Caffeinated ideas and views on marketing communications


Why I share political views on Twitter but not on LinkedIn

24 Oct
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in LinkedIn, Political communication, social media, Twitter   |  No Comments

Lately, I have seen a couple of opinion pieces written by marketing people that state you should never, ever share your political opinion, at the risk of losing clients and alienating your network.

I don’t agree. I think it depends on several factors and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. You will need to consider at least two issues:

1. Are you an employee or are you representing yourself? Are you sharing a political opinion for a company or for yourself?

2. Where you are sharing your views?

Let’s start with the where.

I don’t think you should ever share political views on LinkedIn, no matter if you are a company, individual or small business owner. But you should (in certain cases) on Twitter.

LinkedIn is a professional, business-oriented social network. Twitter is not.

People go to LinkedIn specifically to network and to research your professional background. They do not go to LinkedIn to find out about  your views on Hillary Clinton.

Twitter is real-time conversation. LinkedIn is more static.

I know that you aren’t supposed to talk about politics or religion in polite company. But Twitter is not polite company. It’s a rapid-fire issue-of-the-minute national and international conversation. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is not that. It’s a staid, share your credentials and network sort of place.

There are millions of tweets every hour. On LinkedIn, your network probably shares a few updates a day.

People go to Twitter to share their opinion and see what others think.

During the presidential debates it was pretty easy to see who doesn’t live in the United States and who uses automated tweets. Those were the folks who didn’t weigh in on the Clinton-Trump stand-off and/or tweeted about non-political matters.

But it matters who you are, too.

On social media, not everyone is treated the same.

If you are tweeting as yourself and you are not claiming a company or organization in your Twitter profile, then you should say what you want.

If you are tweeting in name of the organization, then you need to be very careful what you say.

If you are representing a consumer-oriented organization (like a restaurant or manufacturer), then you should be probably keep quiet. People do not generally follow a product or brand to see what political views it has.

If you work for an organization that works in a political or advocacy space, then you must make your views known.  People follow political/advocacy accounts precisely because of a specific viewpoint.

If you are like me, an individual who owns her own business, then you should make a decision that best fits you. I choose to share my political views on Twitter, not on LinkedIn. Be aware that not all your current or potential clients will share your views, and may choose not to do business with you because of those views. On the other hand, some people will share your viewpoint and will choose to interact with you precisely because of that view.

We are human

In the end, we must remember that on social media, we are not automatons, we are human beings. Sometimes we respond viscerally and in the moment. For example, when people found out about the horrible massacre at Newtown, they shared their horror and some also shared their views on guns.

Human beings have ideas, likes, dislikes and of course, political opinions. While political opinions can incite strong responses, your likes and dislikes can generate controversy too.

You win some, and you lose some

Ultimately, you will need to accept that sharing your opinions (political and otherwise) may create a backlash, or it could result in support.  Your opinions can lose you followers, but they may also gain you a following.

What do you think? Do you share your political views? What is the main reason you do or do not? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. If you care about my political views, follow me on Twitter at @DBMC.

 

 

 

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If a tree falls…

06 Oct
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in Communication   |  No Comments

You’ve all heard that famous question: if a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Let’s change that question: if you are telling a story, but nobody can hear you, are you still communicating?

I was considering this second question during Rosh Hashana services this week. The synagogue I was attending does not have microphones, and the rabbi there is not good at projecting his voice. As he was giving his sermon, I was having a hard time hearing what he was saying. I am sure the further back in the synagogue that people were sitting, the less they could hear.

If you couldn’t hear the rabbi, then you would not know what he said, and therefore, it was like he never gave a sermon at all. So, was this rabbi communicating? In short, he wasn’t.

In essence, communication is the exchange of information.  If you can’t hear the information being shared, then you do not know what that information is, therefore information is not being exchanged.

The rabbi may have had some greats insights or inspirational messages to share, but if nobody heard them, then he failed to enlighten or inspire his congregation.

Make sure they can hear

The takeaway from my Rosh Hashana experience is simple: It’s not enough to have good information to share, you have to make sure your intended audience can receive that information.

 

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On writing: Bonnie Friedman is an advocate

29 Sep
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in On writing interviews, Writing   |  No Comments

I met Bonnie Friedman at an industry networking event several years ago. We’ve stayed in touch, and a couple of years ago Bonnie told me she was starting to write a book about advocating for someone who is ill and in the hospital. The book was published earlier this year, which prompted me to reach out to Bonnie to ask her about her writing.

