Friday, May 26, 2017

The weekend read

I like to describe Washington, DC, as a small town with a lot of hot air. (And you wondered why there's a dome over the U.S. Capitol building, did you?) Time to let the air out of this week, communicators, and share my finds via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook. They're all curated here for you, without adding a thing to global warming:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Mr. Nixter)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lessons from the "if at first you don't succeed" school of communications

People wishing to protest legislation and other actions by the current U.S. administration have been hitting a brick wall: They're told that too many calls and emails have prompted some members of Congress to stop taking or responding to those calls. Likewise, some town hall meetings have been shut down in progress, or simply not held. But there's a great lesson from the "if at first you don't succeed" school of communications for companies and resistors alike in a recent letter to the editor.

In this letter to the editor published in the Fresno Bee, Katie Dooley, herself a former congressional staffer, detailed her many attempts to call her current member of Congress to express dismay over changes to the Affordable Care Act, to no avail.  Titled "Good luck calling Valadao's office," the letter had the potential to a daily readership of more than 264,000 in print and online, according to the Bee's circulation data.

Here's what you can learn from this four-paragraph letter:
  • It takes a stymied communications channel and opens up another one: Too often, both individuals and companies get stuck piling all their communications hopes and dreams on one particular channel, be an article in the New York Times or an op-ed or even a phone call. But when one door closes, you need to open another. You might want to consult my list of things you can do instead of a press release to get some ideas.
  • It uses the blocked communications as the fulcrum for complaint: Dooley shares one piece of data about the health legislation--how many people in that district will lose insurance--toward the end of the letter. While her original complaint was about the substance of the act, highlighting her new complaint, a lack of access to her representative, makes for an even more effective opinion piece.
  • It landed the one-two punch that makes op-eds and letters to the editor effective: That one-two punch goes like this: Read just the first and last paragraphs together. Do they give you the full argument? That's just what your opinion pieces should aim for.
By the way, once you have a short, well-structure op-ed or letter, it also can serve as a short speech...as a blog post...as an email message...and as talking points for a media interview. Recycling that effort is just another way to try, try again when your first comms option fails. A hat tip to Alicia Aebersold for sharing this letter to the editor!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Leah Buckley)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The weekend read

It's Friday, communicators, and the weekend is rising like a distant moon. Not a bad moon, by any stretch. Shed some light on my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. You have 3 nights to get smarter by Monday:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by xeno.odem)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Have you forgotten the home crowd in looking for social engagement?

Any pro sports team knows about the home crowd advantage: Your near and dear local fans will show up week after week, get more engaged, and cheer the loudest. They'll stand by you on the bad days and celebrate the good days. They'll buy and wear your merch, stand in line for your tickets, and bring their friends along. More often than not, all of that adds up to better scores and more wins.

And if that doesn't sound like a good social media strategy, I don't know what does.

Yet so many companies and organizations forget to involve and engage their own "home crowds" in their social media efforts, from members and residents to employees, former employees, and alumni.

There's good data to show the advantages of involving the home crowd in your social media strategy. This article, Avoiding articles from “the creep”: People trust news based on who shared it, not on who published it, shares a recent study that:
...found that a trusted sharer resulted in more trust for the article and more engagement with the original news — including re-sharing the article and signing up for news alerts from the source. Furthermore, the sharer of the article affected how people thought about multiple facets of the article: 'When people see news from a person they trust, they are more likely to think it got the facts right, contains diverse points of view, and is well reported than if the same article is shared by someone they are skeptical of.' (A respondent told the researchers in 2016: 'I look who shared it. If I have a friend that’s a creep I might not believe it. If a friend is in a certain field, then I might believe what they post.')
This study focused on adults, but mirrors results from research on teenagers, who more often trusted posts from family members and teachers, both good home crowds to cultivate.

Many companies and organizations seek to limit their employees' use of social media, maybe the most obvious way to ignore the power of the home crowd. But it's your employee home crowd that can help revive your stagnant organic social reach. How employee advocacy can help your declining social reach makes it simple to understand:
If you open up your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter company pages, how many followers do you have in total? Now try to add up the number of connections your employees have all together across the same networks. The result will astound you. On average, your employees are connected to 10 times more people than your company alone. 
Just 15 percent of people trust brands, but 84 percent trust people they know, the article notes, adding that content shared by employees generates 8 times more engagement than content shared by the company channel. As you would with any other group of influencers, you'd be smart to brief employees about opportunities for them to share and advocate for your brand, organization, or company on social media. Don't assume they know you'd like them to share.

