Tag Archives: business communications

On the jargon runway, is this why people love it?

jargon.PNGAnother buddy from my newspaper days has started working in corporate communications, one more straight shooter struggling with jargon and other biz-speak gobbledygook.

That’s hardly news, at the end of the day. (“19 Worst Examples of Jargon of 2014.”)

But this might be. My friend seems to have found an answer to the eternal cosmic question: Why in the world would anyone use these nonsensical words, phrases and non-words, when simple, plain English is always there, just waiting to be used (NOT utilized)?

Before we get to his explanation, though, let’s enjoy some of the new terms he’s been struggling with in his day-to-day role.

  • bbbWing to wing — instead of comprehensive.
  • Solve — as a noun.
  • Runway — “I’d like to have a meeting with you, but I’m out of runway for the month.”
  • Goal –– as a verb.
  • Lift — as a noun meaning an imposition.

That’s one my friend has slipped into using. He doesn’t like it, but he’s surrounded by jargon all day now. Sometimes, he can’t win.

“Who knows why I used that,” he told me. “Why did I not just say, ‘I hope it’s not too much trouble’ instead? There are so many options. It’s awful.”

Here we get to the solution (NOT solve).

“Am I trying to impress somebody?” he went on. “Because it’s not really impressive. Maybe I’m just trying to fit in. Is that why people talk like this — not to show they’re smart, but just to show they fit in?”

Could be, buddy. And maybe that’s why all those years in newspapers we talked about “slugs” and “perp walks” and “news hole.”

But I’m still gonna shout “Rewrite!” if somebody asks me to goal a wing-to-wing solve.


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9 Proven Ways to Lead a Difficult Interview to Success

Communication-skillsAll professional communicators have faced difficult interview subjects who can’t or won’t give you what you need.

Do you get tough with your questions like a reporter or a prosecutor?

Do you smile and nod and hope that you can somehow make sense of this later?

Do you walk away absolutely frustrated?

Consider, for example, a certain Subject Matter Expert. She’s a genius in her field and is somehow affiliated with your company. You and your team want to craft a multi-channel communications plan for her to use with audiences of, say, employees, media and investors. To do so, you need clarity and proper engagement from the expert, who doesn’t mean to be challenging, of course. She’s just not good at expressing her vision and she doesn’t understand why she frequently has to stop and explain things again.

Successful communicators are often the best listeners. They’re skilled at getting great thinkers to share those great thoughts, even those subjects who don’t want to or don’t know how to.

social-icons-01 Click to Tweet: How to help when interview subjects have trouble communicating.

Here’s how to help. Try these easy tips I’ve gathered from doing countless interviews, first as a news reporter with VIPs of all kinds, and later as a corporate communicator with business leaders, allies and staff members of every rank. If you can master this, you’ll be able to help all kinds of people share all kinds of information. So everybody wins, including you.

tm-pilbox.global.ssl.fastly.net1. Do your homework. Read everything you can about the person you’re interviewing. Read anything with his byline – even if he didn’t write it, he approved it. Watch all his videos. Also, talk to his associates if you can. Their insight can be invaluable.

2. Organize priorities. Get clear with the subject — and also with your boss or your team —  about the priorities for the interview, how much time you’ll have, and if this is a one-off or the first of a series. That way you’ll be sure to know what everyone needs the most and get it.

3. Show respect. Let the person indicate if he wants to chat for a few minutes or get right down to business. Don’t interrupt or contradict, but also don’t kiss up or try to impress.

4. Remind him why you’re talking to him. Chances are, someone has already told him, of course. But he’s busy and might’ve forgotten or confused you with someone else. Be succinct and clear about what you need.

5. Ask for clarity. If the expert or leader seems to contradict himself or something in your notes, ask for a clarification. “I’m sorry … I thought the plan called for X, rather than Y … I must be confused. Can you help me understand?” Remember: If you don’t get it, no one will.

social-icons-01Click to Tweet: Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity. If you don’t understand, no one will.

