood all week, communicators? Time to stack those logs and check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, curated here for you. Call it kindling for your bright ideas:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Christoph)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Do you have a super-recognizer on your comms team?

When I was a new communications director at a big national nonprofit association, my first job in Washington, DC, I called some colleagues in town to ask them to recommend a photographer. And I'm glad I mentioned that the first task would be to attend a few receptions on Capitol Hill we'd be holding for Members of Congress and their staffers.

"You want Bob, then," my friend said. "Bob McNeely. He's a great photographer, but the best thing is that he recognizes people. He can pick out who's important in the crowd and get their picture--and that includes key staff as well as members and celebrities. They don't need to be obvious for him to find them."

Today, researchers call people like Bob "super recognizers" or "memory champions," and I think your comms hiring strategy should keep an eye out for folks with this talent. Fortunately, some researchers have come up with a five-minute test to screen for the talent, and they're willing to do further testing if you are interested.

First, read this article about the test, then take the test right here--and share with your team. And by team, I mean everybody, from the support staff to the interns to the vice president. Knowing which team members have this ability will come in handy many times. That person might be your photographer on the loose, capturing important photos without having to be told who the subject is; the greeter for dignitaries and visitors; a really valuable speaker or moderator who can recognize individuals in a crowd and call on them; the person who can spot someone in a crowd when you need them urgently; a fundraiser who can work the room faster if she knows who's important; or the person who can decide which of those crowdsourced photos on Facebook contain people of note. This may not be a core skill, but in certain positions, it's a true asset.

McNeely went on to be White House photographer for Bill Clinton, no surprise to me, both due to his talent and the fact that his tearsheets for my events sometimes included Democratic party events. I think it was one of the genius hires of the administration. You can see his work there collected in this book. Can your comms team find a similarly talented super-recognizer?

Friday, October 21, 2016

The weekend read

I started this week leading a workshop in a castle in Austria, and end the week at my favorite speechwriters' conference in Edinburgh, home to this impressive castle. Time to conquer the castle that was your week, communicators, and check out my finds, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Philip McErlean)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When should communicators push back against clients' bad requests?

I just finished leading Be an Expert on Working with Experts, my popular workshop for communications pros, in Austria earlier this week. And at some point during that day, no matter where I do the workshop, we talk about pushing back against unreasonable requests that experts make when they work with communications pros. (For the record, we also talk about the tactics experts use to push back against communicators' requests and how to handle that.)

Sometimes, participants express a reticence to push back--it seems ungrateful, impolite, outside your job description. Maybe even arrogant. But a non-anxious, needed pushback might just be a requirement, particularly when working with unreasonable demands. My own favorite laid-back, slightly humorous pushback line? "We're not that desperate for the publicity. How about we try x instead?"

Pushback really may be one of the most important tools in your arsenal as a communications pro. In The professional pushes back, Seth Godin shares some examples of what that looks like in your world:
The marketer won't help his client produce a spammy campaign filled with tricks and deceptions, because she knows that her career is the sum of her work. 
The statesman won't rush to embrace the bloodlust of the crowd, because statesmen govern in favor of our best instincts, not our worst ones. 
There are plenty of people who will pander, race to the bottom and figure out how to, "give the public what it wants." But that doesn't have to be you. Professionals have standards. Professionals push back.
So, before you start pushing back, you need standards--and everyone on your team needs to know what they are. Then all of your clients need to know what they are, a process that should be continual, not just once or twice. Do you know your standards, and where you will need to push back? This is a great ongoing exercise to do with your communications team, and sometimes, with your clients.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Jon-Paul LeClair)

Friday, October 14, 2016

The weekend read

I'm traveling: This week, I've been working in Walldorf, Germany, with executives at SAP who want to incorporate TED-style tactics in their presentations. Pack up your week in a suitcase and check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you. There's a weekend coming, no matter what time zone you are in:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Marc Smith)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"I heard there was a speaker coach who works with scientists"

"How did you hear about me?" I ask new prospective clients, if they haven't already said so.

"I heard there was a speaker coach who works with scientists," said one recently. I had to chuckle, imagining someone saying to her, "Pssst. Over here. I know a speaker coach who..." as if it were a great rarity.

But if I'm honest, that's a common answer if I'm talking to a scientist client. A climate scientist I was working with told me that a colleague at a conference heard she was working on a TED-style talk. "I know of a TED talk coach in Washington who works with scientists," said the one. "I'm working with her!" said my client.

