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.