Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why Celebrity Endorsements Matter

Nicholas Kristof
“Walmart or McDonald’s shapes the living conditions of more animals in a day than an animal shelter does in a decade.”

Caity Weaver
Keeping Up With the Kardashians has done much more to raise awareness of the Armenian genocide than Mad Men ever did, and Mad Men is an Emmy-winning drama no one was embarrassed to admit they watched.”

The Newsroom
Charlie: Today she [Lady Gaga] broke her silence and Tweeted in support of — in defense of — in support of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Sloan’s going to interview her manager.
Mac: You’re still able to hear yourself when you speak, right?
Charlie: Yeah.
Mac: I’m glad Lady Gaga wants to engage people —
Charlie: She has 40 million Twitter followers.
Mac: Does her manager bring expertise to the table on marriage equality?
Charlie: What kind of expertise is there on that subject?
Mac: Someone who’s familiar with state legislatures, for example.
Charlie: Hey, you know what, Mac. How about she brings 40 million people to a civil-rights debate. I don’t think gay couples who’d just like to move the fuck on with their lives are as choosy about that discussion.

Why You Should Always Put Your Link *After* Your Hashtags on Twitter

Which Tweet looks better?

Here’s the view from the stream:

And here are the individual Tweets:

Here’s another pet peeve. Put a period, or a colon or a hyphen or some sort of demarcation, between the end of your words and the start of your link.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why You Should Publish Your Important Writing on Medium: Because It’s the Op-ed Page of the Internet

This, from a job description:

“Medium is the place for tech and business leaders to make or break news, share advice and expertise, offer insight into the nuances of their crafts, tell a personal story, and converse with others in their fields. The platform has emerged as the new op-ed page, where people who have ideas of consequence publish; interact meaningfully with an impassioned, engaged, and influential audience; and drive conversation forward around issues of import in the world and that matter to them.

“It’s where Google CEO Sundar Pichai pleads for inclusive values, Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou writes about diversity in tech, and Ellen Pao launches an initiative devoted to the same topic. Where Amazon spokesman Jay Carney refutes a New York Times expose on the company, and Times executive editor Dean Baquet responds. Where Facebook’s Julie Zhou regularly shares her expertise on design, and Instagram’s Ian Spalter reveals the internal process behind the company’s new logo. It’s where Dov Charney expounds on American Apparel’s bankruptcy ruling, and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield shares management advice. Where a powerhouse group of women from Twitter and Slack who have banded together as investors publish en masse. And it’s where venture capitalists like Greylock’s Sarah Tavel muse on product, and Andreessen-Horowitz’s Scott Weiss reflect on working parenting.

And this, from the Washington Post:

“Political journalists will remember the evening well.

“It was around 8:45 p.m. on Jan. 20, before President Obama gave the State of the Union address, when the White House released the full text of his speech on a three-year-old website called Medium.

“The move broke convention, and the Washington press was surprised. Many reporters were afraid to admit their ignorance about the site. Obama aides could barely contain their delight at, in the words of White House Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldman, ‘changing a SOTU tradition forever.’

“Since then, Medium has muscled its way to the front of the line as the blog platform for Washington leaders who want to put a fresh veneer on their messaging. After heavy use by the Obama White House, the San Francisco start-up has ambitions to be a player in the 2016 political debate by becoming the venue of choice for candidates to bypass the mainstream media and air their thoughts online.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Which Headline Is Best?

1. Making Sense of — and Money From — Social Media
2. Making Sense of — and Money From — Digital Communications
3. Making Sense of — and Money From — Strategic Communications
4. Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Do It Well, Teach.
5. Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Do It Well, Teach.
6. Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Do It WELL, Teach.
7. Communicating With Clarity and Vigor Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder.
8. Communicating With Clarity and Cogency Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder.
9. Communicating With Clarity and Vigor Isn’t Brain Surgery. It’s Harder.
10. Understanding How to Communicate Vividly and Vigorously
11. Communicating With Clarity and Cogency Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder.
12. Your Ideas Can Be Clearer and Crisper. I Can Help.

Addendum: And the winner is...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Which Headline Is Best?

1. Media Training 101
2. How to Master a Media Interview Without Really Trying
3. The 10 Top Tactics You Need to Grok Before Your Next Interview
4. The Top 10 Tactics You Need to Grok Before Your Next Big Interview
5. The Top 10 Tactics You Need to Master Before Your Next Interview
6. The 10 Most Important Tactics You Need to Know Before Speaking With a Reporter
7. The 10 Most Important Things You Need to Know Before Speaking With a Reporter
8. Media Training 101: The 10 Most Critical Ways to Spin You Need to Know Before Your Next Interview
9. 10 Easy, Battle-Tested Tricks to Spin the Media
10. 10 Easy, Battle-Tested Tricks to Spin the Press
11. To Ace Your Next Interview, Learn These 10 Tricks
12. 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Interview
13. 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Interview With a Reporter
14. 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Media Interview
15. 10 Ways to Ace a Media Interview
16. Ignore Everything You Think You Know About Media Training: Here’s How to Ace Your Next Interview
17. Ignore Everything You Think You Know: Here’s How to Ace Your Next Media Interview
18. When Being Interviewed, Do the Opposite of What You’d Do in Life
19. When Being Interviewed, Do the Opposite of What You’d Normally Do
20. Do the Opposite of What You’d Do Ordinarily: 10 Easy, Battle-Tested Tricks
21. Don’t Be Yourself: 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Interview With a Reporter
22. Don’t Be Yourself: 10 Ways to Ace Your Next Media Interview

Related: Which Headline Would You Click On?

Addendum: And the winner is...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why You Should Hire a Dedicated Writer for Your Website

A few talking points:

1. Anyone can throw a party. But we’ve all been to parties that are lousy, where there’s not enough food and the people are boring, and parties that are memorable, which you wish would never end. The same is true of writing: anyone can string together a sentence, but only a pro does it a way that resonates.

2. You hired professionals to design your website Why not spend a few extra dollars to hire pros to write your website — people who specialize in this stuff, who do it every day?

3. Here’s what happens when you let engineers write your website copy.

4. How to price copywriting? Do it as a package. $X for 10 pages, $Y for 20. Include two rounds of revisions per package. For higher budget campaigns, include interviews with key stakeholders.

5. Often, the principals are too close to the subject matter. This is another reason a consultant can be helpful — to bring a fresh, outside perspective.

Why CEOs Need Media Training

A cautionary tale from Dan Lyons’s must-read new book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble. (“Spinner” is the nickname he gives to Hubspot’s PR person.)

In the first week of December Spinner sends around an email informing us that [Hubspot CEO, Brian] Halligan has been written up in an awesome new story in the New York Times. She wants us all to promote the article on our social feeds and drive some traffic to it. Spinner told me a few months ago that a Times journalist, Adam Bryant, had asked to interview Halligan for a feature called Corner Office. That column is usually a puff piece where a CEO gets asked some softball questions, but Spinner was nervous about it, because, as she put it, Halligan has a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth and say stupid things when he gets in front of a reporter.

I offered to help Halligan prepare by conducting practice interviews with him. I’ve interviewed thousands of people, and the ones who do best are the ones who practice. Bryant wouldn’t ask any tough questions, but Halligan should have two or three points he wanted to make and not wander off them. Tech companies often to do interviews, but HubSpot already had me working in house, so why not take advantage of this?

I also offered to go to New York with Halligan and Spinner when he was doing the interview. I know Adam Bryant, and I figured it couldn’t hurt for Halligan to have a friendly connection tagging along. Spinner did not want my help. Perhaps she saw the interview as a feather in her cap and didn’t want to share the credit.

Spinner flew solo, Halligan got no media training, and now the article is out and Halligan, predictably, has blown it. The main point of the Halligan article is that Halligan loves to take naps. “Brian Halligan, Chief of HubSpot, on the Value of Naps,” is the headline. Halligan thinks naps are so important that he installed a nap room with a hammock at HubSpot. So far so good. Taking naps is the kind of oddball thing that Corner Office is looking for.

That’s the angle that got Halligan in the door. Now he has a chance to tell people—and by people, I mean investors—what HubSpot does. Most people have never heard of HubSpot. Even people who have heard of HubSpot sometimes think it is a marketing agency or a consulting firm.