While I work with people of all professions in my speaker coaching, the scientists keep finding me. I'm not surprised. That's not because scientists are so in need of coaching, but because so many coaches handle scientist speakers poorly, or avoid them entirely. The CEO of a well-regarded firm that does a lot of speaker coaching announced to a roomful of foundation executives, "I can train anyone but a scientist." In the back of the room, I thought, "I'll take 'em." And in my career as an in-house communications director, I've hired coaches who told our scientists, "Your content is the least important part of your presentation," misquoting research to say that appearance and voice--that coach's specialty--were most important. You can imagine the scientists were not happy...and they were right to doubt the statement. Others promised they could, in a three-hour half-day session, work with the scientist to create a TED talk, or gave them a template for a TED talk, when no such thing really exists--why would TED want talks from the same template?

I've written on my other blog about training a group of scientists with The Nature Conservancy to give TED-quality talks. For Bob Lalasz, former director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy and the person who hired me for that assignment, finding the right coach for a group of scientists was essential. He says, "Scientists demand credibility — from each other, and from anyone who trains them. When I was looking for a presentation coach for The Nature Conservancy’s Science Impact Project — a professional development program for some of the Conservancy’s most promising early- and mid-career scientists — I needed someone who would impress them immediately, speak their language and be able to work with scientist psychologies to get great results. Denise Graveline was my first choice."

I'm comfortable working with scientists, engineers, tech experts, and other subject-matter experts because I've been doing it nearly all of my career, first as a health journalist, later as a communications leader in institutions known for their research: a health care foundation, two scientific societies, and a U.S. federal agency focused on the environment and public health. And unusually in the scientific world, I've worked with every discipline in science, medicine, and engineering, from economics and anthropology to chemistry and physics. When TEDMED called me to explore coaching for its speakers, the first question was, "Can you work with a physicist?" Why yes, I can. As an independent consultant, coach, and trainer, I've trained thousands of scientists in groups or individually, so I have thousands of use cases to share, real experiences from real scientists or technical speakers.

More important, I believe, is that I start from a place of respect with all these smart people. I'm not going to dismiss their details when I coach a speech. In fact, I recently surprised an engineer I coached by insisting that we put in more details, details he'd removed from a previous speech in an effort to make it TED-like. We got in the details, the TED-style delivery, and did it in less time, to boot. I don't, however, tolerate scientists who talk about "dumbing down" their content. Speaking briefly and clearly is much more difficult than it appears, and it's the very thing scientists have not been trained to do. But that doesn't mean the audience is dumb or needs less complex content.

I know scientists' and engineers' default communications styles and how to easily transform them to reach a broader media or public audience. And along the way, I like to teach them skills they can use again and again, and make it fun to do. Respect plus learning plus fun seems like a good formula to me.

I work with scientists 1:1 and in groups, in every sector: government, corporate, nonprofit and higher education. Let me know if you, too, are looking for a coach who's comfortable with them, for media training or speaker coaching, with an email to eloquentwoman AT gmail.


(Creative Commons licensed photo by evan p. cordes)

Friday, October 07, 2016

The weekend read

Yes, you can kick that pile of leaves, communicators. It's the weekend. Time to get your boots on the ground and check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Let's mess up that neat pile and have some fun:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Lisa Morrow)

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

For artists: Promoting your work on social media

My social media workshop for artists at Touchstone Gallery in Washington, DC, was just over an hour, but got the assembled artists thinking and talking. Afterward, two of the attendees and I were talking about what one of them does: When she has a solo show coming up, she posts photos on Facebook that are close-up shots of her oil paintings. The other artist said she doesn't do something like that, because she thinks that showing all of her show's content will discourage people from coming to see it in person.

As I listened to them discuss the pros and cons, one fact struck me: The artist who shares advance peeks at her photos on Facebook sold 19 of the 22 paintings she exhibited in her last solo show--many of them before the opening reception was over.

