Want Better Communication? What We Can Learn from Olympic Athletes

February 26, 2010 · Posted in Communications · 1 Comment

If you’ve been watching the Winter Olympics in Vancouver like me, you may have been impressed at the level of performance and the triumphs of these top athletes. And no matter what nation, every single Olympic athlete seems to have that same dedication and that mental strength that makes them reach for the gold medal .  I believe that we can learn from the Olympians and apply these strengths to become a better communicator. No matter what language you speak, what country you’re from and what communications goal you want to achieve - the following Olympic qualities can help all of us to go for gold in our lives.

Determination

Not only aim Olympic athletes higher than others (Remember: No dreams are too big!) but they are absolutely determined to achieve their goal. Apply determination to your communications strategy and you will find yourself more focused and more thorough in your approach. If you’re planning on delivering an inspiring speech that will affect people’s way of seeing your brand or services, add a portion of Olympic determination to your speech writing recipe - and you’ll finish boldly. Determination can change your mindset from “just getting things done somehow” to creating powerful content that will surpass your own and other people’s expectations.

Persistence

Olympic athletes might get injured during training, or they might experience personal hardship like Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette whose mother died unexpectedly a few days before she competed in Vancouver - no matter what kind of hurdles these athletes have to face, they gather the strength to overcome them. Their “never give up” - attitude can help you cope with any communications crisis. Before you bury your head in the sand, think twice, learn from your mistakes or your bad luck and let it inspire you to come out even stronger. Joannie Rochette won the bronze medal despite her grief - if she can do it, so can you. All you need is a healthy portion of persistence.

Stand the Pressure

Let’s face it. It’s not easy to compete in any Olympic discipline while the whole world is watching. Athletes like American Alpine ski racers Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn know what it’s like to feel the pressure. The key is to find a way for you to remain calm so that you can focus on your performance and not think about the stress. American short track speedskater Apolo Ohno yawns before he starts a race in order to put himself in a zen-like state. What’s your technique to stand the pressure? If you don’t know yet, go and find out, and I’m sure your communcations performance will profit from it next time you have to stand the pressure.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

Olympic athletes talk a lot about how they prepare for a competition. All of them dedicate hours and hours every day and week after week to train for their chance of a lifetime. Preparation is also key to any exceptional communications initiative - if you follow the motto “overprepare, then go with the flow”, no unexpected situation can catch you off guard. Like the Olympic winter athletes who prepare for different weather conditions or a difficult slope, you should prepare for any communications obstacle that might cross your path - and when it comes, take it on powerfully and with confidence.

Never go without Support

Parents, friends, doctors, coaches - no Olympic athlete can do the job alone. Why should you? Olympic atheletes feed off of their support group and achieve peak performances due to the assistance and encouragement their receive. Whatever your communication needs, you don’t have to do it alone. Hire a professional copywriter if you can’t do it yourself, ask for help from a social media guru to tackle your online marketing project, fall back on your friend who happens to be an SEO expert - if you get your support group together , you can be more powerful than ever.

Wishing you your Olympic communications moment!

A Word on PR Spam

February 2, 2010 · Posted in Communications · 1 Comment

I just learned about the Inconvenient PR Truth campaign , a PR industry initiative launched by Realwire’s CEO Adam Parker. The campaign aims at initiating a debate on PR irrelevance and how it’s polluting our online environment. According to research by news release distribution service Realwire , each year US and UK journalists receive an estimated total of  1.7 billion irrelevant press release emails. That’s a lot!

My initial reaction to the campaign was: Yes! That’s right. We PR people should work on honoring and improving our craft. We should help reduce PR pollution by only sending out relevant information.

On second thought: What’s relevant really depends on the receiver. An information that’s relevant to an audio-visual technology trade mag might not be relevant to a cooking magazine. That’s easily figured. So how do we solve this problem of PR pollution?

Well, there is never a straightforward, easy solution, is there? Nonetheless, I believe that the new era of conversational public relations leveraging social media holds the key to less spam and more relevance as towards press releases and its distribution.

PR Relevance: It’s a Two Way Street

Yes, PR practitioners need to target the right journalists when it comes to distribute releases. That’s only one side of the story.

Journalists and bloggers have the power to say “No!” to unsolicited press release emails. Rather than feeeling victimized, they should harness their position, stop being mere receivers of information and become active information “hunters and gatherers”. The new internet offers endless possibilities when it comes to looking for topics and news that match their editorial needs .

Shift Communications’ Todd Defren has a great blog post on this PR pro/journalist dynamic. He writes that “part of the PR pro’s new job in this era is to create, seed and cultivate content about clients in the socialstreams.” And why is that? Because a majority of reporters already turn to the internet and social networks when it comes to information gathering.

