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.