Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Merry New Year

Lest you think this is just another post where I decided to phone it in and not give anything of substance on this last day of 2008, I give you a parting thought:

Laughing at the face adversity, pain and obvious disdain will enable you to live a happier life. It's not easy, but sometimes it is necessary.

And now, a short video:


See, I told you it was short. Merry New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Taking a short pause, for a good Claus

Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, Image via WikipediaI thought about writing one of the many blog posts that have been floating around in my head lately for today.

I considered addressing some communications and public relations issues related to education.

I wanted to write about whether Communications is a discipline or a means to and end.

But, then I thought about it some more and chose to instead take a brief break and just say Merry Christmas.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Seven Things You Don't Know About Me

The setup:

I've been tagged by Geoff Livingston to participate and share Seven Things You Don't Know About Me writing project. This is the first such tag for me in my early blog writing career so naturally I was intrigued at the idea. So here goes:

The Seven:
  1. I proposed to my wife during a live performance in college. We started dating in December of 1998. The following May, they were performing in a Terrell Hall production of "Post Modern My Fair Lady," sponsored by the University of North Texas' Performance Group (PIGS). At the end of the performance, when we were the only two on stage, I got down on one knee, pulled out a ring, and asked Kristen to marry me. We were married that August.

  2. I destroyed my dad's console TV. I accomplished this by leveraging my chubby frame and ramming speed in perfect symmetry on a tricycle dead-center into the screen. (Or so I was told.)

  3. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people use jealous and envious interchangeably. They mean two different things.

  4. I had a weiner dog named Dollar. (Get it, Richie Rich.)

  5. I auditioned, and made the UNT mascot spirit team. (Yes, I was one of those spirit geeks and loved every minute even if the old Eppy the eagle costume looked like a big white chicken.)


  6. I would pay good money to have a Galaga arcade game in my house. I've spent many hours (and quarters) with this wonderful game. There is just something magical about that game for me. My wife and I have made a deal on the arcade game if we find one since they can be found as a dual game paired with Ms. Pac-Man. She's so cool. (photo props: Kevin Mosley)

  7. I convinced my younger brother that he was stolen from a Chinese family. This little joke came to an unfortunate conclusion when he professed aloud (and loudly) to my parents at a Wendy's, "I know where I came from...you two stole me from a Chinese family." To make things worse, there was an Asian couple sitting nearby well within earshot.
So that's it. I don't know if any of the above sheds any light into the writing on this blog, my sense of humor or energy for things that are important to me, but it sure was fun to share.

I now tag Linda Jacobson, APR, Patrick Evans, Lauren Turner, Billie Hara, Jake Good, Donald Claxton, and Louis Sandoval, Jr.

The rules:
  • Link your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged
    (Hat tip to Beth Harte for the rules.)
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Twitter and relationship damage

The question was a simple one, born of curiosity and to try to start a conversation on Twitter:
 For the Married Tweeple: If your spouse is not on Twitter, does he/she "get" your interest? Has it ever been a problem?  I wasn't sure if anyone was even paying attention. But then, a few replies came in to answer and discuss the issue of Twitter users' offline experiences with their significant others who may not quite understand (or care to figure out) what is so special about Twitter.  Here are some of the responses:

Relationships matter

Apparently I had touched a nerve with a few people. In fact, I had one response from a friend on Twitter [who will remain nameless] that stated: "Since you asked, I have been having serious twitter problems with my spouse. That's why my tweet volume has been so low."

Twitter is a very powerful and intriguing tool. It can also be seen as an alluring distraction if you are not careful. Following and being followed seems (and at times is) a little stalker-ish. It is easy to get caught up in the numbers, Twitter grading, and comparisons. I would caution against putting too much stock in these things especially at the detriment to any significant other people in your life. Think about your day in terms of your time - how much time are you spending in Twitter conversations compared to conversations with your family?
 
Remember the people you care about most. Use Twitter and other social media tools with the delicate life and relationship balance they deserve especially since sometimes social media just doesn't really matter.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sharing to save Darfur

Original caption states: Image via Wikipedia Today is the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yesterday, December 9, was the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Unfortunately, it is fitting that 60 years later our world has another horrible example of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur by the Sudanese government.
Since early 2004, the Security Council has also passed more than two dozen resolutions concerning the situation in Darfur. Khartoum has violated nearly every single provision in them, seemingly without consequence. To date, the member states of the [U.N.] Security Council have failed to adopt and implement a comprehensive strategy to end this man-made tragedy.
I don't claim to know all of the ins and outs of this situation, but I do know that there is something that can be done to make an impact on the situation from here in the United States. You can Be a Voice for Darfur. I would like to dedicate my tiny outpost here on the Internet to drawing attention to this worthy cause. It doesn't cost you anything but a few moments in time to add your name to the call for change to make sure that ending the genocide in Darfur is a top-priority for the Obama Administration as already promised by the President-elect. You could also participate with the petition application on Facebook to reach your circle of influence.

However you choose to take action, be sure to let your voice be heard on this remarkable cause and simultaneously demonstrate the power of effective social media integration.


(Note: If you happen to use Twitter, please be sure to use the Twitter hashtag: #voice4darfur.)

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The NHL should thank Sean Avery

MMVAsImage via WikipediaSean Avery is a moron and has no business being on one of my favorite local sports teams. In less than 30 seconds, the Dallas Stars player further dug himself into a hole of stupid behavior when he had some less than gentlemanly things to say in reference to an ex-girlfriend.

