Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tell It Better: Using stories to get more out of your negotiations

I've trained a lot of executives in using a conversational or "TED style" in their presentations, which incorporates lots of storytelling skills. But the skeptics among them think that storytelling equals showing off. When it comes to "real" business--like negotiation with a client, customer, or supplier, say--storytelling doesn't belong, they believe. Howard Baker once said, "The most difficult thing in any negotiation, almost, is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts." And that thinking has carried the day for a long time.

But what if I told you that storytelling can unlock what's on the mind of your negotiation partner?

In Harvard Business Review's The secret to negotiation is reading people's faces, it's acknowledged that many negotiations turn on emotional responses. But, as the author notes, "experienced negotiators know how to mask their true feelings...Or they’re able to convincingly fake an emotion if they think it will help them advance their own interests." She tested micro-expressions--those lasting just 1/25th of a second--and people's ability to read them.

The trick is to get your negotiation partner to give up some facial expressions, to give you a clue as to her thinking. And one of the tools the article recommends is storytelling. This is one case when your being talkative is going to help:
Negotiators have an easier time controlling their expressions when they’re talking. So don’t ask too many open questions. Instead describe what you want or share an anecdote about another negotiating partner who shared concerns similar to theirs and watch how they respond as they listen. Their guard will lower a little and you’ll be able to see their honest reactions to what you’re saying — knowledge to guide the rest of the conversation.
You're looking for those little involuntary facial movements when you watch their reactions. Use your storytelling to fish for insights the next time you negotiate.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by perzon seo)

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, October 20, 2017

The weekend read

Let's have a double shot and power through this Friday, shall we communicators? After all, the weekend is just ahead. Savor your shots with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Caffeine FTW...
(Creative Commons licensed photo by brian)

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, October 13, 2017

The weekend read

Been sawing wood at work this week, communicators? Time to stack it up and light a fire with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. What better way to greet the weekend than with a roaring fire?
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Harry McGregor)

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, October 11, 2017

"I know what he looks like in a windbreaker:" Image after disaster

I heard a little death knell in coverage of Lin-Manuel Miranda's effort to raise funds for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurrican Maria, or what sounded like it. It may be that we've moved past, as a nation, the carefully sculpted image of the public executive in the wake of a disaster. From the New York Times:
Mr. Miranda was too busy completing the track to engage with Mr. Trump’s visit to the island on Tuesday. “If he’s announcing that he’s going to do an unprecedented push for aid, great,” he said. “Short of that I don’t need to watch. I know what he looks like in a windbreaker.”
The windbreaker is a shorthand reference to a phenomenon that's only been around since 1965, according to the Responder in Chief episode of John Dickerson's Whistlestop podcast. It's a great look at how the idea of the U.S. president as "action hero" evolved, starting with Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1965 after Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans, pictured above. Johnson blurted out a promise of assistance, the locals were very greatful, and the congressional delegation from the area had another chit called in--because that's what prompted this visit, an unwitting model. Before this, there were none of the high-profile visits to which we have become accustomed.

You'll note that LBJ is in an ordinary suit, but this was not to last. Over the past 40+ years, advisers have advised their public executives to make appearances in disasters dressed for the occasion: windbreaker, rolled-up sleeves, caps, appropriate shoes. I've certainly done it, and it makes sense that the responder-in-chief, be it a state official or U.S. President, dress appropriately.

The entire form seems to have jumped the shark this week, or at least turned a corner, with the U.S. President releasing a video supercut of highlights of his visit to Puerto Rico, and, apparently not happy with the response to his action-hero effort, this tweet:
I like the context provided by Dickerson's podcast, which walks you right through how we got here today, and how different our expectations of public officials were once upon a time...as well as how important it has always been to the forgotten people on the ground that there be some level of response. Especially interesting is how the phenomenon was fueled by television optics over the years.

That visual aspect of post-disaster PR could next involve VR, virtual reality. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg highlighted that in a tech demo, using VR to "visit" Puerto Rico post-hurricane. But he was widely criticized for insensitivity in doing so, and had to apologize. Perhaps the incident confirms that the public prefers "boots on the ground" approaches still, even from non-public-officials.

