Friday, November 03, 2017

A blog hiatus until year-end

After I took a blog and social-media hiatus in June, using a small portion of it to build up my queue of posts, I wrote, "I liked this catch-up approach so much I may try it again later this year."

Well, later has rolled around, and I'm taking another hiatus from now until the end of the year. I'll be back for the year-end roundup of the blog's most popular posts in the last week of the year, but otherwise won't be publishing. I'll be using some of the time to build great content for you in 2018. 

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Dan Slee)
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, November 01, 2017

A priceless explainer on why you should skip "off the record" in interviews

Having worked at the highest levels of government and with media outlets around the world, I've participated in every variation of off the record: background, deep background, off the record, and of course, on the record conversations with reporters. But when clients today ask me--usually in training situations--how to actually "do" off the record, I tell them simply to avoid it.

Generally, I do that out of an abundance of caution. It's easy to screw up off the record conversations if you are not well versed in the practice, as did the executive I used to work with who would say to reporters, "This is just off the cuff," and then proceed, not having actually gone off the record. Many times, the source in question wants to voice an unpopular opinion without taking the heat for having his name attached, which is too bad but not worthy of off the record status. Others get quoted and blame the reporter for misquoting, a less complicated method that is still pretty apparent to those of us who do this stuff for a living. The motivation is the same: You want to disclose stuff, without risk. And while we're on the topic of tactics that do not work, sending an email to many reporters titled "OFF THE RECORD" doesn't hold them to anything, nor does saying into a microphone at a private luncheon "This is off the record." Email and microphones are not the channels of choice for off the record conversations, dears.

I stumbled across an even better rationale for avoiding off-the-record recently, from Benjamin Wittes, the editor of Lawfare, posting on Facebook. He wrote: 
Many years ago, when I was a young reporter at Legal Times, I got to know a man named David Margolis, who was a legendary long-serving career staffer in the Deputy Attorney General's office. David impressed the hell out of me because of his rule about talking to the press: He only talked on the record. If he was prepared to say it at all, he was prepared to have you quote him saying it. I respected that a lot, and as we kept in touch for many years over many sensitive subjects, he never wavered from that basic commitment. 
At one point, I asked him his "opinion" about a matter, and he blurted out: "Oh, opinions are like assholes; everyone's got one." My editor removed it from my story for reasons of taste, and David later called me when the piece ran and chastised me about it. "That's the best quote I've ever given anyone!" I had let him off the hook and he called me on it. 
I've thought about David's policy a lot over the last few weeks as I've tried to decide how public and transparent I should be. I'm not as pure on the point as he was. I have gone off the record a few time. But my bottom line is the same as his. There are enough people talking anonymously. If it's right and proper for me to be saying anything at all, it's better that I should attach my name to it. So that's what I'm doing. 
And that means something: if you don't see my name attached to something, if you see that sources said something, if you read about leaks, it's not me. When I talk, for better or for worse, you'll know it.

Go and do the same, communicators, and urge your experts and spokesfolk likewise.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Viewminder)

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 27, 2017

The weekend read

This week, I'm coaching scientists in The Nature Conservancy's Science Impact Project leadership program as they deliver talks in the style of TED about their research. We've been working on developing, writing, and practicing the talks all summer, but it's showtime this week. Applause all around! Let's have a round of applause, too, for my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Cue the cheering:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by dog97209)

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 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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Al Franken on the interview pivot: When it works, or not

While promoting his new book, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate, the former Saturday Night Live satirist-turned-senator sat down with NPR's Terry Gross. And just as his book turns U.S. senate procedures inside out, making them more transparent, the interview wound up demonstrating what's known as the "pivot," that moment when the interview subject changes the subject to something more on message than the reporter's question.

It's a risky move, as we've discussed before. In Media interview smarts: Do you have to answer the question?, researchers note that, in some situations, your pivot may not be noticed by the audience. But in other situations, it will stick out like a sore thumb--including those in which the interviewee egregiously changes the subject.

For Franken, it's been doubly difficult to learn, since his first instinct is to go for the joke. Franken and Gross had a funny and frank conversation about the pivot that demonstrated its pluses and minuses. From the transcript, after Franken talked about an interview when he blurted out something funny, but inappropriate, in answer to a question:
FRANKEN: And it - and they're going like, why did you do that? Why didn't you just say I can't remember one? And I write about that in the book. And it's about pivoting, learning the basic pivoting. You've probably experienced a pivot. 
GROSS: Oh, my God, I hate it when politicians pivot.
FRANKEN: Well, that's why you're... 
GROSS: You ask a question and you get a pre-planned answer to the question that you didn't ask. 
FRANKEN: But the good ones are good at pivoting. 
GROSS: So you get the talking point that the politician wanted to put out instead of an answer to your question. And you say in your book that you had to learn how to pivot even though you hate to pivot. So what is it like to have to do something in an interview that you - you used to call that stuff out, you know, as a satirist... 
FRANKEN: Exactly. 
GROSS: ...And then you have to do it yourself? 
FRANKEN: Well, some - see, the reason they give you the talking point, now, they should... 
GROSS: You better answer my question (laughter). I'm just... 
FRANKEN: This - I'll get to - I'll answer your question. 
GROSS: OK. 
FRANKEN: But the reason you do that is actually you do want to get the message out that you want to get out that day. It's strategic. And that's why your communications team tells you, you know, today you're about talking about the terrible Republican health care bill. And so if they ask me, why are you 20 points down to, you know, to your opponent? You know what? People in Minnesota don't care about polls. What they care about is the health care bill. That's a pivot, right? 
GROSS: Right. 
FRANKEN: So it took me forever to learn that. And it's because I think I'm a very literal person. And I think my parents just taught me if someone asks you a question, answer the question. And so what I would do is answer questions. And then I'd go on about it. And invariably, whatever was on the news or whatever was on the radio or whatever was on - in the newspaper was not our strategic objective. So I had to learn that.
There seems to be agreement with that, even from the reporters' side of the house. I was mildly suprised by this piece by reporter David Weigel, One weird trick Democrats could use to stop stumbling over Pelosi and abortion questions, in which he wonders why the Democratic leaders still answer their most difficult questions, when the Republicans--who used to do the same--pivot. Weigel advocates for the pivot, noting "As a reporter, I benefit tremendously when politicians can't figure a way out of a question. But I'm surprised every time."

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.