Even more untapped as a home crowd are your alumni, who have great potential as social sharers in your behalf. I don't just mean graduates of your university. I mean former participants in your fellowship program, former employees, retirees, and more. In many cases, that's an even bigger base than your employee base. This 2008 article about Hewlett-Packard's efforts to engage its former employees should give you some ideas, all easily translated to social media. You might consider briefings for your "formers" and alumni to brief them on your social media strategy and tell them about the tools you have that would make it easy for them to share your content; you might consider a monthly or biweekly email newsletter just for such a purpose.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Kent Kanouse)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The weekend read

Let's catch this train we call the weekend, shall we, communicators? Then you can settle down with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. I think we can make the weekend train run on time:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by jesuscm)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finding better comms pro development, & tucking it into your schedule

It gets more and more difficult to develop professionally further on in your career, thanks to opposing forces: The supply is limited, since it's easier to market courses to beginners over and over again. Your time is limited, and most professional development seems to chew time up: travel, overnights, multi-day sessions. And the demand is limited by our own entropy and insecurities...shouldn't I know all this by now?

That's what Seth Godin points out in Fully baked:
Knowledge workers, though, the people who manage, who go to meetings, who market, who do accounting, who seek to change things around them—knowledge workers often act as if they're fully baked, that more training and learning is not just unnecessary but a distraction....Show me your bookshelf, or the courses you take, or the questions you ask, and I'll have a hint as to how much you care about levelling up.
Smart communications professionals know that skills, tactics, tools, and strategies are changing faster than ever. So a better question might be: how can I find better professional development options and tuck them into my already full schedule?

I've found some good answers in the following ways:
  • Hire a coach, specifically, one who will keep your knives sharp: There's no better way to get training suited to your precise level of need than a 1:1 coach. Most of the coaching I offer is to speakers and presenters, but I've also coached managers at varying levels in communications operations...and I hire a coach when I need one to prep for a big speaking gig or other challenge. As my coach and colleague Peter Botting likes to say, "It's a poor chef who doesn't keep her own knives sharp." Best, coaching can be fit into your schedule, whether it's done remotely or in person. You'd be surprised what we can do in an hour on Skype or on the phone.
  • Curate your membership groups with care: I belong to almost no groups anymore, a result of many of them catering to beginners or an inner circle, or a circle of inner-circle wannabes. But I do belong to a pair of sister groups, the European Speechwriter Network and UK Speechwriters Guild, which have content that's well-curated, no panel discussions, and great networking with a global group. These folks share referral business, tips, write guest posts for me, and find me great material for my blogs. Yes, I'll cross the pond for that, and it doesn't cost that much more than a non-challenging stateside conference.
  • Look for side opportunities to learn and add them to existing trips: On a couple of my trips to the speechwriters conference, I was able to find shorter opportunities to brush up on skills, at a social media workshop using newspaper archives at the British Library, and learning about virtual reality at the Frontline Club in London (about which more in some forthcoming posts). Both happened later or earlier in a conference trip, making it easy for me to register and attend. Neither was a budget-buster, and each one broadened my world view on these topics. How often do you look for local opportunities--day-long workshops, lectures, or complementary meetings--in the cities where you are already traveling?
To really up your professional development game, you may need to get out of your existing membership or conference rut and start paying attention to different lists and feeds, searching for conference reviews (including asking colleagues of all kinds), and checking out unlikely sources and locations, like museums and libraries. Take a look at the Smithsonian Digitization Fair, canceled this winter due to a snowstorm but due to take place in autumn 2017, as one example, if your institution is at work digitizing its archives. Paying attention to museum offerings is what led me to the British Library workshop. If you have other suggestions for conferences for communications pros, head to our Facebook page or Twitter account, linked below, to share them and I'll compile them for a future post.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Boston Public Library)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The weekend read

Enough with those April showers, communicators. Let's put the May flowers in the foreground, just like my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Call it a bouquet of smarts and greatness to get you smarter, if not drier, by Monday:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Christos Loufopoulos)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Have you ignored federal guidance on your social media policy?

One of the earliest organizational responses to social media was the "social media policy," because surely this potentially unfettered arena must be roped off for professionals. Except for Microsoft, which famously had a one-line guidance--"all the other policies apply"--social media policies tell me a lot about the organization and what they fear will happen on social channels when employees take to them.

The primary problem with limiting what employees may do on social media, or even guiding it: Much of the guidance that you want to convey is, in fact, forbidden by U.S. federal government rules--stuff like "don't say anything negative about the organization" or "your posts must be accurate." Yeah, really.