No matter what technology is involved, without a substantive response behind all that window- and action hero-dressing, you can expect responses like Miranda's. Applying a windbreaker does not an action hero make. So before you stock your CEO's office closet with outdoor gear, work on the substance of your response--and your statements--first. Otherwise, you're just a windbreaker.

(LBJ Library photo of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Cong. Hale Boggs, and Sen. Russell Long surveying damage to New Orleans by Hurricane Betsy, 1965. Photo A1271-22 by Yoichi Okamoto)

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, October 06, 2017

The weekend read

Turn down the heat on the week that was, communicators, and start prepping for the weekend. You can start with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Stir, simmer, and boil your way into the weekend:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Kurman Communications)

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, October 04, 2017

Tell it better: What if you only have six seconds for that story?

I'm always telling the speakers I coach to slow down--ask anybody backstage at TEDMED, or quiz my coaching clients. But a recent disclosure over the summer may have many storytellers thinking they need to speed up.

At the Cannes Lions advertising festival back in June, New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg came away with an insight to make any storyteller pause: You really only have six seconds to tell your story. Here's how he described it:
A clarifying moment for me came Tuesday when Fox’s president of ad revenue, Joe Marchese, joined YouTube executives at Google’s pop­up beach club here to announce that Fox would heed YouTube’s call to reduce the length of commercials to six seconds from the standard 30.  
“What’s really scarce is attention,” and people are being more selective with it, the YouTube managing director Debbie Weinstein told reporters. Six seconds, her colleague Tara Walpert Levy said, was “just short enough and yet long enough” to get a story told.
Advertising often plays the role of bellwether for storytelling, since--as Rutenberg notes--advertisers are quick to stop paying for ads if they feel no one's watching them. And that's what is happening with the 30-second variety.

Before storytellers yelp too much, we've been moving in this direction for some time. Back in 2011, the "modern" soundbite in media interviews shrank to nine seconds, and on The Eloquent Woman blog, I recently wrote about trends in shorter talks, starting with two-minute talks at TEDMED, the popularity of the five-minute talk, and TED's consideration of a shorter-than-18-minute top limit. Those short limits to attention also are why TED talks "jump right in" to the story at the start--why waste time? Limiting the number of words in a story severely--say, to six words--has been a longtime, if small, trend, inspired by Ernest Hemingway. And if you use my rule of thumb of 120 words per minute, six seconds yields 12 words, a veritable bonanza.

You don't have to wonder what that six-second story looks like. YouTube challenged advertisers earlier this year to make some six-second ads, and the results are here, along with the producers' tips.

You may not be making ads, but that shorter attention span--and the selectivity of your audience in how they spend it--is worth *your* attention, communicators. How are you asking your audiences to spend that precious commodity?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Casey Marshall)

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, September 29, 2017

The weekend read

You're the apple of my eye, communicators. Time to take a bite out of my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Welcome to the weekend:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Alexander Lyubavin)

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, September 27, 2017

Does your communications office need a hackathon?

Hackathons are legendary in the tech world. Starting out as all-night code marathons, they've evolved into multi-day events or gotten more focused as department-wide, rather than company-wide, efforts. And I think communications and public affairs offices should strongly consider their own versions of a hackathon on a regular basis.

You'll find background on how the hackathon has evolved at Facebook in this article, but the main idea is expressed in this quote from the article: "The best hackathon projects come about when someone in the company identifies a problem, and recruits others to work on it with them."

For a busy comms shop, it seems to me the best hackathon ideas will let your team tackle problems that have been like sand in your shoe all year, the ones no one seems to have time to address. You can come up with pilot projects to test out ideas short-term and measure their effectiveness, even use the hackathon as a pivot point, a marker where you change your policies or practices in large or small. And no, it doesn't need to be an all-nighter. But a couple of days devoted to considering new options and problem-solving projects could advance your communications in a way nothing else can.

