Archive for May, 2010
Lessons from Google on Creating Media Opportunities
I enjoy Google’s Doodles – the daily updates to their logo – and especially those that are more inventive and off-the-wall. My nerdy, ten-year-old self rejoices at their hidden inclusion of the Triforce from Nintendo’s Zelda games, which serves as just one example of how creative the Google team can be. But last week’s fully functional PAC-MAN game – featuring over 250 levels and a kill screen – surely took the cake, and not just because it resulted in an estimated 4.8 million wasted hours.
What impressed me most about the PAC-MAN Doodle was the way Google turned an event completely unrelated to their company – the 30th anniversary of the release of PAC-MAN – into a story that revolved around Google. In fact, they completely trumped the story: if you use Google to search for “30th anniversary PAC-MAN,” all but the first result (the “Official PAC-MAN 30th Anniversary Destination“) reference the playable Google Doodle. That is quite extraordinary. Google took a story that had nothing to do with the company and, with some imagination and programming, turned it into an enormous media blitz, including feature pieces from both ABC and CBS.
Communicators and public relations professionals should take note. Google created a media opportunity by doing three key things:
- Google was aware. To create the Doodle in the first place, Google had to know that the 30th anniversary was upcoming, and that their audience would appreciate a PAC-MAN nod in the form of a game. In the CBS interview, the Google Doodlers responsible explain their inspiration: “When we do homepage logos, we always try to focus on our culture of technology and innovation – and things that will be really fun for our users.” Watch the interview below. Without this awareness, the story never happens.
- Google was imaginative. This was the first Google Doodle – to my knowledge – that was truly interactive, allowing users to actually play. The idea of putting a working video game on every Google homepage is a wild one – and one completely worthy of the media attention it got. But Google had to dream up the idea in the first place for it to gain traction.
- Google invested in a wild idea. After developing a prototype in a day, Google gave the go ahead for what must have been a labor intensive, expensive project: creating a fully functional, lengthy PAC-MAN game that could live on every Google page. The result? Google got stories from across the globe on the innovation and creativity of their company.
Writing Quickly Can Help Improve Your Work
Anyone that sat in a class with me at some point in my life would have noticed one thing about me – I wrote very fast and would never read over my work when I finished. While a lot of my classmates commented on how strange this was, it always worked for me. That’s why I was excited when I came across an article titled, “A speed demon’s guide to more effective writing” on Ragan.com. Unfortunately, it is now only available to paid subscribers – but if you have an account, you’ll be able to access it via the link above.
The article listed five reasons why writing faster can help improve your writing:
- Your first instinct is often the best. How many times have you read over your writing and not changed a single word? Most likely, that has never happened to you. When you are writing slowly, you are more likely to agonize over each word choice and every sentence. When you write quickly, you can articulate all of your thoughts and ideas before you start becoming hyper-critical about your words and phrasing.
- You will waste less time. This seems obvious – the faster you write, the more time you save. But pushing yourself to write on a deadline can help you to be more effective. Doesn’t it seem like you can finish a writing assignment faster when you are under a tight deadline then when you have an extended period of time to work on it? That kind of pressure can increase your focus and help you write more efficiently.
- You can outrun the negative self-chatter. When you write quickly you don’t have as much time to criticize your writing or ideas. This goes hand-in-hand with trusting your instinct. If you don’t believe in yourself and in your writing you will never finish revising documents!
- You’ll want to write more often. Since writing quickly can help you use your time more efficiently and reduce self-criticism, you may find you enjoy your writing more. If you get more enjoyment out of writing, you’ll be willing to write more often – which will help improve your skills.
- You’ll have more time to edit. When you write quickly you will inevitably misspell a few words and make various grammatical mistakes. However, since you wrote the document in less time, you have more time to edit. It’s not impressive to write quickly if your work is full of mistakes – but writing quickly ensures you’ll be able to go through your writing to edit for spelling and grammar.
I think that most writing skills come with time and practice, and writing quickly is no exception. The more you write, the better you become at trusting your instincts and not criticizing yourself which can lead to more efficient and higher quality writing.
Members Urge PRSA to Remove Accreditation Requirement from Leadership Positions
This May, an ad hoc committee of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) members asked for support to amend the society’s requirement that only members Accredited in Public Relations (APR) can hold national director or officer positions within PRSA. APR is the public relations profession’s only national post-graduation certification program – and only 5,000 of the 21,000 PRSA members currently have their accreditation. From the article covering this effort:
“We do not believe that democracy is being served in PRSA so long as a small minority of its members can hold elective office,” the committee said in a statement. “We believe that many worthy members of PRSA who meet national leadership criteria in many other ways are being deprived of the opportunity to serve the organization.”
The committee refers to itself as The Committee for a Democratic PRSA and hopes to convince PRSA members and the PRSA Assembly that accreditation should not be a requirement for leadership within the society.
While accreditation is important for professional development, why should it be a requirement for leadership positions? When you apply for a job your potential employer will look at your education as well as previous job experience – why should it be different for a society of professionals?
The committee is looking to collect 1,000 signatures from PRSA members and will present the petition to the PRSA Assembly on October 15 in an attempt to lift the barrier to leadership within PRSA.
If you are a PRSA member that supports removing the accreditation requirement for PRSA leadership positions, click here to sign the online petition.
Some Basic Blogging Benefits
The decision to start up a blog is not one that should be taken lightly. At Vanguard Communications, we had to consider whether our insights and commentary on communications issues would benefit the already robust public relations blog community. Since you’re reading this post on our blog, you know which way we decided, and you can read more in Maria Rodriguez’s post about why we chose to launch it. There are many reasons to start a blog and countless benefits to your brand when you do. Here are a few less obvious reasons to consider blogging as a tool to boost your online communications efforts.