 

bonnie-head

Bonnie Friedman

 

Bonnie Friedman is a seasoned communications and marketing professional with more than 40 years of experience in the Washington, DC, area, with her own consultancy Bonnie Friedman Strategic Communications, LLC.  She worked for several federal agencies before starting her own consulting business. Her new book, Hospital Warrior: How to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One, combines her passion for health care advocacy with her love of writing.

Twitter: @Bonniecomm

 

 

1. What role does writing play in your work and how important a skill is it?

Writing is the heart of what I do, whether working in government, as a consultant or now as an author. Even as a teenager, I loved to write. For me, it is the most effective way to express thoughts, share information or convey emotion. Of all the things I do professionally, writing is by far the most important skill in my wheelhouse.

2. Does writing well still matter in a digital/text/emoji world?

Yes, I believe it does matter. Whether you want to convey thoughts, information or emotion, you want to do so effectively. Sloppy or inexact language detracts from the message and makes the writer appear lazy or facile. For me, it is extremely satisfying to create a strong, well-crafted statement or document that precisely reflects my point of view.

3.  What’s the best advice you’ve received or would give on how to improve writing skills?

When I first started my career, I was told to write the first draft, warts and all, off the top of my head, then go back and improve upon it later. When I feel stuck now, I still follow that advice. It helps me express my initial thoughts and move forward with my work. There is a freedom in that type of writing that frequently breathes life and light into my work, even if I later edit or revise it.

4. What are your top three writing resources or references (digital or paper-based)?

Depending on what I am writing, the top three are the Associated Press Stylebook, William Strunk’s The Elements of Style and Roget’s Thesaurus. Even though I frequently use online resources for quick references, these three are still my all-time favorites.

5. Do you follow a style guide, and if so, which one? 

I don’t follow a specific style guide as a matter of course. However, if I am writing for the media, I use the AP Stylebook; if writing for a government client, I may use the Government Printing Office Style Manual. When I wrote my book, I did not use one particular style guide but referred to various resources when I needed guidance, particularly on how best to convey complicated medical information for lay readers.

6. What’s your top writing/grammar/usage pet peeve?

I really dislike the use of “impact” as a verb. It grates on me. As far as I’m concerned, the word “impact” should remain a noun. When used as a verb, it strikes me as affected and pretentious. That said, I recognize that language must be fluid and supple. If it weren’t, we might still be speaking Elizabethan English today.   

7. What’s your favorite word and what’s your least favorite?

There are so many great words; it is hard to choose. One that I like a lot is onomatopoeia; it is wonderfully descriptive and rolls around in the mouth quite deliciously. Likewise, there are several words I dislike viscerally, but none are acceptably repeated in a family-friendly interview. All are mean-spirited, hateful references to individuals or groups. Some are four letters; others are longer.  You get the idea.

Hospital Warrior Launch

Hospital Warrior Launch

Given that her book launched this year, I asked Bonnie to share her thoughts about the process of writing a book.

Describe your book:

Hospital Warrior: How to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One is a how-to guide on advocating effectively when someone you love is ill. It is filled with advice, tips and ideas based on my own experience as well interviews with a wide range of medical and legal professionals. It is also a story of love, family and thriving. The website is www.hospitalwarrior.com.

What inspired you to write the book and how long did it take you to write it?

Hospital Warrior draws on my 24 years of advocating for my husband through 14 separate hospitalizations—some routine and some life-threatening. He is now doing well, and I felt I had learned so much over the years that I wanted to share with others. Giving back is an important value in my life. In Judaism, we call it Tikkun Olam. This is my way of giving back. The book took about two years to write.

What were your main challenges in writing and publishing a book? How did it compare to the previous writing you have done?

There are many challenges in writing and publishing a book. To start, as an author, you must be clear in your own mind about your audience, your message and your market.  While you need to remain flexible about options and opportunities, you can’t lose sight of your primary goals. Publishing in today’s market is very difficult, especially for new authors. I feel fortunate to have a small, indie publisher who invests in his authors’ success.

In some ways, writing this book was similar to other forms of non-fiction. It required research, interviews, fact-checking and discipline. But it required all those things in massive doses—more than I had ever done before. Also important were organizational skills, tenacity and belief in what I was doing. It might have been easy to give up or change course, especially when finding the right publisher proved difficult. But I was determined, and that paid off for me.

What tips do you have for others thinking of writing a book?

Be clear about your purpose. Know your market. Stay open-mined and creative. At the same time, bring discipline to your work and apply it to your writing. If you are a new author, find a mentor for guidance and support. I have a wonderful friend who is the author of seven books; she shared advice generously when I needed it. Also be sure to have at least a few readers—people whose opinions you respect and who will provide solid, constructive feedback on your work. Then be willing to listen to them!