Planning a communications hackathon also means your team can create a wish list throughout the year and earmark problems to be addressed then. Remember, the best hackathon projects stem from passion, so let your team show what it's passionate about in the projects that get chosen. This is more hands-on than a staff retreat, but it's a great team-building opportunity--and I'd add a session for each person or team to share their hacked project with the full team, for bragging rights, and to seed even more ideas.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Andrew Eland)

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, September 22, 2017

The weekend read

Next time you ride into Washington, DC, learn this bit of local lore we like to share with tourists: We have lots of statues of generals on horseback, mostly of Civil War generals, mostly Union generals (by the by). Nearly all of them face toward the White House, no matter where they are in the city. So no matter who's in power, it can be said that if you're looking at a horse's ass, you're looking at the White House. Better ride on to my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Giddyup, weekend:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Ian Sane, not of a statue in Washington.)

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, September 20, 2017

Public trust, rumor-fighting, and fake news: What comms pros can do

In a world where the President of the United States keeps contradicting or changing his facts, and declaring others' facts as "fake news" when he disagrees with them, communications pros have their work cut out for them. Social media fans the flames of this particular communications dumpster fire: Opposing sides swing into action, spreading rumors. There are honest, or not-so-honest mistakes, and then there's the fake news industrial complex at work. Rumors get sticky and persistent and won't go away. They move faster than you do, as Winston Churchill noted long ago, when he said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

But those are just the symptoms. Most important is the underlying condition: Those public audiences with whom you are trying to build trust and credibility are questioning everyone and everything, or just checking out.

The Pew Research Center has new data out on how people approach facts and info, in a treasure trove of a report--it is extensive, takes the time to delineate different types of public audiences, and then breaks down how they approach, view, and handle information from a variety of sources and institutions. This is a must-read for the smart communications pro, something for your team to absorb and study, and perhaps share with your internal and external clients to educate them, as well.

Unfortunately, it's also a demonstration of Americans' distrust of information from a variety of sources. It's great news for libraries and health providers, which top the list--although with just about 40 percent each of the survey respondents, so not an overwhelming majority. Fully 30 percent of respondents said they don't trust any source "a lot." Social media? Right at the bottom, even though other surveys--including some from Pew--continue to show that we consult social media for news more than other sources. Everyone else: You've got some work to do to earn the public trust. This is not a non-issue for you and your communications strategy.

Social media sites are not unaware of the problem. Facebook, among others, has started initiatives to sort out fake vs. real news, collaborating with Snopes.com and the Associated Press. One part of the initiative is to add a "disputed" tag to spurious reports on Facebook. But nothing's perfect. A new study of the disputed tags suggest limited effectiveness, and even a backfire effect with two particular demographics. From Politico's coverage:
The study, reported for the first time by POLITICO, found that tagging false news stories as “disputed by third party fact-checkers” has only a small impact on whether readers perceive their headlines as true. Overall, the existence of “disputed” tags made participants just 3.7 percentage points more likely to correctly judge headlines as false, the study said. 
The researchers also found that, for some groups—particularly, Trump supporters and adults under 26—flagging bogus stories could actually end up increasing the likelihood that users will believe fake news.
NiemanLab's coverage notes another useful study from the same authors that looks at the cognitive psychological profiles of people with what they call high "bullshit receptivity" to fake news. You just can't educate yourself enough about your audiences and how they approach and handle news, and trust.

One way to learn is to watch what journalists do, living as they do in the land of fact-checking--then review your own comms shop's procedures for fact-checking (you do have some, don't you?) to be sure they are on point for today. A useful discussion on NPR's 1A called "Facts and Friction" recently brought together fact-checking experts from the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Snopes.com, and a media literacy association to discuss the finer points. You'll find out why the Post does not generally use the word "lie" when someone makes a false statement, among other gems. There's audio and a transcript, as well as links to related coverage, at the link, so pass it around the office.

Rumors are another variant. Call them homegrown fake news: With all the big news events happening recently, particularly the hurricanes and floods--two destabilizing events that cut off information flows and boost rumors--rumors are rife in the absence of other info, and word of mouth re-proves just how efficient it can be, with or without social media.

Pro communicators can find some good examples of efforts by official institutions to tamp down rumors and refute them. I've found two good examples. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has set up a "rumor control" portion of its website to refute hurricane-related rumors for all the storms in play right now. The Miami Airport's doing something similar, but on Twitter.