KeepCalm6. Keep it simple by asking and maybe even re-asking the basic questions. “I want to be clear for everyone: What problem does this new product solve? I believe it’s this, based on the research I’ve done… Is that correct?”

7. Mix it up. Ask a variety of open-ended questions (“How do you feel about how things are shaping up?”) and direct questions (“Are you satisfied with these results?”)

8. Get a few soundbites. Some experts and advocates know what you need and are happy to help. For the others, though, try a suggestion like this:  “So, would it be correct to say X-Y-Z…? I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but we need this to be short and clear.”

9. Wrap it up. Stick to the time allotted, unless the leader wants to extend. Thank him for his time and share your plans for review.

Now make it matter

Transcribe your notes and share with your supervisor and team. Plan a meeting to go over everything and suggest key nuggets for use – in, say, the annual report or next week’s newsletter. Fact-check anything you’re not sure about, or run it by legal before you distribute. Remember your internal approval process when crafting and executing the communications plan.

Do you need to suggest a follow-up interview? Make it a monthly thing? Should you send a videographer to the person’s next speech, to record some of his new-and-improved presentation for still more content uses?

In some cases, someone might decide to hire an outside expert to provide the person with intense media coaching. Or to assign much of the messaging to someone else.

But with the information and buy-in you’ve retrieved, the comms team will have what it needs — for clarity, relevance and accuracy.

And that’s really saying something.


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6 Content Marketing Conferences to Learn from the Best

I went to Cleveland for a few days last September, and let me tell you, it was one of the best things I did all year.

(Go ahead. Insert Cleveland joke here.)

I decided to attend a conference, Content Marketing World, in a flash of inspiration. I had mulled going earlier, and when a new online friend and industry leader suggested I go, I snagged a cheap flight and a room at the venue hotel, and, before I could say “Get off of my blue suede shoes,” I was in the land of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As a former journalist working in traditional corporate communications, I was jazzed to see so many examples of how to creatively, purposefully blend the two disciplines and others. With top authors, brands and social media represented, the conference has grown in attendance annually.

Business communicators of all kinds have been turning more and more to storytelling techniques, brand journalism and content marketing, and conferences like this are a great chance to learn from the best and mingle with peers. I stole ideas and made connections in Cleveland — with good, smart people in a supportive environment.

Similar events cover some of the same ground, and maybe this year I’ll plan ahead with one or more of these:

  1. Social Media Marketing World. March 25-27, San Diego. “Discover the best social media marketing techniques from the world’s top experts. Join 2,500 fellow marketers at the mega-conference designed to inspire and empower you with social media marketing ideas—brought to you by Social Media Examiner.”
  2. Create an award-winning newsroom: Boost influence, SEO and media coverage. This PR Daily Webinar is set for April 2. From the link: “The press, public and search engines will give your news massive reach — if your online newsroom features frequent updates and multimedia. Is yours up to speed?”

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Supremes, Diana Ross

    No trip to Cleveland is complete without a tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and seeing what the original Dreamgirls (Diana, Mary and Flo of the Supremes) wore back in the day.

  3. Marketing United. April 29-May 1, Nashville. “The must-attend conference for modern marketers” features authors Ann Handley and Jay Baer, along with many more in Music City, home to the Country Music Hall of Fame. (Take that, Cleveland!)
  4. Creativity, Technology and the Future of Storytelling. “How do you tell amazing stories that are not just good, but inspire your audience, make life more interesting, and turn passive consumers into brand advocates?” May 14 in New York.
  5. Digital Summit Atlanta. May 19-20. “Join Digital Summit Atlanta for two days of leading-edge digital media and marketing content, mixed alongside top-flight networking with Internet execs, online marketers, entrepreneurs and digital strategists.”
  6. Content Marketing World 2015. Sept. 8-11. Cleveland. Yes, I might go back to see Joe Pulizzi, Robert Rose and the rest from the Content Marketing Institute. And not just because I had to race through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to make my flight back home…

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Why Social Media Storytelling is Like a Good Burger

PRSA, Georgia, Atlanta, Maggiano's, public relations, internal communications, business communications, social media, storytelling, facebook, twitter, instagram, children's hospital of atlanta, fleishmanHillard, Georgia Tech, Tech

My burger of choice is at Yeah! Burger, and here Steven Norris and I disagree. He’s more a Bocado man.