In case you missed it, here is what he said along with a few of his teammates' responses. (I don't feel like posting his coverage here, but it is relevant to the thought I am throwing out.) What I find particularly interesting is he starts out by saying, "you got a camera." Clearly he was seeking an opportunity to hold court for an audience of journalists.

Maybe Gary Bettman should thank Sean Avery
This may not be a very popular thought, but considering all of the attention Avery has brought with his comments, maybe on a certain level, the NHL should privately thank him when he meets with the commissioner on Thursday. As of this writing there were nearly 31,000 blog posts (via Google Blog search) and I am sure the topic came up in the media across the country on television, sports (and non-sports) radio, and print. The possible results? Major media coverage and public attention for the NHL, the Dallas Stars, and players.

I like hockey. I consider myself to be an occasional fan of the game. This publicity might just bring some needed interest for a professional sport that quite honestly, could use the influx of interest to increase its relevance. It reminds me of the time when Mark Cuban stated that he "thought the volume of media coverage of the Kobe Bryant [rape] trial would result in higher TV ratings for his games and for the NBA in general." I wonder if this will do a similar thing for the NHL.

In the interest of fairness, I did read that Sean Avery issued an apology via his LA publicist:
"I would like to sincerely apologize for my off-color remarks to the press yesterday from Calgary. I should not have made those comments and I recognize that they were inappropriate. It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game, but I am now acutely aware of how hurtful my actions were. I caused unnecessary embarrassment to my peers as well as people I have been close with in the past. I apologize for offending the great fans of the NHL, the Commissioner, my teammates, my coaching staff and the Dallas Stars Management and Ownership. As many of you know, I like to mix it up on and off the ice from time to time, but understand that this time I took it too far."
I wonder if the Stars will get rid of this guy. I wonder if now Sean Avery will take some time and think before he shoots his mouth off again. I wonder of this little episode will actually end up helping the NHL.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

5 PR tips from my Yahoo Maps driving directions

You can find good bits of inspiration if you pay attention. Check out the good PR advice I found on my Yahoo! Maps driving directions yesterday.


Yahoo! Maps advice for PR people
I clicked the "Printable Version" to receive my hard copy of directions. On my way out the door I looked down and noticed some text at the bottom of the page:
"When using any driving directions or map, it's a good idea to do a reality check and make sure the road still exists, watch out for construction, and follow all traffic safety precautions. This is only to be used as an aid in planning."
I read it a couple of times, then it hit me; this is some sound public relations advice. Consider the following...
  1. it's a good idea to do a reality check - Take a step back and look at your situation, problem, issue, etc. from all sides to figure out the appropriate next steps.
  2. make sure the road still exists - Sometimes decisions you've made before are no longer an option, this is critical mistake that is often made when responding to similar PR issues. Just because it's worked before, doesn't necessarily mean it will work again.

  3. watch out for construction - Obstacles will likely be in your way and you should make sure to pay attention to the road ahead.

  4. follow all traffic safety precautions - There are some tried and true public relations practices and realities that can always be used to fall back upon including honesty, credibility, ethics, and appropriate strategic thinking/action to keep you on course.

  5. [Remember the] planning - I know we often play defense and react to issues, but planning ahead and planning for situations is always a good idea and could make your job so much easier. (I took editorial license with this one to make a point and give my list five points.)
What do you think? Are there some other things that we can take away from these driving reminders?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Looking for the ethical intersections

I've had some time to ponder some things from the presentation that PR professor extraordinaire Doug Newsom, Ph.D., APR, recently made to the Fort Worth and Dallas Chapters of PRSA on ethical issues.

Ethics are the values that we acquire from faith, family, experience, and relationships that are our guidelines for what we consider right and wrong. They can be placed into two main categories: normative and situational.

Normative ethics can best be described as including religion and philosophy. In contrast, she said that PR professionals tend to operate in situational ethics since we function within social-science which provides a whole different (and even new) sets of ethical challenges. Comparative ethics is quite fascinating and daunting since we deal with some many different publics with differen
t values. Take a moment to consider some different publics: organizations, clients, news media, government agencies, educational institutions, consumers, stakeholders, analysts, investors, community, competitors, critics, and even other practitioners.
(photo credit: enggul)

Ethics and you

Newsom covered extensive ground and gave three key points for PR practitioners when confronted with ethics challenges:
  1. Stand your ground. You have expertise in your field - expertise that organizational leadership should be hearing.
  2. Understand the culture of the corporation. When it comes to communication, companies range from closed to open. Know where the company/client falls on that continuum, and decide if your personal values fit that culture. If not, you'll likely encounter some conflicts when sensitive issues arise.
  3. Adhere to an ethics model. She specifically discussed a utilitarian model, which supports decision-making of doing the greatest good for the greatest number, or a communitarian ethics model, which stresses morality in the community and being a good "corporate citizen." She further stated that these two approaches to ethics can never intersect because that are too divergent.
This last point has been bothering me for nearly a week. While I found much of her insight from over 40 years of experience to be remarkable, she did touch on something that I have not been able to shake since I respectfully disagree.

