Showing posts from March, 2011

Why the best communicators are not esoteric subject matter experts

I hear things like this all the time. So often that I don't want to repeat the words lest someone recognize themselves in the quote. But in general, the conversation goes as follows: "I know my subject matter and you are not going to tell me how to communicate about it." Or: "You're the communication expert, and I need your help - but I know my field so don't tell me what to do." Or: "Seeking a great communicator. Must be a subject matter expert in (esoteric to most people)." Last but not least: "Seeking communication expert. Must be a whiz at (SEO) (graphic design) (Flash and Dreamweaver) (Drupal)." Etc. The root of the problem here is a serious misconception that communication is not an expertise in and of itself. This is so wrong!!!! Communication is an entire, huge field of thinking that is incredibly complex and incredibly hard to master. People learn communication in school, on the job, at home, and in life. And they never stop learning. A…

10 Reasons Why Communicators Avoid Technology

A lot of the time we run the other way, even if technology can make our lives easier and better. Here's why:Comfort with the traditional way of doing thingsFear of loss of power to those who are better informedFear of losing status if the technology doesn't work out wellPerception that it’s a “waste of time” or “we tried that before and it failed”Mistrust of solutions that depend on sharing information with othersBenefit not clear (because most technologists have trouble marketing their solutions)High cost - perceived or actualHassle to use - perceived or actualStubborn resistance - due to bureaucracy, culture, or scared people (see above)Shortsightedness - refusal to fund training or technologies that don't solve an immediate problem With all this stuff going on, is it any wonder we wait for a crisis to change? I totally sympathize.Nevertheless, if you are a communicator who is avoiding technology, do a 180 as fast as you can. Technology is here to stay - and those who i…

10 Technology-Driven Ways to Increase Your Communication Staff's Efficiency

The aversion that most people have to technology creates a big advantage for those who are willing to try new things, even if they flounder or even fail the first time. Be smart: Get ahead of the curve and adopt the kinds of technologies that can help your productivity (read: bottom line) skyrocket. Here are just a few:Share information electronically: Stop "meeting madness" - it is expensive and draining; most people hate meetings anyway. Save the talk for brainstorming, teambuilding, or other activities that require face-to-face interaction.Convert from email to alerting: People are drowning in email. Put your messages on the Web (internal or external) and let your readers find them by following an automatically generated alert. Use metrics of clicks to measure interest and engagement – which email doesn’t offer by default. Plus the content will stay there, hopefully well-categorized, for easy reference later on.Edit documents by wiki: Shared document editing by wiki rathe…

I Need a Better Job Title

Technically I am a “public affairs specialist” working for an agency in the federal government (all opinions my own of course). This is the default.But I really, really, really think we need a more accurate and meaningful job title for this area of specialization.For one thing it’s not intuitive what “public affairs” means. I try to say to myself that “public affairs” is supposed to distinguish things that have something to do with the public. Versus things that don’t have anything to do with the public. But when it comes to government, exactly what would be outside the public sphere?So then we get to the concept that “public affairs” is like the government term for “public relations.” I think we use a different term because 1) we’re not supposed to have PR people, because PR has a bad reputation as your hired gun-liar, and appropriated funds cannot be used for propaganda to domestic audiences2) we in the government like to think that everything we do is incredibly unique to governmen…

Social media, broadcast media, Web – the future of government communication

This blog started as a tweet basically asserting that the future of government communication is where the people are: social media, broadcast media, and Web. That good old boy print is as good as dead.The tweet was pretty self-explanatory and I would have left it there, except some people seemed interested enough to retweet it. There was also a reply from Kristy Fifelski, who I know from the Gov 2.0 community, about the digital divide. How would this prediction square with the fact that most people aren’t yet online?In the interest of starting a conversation, here are some very initial thoughts, based on my own experience and observation over the years.1.Accessibility compliance doesn’t equate to a better-informed public. It just means that you’re following legal requirements. 2.Great communication strategy goes beyond the letter of the law to determine how people really get information and to get it to them that way. 3.People don’t read, unless they’re bored on the train or doing res…

What JC Penney knows that Lowe's doesn't

What a difference between these two stores. I hope they rebrand "JCPenney" as "Penney's" or "JCP" or something like that. Because this store is so different from what it used to be that it's literally unrecognizable. Someone should highlight and brand its transformation to an affordable yet upscale, modern retail emporium. Change the logo. You've earned it. When I walk into JC Penney I instantly am greeted by everything right: 1. The store is spacious, well-lit, well-organized and clean 2. Sales staff are courteous and helpful 3. They've created their own mini-brands, in mini-boutiques, within the store, close together - good for the easily distracted shopper 4. It has Sephora 5. The mini-boutiques' brands are separate yet relate to each other in a meaningful, consistent way 6. Sephora 7. The items are true to a core "brand promise" - affordable quality 8. It's fun to shop there no matter who you are 9. No annoying music 10. Sales a…

