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.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The weekend read

See that hammock in the distance? It's a smart plan for the weekend. So are my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Time to work, slowly, on getting smarter by Monday:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by smilla4)

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 12, 2017

A lookback at my month-long social media hiatus

I was waiting with another woman outside our club in Georgetown, each having summoned an Uber ride. But her phone had run out of juice before she could tell whether her request went through. "What should I do?" she asked. I looked up the street, saw the lights of available cabs, and said, "Just put your hand up." And indeed, a taxi pulled over faster than the Uber might have done.

That's a bit how taking a social media hiatus for a month feels: Simpler, without your usual tools, and sometimes more efficient.

I'd been skeptical of such absences from social media, having watched others do them. But the primary gains for me--time, and time to think, work, and write without distraction--were wonderful. The month felt like several months, voluminous, slow. And no, it wasn't a vacation. I worked right through it, but enjoyed the pause on social channels.

I should add here that, before the hiatus, I had prided myself on how little time I spent on social channels, getting the work part of my social publishing done quickly. That's not what eats your time, of course...it's scrolling through all the feeds and pages you've chosen to follow, and honestly, I wasn't even trying to do so. One thing I notice coming back from the break is Just. How. Much. Is. Out. There. I can believe there are tens of millions of Facebook pages, and I am not following all of them.

On my hiatus, I didn't post on any of my blogs; didn't tweet or post to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or anything else; didn't check notifications; didn't share articles in my feeds. I limited my reading online to Feedly, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, and listened to all my usual podcasts.

When I've taken shorter breaks before--as much as a week at a time--I have taken care to schedule posts, sometimes reruns of previous posts, during the hiatus. Not so this time. I took a complete break and so did my readers. This spared me doing an extra month's work in advance of the hiatus.

The hiatus meant that I had to change some things I had automated to make social media easier for me, like having certain sites come up immediately on separate tabs when I opened Chrome. During the hiatus, that would just be dangling bait in front of me. On my mobile, I moved apps to the back burner, rather than keeping them easy to find; if I were more addicted to my phone, I might have tried turning it grayscale to make the menu less appealing.

And I had to adjust how I got my news, going directly to news sites I wanted to check on, rather than letting Twitter or Facebook serve them up via my feeds and friends. (You're welcome, newspaper sites.) So it's not necessarily less work in that respect. But losing all the notification checks, posting moments, and more? That was priceless. If I change one big thing going forward, it will be to dramatically reduce the time I spend on notifications, and the total number of notifications I get.

I did miss the ability to tweet or Facebook my immediate reaction to something outrageous, or to share a valuable article, but holding back let me contemplate whether the world really lost anything there. (Answer: Not even.) And yes, not being on Facebook meant I was slow to learn some family news. But since, in my family, we talk, text, and visit regularly, that wasn't a huge problem. People frequently assumed I'd seen things they'd posted, until I reminded them of the hiatus. Some discussions of my work took place entirely without me around to participate them, which is not a bad thing at all, and much like real life. I missed significant birthdays and wins of my friends, who will forgive me.

An invaluable part of this experiment: I spent some of the hiatus prepping posts for the coming months. Having a well-stocked queue is, to me, the only real way to handle these publishing tasks. I know I was more productive in preparing posts in advance, without having to worry about day to day posting. Those advance posts, in effect, help me have a mini-hiatus in the weeks ahead, when nearly everything will be already taken care of. This, too, is priceless. The rest of the year, blog-wise, is going to be relatively easy.

Two big results of the hiatus: I decided to let go of two of my own publishing efforts, the Moderating Panels blog and the @NoWomenSpeakers Twitter feed, where I retweet mentions about few or no women on conference panels. That latter space, once lonely, is now crowded with many tweeters calling out the lack of women speakers. Topics covered in both that feed and the panels blog will still get coverage on The Eloquent Woman, my blog on women and public speaking. It just makes my posting somewhat more efficient. And if you follow me on @NoWomenSpeakers, switch over to @dontgetcaught, willya?