Roads that do not intersect?
The two different approaches for discussions on ethics:
  1. Utilitarian - Do the greatest good for the largest number
  2. Communitarian - Seek the vision of the organization to try to get agreement based on the values and mission
I think these two approaches can come together if organizations have the buy-in from their communities to the vision and if that organization has the credibility and trust of stakeholders. If our communities believe that we operate with their best interests in mind, then we know we've accomplished something. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive if we are remarkable at what we do. Is this easy? Not at all. Unfortunately, we operate and are viewed through the senses of doubt, mistrust, and other things that cloud vision. However, I think these things should give us motivation to never let down.

Tracks to transparency
Professor Newsom went on to explain (and to these points I go back to agreeing) that "PR people are not in business to be order-takers. We have a responsibility to challenge decisions. We have to do, not just talk." We need to be the strategic thinkers. We need to travel down those tracks to transparency. We must collaborate to set ethics and measurement guidelines when it comes to social media, search and PR. (For some of us, it might even be a good idea to every once in a while review the PRSA Code of Ethics.) Whatever the motivation, we should always strive to take our organizations to better places.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Newspapers Can Compete Through Collaboration

It is not often that a PR person looks at a local newspaper and thinks, "they are really thinking over there."

All kidding aside, I am officially impressed at some plans by the local newspapers in my region. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News recently announced an effort to share editorial content in an effort to better serve their markets. (Photo credit: DillonH)

From the Star-Telegram:
With newspapers facing challenges from changes in the industry brought on by the Internet and a rapid decline in the economy, editors of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News have begun discussing ways to collaborate in some targeted areas of newsgathering.
The internal and external language the two papers chose to explain this shift is also important to note.  Phrases like, "common-sense ways we can save money through cooperation," and "collaboration is made possible because of the mutual respect," and "[o]ur challenges are with the other media, not each other," tell me the two newsrooms are being reflective and perhaps moving away from some very old competitive habits.

A shift needed to happen in order for both newspapers to continue to be an influential voice in their respective markets moving forward. I have been following the layoffs at both papers through some journalist friends. I agree that the layoffs should matter to our communities and I get that they were corporate cost-saving decisions. I have been wondering and reading about what newspapers could do to adapt to the new landscape and build something new for the community.

A Suggestion

The decision to explore a collaborative editorial effort is an excellent first step. But what could be next?

I have at least one simple suggestion for the Star-Telegram: Quit hiding your online stories behind seemingly random expiration dates and placing them in a paid archive. This frustration can best be summed up by one of my Twitter friends through this frustrating tweet, "ST: How do you expect to grow online marketshare when you take down articles after a week? I can't link to you!!"

Why does this matter? If you expire good content and move it across a toll bridge, people will get frustrated with the toll-collector and be less likely to want to keep using that content. I am hesitant to link to anything on the Star-Telegram even if the story is great, because I know eventually it vanishes. The new media feeds on good content. That content must be accessible. It can be monetized so figure it out.

Back to Collaboration 
(no more archive rant)
By combining efforts through specific collaboration, the two newspapers should find themselves more agile and of more use to their communities. It will be interesting to see in what forms this strategy takes. I look forward to seeing what's next.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Can we expect a Social Media Presidency?

Much has already been said and written about what went so right for the Obama campaign and the people responsible for its success.

Along with being a landmark event in American history, the win should have lasting effects for communications professionals. One could even argue that the social web changed history.

So what should we expect  now?
Will we see more in the way of social media strategies from the next administration or as Josh Bernoff puts it, "Barack Obama, will you tap into the groundswell?" Bernoff even goes so far as to call for quite possibly the coolest Presidential appointment (at least to professional communicators):
I call on president-elect Obama to create a community of committed Americans to discuss the solutions to the problems that face us. I call on him to designate a US Community Manager, with a small staff, to moderate and harvest those discussions to solve the country's problems. Forget polls. With a few million people in my.america.gov, Obama will be able to tap into the world's largest focus group. Communities are cheap, compared to most of what the government does. Create a space for the brightest people you know; use them to attract the best ideas. And better yet, use this energized community to sell those ideas to America.
We even have someone ready to jump in and take the job (he's a local guy, so I'd support him.)

I sincerely hope we see more tactical uses of social media integration from government officials. I think this would be the beginnings to real change. Strategic integration of social media strategies aid in telling a transparent story. Besides, it would be a shame to let the social networks go to waste when so much could be done with them.

In my opinion, they are off to a good start with Change.gov site to help tell the story of the transition.

(Photo credit: joyepurser)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote!

 
My name is Richie Escovedo and I approve this message.
(Photo credit: BrittneyBush)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Students remind us to vote

I've been encouraged this election season by the number of educators and students taking an interest in Presidential politics and this historic election. As early voting records are shattered and millions of people pay particular attention to where we are as a country and where we could go together. I hope this country significantly breaks voting records with huge numbers on November 4.

One of our district's schools took an opportunity during Red Ribbon Week to gather outside on a beautiful day to create another reminder to all Americans to exercise their rights and vote.



This photo first appeared on the district's Web site and was then shared with CNN for their iReport.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

One of my favorites:



Happy Halloween. I hope your community still participates in a fun and family oriented trick-or-treat experience.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do not anger the audience

My father-in-law is a football fan from Montana. One of his teams (mainly because of proximity) is the Seattle Seahawks. He told me of a strange promotion for the Washington State Lottery during a Seahawks game earlier this season.