The highest compliment a brand can get

Read an article yesterday about Apple. By a customer who was fairly shouting with enthusiasm about the brand. In her words: "Apple gets ME!" She went on to say that Apple intuitively understands her lifestyle (busy, family, kids) and her technology prowess (none). She talked about asking for and getting customer support that was sympathetic and constructive. Versus another company's more blaming attitude. (It was Verizon and I haven't had the same problem. More on that in a minute.) She talked about taking the kids to the Apple store and the joyful confusion, everybody getting separated as they were drawn to one product or another. If I had to put her in a brand cluster it would be along with Volvo, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Panera. Maybe Ann Taylor for work and REI for weekend. Brands that take care of you, that cost a bit more, that are geared for moderately elite people. Apple succeeds because it squarely and narrowly focuses on a certain type of custom…

Employee communications - what does it say about your brand if their photos look like mugshots?

5 Mistakes That Keep You From Revitalizing a Dying Brand

The most important thing you can do to revitalize your company, agency or personal brand is to change your perspective: Look at things from the outside in. Most people are not marketers by trade and instead get stuck in the usual way of thinking: inside out. ("Me me me, it's all about me.") You would think such people, being self-absorbed and defensive, would be great at branding but the opposite is true. Their egos keep them in failure mode. Mired in their own perspective, they can't come up for air enough to look into the fishtank from outside. Marketers know to keep their eyes on the prize: The customer. The brand exists in the customer's mind and there alone. Here are 5 signs that you're not looking at things objectively: 1. You see negative feedback as an attack always, and before the speaker is even finished with the first sentence, you interrupt to defend yourself. 2. You defend the status quo, even if you know it makes no sense, for whatever j…

Starbucks special edition Tribute card (see pic) so nice I carry it unloaded, just so i can take it out and look at it. #starbucks


Theoretical change is incremental. Real change happens quick.

Megabus to NYC = reliable, cheap, courteous, but mega-confusing

Government’s Critically Important “Employer Brand”

My wise aunt S., an occasional matchmaker and full-time educational consultant, did personal branding long before there even existed such a concept. She knew how women could best present themselves and succeed.On balancing career and family she often repeated the well-known saying:“You can have it all – just not at the same time.”I was a kid. What did I know back then? She had ice cream, she had her own cosmetology chair (red leather, yes, the kind they have in the beauty salons), and she had a lot of books on holistic healing. Which I still think is so cool. So I poured on the Hershey’s Syrup, dumped in some walnuts, mixed it around and listened. To this day, I can still see her in her living room with the lavender walls and open wooden bookshelves. I can still hear her get-to-the-point tone. 
S. loved me like a mother but boy could she sting like a bee when she opened up her mouth. (Think Joan Rivers on “Fashion Police.")
“A red prairie skirt? I don’t care how much it cost! What …

My Blood, Sweat and Tears - Your 5 Social Media Do's and Dont's

After a day spent cleaning up my social media streams, a few lessons learned:1. Do keep it short and sweet, unless you really have more to say. Word count and follower numbers are not correlated.2. Don't let an account lie fallow. If you're not posting or getting traffic, delete it.3. Do focus on what you're good at. I like telling stories, giving advice and commenting. Video, audio and online community gardening, not so much.4. Do leverage your content across multiple streams. I like Posterous a lot for this.5. Don't be afraid to try. Social media is for pioneers. Sometimes we chase fool's gold, but that's OK. Other times we discover voice tweeting. (Try Voice to Tweet for Droid and Dragon for iPhone, both free.)Most importantly - have fun and good luck!

The only reason to give away content is to gain credibility.

Have you ever noticed that people tend to hire people who look like them?

A great storyteller will always have a job.

I always post my blog right away in case there is a nuclear disaster - not kidding.

Generic content has no value. Customized advice does. #branding

Sunday's social media daze

I have accomplished absolutely nothing this morning. Well - I published an updated ebook of my blogs so I guess that is worthwhile.But I should have written a full-length blog. Didn't, because...I am futzing with social media tools and widgets and not getting to actual blogging like I should. First, Gist and now other stuff.For example, now that I have inherited an old iPod touch I am futzing around trying to cross-train myself from Droid thinking to Apple thinking. Man is it tough! Makes me feel old.The one thing I have found on this thing that I can't match on Droid is the free app from Dragon. I have been dictating like crazy and the thing actually picks up the words amazingly well. You can dictate into the app (as long as you're connected to the Web) and then send it wherever you want.  You don't want to read the entire text of today's dribble but here is an interesting segment that basically sums up today: "I forgot that I send my RSS feed to one tool and t…

Just uploaded my updated eBook to SlideShare (free download)

Personal branding tip: Create a "Personal Preference Card"