Dispelling myths and rumors, we already know, requires more than setting up a website these days. If you are following this model, you need to publicize, publicize, publicize. It's a great opportunity to pitch stories to relevant reporters about the myths and rumors you are hearing, and the facts. You can clearly amplify the resource on social media, in speeches, and in media interviews. And you may need to do this over a long period of time, just for the record. Remember, the more you blog and post about your rumor-fighting site, the higher it gets in the search engines. And if you couch the rumors as questions, so much the better: That's search-engine gold, as you know.

The New York Times also shared tactics for combating fake news that emerged from a meta-analysis of thousands of psychological studies, so frame your responses using these evidence-based approaches. As the headline notes, it ain't easy to do.

There are plenty of sites, and we've covered some, that have already established ongoing myth-busting or rumor busting in their particular areas--like inaccurate quotes attributed to great people in history. We may be entering a time when every institution looking to maintain a public trust will need such a permanent section on its website, and in its promotional rotation on social media. If you have good examples to share, I'm happy to round them up. Share on the social sites below or email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail.

(Pew Research Center chart from the report)

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, September 15, 2017

The weekend read

No erasers for these chalk marks--just my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Chalk the week up to a job well done, and read on:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by stupidmommy)

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, September 13, 2017

Do pro communicators plagiarize? A guide to changing course

In How communicators can stop plagiarizing others and themselves, comms pros will find a useful and straightforward look at an issue we talk about in others, but don't necessarily police in ourselves. Whether it's due to ignorance, cut-and-paste habits, moving too fast, or any other reason, communications shops that work with words are bound to experience plagiarism--not by others, but by their own actions.

Rather than plagiarize this very good article, I'll just call it a must-read. Give your staff the simple tests in it; make the plagiarism discussion at least an annual, formal ritual in your office; share tools and resources your team can easily put to use to prevent plagiarizing. This is time well spent. Note that the article was prompted when the White House was discovered to have lifted lines for a press release from one written by industry lobbyists--not an unheard-of occurrence in Washington, if rare. Your own releases and reports could face similar scrutiny, and should pass muster.  (A hat tip to Ivan Oransky for sharing this very useful piece with me.)

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, September 08, 2017

The weekend read

That was just a nightmare you had about homework, communicators. We're past that now. But if you want to get smarter by Monday, try my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. I promise plenty of good chemistry:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by starman series)

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, September 06, 2017

For Obamacare insurance plans, a get-the-word-out challenge begins

When the health insurance exchanges for Obamacare first emerged, I heard from many that were puzzling over how best and whether to use social media to inform potential enrollees--after all, insurance isn't all that Instagrammable at first glance.

But with the Trump administration slashing outreach funds to inform citizens about their options under Obamacare insurance plans by 90 percent, a get-the-word-out challenge has begun, and those exchanges that laid some groundwork stand in good stead to meet the challenge.

The cuts are steep: The ad budget goes from $100 million to $10 million, and in-person enrollment visits are cut 41 percent. I'm not a big believer in the nonprofit world taking up the slack when the government fails to meet its obligations, but I like people to know about their options more.