A total disregard for the audience
25,000 fans received a yellow cap courtesy of Washington's Lottery. (That's me sporting the funny looking yellow cap.) Instructions were given along with the cap that read:
Wear your lucky cap to each home game starting October 12, 2008 for your chance to be one of 30 instant winners of $500!
Sounds good right? Pretty straight forward. They even stated there would only be five winners per game.

So why is this worth noting?
How about for the simple fact that, according to my father-in-law, this made Seahawks fan mad. But why would fans be upset at a promotion that was designed to give them some cash?

Poor color choice pissed off their audience.

The yellow cap with the little green logo looks suspiciously like Green Bay Packers colors. The Lottery promotion organizers likely chose the color to match their own brand colors, which are not really that close to Seahawks colors. As I understand it, many of these yellow caps found there way to trash cans, urinals, rooftops, middle-of-the-street, etc. as a sign of solidarity for the Seahawks faithful who wouldn't be caught dead wearing enemy colors. I'm also going to bet that alcohol played a minor role in some of the more colorful options of trashing the caps. By the way, the promotion's October 12 start date happened to be the Seahawks game vs. the Packers, so that didn't help matters either.

There's a lesson here
When thinking through a campaign, it is always a good idea to view it through the eyes of your audience instead of just rolling out what might otherwise be a good idea, otherwise it just might fail or worse, make people mad.

Special thanks to my father-in-law from sharing his experience and giving me his hat. I think I'll keep it as a reminder to remember the audience.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Purpose of Influence

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

I have been thinking about what it was I could contribute to the international Blog Action Day conversation for a few weeks:
All of these things, while worthy of reminding, reading, and researching, led me to take a look at a question: What is the purpose of influence? 

I've read Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life and have also gone through a church-wide 40 Days of Purpose plan. It is a wonderful teaching tool and it helped me start doing some things I should and stop doing some things I shouldn't be doing. But, it really hasn't clicked for me until now.

What does this have to do with Blog Action Day 2008?
It all comes down to stewardship of influence. I found a 2006 TED talk by Pastor Warren entitled Living a Life of Purpose. In it Warren describes what he refers to as the purpose of influence:
The purpose of influence is to speak-up for those who have no influence.
I think we can all agree that people living in poverty fall within the category of having little to no influence on society. This should be the reason so many influential bloggers choose to participate in a Blog Action Day, to reach millions in order to shed light on this global problem. It's not about ego, driving traffic, or SEO; it's about using the gifts we are given in order to do something good.

Think about your stewardship of influence and stewardship affluence:



Monday, October 13, 2008

A Cancelled Experiment

The natural gas online education program channel, Shale.TV has been canceled before their first show. Chesapeake Energy, citing “economic challenges” faced by the country and the industry, announced the move to abandon its online media venture.

GFW PRSA recently had Chesapeake's VP, corporate development, Barnett Shale Division, come speak to the chapter about some of the company's communications/PR tactics. She provided some excellent insights based on a wealth of experience and knowledge to listeners.

I was very interested in the Shale.TV information she touched on during th Q&A:
Q - When Shale.tv was announced, your quote may have been heard as demeaning to PR?
A - It was not meant to be demeaning to PR. I think news teams took it personally. I do think it is important to understand difference between corporate advocacy and mainstream journalism. Media is changing. We are doing an experiment and we'll see how it goes.
Unfortunately, we won't get to see how that experiment goes. I was very interested in how this corporate advocacy channel would do for their audience. I was looking forward to hearing about the successes and/or failures of the venture that brought in some recognizable media talent. This looked like an interesting PR challenge for the company. Now the big question for me is what is Tracy Rowlett going to do now?

Ideas Shake Things Up
I will give credit to Chesapeake for the Shale.TV idea. So what if it ruffled some feathers of some media friends. (It was probably more problematic to Chesapeake to have the local community up in arms.) It would have been interesting to see what kind of measurable impact this experimental venture could have produced for the company.

We all know media is in a state of flux as is the PR industry. With so many tools and tricks to figure out and try, I think more experimentation with creative and unique ideas will only help communications/PR pros be that much more effective for our companies, organizations, and clients.

(photo credit: confusedvision)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Live blogging is not as easy as it looks

So I tried a simple live blogging experiment on a whim today during the Fort Worth Chapter of PRSA's October luncheon.

The idea was simple (or so I thought)
We had a speaker from a top-of-mind energy corporation in the North Texas region. Julie Wilson, APR, past president of the Greater Fort Worth Chapter PRSA, and vice president, corporate development, Barnett Shale Division, Chesapeake Energy Corporation accepted an invitation to speak on the corporate community relations tactics, views and answer questions. I volunteered to conduct a live blog post during the luncheon on the chapter's blog.

Good idea at the time
I made a brief announcement before the luncheon on the chapter's blog and spoke with a few board members about the idea. (Buy-in was easy and initial positive response was received.)

Should have thought it through
I made some mental notes about the challenges of and suggestions for live blogging:
  • Since this idea was concocted the night before, it lacked the proper planning that should have been done to prepare for this type of endeavor.
  • Sitting down to type statements and audience Q&A takes a fast typist.
  • It is important to pay thoughtful attention for details and nuances from the speaker while trying to maintain a running list of important ideas to share.
  • It's ok to miss a few things here and there as long as you stay true to the speaker's concepts. (Hopefully, those in attendance will help view commenting for clarification.)
  • Next time I think I'll use a live blogging web-based program that is built for just such an occasion. (I am going to try Coveritlive.com)
What would you add? Have you ever tried your hand at live blogging? Do you have any other suggestions for future reference?