So before you start writing that social media policy, it may save you time and trouble to learn what the U.S. federal government has to say about how that policy should look. I find far too many communicators unfamiliar with these rules and guidance documents, and the penalties are real. Here are 3 major sets of guidance you should know about:
  1. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently reminded influencers, including but not limited to athletes and celebrities, that their sponsored content or endorsements on social media must be clearly identified as such. Here's the "educational letter" sent out, so you can see what the rules require. This includes, among other things, affiliate links.
  2. The National Labor Relations Board limits what employers can put in policies to limit employee use of social media. You can't tell employees that they cannot post inaccurate or inappropriate material, discuss non-public information, and much more. Labor Dish has a good rundown on the decisions that shape this guidance, and a sample policy based on it. These first two sets of guidance are applicable to the broadest group of organizations and companies.
  3. The Securities and Exchange Commission has extensive rules on social media use by broker-dealers, investors, and more. Here's a comprehensive guide to social media and the securities law.
I've seen conference presentations by the FTC on their policies for bloggers and other social influencers, so here's a #protip: Ask them to send a speaker to your next professional gathering and get the gang up to speed. And if you want to consider alternatives to a strict set of rules, read Trust your employees, not your rulebook to learn how to avoid dampening entirely your team's willingness to participate.

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The weekend read

Please let me finish the week, communicators! It's the weekend or nearly so, time for my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. I promise to finish all the sentences in this post, too...
(Creative Commons licensed photo by mermaid)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

You've got quotation books on your speechwriting shelf. Now get this.

Thanks to forces ranging from the Internet itself to the propensity of modern folks to want to put words in the mouths of the ancients, it's difficult to know whether that quotation actually was said or written by the person you want to quote in a speech today. And while compilations of quotations are useful, perhaps more practical is a new book that gets behind the problematic quotes.

In Hemingway Didn't Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations, Garson O'Toole uses his own mishaps in searching for quotation sources, describes the forces that shape our misquotation habits, and offers "the first careful examination of what causes misquotations and how they spread across the globe." He groups them as mistakes made by groups, by readers, and by authors, and every chapter is loaded with famous quotes...and who really said them first.

Naturally, this is a book loaded with references, a yeoman task that will save speechwriters lots of time. There's also a handy index by quotation, and another by author, making this a truly useful speechwriting bookshelf standard.

For more on misquotation, check out my post Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain called. They want their quotes back, a good companion to this new guide, including other sources to check your quotes.

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The weekend read

I've seen a lot of airplane wings this week, having done a workshop in Dallas, Texas, and a keynote speech in Lexington, Kentucky, by way of Charlotte, North Carolina. Time to land in the weekend with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Let's fly away...
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Dion Gillard)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Should we ditch analogies to explain science--or just use them sparingly?

Professional communicators like me have been urging scientists to use analogies and metaphors for a long, long time, as part of the effort to make their work clearer to public and non-scientist audiences. But on the eve of the March for Science here in Washington, DC, I think we may need to reconsider this advice, because we're in danger of overload. It's not that they're ineffective, one at a time. But we seem to be overusing this tool.

Scientists rewrote the DNA of an entire species, a Vox article, shows why. Here are the metaphors and analogies I found in the article, all referring to the same discovery. Some are from the journalist who wrote the story, some from his scientist sources:
  1. tailoring microorganisms
  2. snip out one single gene
  3. a rewriting and reorganization of the entire genetic book
  4. base pairs...are the individual building blocks that make up DNA
  5. if you know how a radio works, you should be able to take it apart and put it back together
  6. what yeast genes are necessary for keeping it alive and which are bloatware
  7. if you think of yeast as a factory, then its genome is the operating system
  8. if scientists can re-engineer yeast from scratch, they can teach it a few more tricks
  9. we wanted to make changes that are very difficult to make without rebuilding it from the ground up
  10. the scientists have designed some new “programs” into the genome. One is called a “scramble” function
  11. The analogy is if you had a million decks of cards, there would be one that would give you the best hand at gin rummy, there would be another that would give you the best hand at Texas Hold’em
  12. the biologists have done some tidying up of the genome
  13. An architect can draw the most beautiful building her mind can imagine. But if an engineer says it can’t be built, it can’t be built. A similar thing happens with DNA design.
  14. they have to get glued together at very specific points
  15. there is no DNA “printer” that can perfectly spit out that many in a stable chain.
  16. We’re not starting with a bunch of inanimate chemicals, mixing chemicals, and having life pop out
Some of these metaphors and analogies are used as shorthand, some as comparisons. But 16 metaphors or analogies is about 15 too many, folks. You can tell when the author realized he may be using one too many, because he puts quotes around them, as if to apologize. The quotes also delineate metaphors that might be taken literally, a big fat clue that you should reconsider their use. Adding confusion--or quotation marks--is not the goal.