I love a good burger and I love storytelling. But it took a Georgia Tech social media pro to connect them for me today.

Social media storytelling is a lot like a good burger, Steven Norris said at a panel discussion sponsored by the Georgia chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. A burger should be handcrafted, authentic and multi-layered, just like many stories told via social media. Different channels are like various toppings and condiments — with content being the meat patty and analytics the bun.

I like the idea, largely because it puts content as the centerpiece, regardless of, say, condiments or toppings. It will vary from project to project whether we employ chiefly Twitter, Facebook, any of the others or a combination of some of them. Maybe you lead with a nice slice of American cheese, squirt on a little ketchup and mustard and add some pickle slices today. Tomorrow, you keep it to a simple double-stack with mayo and lettuce. Wrap it all up in fresh-baked analytics, and you’re good to go.

PRSA, Georgia, Atlanta, Maggiano's, public relations, internal communications, business communications, social media, storytelling, facebook, twitter, instagram, children's hospital of atlanta, fleishmanHillard, Georgia Tech, Tech

Maria Jewett and Meg Flynn, with Steven Norris’s slide on the social media storytelling/burger recipe.

You get what he meant.

Some other nice moments from him and the other two panelists:

  • Steven: Any good social media post drives readers back to your website.
  • Maria Jewett of FleishmanHillard: “Having a great cause and having a great story will help your brand grow.”
  • Maria: “I am the editor of my own personal story and so are all of you” — and it’s not much different working for brands or companies.
  • Meg Flynn of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta: It’s better to focus on original content (including images) than repurpose marketing material and stock photos.

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5 Reasons Why Print Isn’t Dead

2830060In the digital age, is print dead for business and corporate communications?

Imagine if you produced a magazine, brochure or other print product as part of a recurring communications campaign. Since digital became ubiquitous, you’ve regularly had to assess whether to continue printing or abandon it and its negative associations (costs, tree-killing, old-fogeyness).

You manage expenses and distribution responsibly. Reader surveys keep finding strong support among a significant percentage of your audience. But what do you say at budget time when someone smirks and says, “ISN’T PRINT DEAD?”

Well, no, it’s not. And here are five reasons why. I’m sure you have more, so send them on in.

1. We communicators love to talk about content and the multitudes of channels for sharing it. Too often we forget to include the old standby. It depends on each project, of course. But print remains a strategic piece of many multi-channel plans, leading or just augmenting digital, face-to-face and other tactics. An effective postcard to homes or poster in the break room can remind employees of your campaign’s messages and why they should care.

2. Some in your audience prefer it. And if you’re trying to reach a diverse group, consider print products just like you do tweets and emails. If you don’t know your readers yet (employees, consumers, neighbors — whoever), get to know them and how they want to receive information. Believe it or not, some of your stakeholders still aren’t tied to laptops or smartphones. (Some even manage to lead perfectly fulfilling lives without them!)

3. Print is not necessarily as expensive or ecologically damaging as you might think. Many mills and printers have evolved with the times and offer recycled stock, soy inks and other ways to minimize carbon costs. Then remember to point out that you’re using green processes as a way to illustrate your commitment to the environment. It’s not cynical; it’s savvy. Consider going to lightweight paper, too, to save on postage.

4. Print products can be held, passed around, shared in a way that enforces some themes — say, of community, tradition and strength. A magazine on a coffee table is inviting to a visitor in a way that a website can’t be. It makes a statement about value and commitment to many readers, particularly employees who will appreciate the gesture.

5. Irony lives. Digital came along and freed us from the tyranny of print, right? Maybe. But I’d rather think that our liberation didn’t suggest a reflex TO digital and AWAY from print; instead, it just increased our options to communicate better — even when it means including print in the mix.


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