 Like Bonnie says, writing a book is just like writing for marketing and PR, except taken to a “massive” degree. It’s a great achievement, and in Bonnie’s case, one that will provide people with needed information to successfully helped loved ones who are ill and in the hospital.

For more writing insight from a communications professional, check back here on Thursday, October 27 for the next On Writing interview.

 

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Two big problems muddling your message

22 Sep
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in Content marketing, Writing   |  No Comments

When I do any copy editing and/or proofreading, I always come across two problems: wordiness and punctuation mistakes. These problems affect how clear your writing is and muddle your message. That’s because when readers have to read overlong, poorly punctuated sentences, filled with unnecessary words, they don’t understand what you are trying to say.

Problem #1: Wordiness

Wordiness is using too many words to say what you mean.

How do you fix this problem?

  • Eliminate extra words and phrases

When I was in grad school, one of my professors (the wonderful Jack Falla), had us write a press release, and then go back and eliminate ten words. The problem with this approach is that wordy people often think they need all the words they have written. They don’t.

Today’s Nonprofit Marketing Guide has a great post listing wordy phrases and their much more succinct alternatives. Read it here.

  • Ask yourself if  you are being redundant

Phrases such as “basic fundamentals” are redundant.

  • Use active voice

Active voice uses fewer words than passive voice. It’s more direct.

Problem #2: Punctuation mistakes

Punctuation is a tool to make your sentences work better. You use a period to end a sentence and a comma to insert a pause. You use a colon to indicate something is following and a semicolon to separate two big ideas in one sentence. We also use parentheses to add extra information to a sentence and em dashes to set off words or phrases.

How do you fix this problem?

  • Learn how to use the comma properly

The comma seems to trip lots of people up. Either they use it too much or not enough. And then there’s the whole serial or Oxford comma debate. In any case, Grammar Book has some useful rules for comma usage.

  • Learn when to use the em dash

Em dashes are not to be confused with the shorter en dashes and the even shorter dashes or hyphens. The Punctuation Guide has a  good explanation of how to use em dashes.

  • Watch out for improper capitalization and apostrophes

It’s become epidemic lately — people are using capitalization to indicate importance. That’s not how it works. Use caps at the beginning of a sentence, and to indicate proper names. The president may be important, but unless you are expressly referring to President Barack Obama, there’s no need to capitalize the word alone.

Apostrophes are meant to convey possession. They do not make a word plural. Hamilton University calls the misuse of the apostrophe a deadly sin of writing. Check it out.

To be clear, be concise

Sometimes people are wordy because they don’t have anything to say. That’s a lack of message. No amount of removing redundancies will fix it. However, if you’ve written something and you are not sure whether it’s communicating what you want it to say, make sure to eliminate wordiness and correct your punctuation. Chances are that being more concise (and precise with your punctuation) will clarify whatever it is you are trying to say.

If you need some help eliminating wordiness, fixing punctuation, and making your writing clearer, contact me!

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Out of sight, out of mind?

12 Sep
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in social media   |  No Comments

I’ve been conducting an experiment over on my personal Facebook page. I haven’t posted anything for more than two weeks. As I expected, nobody has commented on my lack of posting. Nobody has gone to my Facebook page and reacted/commented on anything already there. There’s been absolutely no interaction. Perhaps this means I have crappy “friends” or more likely, it means that when you don’t participate in social media, people forget you’re there.

I’ve seen this happen with my blog. If I haven’t posted recently, my site traffic goes down. When I post something, my traffic goes up. (This is why it’s so valuable to have Google Analytics deployed on your site.)

This could never happen “in real life.” Even if you were quietly sitting in a room not talking to anybody, people would notice you were there. Perhaps they wouldn’t speak to you, but they would see you. In social media, to get noticed, you must be active. You have to post regularly.  People will forget your blog if they haven’t seen you post for a while. Ditto if you haven’t posted recently on LinkedIn (and worse if you don’t have even have a picture on your profile).

Many small businesses understand that social media is an important communications channel. However, many don’t understand how to make it really work for them. You’ll see businesses (organizations and nonprofits too) that think all they have to do is create the Facebook page, get some people to “like” it and nothing more.

The only reason somebody would visit your Facebook page (or website or LinkedIn profile) when you haven’t been active is because they are looking for something specific or researching. And then it would have to come up as part of a query. Even well known brands (the CocaColas and McDonald’s of this world) advertise. They want to be top of mind and reinforce their brand promise.

