Posts Tagged ‘Blog’

Write for Clarity

Friday, July 15th, 2011
The Vocal Crowd

Top Left to Bottom Right: @MikeBrice, @PointsofRue, @ABGooen, @MHuras, @JGombita, @RobertJHolland, @Melissa_Novak and @CommAMMO.

Twitter chats are an important reason I use the microblogging service, and as moderator of #ICchat I get to participate in really interesting discussions with people I otherwise wouldn’t know.  So when I asked Robert J. Holland to be our guest for the 14 July discussion on writing, I was remedying an issue. I’d read Robert’s stuff for some time, whether through IABC or Ragan, or the comments pages on David Murray’s excellent blog, but we’d never met. I’m glad that #ICchat took care of that issue!

The chat featured 207 tweets that generated 226,696 impressions, reaching an audience of 9,326 followers.  (Stats via Whether that means much I’m not sure, but it’s interesting.)

We started with a somewhat obvious question, though I asked it sincerely:

@CommAMMO: Q1: With social media, texting and instant messaging, is writing still important for internal comms? #icchat

@melissa_novak thought it was a “silly” question — and maybe she’s right.

@RobertJHolland Social media presents new challenges. Content must be even more clear, precise, understandable. #icchat

@MikeBrice @CommAMMO writing is the foundation for all. #icchat

@JGombita @robertjholland social media (especially Twitter) has helped make my writing less flabby. Brevity is the soul of platform width. 🙂 #icchat

@CommAMMO I happen to think that writing is a foundation skill for business in general, and many CEOs agree (see @nytimes “corner office”) #icchat

As I told Melissa, you’d be astonished at some of the things I’ve heard and read about writing and its role in modern public relations in general — I personally don’t see how any communicator, especially in internal communication, can be less than excellent as a writer. That’s not to say that everyone has to be brilliant — just that words are a big part of our executional requirements.

@MikeBrice: SM may help with shorter writing but I think it hurts writers who forget how important it is to provide detailed descriptions #icchat

@RobertJHolland: Writing with brevity but also providing all the important details takes work, no doubt. #icchat

@RobertJHolland:  Mark Twain: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” #icchat

@RobertJHolland: That’s how social media are changing writing. Forces us to compartmentalize info, structure info differently, compete for attention #icchat

@ABGooen: Hi, Guys. Joining in. Two keys to good writing: audience analysis and message validation. Lots of “writers” don’t do it. #icchat

A quick sidebar question about information mapping (the structured process of creating information)  from  @MHuras brought this from Robert:

@RobertJHolland: Anything that gets us to clarity[…]

And that turned into the main theme for the discussion.  Clarity requires organization, solid process, research, economical language…whatever process helps you get there, as long as it doesn’t get in the way.

@RobertJHolland: A2: Don’t get wrapped up in process at expense of clarity, logical flow of ideas, and of course the reader’s enjoyment #icchat

@CommAMMO: I’ve read some on sense-makingappreciative inquiryBarbara Minto’s structures… Agree if it helps w/clarity, use it. #icchat

@JGombita: @robertjholland life lesson from high school English teacher: I don’t know what you meant to write, I only judge & enjoy what I see. #icchat

By now, the time was flying by.

@CommAMMO Q3: Describe your typical approach/process to writing. I usually free-write to start, seldom outline 1st…

@RobertJHolland: A3: Outlines never helped me much. I use them rarely. Process is such a personal thing. Whatever works for you, use it! #icchat

@RobertJHolland: A3: Main thing is to keep focused on the main message. It’s easy to lose the message as u get caught up in story details. #icchat@RobertJHolland: A3: I usually just start writing. But that’s just the first step. The real work is in rewriting, refining, editing. #icchat

@JGombita: @robertjholland alt., leave it alone for a bit (hours, a day). Start fresh with your writing, approaching it from entirely new angle #icchat

@MikeBrice: I start with a lede and nut graph to determine if it is interesting to me to see if it will be interesting to employees #icchat

How bout a specific method, step-by-step?