Monday, September 29, 2008

What can Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern teach us about blogging?

Nothing.

I mean really, regardless if either of them has a blog (which I think Limbaugh might, but it appears hidden behind some bogus members-only shield and Stern's site didn't appear useful to me either) what you should concentrate on is their chosen professions as talk radio personalities and how that relates to blogging.

What does a talk radio host have to do with blogging?
I have recently been needing a clear way to explain to various groups of people some of the basics of social media. One obvious theme is blogging: What is it? Who should do it? Should companies do it? How can I get one of those spiffy blogs? Etc.

I'll be honest, the majority of those that need the extra push do trend a little older in years. This is not to say that older people don't get social media, in fact the opposite might be true and marketers should pay attention.

Um, ok...
For a while, I've been kind of stuck on the What is a blog? question. I understand the Wikipedia definition, but still lacked that solid example to explain to others. Then it hit me.

A blog is sort of like a talk radio show.
Talk Radio Show (Blog equivalent)
  1. Host/Co-host (Author/Authors)
  2. Show Topics (Posts)
  3. Screened Callers (Moderated/Non-moderated Commenting)
  4. New Stuff Daily (Reverse-chronological order)
  5. Show Guests (Guest Authors)

Whether it's sports, politics, news, religion, entertainment, technology or local interests, the radio show and blog comparison provides enough similarities that have helped me explain to the uninitiated. (When that doesn't work, you could always send them to the CommonCraft Show for help.)

(Photo credit: AMagill)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

God gives blueprint for effective communication

Have you ever thought to look to the Bible for communication training?

As a professional communicator it is easy to take for granted some of the rules of engagement. We all know how to reach an audience. We'd like to think we can be agile enough to act and react to get our messages across. There are countless resources available via education, journals, books, newsletters, on-the-job training, trial and error etc. 

Before last Sunday it had never occurred to me to look in the Bible for communication wisdom.

The inevitability of communication
You are always communicating something. Consider the following: Words are powerful. Reckless words pierce like the sword. Nonverbal cues are always pervasive.
A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart — he always stirs up dissension. (Proverbs 12-14, NIV)
On Listening
He who answers before listening — that is his folly and his shame. (Proverbs 18:13, NIV)
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20)
On Affirmation
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)

A man finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word! (Proverbs 15:23, NIV)

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21, NIV)

Be Honest. Listen. You cannot not communicate. Relationships will thrive in encouraging environments. Are these themes that can help in your professional life?

(photo credit: keith_lang, sermon guidance: Pastor Ken Horton, reference: BibleGatway.com)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

4 Ways Social Media Makes Me a Better Communicator

I consider myself to be a competent communications professional working in school public relations. I understand the fundamentals of how to be an effective communicator and try to put into practice all of the lessons I've learned both from my education and on the job trials by fire.

I was doing quite well before all of this social media information smog hit me. What I didn't foresee were some very simple ideas becoming instant game-changers for me.

I have developed a growing online profile for myself both professionally and personally. Big deal, right? Right.

The idea of a personal brand never even crossed my mind until recently. I'm finding out that social media is making me better, both professionally and personally.

Chris Brogan, a great conversation creator, posed an interesting set of questions:
“Why are we threading the social web? Why are we spending hours a day reaching out, building connections, cultivating relationships, producing and consuming media that only a sliver of the world is even noticing?”
My answer for these questions comes down to four ways in which social media makes me a better communicator.

Relationships
People matter. The social web has allowed for me to engage in conversations, ask questions and have random discussions with folks. Many of these conversations have led to new and deepened some established relationships with colleagues, journalists, friends, and family thus enriching a variety of communities for me. I think Todd Defren says it nicely in his post, What is PR's Elevator pitch?
“PR pros are now much more focused on the ‘Relations’ side of ‘Public Relations.’”
related social web tools: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twellow, SmugMug, Flickr, Ning

Professional Development
There are so many great conferences, workshops, meetings that I would like to attend, but for a variety of reasons, don't. That's ok, because I can access most of the information and speakers through the wonderful network of people who attend these events and are willing to share their experiences via blogging (and microblogging) plus live or recorded video-streaming. Seeking knowledge is a tremendous benefit to make up for limitations in access. Paying attention to what people are reading, tagging, reviewing, and recommending helps make me smarter.
related social web tools: Twitter Search, Twitter, Google Blog Search, Google Reader, Delicious, Digg

Opportunity
When opportunity knocks are you going to be ready to take action? Using social media has allowed me to pay attention and listen for opportunities to connect with people, pitch a story, or offer my consulting services to name a few. Could I have done these types of things without SM? Yes, but I would have only heard the faint sounds of opportunity as opposed to the reverberating beat of many chances to engage.
related social web tools: Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Google Reader

Inspiration
Abraham Lincoln told us, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” I choose to be a good communications professional. I have found some great inspiration from other intelligent and wise PR people and talented designers. I agree with Daniel Pink, author of A whole New Mind, who argues that we’re “moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.” He writes:
“The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind—computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers.

