Friday, March 24, 2017

The weekend read

The cherry blossoms here in Washington have had it tough this year, with early warming and late snow. They'll be about half of their usual gorgeousness. But they're still worth a look, just like my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Let a thousand ideas bloom:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Khai Nguyen)

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, March 22, 2017

How to inject creativity into social media (or any comms) this year

Pushing my creativity in social posts--particularly on my three blogs--is not only essential to getting and keeping readers and followers. For me, it's the biggest motivation in my work, the thing that keeps me going.

But finding inspiration to fuel that creativity isn't easy. Fortunately, I've found a few inspiring posts that are helping to shape my creativity this year.

For starters, I'm planning to turn creativity into a kind of quality improvement this year. 10 ways to kiss boring goodbye in 2017 talks about focusing less on transactional content, and in fact, posting less content overall--but making it higher quality. That's a great target for raising the bar for yourself, and it's framing my own approaches this year on all of my blogs and social channels. Convince & Convert is a new favorite blog I've started to follow, and this post is a real keeper.

If you need more convincing on that point, Seth Godin, in a super-short but powerful post, looks at the concept of more versus less, and notes that the opposite of "more" is actually "better." This goes for many aspects of the professional communicator's work. We've explored here what leaders should ask for instead of "more" media coverage, and I have some clients who've stopped measuring overall coverage, preferring instead to focus on a few high-value placements instead of casting a wide net. You can apply that same thinking to your social posts. Instead of having a presence on 10 platforms, or all platforms, which one or two can you really thrive on?

But in order to get higher quality content, you'll need to get creative and be confident about it. Harvard Business Review looks at reclaiming your creative confidence, breaking down a variety of fears that get in the way of your creativity: fear of the messy unknown, fear of taking the first step, and more. It's a good place to start. Another is the book Creative Change: Why We Resist It...How We Can Embrace It. The book suggests ways you can get more comfortable with being creative, and if you're pitching ideas to nervous leaders, ways to get them more comfortable, too. Why your creative ideas get ignored explains more about the book.

How will you get more creative with your social media or other comms this year?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by harle.m)

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, March 17, 2017

The weekend read

Top o' the Friday mornin' to you, communicators, and happy St. Patrick's Day, to boot. Time for another round of my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. May the weekend rise up to meet you...
(Creative Commons licensed photo by LenDog64)

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, March 15, 2017

4 communications lessons you can learn from anti-Trump protesters

Here in Washington, DC, not a day has gone by since the inauguration without at least one--and sometimes several--protests of the new administration. This isn't entirely new: Washington, as long as I've lived here, has been the place where the people come to air their grievances, so much so that locals turn to the Washington Post on Saturdays to find the routine reports that tell us which streets are closed over the weekend for which protests, and how big they are likely to be. And new data from Pew shows that Americans--across political lines--strongly support the right of the people to protest.

That steady pace of protests is magnified now, with more frequent and larger protests happening every day. The signs are getting more creative, too. And as the protests gather steam, there are some good reminders for professional communicators in their methods. Here are just four lessons you can learn from the marches and protests:
  1. Brevity matters: That long quote, or stirring paragraph, or speech fragment that inspired you to march is much harder to read, photograph, or broadcast than, say, "Now you've pissed off Grandma," one of my favorite signs held by a senior citizen during the Women's March. A protest sign is not even as long as a headline--or shouldn't be. It's a great time to practice your editing skills.
  2. Humor is essential: That "Grandma" sign also wins because it's a spot of humor in a sea of outrage. Humor allies you with others in your audience, and can be a sly psychological counter to dreadful policies. Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, writing about how shared laughter helps your cause, noted, "A voter laughing is half yours, and just received a line he can repeat next weekend over a beer at the barbecue or online at Starbucks. Here is a fact of American politics: If you make us laugh we spread your line for free," as I am doing here.
  3. Be visible and legible: Most of the protests began in January, right after the inauguration--a time of less than 12 hours of daylight each day, in Washington, DC. So lighted signs, one person holding up each letter of a word, have become useful for extending protests during late-night U.S. Senate deliberations, as in the photo at the top. Brevity counts here, too.
  4. Use broadcast-quality messaging: You don't need a network anchor to hold your sign for this to be achieved, but you do need messaging that can be shown and repeated on air, whether radio or television. To wit: Keep the curse words off your protest sign or your interview comments. Many a university press officer I know can tell that a campus protest won't wind up on the local TV news when they see signs loaded with obscenities. (Protesters, listen up.) Air your frustration in other ways, and make your messages shareable.
(Pruitt protest photo by League of Conservation Voters. Grandma protest photo: Creative Commons licensed photo by Kristy)