Halligan should have a very simple brief: HubSpot is a cloud software company, selling marketing automation software and run by people from MIT. HubSpot is a leading player in a very hot market space, and the company is growing like crazy. That’s it. That’s all he needs to do. Talk about naps and plug the company.

But during the interview Halligan starts rambling and talking about how HubSpot likes to hire really young people. Maybe he sees the interview as a recruiting opportunity, a way to reach Millennials. If so, he’s wrong. The Times media kit says the median age of a Times subscriber is 50. According to the Pew Research Center, people under 30 make up only one-third of the paper’s audience. The college kids Halligan wants to hire get their news on Facebook and BuzzFeed. That’s where you go to talk about your fun-loving, youth-oriented culture.

Halligan tells the Times that HubSpot is trying to “build a culture specifically to attract and retain Gen Y’ers.” Yikes. I understand what he is trying to say, but he is getting a bit too close to saying that he would rather hire young people than old people, which is something you definitely don’t want to say in public, even if it’s true.

Still, if he leaves things there, he might be okay. I read on. Next, Halligan explains that young people make better employees, especially in the technology industry, where everything is changing so fast that older people just can’t keep up.

Then comes the money quote: “In the tech world, gray hair and experience are really overrated.”

Only an imbecile would say this. Halligan is essentially admitting that Hubspot discriminates on the basis of age. Age discrimination has become a huge issue in Silicon Valley. Halligan is not the only tech CEO who prefers to hire young people; he’s just the only one dumb enough to admit it. Halligan has not just put his foot in his mouth—he has taken his foot out of his mouth and stepped on a land mine.

I don’t know if Adam Bryant included these comments on purpose, knowing how incendiary they might be. Surely Halligan talked about all sorts of things in the interview, and Bryant cherry-picked which comments to publish. That’s why doing an interview is always risky. That’s also why CEOs need media training.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What if Men Could Menstruate?

In a 1978 satire for Ms. magazine, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem answered the question that so many women have asked: “What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear—menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much,” she wrote. Steinem envisioned a world where “men-struation” justifies men’s place pretty much everywhere: in combat, political office, religious leadership positions and medical schools. We’d have “Paul Newman Tampons” and “Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads” and a new model for compliments:

“Man, you lookin’ good!”

“Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!”

Nearly 40 years later, Steinem’s essay still stings because “menstrual equity” has gone almost nowhere. Today, tampons and pads are taxed in most states while adult diapers, Viagra, Rogaine and potato chips are not. Men can walk into any bathroom and access all of the supplies they need to care for themselves: toilet paper, soap, paper towels, even seat covers. Women, however, cannot. In most schools, girls have to trek to the nurse’s office to ask for a pad or tampon, as if menstruating is an illness rather than a natural function. In most public and private places, women are lucky if there’s a cranky machine on the wall charging a few quarters for a pad that’s so uncomfortable you might prefer to use a wad of rough toilet paper instead. No change? You can pay for a parking spot with a credit card, but have you ever seen such technology on a tampon machine in a women’s bathroom? The situation for prison inmates and homeless women is far direr.

The Fight to End Period Shaming Is Going Mainstream

Related: What if Men Could Get Pregnant?

Larry David Explains the Art of Apologizing

Somewhere between begrudging and sincere.”

Sunday, April 10, 2016

How to Get What You Want From Other People Without Demanding It

When I talked to Miranda backstage at the Richard Rodgers Theater before a performance one evening, he described [Jeffrey] Seller as someone who knows very well what he wants but understands that he cannot demand it.

“He is incredibly smart creatively, but he’s never prescriptive,” he told me. “Jeffrey doesn’t pitch scenes. He doesn’t say, ‘Here’s where you need a moment for Madison to turn to Washington and say the following line.’ What he will say is, ‘What you’re doing now isn’t working, and it’s on you to fix it.’ If there are commercial interests involved, he’s very good at couching them creatively.”

The C.E.O. of Hamilton Inc.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Dale Carnegie Would Have Lauded Scooter Braun

In January 2011, an anonymous tipster called TMZ, offering to sell a compromising video of Justin Bieber. At the time, Bieber was 15 years old and about to star in a bio-pic, Never Say Never.

