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.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The weekend read

Some things just work better in pairs. Flip flops, for instance. Or Fridays, paired with my communications finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Let's bury our toes in the weekend, shall we?
(Creative Commons licensed photo by zeevveez)

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 09, 2017

Bill Clinton demos the public speaking 15-percent-less rule

The 15 percent less rule, a lifesaver for speeches and media interviews, is among the most-read posts on this blog, and I'm not surprised: It's the tactic I recommend most to speakers who routinely blow through their time limits and those who don't let the reporter get a word or question in edgewise during an interview. In that post, I used a famous example: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton:
It's said that former U.S. President Bill Clinton--famous for talking well past his assigned time slot, earlier in his career--has been able to rein himself in with what I call the "15 percent rule." The rule: You plan to fill 85 percent of the time allotted. 
That leaves 15 percent of your time as a cushion to ensure you don't exceed the limit. But the benefits go further, and Clinton uses it as time in which he can make an aside, or do some back-and-forth with the audience extemporaneously, based on where he feels the audience is emotionally, on the spot.
The genius of the rule is that it allows all that extemporaneous charm while still keeping you on time, the best of both worlds.

Recently, President Clinton gave remarks at a memorial service for Helmut Kohl, the former Chancellor of Germany, and demonstrated the rule--but at the start of his speech, not at the end or midway. And he announces to the audience that he's doing it, perhaps to underscore the emotion he felt on the occasion.

I've had the speech transcribed here, but here are the beginning and the early off-the-cuff paragraph. And yes, the extemporaneous bit constitutes a little under 15 percent of the total.
Maike, thank you for giving the me opportunity to say a few words. Thank you to Peter, Walter, Helmut’s family.  To the leaders of Europe and the European Union, Chancellor Merkel, President Macron, other prime ministers and officials who are here, I ask you to think about something not in my notes.  
I was looking around this crowd today, at all of us who used to be in office. All of us who came. Why? Because Helmut Kohl gave us the chance to be involved in something bigger than ourselves. Bigger than our terms of office. Bigger than our fleeting careers. Because all of us sooner or later will be in a coffin like that.  And the only gift we can leave behind is a better future for our children, and the freedom to make their own choices, including their own mistakes.  
As a practical matter, and particularly if you know your remarks by heart, it's much easier to put the 15 percent interpolation at the beginning or end of your existing remarks, as Clinton did here. And he goes a step further: Clinton echoes this late-inserted theme later in his remarks, so seamlessly that you might be forgiven for assuming it was there in the first place. Three paragraphs from the end:
But in his big, highly political, often overbearing leadership there was a germ of understanding that the cancers of the 20th century were all born of people who believed domination was better than cooperation. That’s why we’re all here. All of us old guys that used to be wanted to come back and say thank you for giving us a chance to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
The 15 percent rule should not be deployed as a "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" tactic. It's not a wide-open door, but a judicious margin. Here, it's essentially one paragraph added to well-planned remarks--but it's a paragraph that adds immediacy and emotion and an overarching theme to tie the remarks together. Not bad for 15 percent.

The speech is just 11 minutes and 1100 words, which means it's delivered at a brisk pace--perhaps not unwelcome at a memorial service. Watch it here or below, and get inspiration for your own 15 percent.


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 04, 2017

The weekend read

There's a lot of hot air in Washington, communicators...in every sense. Let's stop creating more hot air 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. Time to recess for the weekend:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Conservation Law Foundation)

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 02, 2017

New AP Stylebook puts focus on data journalism

The Associated Press Stylebook 2017 is just out, and in addition to ensuring that your press materials meet the style guide most commonly used by reporters, there's new content on data journalism that make this even more of a must for the office bookshelf.

As AP puts it, “Government agencies, businesses and other organizations alike all communicate in the language of data and statistics. To cover them, journalists must become conversant in that language as well.”
The guidelines cover research and reporting with data; scraping it (a last resort only); and publishing it. Of interest to communications pros is the advice to journos to give the readers access to the source data, something you should start anticipating as a request if you're sitting on data. Thank goodness that's easier than ever these days. Nieman Lab has a rundown on the data journalism changes here.