So what's an exchange to do? Here are a few thoughts to get you started on ramping up your outreach:
  • Assess what you are doing now: Make this a new baseline, even if your numbers are small. Eventually, the ability to document how many people you reached during this time will be not only newsworthy but useful in defending the program. Think ahead to what you will want to be able to demonstrate.
  • What needs to shift? Are you in the right social media channels for your audiences? Do you need to add or subtract anything? Where does it make the most sense to put your efforts right now? Are there new options since your last campaign to consider?
  • Use the cuts to spice up your approach: Call it the insurance option they don't want you to know about, and don't be afraid to note that the ad budget's been cut and you need everyone to get the word out. Pushing the rhetoric up a notch might help catch attention just now. Do continue to share benefits others have found under the program to encourage enrollees: short videos, photos with long captions, guest posts.
  • What new communication partners can you call on to help spread the word? Craft a simple public service announcement and send it to area businesses, media outlets, nonprofits, and other groups--all of them have an interest in having healthy employees and customers. Add a note that the marketing budget from the government has been cut severely and that you need the help. Make your simple announcement in several formats--video, audio, text, scripts to be read--and provide contact information. Make all that shareable, and let your potential partners know which formats they have at their fingertips. Ask for social media as well as traditional media shares.
  • Ask enrollees to share their experiences and your recruitment messages: They know best how well the program works, so ask them to post those experiences and share your social media messages with their circles.
  • Go to your donors: Having served in both sectors, I am not a fan of private philanthropy picking up the slack for the government, but now is a time to ask donors for small focused amounts for publicity and advertising. Facebook ads, billboards, sponsored posts all can be sponsored by your donors. Or ask for funds to improve your videos and get them placed more widely. A donor can maximize her funds by supporting a "clinic" on effective video or a tutorial on Facebook ads for several exchanges at once.
  • Consider limited-budget Facebook ads: You'd be surprised how well-targeted and inexpensive boosted posts and standard ads are on Facebook--try $25 or $50 or $100 to start. You can kill the ad or pause it at any time, and you can get very specific in terms of demographics and geographic reach so the effort is highly targeted. A worthy experiment at this particular time.
  • It's a great time to become a local news angle: The federal budget cut gives you the perfect hook to call local TV and radio stations and newspapers to plead your case. Have your numbers ready on what you were able to do with the funding, and what the cuts mean going forward. Use any interview to note not only how individuals can get info, but that you need those aforementioned partners to help get the word out. Get in touch with the same outlets midway through the enrollment cycle for an update, and a week or two before the end of the cycle for an "ending soon" call to action. Have some prepared enrollees willing to talk to the media, if possible
  • Call on board members and volunteers to recruit help: All hands on deck: Ask board members and volunteers for ideas, to call their contacts, and to work on media appearances or other tasks. Provide them with talking points and prep for interviews. Many board members have contacts who can let you take over their ads for a day or who can work you into their marketing for a short time, so ask.
If exchanges wish to share other ideas at the links below, please do and I'll round them up in another post. Share this one with an exchange near you!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Carl Lender)

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, September 01, 2017

The weekend read

Ride's over. Summer's done. And it's Labor Day weekend, a good time to salute the work you do, communicators. Get off the whirligig week and check out my finds, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Last chance for cotton candy:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Alive in Calgary)

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, August 30, 2017

Steal this idea: Do you have a "free to use and reuse" page?


Big libraries, museums, universities, and more are busy digitizing and releasing copyright-free content from their archives, an important aspect of social media and publishing today. These newly digitized collections get shared in Pinterest boards and on Facebook pages, on Instagram and blogs. But a simple, straightforward idea I found on the Library of Congress website is one you should steal if you also have copyright-free material digitally available: A "free to use and reuse" page.

The Library of Congress has long been in the forefront of using social media and sharing, from creating a photo commons on Flickr and asking the public to help identify photos, to using a blog post instead of a press release to announce that effort. But this new idea is both useful and delightfully simple. You can see the "free to use and reuse" feature on the library home page, highlighting some of the freely available content; the library is quick to point out that it has just a fraction of the copyright-free content in its collections. This blog post shares more of the free collection, and notes that the home page feature on free-to-use content will change monthly.

As one who's switched from stock photos to Creative Commons licensed photos or freely available art, this is welcome news for me--and a great idea for you to steal. Every type of organization has some information that's freely available. Why not make it obvious and available?

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, August 25, 2017

The weekend read

Let's put what's left of this week on that plane called Misery, communicators, and ship it off to the furthest desert island. Then we can focus on my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Misery does love company, you know:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Library of Congress)

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, August 23, 2017

Tell It Better: A story in a tweet that makes the customer the hero

As I pointed out in Who's the hero when storytelling your customer's journey?, part of this Tell It Better storytelling series, the story about your customer's "journey" needs to put the customer front and center. And now I can share a great example in the form of a Tweet from Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk to the customers for his electric cars.

Here's the tweet:
Let's break down the story: Here, Musk is the storyteller or observer, expressing appreciation--something any storyteller can do to enhance the story by witnessing its excitement, value, or impact. That's expressed three times in this little story: In the thanks, in "it matters to us," and in "We won't forget." The phrase "you took a risk on a new car company" is a compact hero's journey that puts the customer squarely in the hero's seat. Risk and challenge, and the implied false starts and failures on the road to success, are all stalwart parts of any good story with a hero. They're implied here in the word "risk." Best of all, in the great tradition of storytelling, concluding with "We won't forget" suggests "this is a favorite story, so we will be telling it over and over."