The caller emailed a teaser from the video that reached Diana Dasrath,TMZ’s “clips-clearance manager.” The teaser showed Bieber, sitting alone in a room, singing his hit “One Less Lonely Girl” a cappella. In place of the usual lyrics, Bieber had substituted “nigger” for “girl.” He giggled as he sang, “There’ll be one less lonely nigger” and “If I kill you, I’ll be part of the K.K.K.”

That afternoon, TMZ contacted Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, for comment. In a phone conversation, Braun pleaded with TMZ honcho, Harvey Levin, not to post the video, saying, “You’re going to ruin this kid’s life.” Levin hesitated for four seconds, then said that he was moving ahead, and that he would need a statement from Braun by the morning. “Harvey, whatever those four seconds were—whatever that place is—that’s the place that I want you to go back to,” Braun said. He and other members of Bieber’s team stayed up all night crafting a statement.

In the morning, Braun and Levin spoke again. Levin confided that he’d been unable to sleep. “A lot of people call me and tell me I’m an asshole—they say, ‘Fuck you,’ ” Levin said. “You didn’t. I’m not putting the video up.” Braun broke down in tears. Bieber later called Levin and thanked him.

The Digital Dirt

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Best Media-Training Tip Ever

People remember allegations, not rebuttals.

Exactly. Someone says Charlie fucked a goat. Even if the goat denies it, he goes to the grave, “Charlie the goat fucker.”


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My LinkedIn Career Titles

I’ve changed this field several times over the years:

  1. Digital Communications Consultant
  2. Digital & Social Media Marketing Storyteller
  3. I help people like you shape and tell your story.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Which Headline Is Best?

  1. The Use and Abuse of Numbers in Writing
  2. The Use and Abuse of Big Numbers in Writing
  3. Stories, Not Statistics: How to Make Your Metrics Meaningful
  4. Turning Statistics Into Stories: How to Humanize Big Numbers
  5. How to Turn a Statistic Into a Story, and Thus Humanize Big Numbers
  6. Every Big Number Needs Context
  7. The Numbers Have No Context: Why No One Remembers Your Impressive Statistics
  8. How to Humanize Numbers, Statistics, and Other Data
  9. You’ve Been Using Numbers Wrong Your Entire Life
  10. Show Me the Stories! The Use and Abuse of Numbers
  11. Your Big Numbers Are Meaningless Without This One Storytelling Trick

Addendum (2/19/2016): And the winner is...

Which Headline Is Best?

  1. PowerPoint: The Good, the Bad, the God-Awful Ugly
  2. The Problem Isn’t PowerPoint. It’s the Way You’re Using It
  3. 11 Tips to PowerPoint Perfection
  4. 11 Ways to Perfect Your Next PowerPoint Presentation
  5. The Ultimate Guide to PowerPoint
  6. 7 Questions About PowerPoint You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask
  7. How to Turn Your PowerPoint Loathing Into Love
  8. How to Deliver a PowerPoint Presentation Like Steve Jobs
  9. This Is Why You’re Terrible at PowerPoint: Because You’re Not Thinking Like Steve Jobs
  10. Everything You Know About PowerPoint Is Wrong
  11. Everything You Thought You Knew About PowerPoint Is Wrong
  12. Everything You Need to Know About PowerPoint
  13. To Deliver a Killer PowerPoint Presentation, Forget Everything You Think You Know
  14. Your PowerPoint Presentations Could Be So Much Better! Here’s How
  15. Your PowerPoint Presentations Could—and Should—Be So Much Better! Here’s How
  16. How to Make Ugly Slide Decks Beautiful

Addendum (2/19/2016): And the winner is...

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Which of These Cognitive Biases Have You Committed?

gambler’s fallacy believing that a coin toss is more likely to come up heads if the previous five flips were tails
anchoring the tendency to rely heavily on one piece of information—usually the first thing we learn—when making a decision
the Ikea effect disproportionately valuing things that you’ve labored over
unit bias assuming that a “portion” is the right size, which accounts for our tendency to finish off an opened bag of cookies

The Happiness Code