And boy, are these metaphors mixed. They draw from 17 sets of imagery: tailoring, sewing, books, toys, radios, software, factories, computers, dog training, building, codes, card games, cleaning, architecture, engineering, glue, printers, and pregnancy (or, possibly, toasters, or gopher holes). And by the end of the article, they do little to enhance actual understanding of the process being described.

Better are the simple-language sections of this article which describe the methodology, step by step. It's a misstep I see all too often in the way communications pros coach scientists when they are preparing for media interviews. "Skip the methodology and use a metaphor," scientists are urged. But the method often is what makes your research unique and understandable. I'm a big fan of figuring out how to describe the method first, and then deciding whether a metaphor helps, or hurts.

The article could be seen as an example of how frequently and easily we use metaphor, but I know better, because I've heard the advice for decades about being deliberate with this choice. Even if it's natural to reach for metaphor, taken together, they are overwhelming. In the end, that's the editor's job to fix, but scientists can help by choosing with care the tools they use to communicate.

Another sign that analogies and metaphors are the default: The Sideways Dictionary, which translates tech terms into analogies, was built by the Washington Post and Alphabet to explain tech to non-techies.

Don't get me wrong: Metaphors and analogies are powerful tools, great for translating from the technical. Here's what TED curator Chris Anderson has to say about them in TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. He's breaking down what works in Dan Gilbert's talk, The surprising science of happiness:
For an explanation to be satisfying, it has to take puzzling facts and build a connection from them to someone's existing mental model of the world. Metaphors and analogies are the key tools needed to do this. They help shape the explanation until it finally snaps into place with a satisfying aha!
And of course, he worked in two metaphors right there at the end, didn't he?

Like any language tool, however, metaphors and analogies are best used with care. You'll do better, scientists, by finding one metaphor and working it all the way through your discussion--be it a presentation or a media interview--and by testing your metaphors before you bring them forward, lest they fail to do the task you intend them to do. The cautionary tale at the link is one from science, and once you read it, you won't look at metaphor the same way again. Start by choosing one analogy and sticking with it, resisting the urge to pile on more. It's not helping. And journalists, how 'bout a better edit?

If you want to learn more about metaphor and how we use it, I recommend two books: George Lakoff's Metaphors We Live By, which is a landmark book explaining the facility with which we use metaphor to make sense of the world, and James Geary's I is An Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World. It's worth learning more about how you use metaphor now, and how you might use (or avoid) it in the future.

My thanks to Tiffany Lohwater, who pointed me to this article and its basketful of analogies.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Tiago Daniel)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The weekend read

I'm back in Washington, DC, where there seems to be at least a protest a day at lunch hour, before work, and after work--and on the weekends, protests are the new brunch. No need to protest the weekend itself. Instead, carry a sign for my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Let's march our way out of this week, shall we, communicators?
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Hernán Piñera)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why comms leaders need to be able to take the call

I had to chuckle when I saw the article That time Bill Gates answered a tech support call...and crushed it. It brought me right back to a time when my communications team had agreed that all incoming phone calls should be answered in three rings or fewer. Not long after that, I was standing out in the office bullpen, and the phone rang. Once, twice, no one answering, despite the availability of many. So I picked up the phone on ring number three. "Communications, may I help you?"

The reporter on the other end told me she was calling from the Wall Street Journal and wanted to pursue a story on a topic for which we weren't covered enough--one that would be meaningful to us. "I'd be happy to help you with that," I said. "And who might you be?" was the reporter's somewhat snide rejoinder.

"I'm the director of this office," was the only reply possible. That seemed to suit her, so she proceeded with the details of her request.

In Gates's case, he asked to field some support line calls, and, as the article notes, didn't give away his identity, naming himself as "William" to the caller. But when the customer called back and asked for the "nice" rep named William, he was told it had been the CEO who answered the call.

Our two stories have their differences, but the article's point is the same as mine: Communications leaders *should* be able to field incoming calls of all types, and handle them appropriately, even if my team members were mortified when they figured out who'd caught the call. It certainly helped make my point about why it's important to answer calls promptly--you'd hate to have missed the Journal's call. But I know my team members also were impressed that I could "still" do it.