@ABGooen: @CommAMMO 1. Know who I’m writing for. 2. List five key points. 3. Circle top point/prioritize other points. 4. Write. 5. Revise. #icchat

We also touched on “conversational” writing, judged to be essential for internal comms. But what makes writing conversational?

@RobertJHolland: Use real English, but don’t get sloppy. And for heaven’s sake don’t slip into jargon. #icchat

That can be a challenge when dealing with leaders — some of whom want language to be “elevated” to some kind of lofty, complicated prose. Anyone had that experience?

@PointsofRue: Yes, but I’ve also had a leader keenly push us in that direction because she saw the value of connecting with “average” employees #icchat

@RobertJHolland: Absolutely! It’s a never-ending fight, but it’s our job to fight it. Push for clarity. Jargon rarely leads to clarity. #icchat

@PointsofRue: My response to “you’re dumbing it down” is “no, I’m opening it up” #icchat

@CommAMMO:  @pointsofrue Me: “I’m trying 2demystify leadership, make language more accessible to more ppl.” Boss: “but they don’t want that.” #icchat

@JGombita: Conversational is inclusive. It’s the kind you get at the best dinner parties, lots of give and take. #icchat

That leaves out a lot of good stuff — read the transcript from, here.

Many thanks to all our participants, and especially to Robert. We’ll resume 8 September. Stay tuned for the time of day. Cheers for now!






Writing is topic for next #icchat

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Robert J. Holland

Whither writing for the modern internal communicator? That’s the question special guest Robert J. Holland, president of Holland Communication Solutions, will answer in our next #ICChat, Thursday, 14 July at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Robert’s history reads quite a bit like my own: jobs with big companies, including ATT & Capital One, followed by entrepreneurship — he’s been at the latter a little long than I, however, eleven years versus my two. Over the years he’s amassed dozens of clients from Fortune 500 firms to nonprofits to small businesses. He’s also a university prof — Virginia Commonwealth University, where he teaches in the PR sequence of the School of Mass Communications.

Author, teacher, top-flight communicator – I’m delighted to welcome Robert to our #icchat family. Follow him on Twitter@RobertJHolland and find his blog at



Blog-cation coming to a close…

Saturday, May 14th, 2011
Portage Lakes, Ohio

By Sean Williams, All Rights Reserved

I’ve committed a grievous sin in social media land. I’ve taken a bit of a Sabbatical from blogging and mostly, from Tweeting, with a few exceptions. Now I have a bit more time on my hands, as I wait to see what my schedule is like for a big research project and the response to a couple of proposals. So, I’m intending to babble on a bit more in the coming days.  One such venue will be Thursday’s #icchat, the Twitter-based discussion on internal communications that I conduct monthly.  Join us at 10 a.m. eastern on 19 October.

I’ve not done a great job marketing the chat — it’s not as sexy as #measurepr, #PR20Chat or #Kaizenblog, I guess because it’s more concerned with internal matters than social media and press relations.  However, we do have good discussions on our topic, so I hope you’l join us…




When they’re not buying what you’re selling…

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Creative Commons

One harsh reality of social media is that you find out pretty quickly where you stand.  One fairly obvious reality is that the Twitter chat I’ve been working on for a while now — #icchat on internal communications – isn’t exactly setting the world on fire.

This is a little depressing for me, personally. But I shouldn’t be surprised. The truth is, the dearth of participation is traceable to a central problem. Me.

You have to shepherd these things – the most popular and vigorous get a ton of promotional support, and the topic of communication within the enterprise isn’t a social media hotbed.  Nonetheless, we’ve had some great discussions, peaking last fall with about 20 participants and more than 200 tweets. Even the smaller chats have been good, including Thursday’s intimate affair (five of us) where we talked about internal communication outcomes.  (Summary post coming, probably on Friday.)

I am conflicted, however, about whether to continue #icchat.  As I have mentioned, for the past (nearly) two years, I’ve considered social media an experiment, particularly Twitter and blogging. Facebook’s become merely a communication medium, but Twitter’s chat function represents my favorite part of the miniblogging tool.  I like the quick pace, the forced brevity. I like the diversity — #PR20Chat, #KaizenBlog, #MeasurePR, #SoloPR.

