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Archive for the ‘PR’ Category

I admit to reading most of the half-dozen-volume diary of Samuel Pepys, the 17th-century British administrator, whose collection was passed on to me in a stack of paperbacks and whose entries often ended with “and so to bed.”

Those few words come to mind with the recognition that the early days of blogging to explore being a modern-day diarist are past. Or, in the words of JD Lassica of Socialbrite at a recent Social Media Breakfast, “No one is going to go home and blog about this”.

Maintaining a lookout for potential topics, however, with the intent of mixing medium and message on a social media platform, has led to a few recent observations to share:

First, I was advising a colleague about selecting effective keywords for AdWords by combining a broad general term with a specific one. Later, I saw someone post that broad + specific = tailored in marketing in general, indicating that observation is not unique to one medium. (Just like finessing headlines was important even before the SEO days.)

Second, someone else was pondering the utility of having a social media presence. Does it equate earned exposure? Not participating is a lost opportunity to cultivate an impression from the standpoint of having a professional persona. Maybe the public portrayal lacks the panache of external validation by, say, a major media outlet. But it also is part and parcel of having a virtual identity in the days when distance is dead, audiences are fragmented, content gets forwarded fluidly, and mass channels are waning.

It can be a milieu for connecting to a constituency directly and developing a climate of transparency, trust, and interaction that sets a tone just like other hallmarks of an enterprise do – from its letterhead and utterances to its location, architecture and reception lobby.

Plus, managing perceptions by intentionally crafting a relatively uniform voice and approach indicates the organization is self-confident and responsive to appropriate opportunities.

In the days of crowdsourcing, people curious about your enterprise may be as apt to check your social media sites, or view posts by avid industry-watching bloggers as they would be to navigate first to your own home page. The validation comes from the crowd.

If you are already accessible and have built a trustworthy baseline, you do have an established path to disseminating information, perspective, and alerts when necessary.

Social media may serve as a resource among a stream of content that is shared, providing a different sort of credibility, esteem, and reach.

While participating in posts and comments may not be your main business pastime, the virtual connections made possible by curating your own content in a digital world still allow your organization to establish its unique niche, count for consideration, and wield a bit of influence at the same time.

The shift in perceived value is reflected in priorities evidenced by business sectors; among a cross-section of organizations, the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts reports that universities, followed by nonprofits, are the biggest participants, with large corporations apparently lagging in blogging, at least.

With that, this particular blog will officially draw to a close, while leaving archives up for future browsing.

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Continuing on the topic of crafting communication around change, some proposals will require a showdown for participants to directly wrestle with a new idea. Resolving concerns requires a lot of up-front preparation, and being open to negotiation.

Anthropologist Angeles Arrien identified four universal rules for effective communications, which could be considered to come into play here. Essentially, they involve risk and influence, but not total control:

Show up and choose to be present

Pay attention to what has heart and meaning

Tell the truth without blame or judgment

Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome

As a change instigator, having had time to prepare will help you remain in control of one thing – your own demeanor. Composure, as my acquaintance Mary Pool used to say, is power.

That power includes the ability to lower anxiety in others, who may be provoked since the idea of change causes discomfort. The more prepared, respectful, and unruffled you can be, the greater likelihood of ruling the day.

Although most people dislike confrontation, Buy-In authors John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead encourage welcoming objections so they can be resolved.

Their tips, primarily for meetings, were summarized in an Amazon.com comment by management consultant Robert Morris:

  • Those who oppose an idea should have the opportunity to explain their objections.
  • Their participation in the discussion should be welcomed, and treated with respect.
  • Before responding to an objection, offer reassurance that you understand it. Then offer a response that is direct, relevant, crystal clear, and sensible.
  • Over time, win opponents’ minds with logic and evidence and their hearts with respect.
  • Maintain frequent and cordial contact with opponents whom you respect; meanwhile, keep an eye on the few attackers who are potentially disruptive.

Although these tips are aimed for public meetings, they can be adapted to moves within an organization. For instance, tracking opinion correlates to taking climate surveys of employees’ moods.

As to considerations about what should be proposed, and who should do it, I offer a couple of parting words of advice.

I have learned through starting a press club that surveying people about what activities they want does not correlate to what they choose to participate in, after all. A better indicator of likely choices comes from modeling the experiences of similar organizations.