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, March 10, 2017

The weekend read

I've been in California this week to lead a masterclass for Mozilla Tech Speakers on how to manage questions and answers in any speaking situation. But there's no question what you should do now, communicators: Check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Any questions?
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, March 08, 2017

Using a sports analogy or metaphor well

In Out of the park: Is that where your metaphors land?, I shared a caution about using sports as a comparison tool, particularly for Americans who unthinkingly use, say, baseball metaphors with non-U.S. audiences, leaving them at best confused. But recently, I heard a well-placed sports metaphor that used the difference between European and American fans to drive its point home.

In an On the Media interview with sociologist David S. Meyer about political protests, Meyer used a sports metaphor at the end of the interview to make his point clear. Here are the question and full answer so you can see it in context:
OTM: We're talking about the nuts and bolts of protest, but did they really matter? Do they ultimately ever change our politics?

Meyer: Not by themselves, and not necessarily in the short run. It's quite likely that these large demonstrations in Washington DC and the airport protests are going to be followed in short order by political defeats. But in order to execute those policy gains that the movement views as defeats, the Trump administration is going to spend political capital. They're going to strain political relations with their own allies, and you often see the impact play out over long periods of time. 
For example, in 2009, the Tea Party focused on stopping Obamacare. There were big rallies, disruptive town hall meetings, and in the short run, they lost. Obamacare was passed. But the Tea Party actually grew afterwards, and we're seeing a President who is really the Frankenstein monster of the Tea Party now. So yeah, protest matters, but not as quickly as the story mass media like to tell. 
And if you go into a bar and watch people drinking and watching a soccer game, you will see them cheering and yelling about a run down the side of the field that didn't lead to a score. But it did tire out the opposition, it did reveal weaknesses in positioning, and it set up another score, maybe 40 minutes later. European viewers have some sense of how that game works. Americans don't.
Score! Sports metaphors are wonderful for describing forward action; winners and losers; waiting and overtime; competition. This one goes further, and uses the progression of a game to describe the progression of protests and what follows them; to describe the effect of an action now and later; and uses opposing teams to compare with opposing parties or stances. So the metaphor works on many levels and allows those levels to be explained easily. Go and do likewise, communicators.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Denisenfamily)

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, March 03, 2017

The weekend read

It's early by normal standards, but the robins are back in my yard, so spring must be here. Spring into action, communicators, and check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. Call them harbingers of spring:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by britta heise)

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, March 01, 2017

Reviving your op-ed skills in a world of alternative facts

In a world of 'alternative facts,' fast-moving positions, and policy changes, it doesn't matter whether you're a corporate, government, or nonprofit communicator. An op-ed or letter to the editor give you the chance to publicly counter, fact-check, or refute those decisions about which you have a different set of evidence.

It doesn't matter where you stand on the issues. What matters just now is your level of skill with op-eds, opinion articles that may be essay or letter length. (For example, the New York Times is currently encouraging 800-word essays from university students, professors, and administrators.) Fortunately, I have some catch-up lessons and cautionary tales to get you up to speed:
  1. Can everyone on your team write letters to editors and op-eds? If you're going to need to frequently counter or disprove what's out there, you need many utility infielders to handle the op-ed load. Letters to the editor are the short form of the op-ed, and both are on my list of 20 writing tests for communications pros.
  2. Can your op-ed land the one-two punch? This is the most basic test of whether an opinion article will work, and it's the first thing I look for when reading them. Protip: So do the editors to whom you are submitting.
  3. Op-eds take a range of formats in the social media age. Here is a quartet of options for social op-eds, and 8 more tools for the op-social world. They range from blogs to video, and everything in between. It's a good time to consider how to turn your social channels toward sharing your point of view.
  4. Sometimes all you need are some good examples, so here's why Warren Buffet's now-famous 'tax me' op-ed worked so well, from surprise to word choices.
  5. My 5 fixes for a lame opinion piece will let you save that op-ed that is never going to make it, and turn it into one you can place. And next time, use this list in advance, rather than as a rear-guard action.
Want to develop the op-ed writing expertise of your comms team or your expert spokespeople? I can design a workshop that gets them poised and ready. Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.

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.