But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.” [emphasis added]
In other words “[e]conomic advantage and professional success no longer come from the logical, analytical skills of knowledge workers but from creative, conceptual, and relationship skills.” (Innovate or Die: Why Creativity is Economic Priority Number One)

Why do I thread the social web? I want to be a part of the connections and help facilitate conversations that might never had occurred before such a time as this.



Recommended Related Reading:
(photo credits: top thomieh, bottom Bright Meadow)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Helping a few more take the plunge into Social Media

I had the distinct pleasure today of helping five elementary school principals through the step-by-step process of creating their first campus blogs.

When the idea seed for school leadership blogging in our school district was first planted, it was met with lukewarm responses. However, when I spoke to individual principals who explained their concerns, almost all left either believing it was worth looking into or that they could indeed use a blog to help.

I was impressed that they collaborated and came up with a simple, but effective way to introduce their blogs. Each of them posted the following:
We are moving forward with social technology to enhance our ability to communicate. This will expand our level of effective communication with parents, student, staff and community members. We will post frequently discussed topics and other items of interest. As always, we welcome your input.
These simple statements represent the first steps by some admittedly nervous digital-immigrants who are looking for ways to be more efficient with their time, communication, and leadership. Time will tell if this blogging initiative will pay off in these areas for them. But it is encouraging to see more willing participants take the plunge. Maybe it helped that they were taking it together.

(Photo credit: ClickFlashPhotos)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Will you stand up to cancer?

My aunt Rachel's cancer has returned. She is the youngest of seven siblings on my dad's side of the family. A family who has felt its share of heartache and suffering. She is still fighting and will continue to battle this disease.

Rather than go into the details of her cancer or of the other members of my family who have been affected by cancer, I want to take this opportunity to ask a simple question that is being asked this week:

What do you stand for?

On Friday, September 5, 2008, The Stand Up to Cancer telethon will air at 8pm et/pt, 7pm ct on ABC, CBS and NBC.

What is it?
From the site:
...over 50 of the most renowned personalities in TV, film, sports and music will come together to make history. In an unprecedented television event, NBC, ABC, and CBS will simultaneously devote 1 hour of commercial-free prime time to raise funds for the fight against cancer.
Why?
Cancer takes one person every minute. One life in a moment. They are our brothers, our sisters, our fathers and mothers, our husbands and wives, our best friends, our children, ourselves. Every day in America 1500 people die and yet the means to save them are literally within our reach. To wait any longer for someone else to save our lives and the lives of those we love is unforgivable.
I first read about the Stand Up to Cancer project on Tara Settembre's blog where she explained her involvement with the movement's viral video:



Aside from the personal attachment I have to the project, there is an inherent professional curiosity that allows me to have a positive and hopeful view of using social media for good works.

What can you do?
Check out the SU2C YouTube Channel. Follow SU2C on Twitter. Consider a donation.

My aunt is a fighter.
She can't fight alone.
She shouldn't have to.
Have you or a loved one been affected by cancer?
Will you stand up to cancer?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't fear the blog


I found myself saying and thinking these words today following a blogging 101 presentation to a group of principals, directors, and coordinators in our school district. Our school district is embarking on a voluntary blogging initiative for administrators.

We presented the group with the basics of defining a blog followed up with a why we think administrators should care about blogging.

An administrator's blog (written by a principal, director, coordinator or other leadership team member) can be a place where parents, students and other staff can read some of the latest news, thoughts, and information from school district leadership and engage in respectful dialogue.

These are the short guidelines we gave them:
  • Write what you know.
  • Be interesting, Be Honest & Be Yourself.
  • It's a two-way street.
  • Respect confidentiality and privacy.
  • Think about Consequences.
  • Most Important: Blog Smart.
(Hat tip to: Blogger, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, Graco, Feedster, Fellowship Church, IBM, and Forrester Research)

Here's a portion of what I said to the group:
Each of you has a unique perspective that could be shared with a small or even large audience depending on how you want to tell your stories. You have the ability to provide insight into the decision-making process for your campus, department or even district-level. We are encouraging you to be a part of the conversation.
The initial reaction seemed to be the typical FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that comes when you try to engage an (sometimes older) audience with basic/advanced communications technology. The digital natives thrive on it and the digital immigrants run from it.

Although, I will give credit to a few brave souls who were interested in continuing the conversation and genuinely willing to give it a try.

I think it is in the best interests of school district administrators to pay attention to existing as well as new and emerging communication technologies for adaptation. One elementary principal noted that her parents are getting younger and younger and these technologies (like blogs) are commonly used.

I think it's time to get our collective heads out the ground and take steps into the social web.

Photo credit: dogsivu

Monday, August 25, 2008

Social Media can be ridiculously fun

Do you wish you could fast-forward time to skip all of the soon-to-be released political messaging from the Presidential candidates and stop right before election day?

This post won't help you do that.

What I can do is point you in the direction of something fun, that could take your mind off of the impending (read: boring) messages, that happens to also be the start of a solid example of social media for good: voter registration.

I ran across this post today on Jason Falls' Social Media Explorer blog in my feed reader (Maker’s Mark Is Capturing Election Fever With A Presidential Prediction) that caught my eye since it brought two very different (yet sometimes intertwined) industries together: alcohol and politics.