Just as with any form of promotion, you can't guarantee those results--or guarantee that they will happen immediately. Even so, I told the group I see five strong advantages for artists on social media:
  1. Visual appeal: The attendees knew this was the top advantage, but many didn't know why: It's because posts with visuals are clicked on and shared more than those without. Best of all, artists can make their own visual content, which adds even more appeal.
  2. Customers: Whether you are struggling or established, your customers are out there...and like no other marketing tool in our history, social media is more likely to reach them, and to reach them at all stages of their buying lifetime, from novice to avid collector. Social media lets you gain their interest, develop a following, keep them abreast of your progress, advertise at rates that even a starving artist can afford, and sell directly and quickly. 
  3. Constantly changing fresh content: Artists make original visual content, over and over and over again. That's like catnip to audiences on social media, who crave the new and original and never-before-seen stuff. And it's another strong advantage for the artist. Bonus: Sharing your older (but new to them) work also works. In either case, you have a potentially endless supply of original content, something that limits many others.
  4. Events: Art is full of events: You win a competition, and there's an announcement. You exhibit at a gallery, and there's an opening reception, an artist's talk, sale days. You're selected in a national juried competition. You move your studio to a new location. And, just as important, you attend your fellow artists' openings, go develop your skills at a distant workshop or local school, travel and get some inspiration you capture in sketches or photos. Whether the event is private and able to be shared, or one to which you want to invite people, social media is your friend.
  5. Friends and partners: Who's that? I mean the galleries that exhibit your work; the museums you attend; your customers; your cheering section of personal friends; your neighbors; your buyers; your fellow artists. If you get in the habit of sharing their posts, they'll reciprocate...and help you build your audience.
I also shared some common-sense tasks artists should apply to their social selling and promotion:
  1. Master one account first: Particularly if you are just starting in social media (and often, even if you are not), mastering one account first will pay dividends later, and makes it easier to start and maintain your social-media presence now. Later, once you've built your central platform, you can use other social channels to amplify it, as I do with my blogs. If selling directly is important to you, explore ads (below) or channels that focus on sharing and selling, from Etsy and Pinterest to Amazon. 
  2. Post with regularity: Nothing will help you on social media if your presence has tumbleweeds, thanks to your lack of posting. That's one key reason to start with just one account and build it up. A regular posting schedule will build you a following and keep it steady. 
  3. Share more than you post: Many artists dislike promotional activities, and on social media, there's a great solution: For every thing you post about your own work, post 3 times about the works of others, good exhibits you recommend, art news, and more. It doesn't have to be all about you for it to redound to your benefit.
  4. Test out social advertising: One big barrier that social media has toppled is advertising. You no longer need to hire an agency to buy ads for you. You can fine-tune the targeted recipients by geography (a few miles' circumference around your gallery event, for example), by location, demographic data, or keywords in their profiles. And the prices are pretty sweet: Even for as little as $25 to $200, you can reach a lot of people on a site like Facebook in an ad. You can test out audiences, text, images and every other aspect of the ad before you start it, and you can stop it at any time. It's a great way to build followers, to get people to your events, and most of all, to share and sell your art. You can learn more about Facebook ads directly on FB, about Instagram ads here and get more tips on how to stand out among Instagram advertisers here. (I emphasize Facebook for its ease of use and gigantic reach, and Instagram because it's a favorite among visual artists.) You also can read some background articles on Facebook ads in my public Evernote notebook on the topic.
  5. Involve your followers: Social media is not a place for the aloof, so get your followers involved. Ask their opinions, share details about yourself with which they can connect, take and post selfies with them at your events, tag them in your posted photos so their friends can see and share. One wedding photographer, while not a fine artist, did what many fine artists fail to do: He posted his photos quickly after the event, tagging those in the photos. Referrals from these posts--his only marketing--built his business (a side gig, actually) to $100,000 a year. Go and do likewise.
Better yet, there were lots of questions on topics large and small. Here are some of the issues they brought up:

I've been posting on my personal timeline on Facebook about my art. How do I move to a next-level use of social media? You've got several easy options here. Try promoting or boosting a post to a wider audience, which does not require you to create a new page or presence. If you want to get more data about how many people see your posts, try creating a Facebook business page for your art; you may invite your friends to "like" or follow the page, and over time, you'll get additional followers if you promote the page (think business card, your blog or website, etc.). Or, start on another channel and use it to amplify your Facebook posts. See what posting on Twitter or YouTube or another site will do to drive traffic to your Facebook presence (and vice versa).

I'm posting about my art but want to connect Facebook with my website. How do I do that? Here's a tutorial on 6 ways to embed Facebook on your website or blog, from share buttons to embeds of your Facebook feed.

I created an Etsy page for my art and nobody came to it. Should I scrap it? Not before you promote its existence more widely. You can do that on any social media channel you're already on, as little as once a week or once a day (and those posts can be pre-scheduled in most cases, to save you time). Consistency matters more here than frequency, although you should post with regularity. Promote a selling site also by putting it on your business cards; email signature; profiles on social channels; and other common marketing options you're already using. When you post something new on Etsy, share it elsewhere. No social media will thrive in a vacuum, and you do have to promote your presence on a site like Etsy just as you would a gallery opening. You can make a lot of your social media posts efficient using a free tool like IFTTT (short for If This, Then That) to schedule them. IFTTT stopped supporting Etsy posts directly earlier this year, but here is a workaround.

Which sites do I have to be on? I don't think there's any one site (let alone five) that you must be on. Beware of folks who say this or that site is on its way out, or a must for you. Explore for yourself. Your grandkids may abhor Facebook, but your buyers might be hanging out there, in which case, follow the buyers. I love Instagram for personal purposes, but my clients aren't there to do business with me, so I use other sites to reach them. It will take some trial and error--and research--for you to figure out where your work belongs.

I told our workshop participants they can take a look at my social presence to see what I do--not necessarily a template for you. My basecamps are my 3 blogs:

I amplify what's on the blogs, and share other finds, on these sites. The links are to my pages or profiles: