Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Do You Still Need a Media Kit Today?

Media kits aren’t as popular as they used to be; they’re being replaced by the “About” or “Advertising” section of a website.

Here are my two favorite examples of the former—plus the one above. Here are some good examples of the latter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The 6 Secrets of Releasing Bad News Under the Radar

Step 1: No News

“If there is more information that is new, get it out the door before the hearings begin,” Dreyer wrote. “We do not want new revelations at the hearings. The hearings must rehash old news.”

Step 2: Keep ’Em Waiting

“We should make the hearings expensive and inconvenient for the networks to cover; boring and inconvenient for the press to follow. The hearings should start late, never on time. We should encourage votes on both the House and Senate floors. The Committees should adjourn to vote, never have a relay of committee members to keep the hearings going.”

Step 3: Put ’Em to Sleep

“We encourage detailed opening statements by every Democrat on both Banking panels. We want detailed statements by our opening witnesses. We advocate starting the hearings on Thursday, so that the weekend forces a premature media judgment on whether the hearings are worth watching. An early technical or procedural battle over, for example, scope would also suit our objectives.”

Step 4: Spin

“It is in our interest to dominate the news, and that will require a strong overall message and an even stronger tactical approach. Though their numbers may dwindle, reporters will be in those hearing rooms gavel-to-gavel. We need a two-cycle spin operation in the hearing rooms interpreting events for the reporters as they decide what is news.”

Step 5: Misdirection

“Anything we can do to move the focus from the issues inside the hearing room will be worthwhile. The president should be scheduled in ways that show him to be engaged in his serious work. He needs to be confident and self-assured in public appearances.

“Members of Congress should be programmed to do one-minute speeches and addresses in morning business talking about the political choice made by the two parties between health care and Whitewater. DNC and White House press operations should circulate overnight Arbitron ratings for the daily hearings.”

Step 6: Attack!

“Can we float some political analysis about the Republicans having as much to lose as the Democrats? We should be raising the heat on Senator] D’Amato, ’96 Republican presidential politics, and negative campaigning.”

—Adapted from a memo by White House communications adviser David Dreyer to Lloyd Cutler, special counsel to the president, in June 1994, in preparation for congressional hearings on Whitewater and the death of Vince Foster.

Why Politicians Are Emailing You Questions

“The poll questions candidates ask you in these emails are not intended to glean public opinion for the purposes of shaping policy. They’re measuring how much you engaged with their emails and using your answers to figure out what issue will make you likely to donate when they send you the next frantic email about that specific issue.”

John Dickerson

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Editors Matter

“Civilians, people who don’t think the toppling of a sitting American president with newspaper articles is one of humankind’s lasting achievements, will read encomiums to Ben Bradlee like this one and wonder: what’s the big deal?

“After all, he didn’t cover the Watergate story for his Washington Post, he picked the reporters. It’s not as if he wrote the articles, he edited them. But journalists are people who will go where they are pointed, and Mr. Bradlee generally pointed to important, consequential subjects. People who worked for him went through walls to bring back those stories, some of which revealed the true course of American history and some of which altered it.

David Carr

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Secret That Great Marketers Know That You Don’t

“Great marketers know a secret that most businesspeople don’t. I’m going to share it with you now: you can go from losing money to making a fortune just by changing a few words.

“What words are those? The first words… in any letter, ad or webpage. The words that make up the headline.

David Garfinkel

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do You Work in Social Media? Then Here’s the Perfect Description of Your Job

“However we can infiltrate people’s habits, or think about different ways of delivery, discovery, optimization, packaging, or just reader engagement, we want to do it and we want to try it.”

Callie Schweitzer


How the Downworthy plug-in works:

For example:

Monday, October 20, 2014

If You’re Not Geotargeting Your Ads, You’re Not Doing It Right

Check out the leftmost ad that Business Insider is running, via Outbrain, on DCist:

Because I visited DCist from the office, the headline astutely mentions my location (“In D.C.”).

Now behold what happens when I click on the ad:

The reference to “D.C.” is gone, which allows the editors room to flush out the full—and irresistible—headline (“This Hoodie Is So Insanely Popular You Have to Wait Months to Get It”).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Happens to Some Kids When They Go to Work in This Famous Industry Is Awful

“Headlines like this one are meticulously, artfully designed. Of course you want to click, because you need to know: What’s the industry? What happens to the kids? The intrigue is the reason these stories have become so insanely popular.”

Upworthy Headlines Are Spreading. What Happens Next Will Be Interesting

Friday, October 17, 2014

Which Headline Would You Click On?

1. How to Master the Timeless Art of Headline Writing
2. How to Master the Art of Headline Writing
3. The Art and Science of Writing an Irresistible Headline
4. How to Write the Perfect Headline Every Time
5. The Art of the Perfect Headline
6. Headlines and Headings: How to Write for the Web
7. How to Write for the Web
8. The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do to Make Your Content Go Viral
9. A Headline Is Worth a Thousand Words
10. How to Make Your Mundane Content Magnificent
11. REVEALED: Every Trick in the Book to Write a Magnetic Headline
12. 9 Secrets That Will Make Your Headline Go Viral
13. The Secret to Making Seemingly Unsexy Subjects Go Viral
14. The Closest Thing We Writers Have to a Silver Bullet
15. The Surefire Way to Make Anything Go Viral
16. 2 Tactics That You’re Neglecting That Will Turbocharge Your Web Writing

Leave your top choice in the comments section below.

Addendum (10/22/2014): The preliminary results, via Outbrain:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Political Fundraising Emails Represent What’s Wrong With Politics Today

“The idea is to make the email seem personal, which is what makes the deception so pernicious. The greasy-smocked minion who cooks up these things tries to slip them past not just your spam filters, but your internal filters. The Obama campaign’s online fundraising team spent hours crafting subject lines to make sure you clicked on them. They ruined our lives by coming up with one that simply reads ‘Hey,’ which was tremendously successful. ‘Hey’ tricks unsuspecting and dimwitted people like me into thinking the note is from a person I actually want to hear from. Email is still a private space where you sometimes get a notice from your kid’s teacher or an encouraging word from your wife. You’re susceptible to a play on that weakness in your defenses. When you discover you’ve been duped, the anger burns with no prospect of cooling ointment. . . .

“Of course it’s hard to know where to register your complaint. You can try to respond to the sender of these emails, but you’ll only get a note saying that account doesn’t take incoming messages. They’re not listening, another way in which these emails mirror our politicians.

John Dickerson

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why You Should Respond to Your Emails Promptly

Perhaps the only noncliched tip from the Google guys:

“There are people who can be relied upon to respond promptly to emails, and those who can’t. Strive to be one of the former.

“Most of the best—and busiest—people we know act quickly on their emails, not just to us or to a select few senders, but to everyone. Being responsive sets up a positive communications feedback loop whereby your team and colleagues will be more likely to include you in important discussions and decisions, and being responsive to everyone reinforces the flat, meritocratic culture you are trying to establish.

“These responses can be quite short—‘got it’ is a favorite of ours. And when you are confident in your ability to respond quickly, you can tell people exactly what a nonresponse means. In our case it’s usually ‘got it and proceed.’ Which is better than what a nonresponse means from most people: ‘I’m overwhelmed and don’t know when or if I’ll get to your note, so if you needed my feedback you’ll just have to wait in limbo a while longer. Plus I don’t like you.’

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How You Can Give Your App Away for Free and Still Make Money

Marco explains:

“It’s very difficult to reach most iOS users with a paid-up-front app, and the biggest podcast apps by far—Apple’s Podcasts and Stitcher—are both free. When I ask most people which podcast app they use, they overwhelmingly say one of those ‘because it was free.’

“I want to offer a better alternative for the mass market, so it must be free. I’d rather have people using my app than one of its free competitors even if they don’t pay a dime. As long as I can keep the lights on with enough paying customers, this helps everyone:

  • If they like Overcast better than they would have liked the other free ones, and they listen to more podcasts as a result, that’s a win for them and the podcasters they listen to.
  • Overcast’s social features will work better with more input, so more people find new podcasts and it’s easier for smaller shows to find audiences.
  • Overcast spreads to more people, and some of them will pay.