Meanwhile, more important than precise wording is who communicates the change, and in what form. Audiences will form an opinion that rests largely on the impressions created by the messenger and the delivery.

The final installment deals with reinforcing desired behavior once agreement has been reached.

 

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I’ve heard it said that change begins by asking questions.

Some early questions may just involve assessing what reactions to a shift may be likely, and why.

Say communications has just become more formal and emphasized. Perhaps there is an instance of someone implementing their own outreach, or another of someone disparaging the aspirations.

Probe and you may find the first person simply didn’t know who to turn to and found it easier to just do it themselves, while the second person tends to strive for new accomplishments and is forestalling dashed expectations.

It’s helpful to recall that different people have different motivations, based on what matters to them.  Since most people are generally just trying to take care of themselves, anticipate a range of reactions.

Culture matters

Your assessment will suggest how to mold and shape the environment to reinforce desired behavior, such as these steps:

  • Link the change to values expressed by the prevailing culture
  • Enlist influential champions to demonstrate support, and
  • Look for chances for a respected leader to mention the new priorities

A soft touch may engender less resistance, and repeated exposure to the idea can help “socialize” it.   Altogether, such measures help percolate the change throughout the organization.

Meanwhile, in individual contacts, ask  questions. That allows people to consider alternatives and shift their position without feeling pressured, as well as providing time to adjust.

There are typically three reactions to new developments. About 10 percent of folks have a propensity to take a negative view. Another 10 percent seize opportunities. The remaining 80 percent are relatively neutral and open-minded.

Emotions behind those reactions must be acknowledged before new information can be absorbed. A few folks will resist out of fear. A few will embrace change early on. Many others will be somewhere in the middle, slightly confused or uncertain.

Recognize the temporary discomfort change causes, and then provide avenues for discussion. This phase could be compared to the hashing-out that occurs during political campaigns, say, by holding a debate prior to people casting a vote.

Use existing channels and new ones, such as dedicated Q&A sessions and email.

People will begin looking for concrete information, such as an explanation of how decisions are being made, the timetable and rationale.

Next: Facing naysayers

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Introduction

I love the outdoors and have learned to not mind much if I don’t reach an ultimate endpoint when weeding. I’ve discovered, as friends used to say when doing dishes, it’s the process, not the goal.

Change communications has a similar rhythm. The need is part of natural cycles, since organizations must adapt and evolve to survive. Sometimes change communications efforts are more intense and concerted, other times they are quiescent but never far off.

Coming up

I’ll be sharing tips I’ve gleaned as a point person during dramatic changes in direction and traumatic retrenching.

It’s helpful to remember that change communications affects behavior, so it needs to win people’s hearts and minds. There are roughly three approaches, that range from subtle to overt, that taken as a whole facilitate moving people forward.

In a global sense, change can be encouraged by shaping the environment and reinforcing desired actions. This effectively coaxes people to new behavior without provoking resistance. Other times, people need to openly air issues in order to adjust and come to terms with new directions.

Meanwhile, advocates will encounter chances to nudge people to do what they know they should. Such gradual shifts can be a bit like performing aikido, where you take the other person’s momentum and redirect it.

The next few installments will discuss these pointers in more detail, so stay tuned. And please be willing to share your change story or challenge. Change can be painful at times. But as a wise adviser to those dish-washing friends liked to say, without pain, how can we grow?

 

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Wrapping up the video production tips and tricks, this post addresses interviewing and capturing an audio feed.

One tip: You can subtly rephrase a question to get the most pithy and clear quote for a final edit — although covering the same material again may seem repetitive for someone who is used to interviewing for print. Along the same lines, when taping a video package, I’ve been advised to gather about 10 times the amount of the final product – including background visuals and cutaways, such as the reaction shots of a listener or audience to splice between quotes.

Approaching the interview

I liked producer Chris Bauer’s advice over at KQED’s QUEST. He sometimes tells subjects, “Your goal is not to impress people, it’s to communicate with people.”

Even kids may feel pressure and clam up, so it is best to spend extra time with them. Interviews may flow better if you take someone aside to a quiet, neutral setting. Away from peers and reminders of the daily routine, a person is more likely to be relaxed and speak in clear, jargon-free terms.

Interviewees can be prepped by reminding them the interview will be like listening to one side of a phone conversation, so it is important to speak in full sentences. To check sound levels while easing into the heart of the interview, a producer may chat a bit, or ask the subject to say and spell his or her name so that detail is captured right on the footage.

Attending to audio

Recordings pick up hum and undertones known as “room tone”. So it’s important to tape 20 – 30 seconds of silence that can be used underneath edits for a consistent transition.

Sound becomes another flavor to mix into the final edit. Natural sound provides ambience, while specific noises become sweeteners or punctuation. In the field, you might tape your own feet crunching in gravel, or a door shutting, and so forth.

Indoors, being conscious of the sound environment includes remembering to take phones off the hook, posting signs to keep visitors from bursting in, and otherwise avoiding noisy interruptions.

Equipment

QUEST’s Craig Rosa recommends a few options for external mics, which are far preferable to on-camera mics for capturing usable audio tracks:

  1. Lavalier mics clip on and can be hidden on a lapel; the versions with 12-foot wires provide scope and capture sound that is less echo-y than wireless.
  2. Shotgun mics can grab sounds from the environment – if it’s windy, use a fluffy, slip-on windsock to muffle the loud whoosh of strong gusts rushing past the mic.

Dual inputs capture audio from these mics on separate tracks, which is helpful when editing.

Rosa recommends plugging an XLR adapter into the camera for better sound. The sound level should be as loud as possible without having the indicator needle hover past the red or zero line. (See more on XLR here: http://videoproductiontips.com/video-equipment/audio-for-video-how-to-use-pro-audio-equipment-without-having-a-pro-camera/, http://www.videouniversity.com/shop/xlr-adapter-and-a-dual-channel-mixer).

Altogether, he estimates that assembling a decent video kit may take about $4,000, although borrowing equipment may also be an option.

The interview

Bauer frequently starts by asking, “Where are we today, and what are we going to see?”

Producers sometimes will forewarn interviewees ahead of time that they may be asked to restate something. Or they may simply ask during the flow of the interview, “That was really good – can you repeat that?”

To obtain an easy-to-comprehend response, Bauer suggests asking the subject to summarize a topic in a couple of sentences, as if talking to a person on the street or to a fourth-grader.

To learn the upshot of a topic, he may ask, “What does it mean to the future?” He also likes to ask researchers, “What’s your most favorite thing about what you do?”

A response delivered with some fire in the belly projects really well on the screen. I once interviewed a mild-mannered scientist who did not have expansive gestures but had quiet zeal. I noticed that glint in his eye seemed magnified on the screen.

Meanwhile, for my friends who decry the state of science literacy, I will add a link to a YouTube piece from earlier in the year that presents concepts in an engaging way, all while keeping minimal, “prosumer”-oriented production values: http://bit.ly/YouTube_EcoServices.

It’s by Hank Green, speaking to his brother, John Green. Together, they formed the so-called Vlog Brothers and committed to a year of non-textual communication – leading, this summer, to organizing the first conference for what they described as smart YouTube content, VidCon.

Finally, a vision of the future – highly portable video kits, with lights and external mics – were featured at the most recent Consumer Electronics Show: http://gizmodo.com/5443853//gallery/gallery/1

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A couple of things make producing an online slideshow with SoundSlides as easy as 1-2-3. Using the tips below allow images to evenly flow along with the audio track. At the end are links to a tutorial and embeds, as well on thoughts on when a slideshow might be a choice medium.

First off . . .

Audio will be the foundation of the finished product, so complete and upload that first. An interview of perhaps 30 minutes can be trimmed to about three minutes to capture high points and hold the viewer’s attention. If you plan to start with a title slide, the audio track could begin with a few seconds of silence to allow viewers to absorb those few words without distraction. Or, search online for free music and use some of that as a lead-in.

To select enough photos, allow about 3 – 5 seconds per slide. So, if one topic takes 20 seconds of audio track, having four or more images that support the subject matter would be a comfortable amount to start. After you have gathered your images, you can rearrange and add or subtract a few until the sequence makes sense. As with video, you may want to show an establishing exterior shot of a location or crowd, then a close-up, and possibly a graphic or snapshot of an activity being discussed.

Compiling an album

Only jpgs can be used in SoundSlides, so you will want to convert other formats, such as giff or tiff. Also, the color profile must be RGB. An image that was saved in CMYK format, for four-color printing, will display distorted colors when imported into SoundSlides.

To quickly and evenly upload images in order:

Once you have decided the order for your images, use a number or letter to start the file name, so each subsequent image has the next letter or number. For instance, the first slide is 1_filename, the second is 2_another_filename, etc.