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, July 28, 2017

The weekend read

It's Friday, communicators. Time to make a splash of a different sort, starting with my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Life's a beach:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by The Sands Kenya)

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, July 26, 2017

Why "tip more, pitch less" also works for freelance media coverage

PR, media relations folks: Tip more, pitch less to reach reporters is among the most-read posts on this blog. That's in part because reporter Ivan Oransky sometimes sees fit to quote it when he's speaking to audiences of scientists and communications pros, most recently at the FASEB and NIH-sponsored #BasicBioComm workshop:
I shared the post with people discussing it on Twitter at that conference, and got a great tip I can share with comms pros from a freelance journalist, Bryson Masse:
Having been a freelance journalist myself, I can attest to that! Unfortunately, many communications pros tend to see freelancers as "more work" or less return on investment, a truly out-of-date point of view in this gig economy. And they feel the same way about tips vs. pitching: It's easier to blast-email or mass-pitch an established list of journos, or so it seems.

But over time, that effort really doesn't get you more coverage, nor coverage of quality. And every company or organization has stories to tell that are more complex and less obvious than a press release can convey. For those, you need to build relationships with reporters and behave in ways that make you a trusted source, not a press release vending machine. You can get a head start by using my 8 things to do in a media interview so you get called again. And in the well-worn "tip more, pitch less" post, I make the case for giving up some of the "standard" media relations activities that are labor-intensive and time-consuming, so that you'll have more time for these more fruitful engagements.

Media relations pros ask me all the time, "How can I build relationships with reporters?" I'll just keep saying tip more, pitch less, until y'all hear it.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Tyrone Islington Photography)

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, July 21, 2017

The weekend read

I *was* going to be working in San Francisco this week, but a last-minute cancellation--which came as my plane arrived--had me cancelling and rescheduling the entire week. I just stayed in the airport and got on a later flight home. But the weekend can stay on schedule, communicators. Time to check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by atgw)

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, July 19, 2017

Tell it better: Storytelling to prompt donations and shift power

Many of my clients want to use storytelling to help raise funds from donors. When I'm working with a group to coach them in storytelling with talks in the style of TED conferences, I challenge them to craft talks without "selling from the stage," as is the custom at TED. That means no asking during the talk, but instead using the talk to tell a story that resonates with the prospective donor and prompts more conversation leading to a donation.

So I was intrigued by the research described in How to get the wealthy to donate, in which the researchers describe how their experiments failed to get wealthy people to donate when they stressed that the donation would achieve common goals for all. What? In fact, donors responded better when the story was about them:
When wealthier people — those with incomes higher than $90,000 — were greeted by the message that framed charitable giving as an opportunity for individual achievement, they were significantly more likely to click “Donate Today” than when they encountered the message that stressed common goals.
On the TED ideas blog, Citizen University CEO Eric Liu, writing on How to get power, talks about storytelling as a tool to change the power dynamic--and tells you how to move from the story about the donor to your need today. He shares storytelling lessons from community organizer Marshall Ganz as a formula:
Everywhere he goes, Ganz uses a method for organizing that centers on three nested narratives: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now. He teaches organizers entering into any setting to start not with policy proposals or high concepts like justice but with biographies — their own, and those of the people they hope to mobilize. 
What are the stories you tell about yourself? Why do you tell them that way? How can we find connections across our stories of origin that build trust and common cause? That work then flows into the story of us: the collective narratives of challenge, choice and purpose that emerge from any community — that, in fact, help define it. This is how in a place like New Orleans after the flood or Detroit after the crash, residents can develop a shared identity of resilience and reinvention. It’s how anti–Common Core activists nationwide have been able to forge a cross-ideological crusade of parents and teachers tired of standardized-testing regimes that crush creativity and stifle liberty.

Once that shared narrative is activated, the organizer can connect it to the fierce urgency of now: a story about why this is the “movement moment,” when individual and collective motivations converge, and when action is needed and possible. Why this and no other time is the time for change. This is how “Yes We Can” became more than a slogan in 2008, as “Morning in America” did in 1980. Or “Make America Great Again” did in 2016.
Liu notes that the most crucial of the three is the "story of us," adding, "This is more than stepping into someone else’s shoes — it’s stepping into the story of how someone else came to be wearing those shoes." So you can have your story about "collective motivations," as long as you merge it with the motivations of the individual.

SUNY Oswego's Tim Nekritz reflects on this for university communicators, using his own experiences as an alumni donor: "As I prepare to send a check to one of my alma maters, thinking of the journey and how it helped along the way, I realize that the more challenges I faced and how much the school helped has really played into why I give." It's a good discussion of applying the hero's journey to this process. Just as in Who's the hero when storytelling your customer's journey?, in which it's not the product but the customer who needs to be the hero, your donor needs to be the hero when you're telling the story of a gift or donation, and the story needs to be their story.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Kathryn Harper)

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.