Twitter being Twitter, you can see the tens of thousands of likes and retweets, with many customers proudly posting pictures of their Teslas. Beautiful, emotional, free advertising and customer testimonials, all out of a tweet that is well shy of 140 characters.

In Elon Musk just sent a beautiful message to Tesla customers, the emotional intelligence behind the tweet is analyzed, with an emphasis on the appreciation of the customer. That's precisely what we do in traditional storytelling with the hero of the story, and a great reminder that, in telling the story of your product or service, it's the customer--not your company, not your product, not your service--that is the hero you are appreciating. Psychologically, that's a significant shift in focus and approach. If your corporate storytelling can share how and why you appreciate your customers, you'll be that much further ahead in connecting with them through that story.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Sam Felder)

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, August 18, 2017

The weekend read

What's that I see? Looks an awful lot like a weekend, communicators, despite the glare of the week. Shade your eyes 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. You look good in shades:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Shélin Graziela)

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, August 16, 2017

Using a blog hiatus to, well, blog

This will sound like a busman's holiday, but bear with me.

I took a blog and social media hiatus in the month of June, and one common reaction was, "Have a wonderful break!" or "Enjoy that long vacation!" But I didn't enter into it as a vacation. For one thing, I worked all of that month. I just didn't publish and didn't post on social sites, professionally or personally. But I did use part of the hiatus--a relatively small part, as it turns out--to get my two blogs populated for much of the rest of the year.

Wait, what? You heard me. I put in a small amount of time, and wound up being able to fill most of my blog schedule--two posts a week on one blog, three on the other--for the rest of 2017. As I came out of the hiatus, I had 109 posts either half set up or completely written on my two blogs, and that leaves just about two dozen or fewer posts to do for the rest of the year. A month after my hiatus was over, both blogs were fully scheduled with posts.

Here's how I tackled the task:
  1. I started with the highly formatted posts: I have two weekly features, one on each blog, that round up posts I've shared on Facebook and posts on those blogs. They each have a specific format, so I scheduled weekly posts; put in the shell text that's the same each time; found and added photos and graphics. Then I got into my Evernote notebooks for these posts and set up posts on each blog's Facebook page, with links to those articles in the shell posts. This was fairly mechanical, and therefore fast.
  2. I set up time-focused or calendar-specific posts: At the end of December, I do some "top 10 for the year" posts about the most-read posts on each blog. At Thanksgiving, I write posts thanking my clients and readers. Those are easy to set up now.
  3. I dug into my queue of draft post ideas and my Evernote story ideas file: I tag specific notes in Evernote as "story ideas," and I got in there and cleaned up that file, then wrote up the remaining ideas. 
  4. I got my virtual assistant to research missing pieces: Some of my posts rely on texts or transcripts of speeches, or videos of speech delivery, so I tasked FancyHands with running those down. Once available, I could write the related posts.
  5. I farmed out a couple of posts to my freelancer writer, and invited a couple of guest posts. Those went right into the queue when they were received.
  6. As new ideas popped up, I wrote them up. That's one of the luxuries of taking yourself off of a regular publishing schedule for a bit: You can get to the writing faster. This alone helped me fill up the queues for the blogs.
  7. I left some room for flex: I know I'll have more ideas in the next six months, and having the blog queues well-stocked helps me when it comes to doing of-the-moment posts that can't be planned--and I've already done some of those, moving the scheduled posts further out in the queue. It's a great mix of timeliness and planning.
If you're going to try this, it helps to understand the editorial plan for your blog. On my blogs, I know which type of post appears on which day of the week, what the format is for series posts, and the goals for each post. That makes it easier to understand the overall vision, and fulfill it. Recurring posts or a series may seem onerous when you are thinking them up, but if you set them up right, they are easy to put together.

I liked this catch-up approach so much I may try it again later this year. If I were just starting a blog, I'd hold off first publication while spending a month populating that blog for the next six months. Not having to worry about posts appearing currently freed me up to think more and better about the posts I was prepping ahead of time. Getting long-saved story ideas onto the blogs was a delight. And having it all (well, nearly all) prepped this far means my next six months will be that much easier...well worth the month-long hiatus.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Anonymous Account)

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.