But I have to tell you – when one gets paying work, it’s bloody hard to market the chat.  I’ve been fortunate to have pretty steady gigs over the past eight months – both academic and professional. I’ve looked at different days and times to try and hit the best, but it’s been most difficult to get people interested.  I’m disappointed that the organizations – PRSA, IABC – and the commercial groups – Ragan, Melcrum – show not the slightest inclination to participate. I’ve also approached a couple of luminaries in the internal comms space about guesting, but after four or five straight scheduling conflicts, I’d better take the hint.

It is remarkably similar to building a business – it takes a while and takes a lot of effort to market.

To that end, I can’t help but wonder whether to pull the plug on #icchat.  I seem to be doing well at building my business (thanks to some terrific colleagues), am considered a worthy professor and still have a healthy marriage, so perhaps #icchat is odd man out. Gotta think about it some more.  So far, I’m planning to hit it one more time, at least, 19 May at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

I’m interested in your perspectives.


Is Blogging Commercial Speech?

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Courtesy of

Here’s a little brain-teaser for you.  Not too long ago, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued regulations saying that bloggers who get into product promotion have to tell us if they got compensated for doing so. How does that ruling affect the free speech rights of the bloggers?

I’m going to do some research as part of the class I’m taking — Law of Advertising and Public Relations — and after I turn in the paper (and get a grade on it) I’ll return to this topic. I found a really interesting article in the American Business Law Journal that explores this topic, mostly from the perspective of the company and its own blogs, but the discussion on what constitutes commercial speech is rich indeed. And, it offers a lot of other articles and legal opinions that will help my research immensely.

But, in the meantime, what’s your view?  Is a product review paid for by the company commercial speech, or individual speech not subject to the FTC’s rules?



Measurement Musing: Questions…No Answers…

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Public Relations measurement is so essential, yet so poorly understood. I’m sure it’s my bad that after gaining one client upon launching my business that focused on measurement, I haven’t had a second.  I’ve done some strategy work, some writing, and now am working on a  long-term project for a client that once again, has no measurement component to it.

I do wonder whether I’m just not the right person to help organizations measure — there are other, longer standing, better educated folks out there. Maybe it’s my destiny to stick in the internal communications space, rather than the measurement angle.  Of course, I try never to make life decisions any time from December through February — the seasonal affective disorder reaches its nadir (or zenith) as the winter solstice arrives and lingers through the cold, gray months.

I introduced measurement to my PR Tactics class at Kent State this fall — just a brief tablespoonful — I’m hoping that they remember it as they enter the profession. One thing’s for sure — they certainly had better measurement components in their final projects! Whoo-hoo!

This spring, I’m teaching a course in PR Metrics — so perhaps this is how I can drive measurement into our profession: give it to the kids who’ll replace the dinosaurs in a few years…

Speaking of which, I’ll be sourcing case studies in measurement — and entertaining guest speakers (either in person or by Skype) — so if you can help me out, let me know!

More questions:

Why do so many companies still see news media and social media as mutually exclusive instead of related?

When thinking about measuring social media, why we want to categorize it in the same way we do news media?

Why do we think reaching the most people is better than reaching the right ones?

Why do we want to define influence as only occurring through social media, and why do we so narrowly define it IN social media?

How come we can’t come up with a better means of determining appropriate scope and scale?

Why do people think the only marker of PR intelligence and value relates to external communication?

Why do companies fail to measure employee communication outcomes? Matter of fact, why do we still count clips?

Why am I thinking these hairy thoughts ?

Are these rhetorical questions? (No…)

BTW, don’t miss the Twitter chat, #MeasurePR with @Shonali Burke, Tuesday at 12 noon.


Random Reflections on IABC’s 2010 Research and Measurement Conference

Saturday, November 20th, 2010
Working on the post

Sean and Shonali toiling in the service of communication

What happens when you get a roomful of communicators listening to a speaker on measurement? It’s not what you think. In this joint post, Shonali Burke and I sat atop the ivory tower after Day 1 of the Conference – and issued what Shonali’s husband would call “grand pronouncements.”