The great part about naming images in sequence is that the program will make them fall into place automatically, at distinct intervals. Although the software makes it simple to move things along a timeline, adding more images after importing compresses the final few. It may turn out that their icon is so narrow on the timeline it can hardly be grabbed with a cursor to manipulate. For altering the final quantity of images, it’s probably simpler to renumber them in the desired order and re-import the whole lot.

The beauty of the program is that it is fairly easy to use – having been designed by a journalist for journalists. And the software itself is fairly affordable.

If there are advantages in effectiveness of slideshows over podcasts or short online video, it may be when the goal is to present a broad overview or retrospective. An analogy may be the times that someone would produce a conventional slideshow or even a simple filmstrip, for an anniversary celebration or educational purpose rather than a quick news update. Online communicators are finding it quick and easy to carry a Flip camera and shoot a short statement for uploading, and news sites are presenting fewer online slideshows. Still, a slideshow is one option for a multimedia mix – and there certainly may be times when a narrated slideshow would be an optimum way to instruct, inform, or enlighten an audience.

More on how to produce – and embed – your show

The follow links provide a tutorial and the means to embed the finished product:

Tutorial: http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/using-soundslides/

Embed for WordPress: http://support.soundslides.com/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=71

General Embed: http://tools.soundslides.com/embed/

Looking ahead, a comment on usage today deals with homonyms, those pesky sound-alike words that may pass your spell-check while still having the wrong meaning in context. Say, for instance, foreword – the front of a book – and forward – pointing ahead. They both have a sense of being prominent in a sequence or chronology . . . and nearly sound alike, too! And that’s the final word for today.

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In lieu of an ending comment, today I’m opening with a lyric I caught the other day that indicated the digital age becoming, well, lyric – it was Peter Yorn singing, “I googled you in quotes and got no results,” which I found bemusing.

Socializing over the use of social media:

Speaking of getting energized by interaction, at the latest Social Media Breakfast – East Bay, a closing conversation about extrapolating guidance from past emerging technologies seemed to fire up the 20-plus participants present from around the bay.

Jen McClure of the Society for New Communication Research had presented results of a variety of studies about best practices among corporations (http://sncr.org/2007/12/08/research-educational-services/).

Adopting best practices seemed to leave attendees feeling somewhat uncertain about socializing the use of social media within an organization. The meeting’s co-organizer, Shel Holtz, said he particularly likes IBM’s social media guidelines (http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html).

Overall, the advice was to make employees feel safe by providing guardrails, not rules, while offering training and mentorship if desired.

I’ve always believed social media needs to be integrated into an existing communications program and serves as an extension to that – sort of like the way a car gets you somewhere quicker than walking. Ideally, you will have something of value to share! One measure would be if your posts are picked up and retweeted, or if the twitterstream is recommended by others using the #ff follow Friday tag.

Someone commented that some of the current social media issues in organizations are extrapolations of adaptation of past new technologies, such as email usage. That seemed like a good approach to lowering the barrier for making the adoption comfortable for employees and organizations.

When it comes to community moderation, I had been wondering about handling comments that are not customer-service issues. It’s been well-established that social media channels create opportunities to demonstrate responsiveness to concerns by stepping in to troubleshoot problems for customers when snafus are raised (similar to my friend’s serendipitous luck in having help finding lost luggage after she tweeted about her concern).

What about cases, say, of a Facebook fan questioning organizational directions, or hijacking the focus of the page?

It seemed to me the pre-existing analogies could be a public speaker’s need to handle a heckler, as well as dialogue between executives and employees within an organization, that serves to clarify decisions and hear concerns.

A pseudo-heckler, in the two-sided nature of discussion online, has about an equal voice to the speaker sponsoring the page. For handling vocal detractors, a couple of approaches come to mind. Communities tend to self-police, so another community member may chide the person. The analogy there might be someone shushing a loudmouth at the same table during a live performance. Or, a simple acknowledgement, such as during public comments at a local government meeting, could suffice to keep lines of communication open while not veering far off-topic.

Borrowing from an internal communications perspective, pointing a vocal online community member to resources that explain the organization’s stance could be compared to responding to an employee comment at a workplaceTown Hall-style meeting.

The important point of course is to join the conversation and have something thoughtful and respectful to share – building relationships by keeping the energy of interaction flowing.

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