Don't ever go shopping with me.
This is me in Target: 
"OK, I need a hook to hang things on. 
"Oh...look at those great T-shirts! Merona...that's not a brand. Plus, those are men's shirts. I don't know about that.
"Wait. Over there! I see something interesting...."
Which is why a 5-minute errand takes me about half an hour.
If I had a "personal preference card" (PPC) - meaning a little index card type thing where I wrote down my shopping style - with me, I would save a lot of time. Like I would know that I routinely take half an hour to browse every time I need a little tchotzchke (sp?) and maybe get those things in bulk, online.
If you consider that weekends are largely for shopping and that one only has (48-16=) 32 hours on a weekend to do EVERYTHING, saving a half an hour is significant.
I need a PPC. 
It would save me money, not just time. 
I would use my PPC to remind me to stay out of Trader Joe's, except once a week. Otherwi…

Why Starbucks’ Tribute Misses the Mark

When I was in middle school, there was one girl's house where everybody hung out. After school, on Sabbath ("Shabbos"), during high school and after, probably, too.I wasn't usually part of her clique. But I remember wistfully looking out the living room window on Saturdays and watching everyone head over there. Not right after synagogue - usually in the early afternoon. The few times I visited there too, I could tell why her house was "the" place. It just had that vibe, like whoever you were, whatever you were into, it was OK.Once a place is known as a hangout, it's a hangout for good. Even if it's only in the mind. Even if it's really just a shanty place, overgrown with weeds.Same with my grandparent's house – on my mother's side. It was a regular hangout for me, during summers and on Jewish holidays, especially Pesach (Passover), every other year.I remember that house more than I remember the one I grew up in. I have memorized it in my…

Please Fwd/Share/Repost: 10 Personal Safety Tips That May Save Your Life

A woman was almost kidnapped the other day. One of many, probably. Broad daylight, busy street.

She was lucky, but too many others aren't.

So BE AWARE AND ASSERTIVE at all times. Never assume that you're safe. Stay away from trouble. Trust your own common sense. And if you feel endangered, take action to save yourself even if you feel like it makes you look "crazy."

Better that people think you're crazy (they don't), than that you end up seriously hurt or dead.

Remember: A predator will do anything to victimize you. Don't be a victim. Protect yourself and those you know and love.

Please share or repost the tips below, received today (edited for space/readability) I can't vouch for the veracity of the facts, but they seem extremely useful anyway.


10 Personal Safety Tips For Women and Everyone
Source: Unknown, possibly a police officer

1. The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do!

2. If a robber asks fo…

Taking my own brand medicine...and it's good!

If you know me you know that I'm big on new things. Got a project? I'll volunteer! Beta software? I am there! Freelance opportunity that doesn't conflict with my job? Well, those don't often come along...but they sometimes do, and I've always got my eyes open. The great thing about having this attitude towards life is that you do tend to grow. Example: Early in my career I started a writing/editing business and landed a gig rewriting a book about psoriasis. Now you might be flinching at the word psoriasis. I definitely did - at first. It wasn't exactly my idea of a dream job. I wasn't getting paid to write the Great American Novel. Yet I learned so much from that experience. Especially about my own personal brand, though I wouldn't have used those words at the time. I learned that I like to take boring, complicated, technical content and make it easy for the average person to understand and use. That I am good at it. That it's a special skill, and t…

5 Outlook timesavers to explore on a Friday

Note: This works on the new version but not sure about all versions.1. Save contact from emailDouble-click on email. Right-click name of person from message header. Click "add to contacts."2. Export contacts to GmailChoose advanced, then options, then export as CSV. Import to Gmail, Yahoo, etc.3. Save group of emails to text fileSelect a bunch of emails. Hit File, Save as, Text, then choose location.4. Turn email to taskDrag email to task list5. Turn email to calendar itemDrag email to calendar, add date/time/locationOther useful ways to use Outlook include assigning custom categories to tasks, synching calendars with Sharepoint, and one-way synching to Google calendar.For more information, Google all of this stuff.Good luck!
Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.
Twitter: @thinkbrandfirst
All opinions my own
______Report Human Trafficking: 1-866-347-2423

Personal Branding & the Self-Destruction of Charlie Sheen

Christina Aguilera is throwing herself down the drain too. Yet nobody is as interested in her.One wonders what it could be. The obvious answer is that in Sheen we have the perfect storm of a celebrity gone bad. One recalls Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, and other meltdowns of late. All of them had similar ingredients: as they say, drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll.Yet there is something about Sheen that gets us even more. I don't think it's the domestic violence angle. The wild partying. The sheer lack of remorse. The entertaining rages. Or even the fact that his character on Two and a Half Men is absolutely a version of his real self.And no, it's not that he's Hollywood royalty. As we all know, Charlie Sheen is the son of legendary Martin Sheen, who was the embodiment of dignity and integrity as he played the President of the United States in The West Wing. Martin Sheen also played noble labor leader in Wall Street. (Not incidentally he starred in the …