Check out Maker's Mark News, which according to Falls is...
"...a faux news effort we’ve put together to support Maker’s Mark’s partnership with Rock The Vote."
The About Page pretty much sums it up:
"The Maker’s Mark and Rock The Vote Bus Blog is a friendly place to have some fun during the 2008 election season. To increase awareness and drive voter registration, Maker’s Mark and Rock The Vote have partnered to send the Maker’s Mark-Rock The Vote Bus to several cities around the nation prior to the November election. As an additional reminder to Maker’s Mark customers, hang tags on bottles of special, limited edition, triple-dipped Maker’s Mark bottles remind people to register to vote."


Here's the effort's first video entry:


What makes this so remarkable is that it looks really fun. They chose to work with a message that they know will resonate with positive humor for their target audience. They pieced together a campaign that brings proven elements of marketing and communications, just with a fun twist.

I hope their efforts pay off.
I hope they raise awareness for voter registration.
I hope more professional communicators learn how to have fun with their messages.

Our audiences just might appreciate the change.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Do schools kill creativity?

In honor of the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year...

Some time ago I ran across an informative as well as disturbing video from Sir Ken Robinson @ TED sharing ideas on education and posing the simple question: Do schools today kill creativity? I recommend reviewing this video (running time 19:29) and thinking about what you remember about school.

I've heard it said that if you were to bring someone from the past, say from 1960, and showed them your kitchen, they would likely be amazed to see the various electronic contraptions available to ease the burdens of cooking. They would also be astounded at the flat TV hanging on the wall with crystal-clear images. They might even be uncomfortable at all of the advancements in everyday life. But, put them in a typical classroom of today and they would likely feel right at home: a teacher at the front of the classroom talking to a group of students sitting all in neat little rows of desks.

What makes schools so different that we don't spend the same resources to aid the instruction to make life better for our students and teachers? Many advancements have taken shape and technology integration in classrooms is well beyond where it used to be, but we could do so much better.

Things are changing (for the better) and I look forward to the advancements that my kids will enjoy in their educational experiences. When the focus is truly on the students needs, education will have evolved:



I especially loved this interaction between a teacher and a little girl:
"What are you drawing?"
"I'm drawing a picture of God."
"But no one knows what God looks like."
"They will in a minute."
What do you want education to be?  What needs to happen before you are proud of the state education?

Related post: Starting a Statewide Conversation, strategic planning for Friends of Texas Public Schools

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Diversity Without Opportunity is Just Talk

I attended the Greater Fort Worth Chapter PRSA's August luncheon and meeting where the group heard from a panel on diversity.

The topic, Working Diversity into the Workplace promised to be at best, an interesting approach to something that seems fundamental OR at worst, a nice way to get out of the office and have some pretty good fajitas.

Personal aside: It was kind of funny that we had our diversity session at a famous Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth.
(Thanks, Terry.)

Photo credit: chrisjfry

The People
We were introduced to a panel that included:
  • Mitch Hill, Baylor Hospital (social worker)
  • Leah King, Chesapeake Energy (community relations)
  • Tom Burke, IBM (communications/public relations)
  • Dora Tovar, Tovar PR (public relations)
  • Ken Reeves, Bell Helicopter (human resources)
I was immediately struck by the make-up of the group. Aside from the obvious male/female/ethnic differences, our chapter diversity chair had an interesting mix of PR and non-PR professionals. I had an idea of how PR can help address diversity to build and maintain relationships. What I was looking forward to was seeing how this group would approach the topic.


Thoughts on diversity vs. culture
Here are a few of the thoughts that resonated with me:

Mitch Hill thinks we wear many masks and take on multiple cultures.
"There is diversity within myself," he said. "Once we understand this about ourselves, we can move forward."
Leah King said she lived oversees and takes a broader approach to diversity.

Tom Burke pointed out how IBM approaches diversity.
"[IBM is] welcoming everyone to the workplace regardless of differences un-related to their job functions."
Letter from IBM's Vice President of Global Workforce Diversity, Ron Glover

Tom also made what I thought to be an excellent point about our topic.
"Diversity is not created, it already exists."
Dora Tovar spoke more on culture, telling the group that culture in the U.S. is very individual and is in constant change.
"Those that can adapt and change will be the most marketable."
She also pointed out that diversity is about representation and culture is about identity.

Ken Reeves followed Tovar and gave his perspective on diversity stating that it is not just about representation, it's about opportunity. He explained how as an ex-NFL player he had to develop a strategy to diversify himself and about the corporate strategy at Bell Helicopter related to diversity.
"Until [diversity] translates into opportunity for everyone, it's just talk."
Moving forward
Each of the panelists brought an enlightened perspective on diversity that went beyond the typical race, ethnicity, sex, religions, etc.

Also, going back to Mitch Hill's reference, the mask metaphor, in my opinion, is fundamental to human communication. It is a great explainer for the different roles we play on a daily basis. We are different (diversity within ourselves) depending on our audience. When I am at home, I play the husband and father roles. At work, my mask is that of a communications/PR professional. With friends...With other family members...With new people...etc. These are all roles that are within me. We all have the different masks to wear. It's not hiding. It's playing the role of a human.

Lastly, the notion that diversity without opportunity is a significant next step. It is not about checking off boxes to make sure your company has this many women or that many Latinos. It is about recognizing the business strategy, objectives, and benefits behind a diversity opportunities.