Shonali: Coming down in the elevator, I chanced upon a conversation between a gentleman attending an event hosted by The Gates Foundation, and an attendee of “our” conference. She said, “[Your conference] sounds so much more interesting. I doubt mine will be as riveting as yours.”

On being asked, she said, deprecatingly, that it was a communications conference. At this point, I couldn’t resist. I said, “You mean you’re not overwhelmed with excitement over the IABC Research and Measurement Conference?” She looked at me as if I was crazy. Just before she found out I was a speaker.

Was I mean? I don’t think so. Naughty, perhaps. Not mean. Heck, if you’re going to say whatever you like in an elevator, so can I.

Sean: Several people seemed quite taken by the morning sessions, though one person I encountered less so. She hemmed and hawed when I asked what she thought of the conference so far, never a particularly good sign. But in the end, she didn’t seem to have a clear set of objectives for attending the conference.

This is a huge theme in my teaching: Objectives are everything. If you don’t know what you’re hoping to achieve, you don’t have much of a shot at achieving it.

Shonali: A common editorial comment I keep hearing from attendees at measurement conferences (or presentations related to measurement) is: “It doesn’t seem like the basics have changed… so what do I take away from this?” It drives me a little crazy. No, the basics haven’t changed. That’s because they’re the basics.

How can you not grasp the importance of measuring numbers that matter instead of numbers that make you look good? What part of, “measure [what] has an impact as opposed to simply focusing on the tools,” isn’t easy to understand?

Sean: Angela Sinickas is a treasure trove of case studies. I have to remind myself to call her for research fodder. I saw Angela at PRSA’s 2010 International Conference, and suddenly realized I’d seen her presentation before. Some of that, no doubt, is that she boasts 23 of the Forbes worldwide list as clients. Maybe it’s rank envy! I love the fact that she represents for measurement, and I wonder what she might do with Dr. Don Stacks and Dr. Don Wright nipping at her heels on projects.

Shonali: What was really interesting about this conference was that it wasn’t the usual [measurement expert] suspects presenting.

Well, not all the usual suspects.

Well, not two-thirds of the usual suspects.


Sean: Shel Holtz said you have to measure something, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I always say that getting your objectives right is the single best start to a measurement program. You’ve got to measure something, and starting with progress on attaining objectives is a great place to start.

I also loved that Patti Phillips went 100 percent professor on the crowd, demanding us to calculate.

Shonali: Represent. Ruminate. Calculate. Especially when it’s way after hours.

What else is a conference for?


Does ‘spam’ work?

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I know I’m a bit addled lately with multiple priorities and projects, but I just wondered why I got 18 junk comments on me blog, here…? Do BS things like that actually work? Are there people who buy based on unsolicited emails, junk Tweets, nonsense comments on a blog?

For that matter, can anyone explain why the same batch of de-bunked email rumors keep staying alive?  For heaven’s sake, no one is releasing cell phone numbers to telemarketers, there’s no email that can wipe your hard drive (unless there’s a bad attachment and you…open it.) Let’s not even discuss the, ahem, male enhancement claims…

Of course, there are people who think Keith Olbermann, or Sean Hannity, or Rachel Maddow or Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or whomever are the paragons of objective journalism, but that’s a topic for another day.

Maybe they’re the ones clicking through to buy the male enhancement do not call database wipe your hard drive virus email text.


My name’s Sean and I’m a Media Junkie.

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I wrote a piece for my Theory of Mass Comm class that I thought might be interesting for you, dear reader. Especially because my Lost October gobsmacked my blogging and Tweeting, I feel guilty about this — is MINE, and I’ve (gratefully) passed the torch this 35 days.  And, I feel guilty about feeling relieved. Did I mention guilt? Please read, comment, and whine.

From the time I was 10, I’ve been a media junkie. The summer of 1968…watching the gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic National Convention from Chicago. Dan Rather punched by goons, Chicago PD pummeling “Yippies” and Gene McCarthy’s delegates locked out of the convention by Mayor Daley’s machine. The last of the smoky back room method of choosing a nominee.