“I also want to prove that free doesn’t need to require creepy or manipulative ways to make money. I think, and hope, that my model will work.

Be Honest, Washingtonians: You’ve Done This Before, Right?

“You have no doubt heard of Over-the-Shoulder Orbital Reconnaissance, whereby in any public social setting the federal Washingtonian has one eye focused on the important person in whose orbit he is revolving, and the other scanning the azimuth, in case a person with higher gravitational pull has entered the room. When such a thing occurs, an entire hierarchy of maneuvers is deployed to diplomatically achieve escape velocity and jump orbit. (Ex.: Drain drink, look thirstily around.)”

D.C. Isn’t the Second-Snobbiest City in America; It’s the Snobbiest

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Should You Make Your Email Address Public?

Another data breach, another exposure of your email address. So it goes these days.

Maggie McGary’s reaction was typical:

Simon Owens offered up a different view:

Others who list their email address in their Twitter bio, as Simon does, include Dave Weigel, Melody Kramer, and the staff of the top tech blog, TechCrunch.

And now me. Good advice, Simon.

5 Questions You Should Ask Your Wikipedia Consultant

1. What is your approach to disclosure of your work on Wikipedia? If a consultant suggests that they will not disclose their connection to you on Wikipedia, or recommends that you do not declare a conflict of interest, this is a major red flag. Nondisclosure is a violation of Wikipedia’s Terms of Use, and an NDA will not be seen as a legitimate justification.

2. What kind of timeline can I expect? Fixing just one section may take a few weeks; proposing substantial changes to an article, or creating an entirely new entry, can take months. There are two reasons for this. First, your consultant should research the topic themselves so they can be confident that any proposed edits are aligned with the goals of Wikipedia. Second, your consultant should be working through Wikipedia’s community, almost all of whom are volunteers with limited time to help. Be wary of anyone who promises a quick turnaround.

3. Are you an active contributor to Wikipedia yourself? It’s a good idea to ask the specialist whether they are a member of the Wikipedia community outside of any paid consulting they may do. Chances are very good that someone who edits Wikipedia on their own time will supply you with better advice. Ask them to provide you with their username so you can review their profile.

4. Can you provide references to previous clients who have been satisfied with your work? As in any specialist field, ask to speak with previous clients to confirm that your consultant actually does what they say. Ask to see the Wikipedia article(s) they worked on, and do your own due diligence: look at the article’s talk page to see if there is evidence they discussed changes with volunteer editors. Have there been substantial changes to their work since completion? If there have been disagreements over content, how were they resolved?

5. Can you help me [do something this manual tells you is contrary to Wikipedia’s rules]? Don’t be afraid to play a little dumb, and ask a question that you know the answer to should be “no.” If the specialist advises why not to do this, and offers another solution instead, you can be more confident you are hiring someone with a solid understanding and ethical stance regarding Wikipedia.

Wikipedia and the Communications Professional: A Manual

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why Your Homepage Should Be Different for Different People

Most companies have one homepage, which they show to every visitor, regardless of his purchasing power. This simplifies things, but it also leaves opportunity on the table. What’s persuasive to the CEO of a Fortune 500 firm will not resonate with your local pizzeria.

Here’s HubSpot default homepage. It displays three different case studies, from three different-size companies:

If, however, HubSpot identifies a visitor as coming from an enterprise-size company, it displays the logos and case studies of its biggest clients:

The result of this personalization: a 42% jump in clicks on HubSpot’s calls to action.

How Do You Convince the Corner Office to Embrace BuzzFeed?

Ask your boss if he has teenage kids. If so, ask him to text them and ask if they’ve heard of BuzzFeed.

As Jon Steinberg, BuzzFeed’s former COO, recalls, this trick has an almost 100% success rate—there’s nothing parents want more than to seem cool to their kids.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This American Ambassador Needed 4 People to Help Him Tweet

William A. Rugh, a former United States ambassador to both Yemen and to the United Arab Emirates, recounts that one American ambassador in an Asian capital had a popular Twitter account but needed four people to help him: one to clear content (which means delays), two to prepare the English and local-language versions of Twitter posts, and another as webmaster.

Digital War Takes Shape on Websites Over ISIS