What do you think? Do you consider yourself to be personally diverse? Do you think you wear masks? Can diversity translate into opportunity?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Social Media Free eBooks List

One of my favorite bloggers, Chris Brogan, compiled a list of Free eBooks About Social Media. I have not had a chance to go through these all yet, but I find Chris to be remarkable at sharing knowledge and providing amazing conversation starters, so I trust his list:

It’s interesting what you can find when you look around a bit on Google. I thought I’d look for a few new ebooks to read. I found 20 different ones that might be interesting to you. It never hurts to get a few different perspectives. In all cases, the first link is to a PDF file, the second link is to the site where it’s hosted.

20 Free eBooks About Social Media

  1. The New Rules of Viral Marketing - David Meerman Scott
  2. Marketing Apple - MarketingApple.com
  3. Masters of Marketing - Startup Internet Marketing
  4. Podcast Marketing eBook - Christopher S. Penn
  5. Google Adwords Secrets - SEOBook
  6. Get Viral Get Visitors - Stacie Mahoe
  7. Marketing With Case Studies - Dynamic Copywriting
  8. How to Write a Marketing Plan - Geisheker Group
  9. SEO for WordPress blogs - Blizzard Internet
  10. Social Web Analytics - Social Web Analytics
  11. Geeks Guide to Promoting Yourself With Twitter - Geekpreneur
  12. The Zen of Blogging - Hunter Nutall
  13. What is Social Media - iCrossing
  14. A Primer in Social Media - SmashLab
  15. Effective Internet Presence - Effective Internet Presence
  16. Introduction to Good Usability - Peter Pixel
  17. Increasing the Response to Your Email Marketing Program - CRM Transformation
  18. We Have a Website. Now What? - Craig Rentmeester
  19. Blogs & Social Media - PRSA
  20. The Podcast Customer Revealed - Edison Media Research

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Starting a State-wide Conversation

Last week  I had the distinct honor to work with the Friends of Texas Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee to participate in bringing a defined direction for the group. The group is a 501 c(3) non-profit dedicated to Texas public education and combating the negative coverage.



The Co-Founders and Board of Friends of Texas Public Schools decided it was time to evaluate where the group is and where it is going for it to be effective. 
My interest in the group is two-fold: 
  1. I believe that a strong education system is the only way for a society to advance.

  2. I want to share my ideas for how to engage communities.

Below are the planning stages that were created:
(I've added a few of my additional thoughts in blue.)




BELIEFS

  • Friends, family, faith and community are the support mechanisms that lead to human achievement.

  •  Access to knowledge and educational opportunity are fundamental rights.

  • The power of collaboration exceeds the capacity of an individual’s effort. 

  • All people have a personal responsibility to fulfill their individual worth.

  • All people have a responsibility to nurture and support children.

  • Compassion and giving to others are mutually beneficial.



MISSION



The mission of Friends of Texas Public Schools, the leading voice of optimism and hope for our public school family, is to ensure positive conversation about public schools by educating Texans through honest communication, productive dialogue, and relentless encouragement.





STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES

  • Texas public school educators will be ambassadors for their profession.

  •  Texans will believe that being an educator is noble. This was my favorite.

  •  Texans will revere and respect their public schools.

  • Texans will recognize their role and become engaged in quality public education.






STRATEGIES

  • We will be a profound influence in the state-wide conversation about public education. I plan on plan on playing a major role with Friends to help with this strategy.

  •  We will identify resources necessary and raise funds to achieve the Friends’ mission.

  • We will organize strategically and build capacity.




PARAMETERS



  • We will communicate openly and honestly. We had a good balance of Communications/PR people to go along with educators and even a lawyer.

  •  We will treat all people with dignity and respect.

  • We will not allow obstacles to impede progress.

  • We will ensure fiscal responsibility.

  • We will not speak negatively about public education. This is so crucial for education. In education, particularly public education, we are our own worst enemy in speak down about the profession. We hope to change that for Texas.


Are these lofty goals? You bet. Are they worthy of trying to achieve? Absolutely. 
What do you think? What do you believe the role of education in Texas (or in our society in general) should be? How high do you hold education in the scheme of things? (If you are interested, Friends has some suggested reading on the subject.

Next steps are the action plans.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

PR advice I found in ESPN The Magazine

A few weeks ago I ran across a bit of sound Public Relations advice in ESPN The Magazine that has been rattling around in my head as I've been thinking over it.

ESPN The Magazine has a regular column that starts off 7 Things You Should Know About and each issue has a short list of interesting bits of sports information on things like Running a Small-market Basketball Team or Being a Low-ranked Tennis Player or being an NHL Referee or (you get the idea.)

The Good Advice
One recent list in their 7 Things You Should Know About was on Designing Golf Equipment by By Jeff Colton, Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Callaway Golf (as told to Amanda Angel.)

Here's the one that jumped out at me:
2. WE'RE ALWAYS WATCHING. "Not only do we keep an eye on other sports, but we also study the automotive industry and architecture. In 1996, we replaced the metal head on a stainless steel fairway wood with lightweight carbon because we saw how BMW boosted the performance of its high-end coupes by replacing aluminum and steel roofs with a composite. We translate advances in different industries to our clubs." [emphasis mine]
This is really good advice for PR professionals. We need to be aware, reading, studying, analyzing, anything to keep tabs on other industries to see what is/is not working for them.

It is imperative to pay attention to advances in different industries and see what could be applied to our own even if some people in other industries don't think it's important to look at ours.