Go one step further, and spend a few hours a month answering calls or fielding emails. See what comes in over the transom, and then ask the people who do that on the regular what they notice. Tell them what you notice. Are there gaps between what you think is a well-handled call, and what they think it is?  And if you don't know how to field and direct incoming calls, get your team to teach you. It's leadership perspective that can work for you as well as Bill Gates.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by OnInnovation)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, April 07, 2017

The weekend read

April showers time, communicators. That would seem to work well as I've been in London this week, although spring and sunny weather happen to be in full force here. Rain or shine, stay dry 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. I'll always share an umbrella with you:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by D. Julien)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

12 lessons, 12 years in on the DGC blog

I like coincidences, and today just happens to be the 12th anniversary of this blog. This blog is so much a part of my world and my work that I often miss the anniversary, but something prompted me to check this time.

I must say that if there's one thing that keeps my spirits and intellect high and sharp, respectively, it's blogging. Running your own business, as a mentor of mine predicted, is the most intellectual activity you'll ever attempt. But maintaining a blog well comes a close second to that...just what makes work a joy for me.

I've taken the occasion to think about 12 lessons I've learned in that dozen years of blogging, still and always my primary platform. These are lessons aimed at those of you, like me, who use a blog as a primary marketing platform for your services:
  1. 90 percent of blogging is showing up, consistently and frequently. I started with monthly posts and quickly found my rhythm at 2 to 3 posts per week. Today, I'm up to three blogs that post at least 6 times per week, all together. It makes a difference in followers, in search engine results, and in content.
  2. Blogging's the best exercise to develop your writing muscle. There is no writing task that puts me off now. It's the antidote to writer's block. If you are struggling to populate a blog with posts, know that the solution lies in posting more, not less. It does get easier.
  3. Put enough of yourself into your blog so that, when prospective clients call, they already know everything they need to know to hire you. You don't want them to hire just anybody. You want them to hire you. Make sure your blog doesn't read like just anybody's blog.
  4. Your readers will give you the best content and ideas, ever. If you let them. Encourage comments, read their tweets, ask audiences to find things for you, listen to their requests. Use their questions as post titles, a smart SEO-based strategy. It's all useful for content.
  5. Everything is copy. Reader comments, what you're reading, your own schedule, exchanges on Twitter, experiences in your work, what you see and hear, what you're listening to. I find content everywhere, and I use what happens on my other social channels in my content, so that the blog becomes my collector-of-record for my online presence...and readers know where to look to find everything.
  6. If you wouldn't read it--for any reason--don't publish it. Simple as that.
  7. This is how clients find you. I used to say that 50 percent of my new clients found me by finding and reading one of my blogs. Now it's more like 90 percent. I have a great mix of new and repeat clients, thanks to the information I'm sharing on the blogs, and they are what marketers like to call "highly qualified"--in other words, they know they want to hire me. Less selling on my part.
  8. It's more than just a blog, if you let it be so. My blogs are the first drafts of books, collections of curated reference material, *and* my primary marketing tools. How efficient can you get?
  9. Be ready for people to have read you closely and to quote you back to yourself. Ye gods, it's always a bit of a shock when someone says, "I know you think this" or "I know you prefer that," until I realize that they've done some deep diving and reading on the blog. And that's a good thing. 
  10. Be a filter. I know when I read blogs, I'm looking for distinct points of view, and particularly, people who will filter and curate for me the facts, ideas, products, and trends that they notice, like, or dislike. I want them to tell me why, too. I want to hear their stories and perspectives and opinions. So I try to do the same. None of my blogs could belong to anyone else, and I like it that way.
  11. Figure out precisely what can--and can't--be delegated in blogging. While I invite the odd guest post here or there, most of my content is written by me. But with three blogs, choices need to be made about the other tasks. I use my virtual assistant corps at FancyHands to do research, transcribe short videos, find videos and copyright-free photos, track down texts and transcripts. Evernote keeps all my clippings and threads and ideas in one place so that I am ready to write when I'm ready to write. Don't forget that, once you build a following, your followers will start sharing content and ideas. 
  12. Be where your readers are. My longtime social media strategy is to use my blogs as my online basecamp, and to use my other social channels to bring the blog where my readers are (see the links at the bottom of this post). But the blogs offer the most complete view, my publishing tools-of-record, as it were. I have some readers who follow me on all channels, and some who only see my work on Facebook, or on Twitter, but they all wind up here.
One more thing I know for sure: The sooner you get going on your blog, the sooner 12 years will pop up in the rearview mirror.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Etienne Girardet)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The weekend read