Did I lose readership? Not that I can see. People continued to sign up for my newsletter or follow me on various sites. Some, after reading announcements of the hiatus, sent "we'll miss you--enjoy the break" messages. A few friends wondered whether something was deeply wrong with me, seriously concerned. Why do absences prompt such thoughts, I wonder? But no nefarious stuff was involved in this decision. The plus: After 12 years of blogging, I've built some strong and loyal audiences, the kind that are mostly with me for the long term. I don't take them for granted, but I do expect to be interacting with them again shortly.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Mathew Wangrycht)


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 07, 2017

The weekend read

Time for one more parade, communicators. Let's march toward the weekend alongside my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Wave to the nice people as you pass by:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Thomas Hawk)

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 05, 2017

A collection of speeches for learning about speechwriting

(Editor's note: I'm back from my month-long social media and blog hiatus, and what better book to share the day after Independence Day here in the U.S.?) Historian David McCullough is a beloved figure in America, taking us as he has on so many journeys through the past with inventors, presidents, and key figures in our history. His voice resonates, as well, since he narrates many television programs and his own audiobooks. But his latest work, a collection of speeches called The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For, is a surprise...one well worth obtaining for your speechwriting bookshelf.

Of course, it's a great read (or listen) in its own right. But The American Spirit also brings strong advantages to the speechwriter willing to look for them here. It will give you a sense of what one speaker's lifetime of speeches looks like, at least in part, taken together--and how they fit together. That's important if you take your task of writing speeches as more than one more speech, and more like a progression, particularly if you work for one key speaker. And it serves as an example of how to speak about one topic--in this case, America and its spirit--over time and over the course of many speeches. I promise, you won't find it repetitive.

A master storyteller, and a man with firm opinions to share, McCullough makes the most of his speeches. Consider this compact paragraph from a speech McCullough gave at Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, on the American independence day, July 4, in 1994, at a swearing-in ceremony for new immigrants who had become U.S. citizens. He's describing the moment when Jefferson penned our Declaration of Independence:
Jefferson was thirty-three, tall, six foot two, slim, reserved, brilliant and homesick for his wife and child and this green mountaintop. But there he sat in a Windsor chair in the front parlor of his two-room rented quarters on the second floor of a brick house at the corner of Seventh and Market Streets. There he sat through sweltering Philadelphia summer days, working at a portable writing box of his own design. He had no library at hand, no supply of books to draw upon, this most bookish of men, and he needed none because, as he later explained, he wanted only to say what everyone already knew.
That's a paragraph that earns its keep. More like that, speechwriters: taut, active, and laden with images that don't require slides. And symmetrical: That writing box pops up again later in the speech, when you least expect it. It's one of McCullough's favorite things to do in a speech, and one of many devices you can copy. Enjoy this fine collection--and spring for the audiobook as well, so you can hear McCullough reading these gems.

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Taking a blog and social media hiatus for June 2017

I'm waist-deep when it comes to the river of blogging and social media, with three blogs, the two oldest blogs turning 12 and 10 years old this year. That's a lot of blogging, and that's not all. My total tally in the social media world includes
  • three blogs
  • two Twitter accounts
  • two Facebook business pages, along with my more private personal account
  • one Google+ account and one Google+ community
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • and I'm very likely forgetting something, which is not a good sign.
This post isn't about expanding that universe, but about letting it contract a tad. Specifically: I'm taking a social-media hiatus for the month of June 2017. 

Here's what that means for me: I'm really not going to post anything, including on my non-public accounts. That will mean not sharing photos, not writing posts, not observing, not sharing what I'm reading. And to the best of my ability, not checking social channels for updates.

Social media posting doesn't take up a ton of my time on any given day, but reviewing material, deciding what to share, monitoring comments and interactions, and writing are the biggest time-users. I put in plenty of screen time, and am hoping that that's what will be missing in June while I spend time the old-school way, in person.

I'm not burnt out on the blogs--indeed, they are a constant source of renewal for me--but I am curious about such hiatuses when I hear of them. So now's the time to try.

A social media hiatus is not, for me, a work hiatus, so I will continue working with clients and looking for new ones. If you're a client or a would-be client wishing to get in touch, I encourage that heartily. Email me directly at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.  But I also expect I'll have some time for longer-form projects like books, and I'll be back in July with some fantastic posts for you. And yes, at least on this blog, I will attempt to chronicle my results from the hiatus.

Thanks for reading, and see you in July!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by nchenga)

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

The weekend read

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Leah Buckley)

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

The weekend read

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Kent Kanouse)

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

The weekend read

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Boston Public Library)

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

Friday, May 05, 2017

The weekend read

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

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

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Have you ignored federal guidance on your social media policy?

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

The weekend read

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

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

The weekend read

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Tiago Daniel)

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