From Press Release to Social Media Release

Assuming PR people would shift their priorities and concentrate on spreading relevant “trails of breadcrumbs” - as Todd Defren calls them - for the searching journalist or blogger to find and follow, would that help generate a shift in PR practices? Would it help reduce PR spam and increase conversations among PR pros and reporters that are pertinent to a particular issue? Tools for social media releases are out there, and they are being used already. But not enough.

My notion is, the more information you “have to” accumulate to make your release fit for the social web, the higher your chance you’re getting the information right. A traditional press release distributed - text-only - over the wire to a million media recipients bears the risk of being irrelevant, not because of the large number of receivers but because of its undeliberated and often rash way of sending.

The Power of Multi-Media Resources

Imagine you would have to include an embeddable video that presents a brief product demo by an in-house expert. Imagine you would include accompanying graphics or statitics that support your release with useful data. Imagine you would add quotes from your company’s executives or clients and analysts topping off your information. What about MP3 files or podcasts? What about links to relevant additional information or coverage on the same topic?

A social media release leveraging all these multi-media resources about your product, service or company stands a chance of not being dismissed as irrelevant or spam - especially when equipped with RSS functionality as well as embedding, bookmarking and sharing possibilities to social networks, news aggregators and blogs.

Brian Solis wrote a very helpful introduction and overview of the power and possibilities of social media releases. In his “ Definite Guide to Social Media Releases “  Solis sums up what a social media release should include and why we need social media releases. On that note, I hope that social media releases will help reduce PR spam and make the conversations between PR pros and reporters a fruitful one. What do think? How can we reduce PR pollution?

Online Content Matters - How You Can Improve Yours

December 8, 2009 · Posted in Communications , Online Media · 1 Comment

I’m reading a lot about these days and how important it is to have one. SEO is another buzz words when it comes to getting your message out on the Web. Big corporations hire specialized agencies like Razorfish to strategically manage their brand online - according to the 2009 Razorfish FEED report the future will be about consumer engagement. As a matter of fact, according to the FEED report we (the consumers) already actively engage with a brand online. We want to experience a product, not just buy it.

Let’s Talk About Content

All that talk about strategics, SEO tactics, link building and social media marketing is good and important - but let’s talk about content for a second. What if you are a small sized company or a freelancer and you can’t afford an expensive digital marketing agency? What if you have to manage your social media presence on your own? Can you even succeed without expert advice? Yes, you can. The first thing you need to remember is that all these social media strategies are not working without good quality content. It all starts with good content, and we tend to forget that sometimes. To easily do we get carried away with thinking about the details whereas all we should do is concentrate on the basics. Without compelling content, the audience won’t come. Without the bait, the fish won’t bite.

Two Basic Tips to Creating Great Online Content

1. Take care of your content. If you have a website or a blog, don’t neglect it. Update your website and write new blog posts regularly. The same holds true for your social networking presence: In order to tap the full potential of your Twitter account or your Facebook page make sure to contribute regularly and engage actively. Maintaining and cultivating your content online is your first step to a better Web performance.

2. Think before you post. Before you hit the publish button for your new blog post, re-read what you’ve written. Planning on sending out a media release via one of those free online services? Take the time to proofread your release before you put it out there. You’re upset about your boss or your neighbor or your friend? Think twice before you tweet emotionally laden messages. The Web has a long memory, and you want to make sure you’re sending your best content on its journey through social media space and time.

A List of Online Resources to Help You Improve Your Content

Here are a few links that can help you with the creation of your Web content:

  • AP Stylebook Also called “the journalist’s bible”, the AP Stylebook is available via online subscription, as an iPhone app or as a classic spiral bound book.
  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary This free online dictionary even features so called “Ask the Editor” videos. The videos address issues regarding etymology and usage, words in the news, frequently-asked language questions and other diction related questions.
  • The Writing Docs Online Editing and Proofreading Services
  • Men with Pens help with all things website copywriting and web design.
  • Copyblogger gives copywriting tips for online marketing success.
  • mediabistro offers a variety of online and offline courses and seminars covering various genres.
  • WriteBoard is a collaborative writing software online that let’s you write, share, revise, and compare your documents.
  • Reference.com This website includes an encyclopedia, thesaurus, dictionary, and translation tool.
  • WordReference.com Online dictionary that helps translating English words into several languages
  • Big Huge Thesaurus Look up synonyms, antonyms, and rhymes, even get blog post ideas at this site.
  • Killer Flagship Content - Free EBook to Download Blogger Chris Garrett introduces the concept of Flagship Content and provides vital information to create, package and promote compelling resources that attract more attention to your blog.

Of course, there are hundreds of other great resources out there and my list is nowhere near complete. So, please if you know of any other great websites and tools that can help small companies and individuals to up their Web content quality, feel free to share your tips with us. I’m looking forward to your comments!





The Premier German-American Magazine
in the US. Quarterly. Bilingual.

www.german-world.com