Here’s the bottom line: If you are using social media for business purposes, you must be active, even if it means doing paid advertising.

When you are out of sight on social media, you are out of mind.

 

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The Washington Post needs copy editors

01 Sep
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in Copy Editing   |  No Comments

It seems a daily occurrence at the Washington Post: a headline typo here, and a factual error there. Sometimes, I have had to read a sentence several times to even start understanding it. This is because the Washington Post has few (if any) copy editors. I suspect reporters are being asked to edit their own work, which is never a good idea, especially with quick turnarounds. You can edit your own work, if you can look at it with “fresh eyes” after a day or so. In the fast-paced, 24/7 news cycle, there is little time to look at writing with fresh eyes.

I could not believe the mistake I found in an article in today’s Post. It’s about the Chesapeake Crab & Beer Festival, which took place on Saturday at National Harbor in Maryland. The story appeared in the Post’s Local Living section  and had the headline “All smiles on a crab-filled festival day in Inner Harbor.”

The Inner Harbor is in Baltimore and the event took place at National Harbor. Then, in the body of the article, the writer says the event took place in Baltimore, except it didn’t. See for yourself here:

Washington Post article

Copy editors don’t just catch grammatical mistakes and typos, they check for accuracy too. Clearly, this article was not checked at all. A cursory search (and plain common sense) would have told anyone reading this article that the event took place at National Harbor and not in Baltimore.

Shame on the Washington Post! These mistakes make the newspaper look sloppy and careless, and makes me question the accuracy of all reporting.

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On writing: Stu Opperman impacts PR

25 Aug
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in On writing interviews, Writing   |  No Comments

The most effective public relations professionals understand journalism, and what makes something newsworthy. They also appreciate that writing clearly and concisely is crucial to communicating with news editors and journalists. This is exactly why Stu Opperman is great at PR.  I’ve known Stu for many years, and have often turned to him to review my writing. I know he will help make it clearer and more concise.

Stu Opperman, APR

Stu Opperman, APR

 

An accredited public relations professional, Stu Opperman, APR, owns Impact Players, well-connected firm that positively impacts the business agenda of its clients and contacts. Prior to that, he worked for South Florida-based public relations firms and also had a career as an executive and on-air talent in radio.

 Twitter: @stuopperman

 

 

 

 

1. What role does writing play in your work and how important a skill is it?

Writing is the backbone of all that I do, whether it’s media relations, crisis communications, content production, relationship, or audience building. Effectively communicating through the written word, in whatever format it takes, is how I most often accomplish internal and external objectives.

2. Does writing well still matter in a digital/text/emoji world?

It matters more than ever, since there will be diminishing numbers of people willing or able to write effectively as communication evolves. Those who have embraced or been enabled by the shortcuts will find they need individuals who possess actual writing skills, especially in situations where it is critical to be clear, persuasive, or motivating.

3. What’s the best advice you’ve received or would give on how to improve writing skills?

Pay attention to effective writing and take note of how it’s being done, and that’s not just in books. There is plenty to be learned in short-form communications — articles, email, blog posts, Twitter, and even billboards.

 4. What are your top writing resources or references (digital or paper-based)?

I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” (where he famously wrote that “the road to Hell is paved with adverbs”). Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” is a classic I continue to turn to on a regular basis.

5. Do you follow a style guide, and if so, which one? 

For the media work I do, there is only one – the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.

6. What’s your top writing/grammar/usage pet peeve?

The use of extraneous language that could be replaced by one word (“due to the fact that” should be “because”).

7.  What’s your favorite word and what’s your least favorite?

My favorite word may be “repugnant,” not only because it’s so descriptive but also because the speaker shows his or her distaste in the pronunciation of it. My least favorite are all the ones poor writers litter their copy with, especially in public relations, such as “unique,” “cutting edge,” and “state-of-the-art.” If everything is unique, then nothing is.

 

I agree with Stu that getting rid of extraneous words (and cliches) would go a long way in giving public relations writing more impact. For more writing insights, check back here on September 29.

 

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What does that mean?

18 Aug
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in Communication   |  No Comments

Yesterday, after Pilates class, I was chatting with another student for a couple minutes as we gathered our stuff. In the background, I heard a bell ringing. I noticed it but didn’t know what it meant. We kept on chatting. The bell rang again. Again, no idea what it was. Then, one of the instructors tapped me on the shoulder and said we were being too loud, to please leave, and that the bell means be quiet. I turned to her, and after apologizing (#sorrynotsorry), told her that I had absolutely no idea what her ringing bell meant. Neither did the other student. We went outside,  feeling a bit peeved.