This week, I've been at Magdalen College at the University of Oxford for the Spring Speechwriters' and Business Communicators' Conference, one of my favorites. Yesterday, I led a breakout group for speechwriters on prepping speakers for TED talks. Time to check out some breakout ideas in my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Cheers for the weekend:
Next, I head to London for a conference on virtual reality and immersion journalism, followed by my workshop, Creating a TED-Quality Talk

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Adrian Scottow)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

From photography rights to pizza: Prep your comms team for protests

In an era when protests are happening daily in cities around the U.S., communications pros may find that their camera-wielding, microphone-carrying comms teams are singled out for extra scrutiny and attention.

Why? Your videographers and photographers may be caught up in a crowd situation and mistaken for protesters, Or you may be on the receiving end of handling controversy when your security team oversteps good-sense limits or the First Amendment during a protest situation. Or you might have a thousand protesters sitting in your lobby with no intention of leaving, hunger, and a need for restrooms.

Whether you're at a corporation, on a university campus, or working for a nonprofit, and no matter where your location may be, the smart comms pro will be armed with these facts and resources before the crowd arrives:
  1. Brief your team on their rights during protests and police actions: It makes sense to buy and share with your team these wallet cards from the American Civil Liberties Union that summarize your rights for demonstrations and protests,when you are stopped or detained by police, and when you are stopped or detained for photographing or videotaping.The link above takes you to the variety pack with 10 cards for each of the three topics above, or 30 in total, for just $10.99. (I don't get anything for sharing this, but the small fee and the shipping do benefit ACLU.) It's a small investment, but one that means your team will be ready in case something goes wrong.
  2. Understand your state laws about recording conversations: The Digital Media Law Project shares these state laws and guidance for recording phone calls and conversations; in America, as of 2014, 11 states required the consent of both parties before such recordings are made. Make sure your team is up to speed on pertinent laws in your state before they head out to record interviews and convos.
  3. Work through how you'll get work done virtually or on the move: Are you prepared, as a colleague of mine used to say, to run your comms shop in a parking lot out of your purse and cellphone? If not, sit down with your team and come up with systems that will make it easy for all of you to do your work with mobile devices and out of the office.
  4. Have a sit-down with your organization's security team: If you have not done so (and you should do this at least annually), meet with the security team at your company, university, or nonprofit. Discuss how they will handle protests, and share your input on what that will look like when shared on social media and covered in traditional media. Make sure they have access to the same rights information your team does, so they are not inadvertently violating the rights of others. Share with them Arresting photographers: What should your security team know in an age of cellphone cameras? and "We'll just arrest the reporters:" What's your security team communicating? to get the conversation going. And ask them: Would they try arresting reporters? Or protesters? Why? When? You may need to include others in the discussion, but it's worth having before the trouble arrives at your door.
  5. Know your local police contacts: Get in touch with your police department--both the station that oversees your area, and the public information officer--to introduce yourself, exchange contact info, and talk about what happens in the event of a protest. Ask how your employees should be identified during a public demonstration to avoid arrest. Ask how they are likely to handle a swarm of protestors on your property. Then share what your company or organization would prefer. Loop your security folks into this discussion, please, or ask to be included when they reach out.
  6. Have the pizza factor ready: I'm not kidding. Buying pizza for protesters is one of the smarter ways to handle a sit-in or other invasion of your organization's property, and looks so much better than, say, calling in extra guards. It would not go amiss to have a few pizza parlor phone numbers in your shared contacts for just the right moment. And while you're at it, open your lobby-level restrooms if protesters are nearby. The Smithsonian museums got a lot of love by doing so during the Women's March on Washington, while maintaining their screening and visitor policies.
  7. Reach out to your physical neighbors: Your organization might not have a lot in common with the business/nonprofit/hotel/campus next door, but during a protest or other fast-moving crowd action, you'll save a lot of time by making yourself known to your communications counterparts in nearby buildings. Again, share contact info, ask how they are prepared to act, and do this ahead of time.
What else would you add to this list? Head to Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ at the links below to continue the conversation.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Jason)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The weekend read

The cherry blossoms here in Washington have had it tough this year, with early warming and late snow. They'll be about half of their usual gorgeousness. But they're still worth a look, just like my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Let a thousand ideas bloom:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Khai Nguyen)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.