Last week, I read my usual newspapers (in print), the blogs I frequent, Twitter, watched the NBC Nightly News for the first time in years; I also caught CNBC, The Weather Channel and watched most of two baseball games.

I read the Cleveland Plain Dealer for local and state news (especially political news, given the season), and for the quick overview of the rest of the world. The Wall Street Journal gets me caught up on international news, national politics, and news about companies and the economy in detail. A hotel visit left me with the USA Today. That paper’s a bit like white bread – it fills the belly but doesn’t amount to much nutrition.

The Nightly news happened to be on prior to a baseball game, and in moments I determined I didn’t care what Brian Williams thought was important that day — I chatted with other denizens of the restaurant about unrelated things and generally ignored what I saw as the valueless drivel the airbrushed talking heads were discussing.

The blogs gave me a few interesting perspectives on marketing and communications — from people I don’t know but whom I’ve found cogent of thought in the past (I found them on recommendation from people I know and trust).

Twitter is audience participation — forwarding and responding to what others said, making me feel connected to a wider team, something, as a sole proprietor, I miss. It’s almost conversation (the delay makes it a bit different, but with enough similarity to make it seem valuable to me.)

Why do I continue consuming these media? I remain a news junkie.

A couple of weeks ago, I was too busy to do my usual routine. There I was in two of the best newspaper markets in the U.S. (Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.), and I didn’t once read either newspaper. Sigh.

I don’t feel right not knowing. I don’t feel good being ignorant. I’ve got to have that fix.


‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ Newly Relevant

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Image via Creative Commons

Twelve years ago or so, Dr. Spencer Johnson wrote a slender volume about change and dealing with it that featured mice and “littlepeople.”  I read it somewhere around that time at the behest of my boss, discussed it with my colleagues and promptly moved it into the “management cliche” category, soon to be followed by Total Quality Management.

When I saw “Who Moved My Cheese” (and its intellectual compadre, “The One-Minute Manager“) on the syllabus for my grad class on media management, I remembered just enough of it to see where the conversation was heading. “Cheese” tells a simple little story about two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two littlepeople who ostensibly are smarter than the mice, Haw and Hem. The four live in a maze equipped with Cheese Stations and spend their days going to and fro, stuffing themselves with cheese.  The mice notice a change (less cheese at Station C) and take off to look elsewhere, whilst Hem and Haw (wait for it) dither until all the cheese in Station C is gone.

They’ve refused to change. They like Station C and expect that one day, the cheese will magically re-appear. That is, until Haw summons up the courage to face his fear of the unknown and leave Hem behind.

Haw finds new cheese, tries to convince Hem to move on, Hem refuses, and Haw goes back to the new treasure of cheese, but keeps his running shoes handy just in case he needs to move again.

Part of the books appeal is that it’s not complicated, and it seems to speak to many people in many ways.  The discussion 12 years ago was about who we saw ourselves embodying among the characters. Thus, we’re supposed to discover the wider truths of the book as it applies to us.

In the media management course, we’ve begun looking into media business models, and I see that most media organizations have been Hem — they’ve stayed with what worked in the past despite the warning signs, and are failing. A few are like Haw — they’ve realized their errors and have forged ahead, albeit slowly in some cases: “The Christian Science Monitor” dropped its paper edition; television news organizations now put “packages” together for both broadcast and Web; Slate and Salon stuck it out as online-only magazines, eschewing the temptation to put out print; “The New York Times” and “The Wall Street Journal” are planning to put most of their content behind paywalls.

But the cheese is still on the move.  The most popular online news sites are aggregators — Yahoo! News, Drudge, Google… Whither their models when the original content others are producing disappears?  What about the role of citizen journalism (or citizen curation, a la Digg, Reddit, etc.)?

The New York Times has an article today on Digg — positing that Twitter and Facebook have taken the space that Digg blocked out in 2004, and we know MySpace is hardly the force it once was.

Station C is already cheese-less, and so is Station D (the first social media station). The path to the new cheese is mighty narrow, strewn with boulders and broken glass.

Got anything to do with media at all?  Better re-read “Who Moved My Cheese.”