In my experience, a ringing bell indicates something is starting or ending. In yoga classes, teachers often ring a bell to indicate final relaxation is over. I do not associate a ringing bell with the need to be quiet.

I’ve been going to this Pilates studio for several weeks. Not once has my instructor ever rung a bell, even when there have been other people chatting. There’s no sign indicating that you need to be quiet or that a bell will be rung if you’re not. There’s nothing about it on the studio website. In fact, this is the only instruction regarding behavior:

Protocol

Clients must sign-in at the Front Desk upon arrival. Please remove your shoes and silence your cell phone upon entering the studio. Pets are not allowed. For your safety, clients who arrive more than 10 minutes late to a group class will not be permitted to join the class.

This studio is quite small and there’s no separate waiting area. It’s one big room. If noise is a problem (and mind you, Pilates, unlike yoga,  lacks a meditative/spiritual aspect), you need to remind students to be quiet. You could put up a sign saying something like: please, no talking or cell phone use (or whatever else).

We all understand what this means, right?:

skotan-No-sign-800pxThat’s because some symbols/signals are universal.

Here’s the thing: if you are going to use a symbol or signal that is not universally understood to mean what you intend it to, you will have to define it and educate people about what it means.

If you want to communicate clearly, you cannot make assumptions. You’ll have to keep in mind that other people have different experiences and understanding than you.

 

 

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How to undermine your credibility

09 Aug
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in Communication, Email marketing   |  No Comments

An important message for Deborah

That was the exact subject line of an email I got this morning from AT&T.

Since I have my cell phone service through AT&T, and the email clearly was designed to sound official, and I thought it was service-related news about my usage or bill. But no, it wasn’t about my cell phone service at all. Instead, the email was an advertisement for a “flash sale” on AT&T’s home security services.

Let’s review: A company with which I have an established (and may I add, quite long) customer relationship sends me an email that claims it’s important. The subject line is personalized, but the purpose of the email is to sell me other, unrelated services.

A case of misdirection

In other words, the subject line of this email was misleading. The email was neither important nor specifically for me. It was a promotion that required a subject line that would hook me into opening it.

Entering the realm of unintended consequences

Today’s misleading email from AT&T had two unintended consequences:

  • it eroded my trust in AT&T, undermining the company’s credibility
  • it caused me to unsubscribe from their promotional emails (all of them)

Raise interest but not at the expense of your credibility

Yes, companies and organizations need to have email subject lines that will raise interest and make people open the email. That’s the purpose of email marketing after all. But when the subject lines are misleading–designed specifically as click-bait–the organization’s credibility takes a hit. No longer will readers believe emails with words such as important, or urgent. Down the road, this can have negative consequences.

Bottom line

Cultivate your credibility, even at the expense of potential sales. Once you’ve destroyed your credibility, you will have a very hard time getting it back.

 

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Is sharing part of your content strategy?

03 Aug
2016
by Deborah Brody, posted in Content marketing, social media   |  No Comments

I can’t believe that in mid-2016 I am still complaining about this, but it happened to me again just this morning. I came across an interesting blog post about–get this–content strategy, and it had NO SHARING BUTTONS. None. Zilch. There was no easy way to share this content out short of me cutting and pasting the URL or using an extension such as Buffer (as Jonathan Rick helpfully pointed out on Twitter).

Think about the user

Here’s the thing, content strategy is supposed to keep the “user experience” (or UX) in mind. That means, that you, the content strategist or website/blog owner, need to think about your site’s visitors: How do they use your site? What do they need to do on your site? What do they want to learn about you? How can you make the process easy and intuitive for them?

It’s about being social

Sharing buttons have been around for years. There are dozens of plugins that allow this functionality in WordPress, and I am sure in any other blogging platform. Not having sharing buttons means you do not want your content to be shared. Which means you do not understand the purpose of content or the social aspect of social media (blogs are social media).

It’s not difficult: Your content strategy needs to include an easy way to share content. And by the way, sharing content also includes being able to email it or print it (don’t get me started on how many recipe sites don’t have this functionality).

Make sure it works

But it’s not enough to stick a sharing plugin on your blog or website and call it a day. You have to check that it actually works. And that it is providing the right information. And that it is easy to find and use. (Just yesterday, I came across another blog post that I wanted to share, and it did have a sharing button, microscopic, but there, and guess what, it didn’t work.)

You will find sharing (and printing) buttons at the bottom of this post. Please consider sharing this so that we can get all the non-sharers on board.

 

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