- Blogs are flexible. Blogging give you a platform that allows you to communicate positions, opinions and ideas that may not fit neatly into your existing website. You can react to news and events with commentary that frames an important issue for your company or organization, while not interrupting the normal flow of information on your website
- Blogs are personal. Blogs allow members of your organization to write on the topics that they know best and care the most about in a voice that is their own. This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your organization’s personal ties and investment in the issues that drive your day to day business. What’s more, it can show that you’re following ongoing updates in your field. Giving the public a window into the minds of your employees can ultimately help your messages resonate.
- Blogging helps with search engine optimization efforts. Search engine optimization (SEO, for you acronym-lovers) is a big, tricky industry that is built entirely on trying to figure out how to maximize returns from the algorithms that drive search results for Google, Yahoo, Bing and others. Blogging, however, is a simple way to help increase your search standing. It is basic math – if you have more content related to the core concepts of your website, more people will be able to find your website using search engines. This can help drive more traffic to your website – not only to your blog, but to your core web properties.
- Blogging builds communities. Yes, yes, I know – blogging is so 2003. Shouldn’t I be talking about Twitter or foursquare or Gowalla or Facebook or [insert your favorite social networking outlet here]? Sure, social networking may be all the rage these days, but don’t underestimate the power of a blog. If you’re supplying good content, you’re developing a community of loyal readers that will share your message, champion your causes, and react when you ask something of them. If you’re using social networking platforms, your blog provides valuable content that can help keep conversations going.
Before starting a blog, think strategically. Like any other communications platform, decide who your audience is and develop materials accordingly. You’ll need to provide regularly updated content that is valuable and interesting – but if you’re able to make this commitment, blogging can become an important asset in advancing your organization’s online efforts.
Great Online Resources to Stay Informed on Washington Politics
The struggling economy. War on terrorism. Energy challenges. Supreme Court nominations. Midterm elections. There’s a lot on the policy plate for the White House, Congress and federal agencies. With so much happening in the District and the constantly churning political news cycle, it can be pretty difficult for policy communicators to stay up-to-date and informed about Washington’s policy agenda.
Whether your organization’s focus is on local or state policy issues, debates and decisions occurring in Washington, D.C. have impacts on your local- and state-level policymakers’ positions back home. Monitoring the political news coming out of Washington is an essential part of crafting an effective policy communications strategy and tactics. Luckily, The Washington Post has just made keeping up with the policy moods and positions of Beltway politics a little easier.
This week, The Washington Post launched their new politics news portal, PostPolitics. In this redesigned section, politics news editors gather and organize the latest news from the White House, Congress, campaigns, polling data and the federal government in one location. As the hometown newspaper of the federal government, The Post has a long history of covering national politics, as well as breaking political news and analysis. At PostPolitics, visitors can read the most popular political news stories, review the President’s daily agenda, explore the debates and hearings scheduled in Congress and research the backgrounds of key policy players in the current news cycle. Reporter Chris Cillizza’s The Fix column is a must read for inside tips about what Washington is talking about right now and what they will be talking about tomorrow.
Besides PostPolitics, there are several other political news websites to keep on your radar for news about policy developments in Washington:
- Politico news stories often drive the morning political news cycle and is gaining a reputation as a breaking news source.
- The Daily Beast is a newer online politics outlet, where news stories and features often illustrate the connection between the happenings in Washington and its impact on the country’s culture and dialogue.
- RealClearPolitics aggregates political news from top news outlets from across the country and groups them by leading story topics. This site gives you the big picture view about how top political stories are being discussed outside of Washington.
- The Digg politics section can provide guidance on what the public views as important political news and issues by looking at which political stories Digg readers are promoting.
- Stateline provides political news from outside the federal government and gives readers state level political news. Organized by policy area, you can explore discussions and how policies have a local impact.
- Townhall offers a conservative perspective on the political news cycle.
- Daily Kos provides its readers the more liberal take on the day’s political news.
Instead of visiting each of these news websites daily, just add their RSS feeds to your RSS news reader. Just like tracking legislation online, this can deliver key stories, analysis and breaking news directly to you as it is published.
Staying on top of the political news cycle can help your organization use its insights to develop stronger responses to policy issues in Washington, D.C. and at home. Monitoring what national policymakers and policy news reporters are talking about will help you identify and capitalize on digital media or policy action opportunities to get your organization’s policy message and position out to the public and policymakers.
Marvin Gaye: Anti-War Performer
“In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say. I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world.” – Marvin Gaye
Though propelled to fame by hits like “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye’s later musical endeavors made him the social justice advocate we honor today. As his fame grew in the late ‘60s, Gaye increasingly felt his songs lacked relevance in the face of the dramatic social changes occurring in the United States. After a period of self-imposed seclusion, Gaye returned with What’s Going On in 1971. The album redefined what popular music could be: thoughtful, progressive and activist, What’s Going On tackled issues of environment, police brutality and racism head on. But the album’s primary focus was the war in Vietnam, conveying a powerful anti-war message from the perspective of Gaye’s brother Frankie – a soldier who had recently returned from combat. Despite prolonged objections from his recording company, Gaye insisted the album be released as it was intended, with social messages intact. The result – the first concept recording in the United States focusing on social issues – was an enormous commercial and critical success. Today, What’s Going On continues to influence musicians and activists alike, with Rolling Stone Magazine ranking the album sixth in their 2003 cover story, “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Gaye’s courage, commitment and passion for communicating the important issues of his day ultimately enabled other artists to follow him in crafting socially motivated music.