Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Digital Media Lounge at UN Summit

The Digital Media Lounge opens today as world leaders meet this week to take stock of the progress made on achieving the Millennium Development Goals. With only five years left, developing countries and donors are likely to miss their targets. Yet the goals as a measure of aid effectiveness are increasingly criticized, as this article in the Financial Times points out.

The media lounge is part of the Social Good Summit sponsored by Mashable and the UN Foundation. The event looks at the role of technology and social networks in improving the lives of people in developing countries. The digital lounge is a great opportunity for journalists and those who care about these issues to connect with others to share ideas and resources.

Aaron Sherinian, executive director for public affairs and communications at the UN Foundation, said in an e-mail, "We have pulled together a phenomenal agenda that includes informal conversations, expert briefings, opportunities for full-access Q&A, and real talk with musicians, celebrities, and people from the ground to inspire and challenge you and your communities."

You can watch the event live at www.unfoundation.org/unweekdml. The Twitter hashtag for the digital lounge is #unweekdml.

K4Health Blog will cover the UN summit and related activities this week. The Global Health Council and InterAction have more information on the MDGs and the summit.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Opening up government

The Gov 2.0 summit, September 7-8 in Washington, highlights innovation in openness and transparency. A quick look at the videos of some of the speakers shows the variety of efforts directed at a more open, participatory government.

Challenge.gov went live at the summit. This site intends to involve the citizenry in solving some tough problems usually left to government to face alone. I saw two challenges related to development. The U.S. Department of Treasury created the G-20 SME Finance Challenge. The U.S. Agency for International Development started LAUNCH: Health.

This summer I worked with a group of people to equip government managers with the tools they need to be more open. We focused on steps individuals can take to engage the public more effectively. Join our discussion on Smarter, Better, Open Government.

For a discussion focused on transparency in international aid, join the Aid Transparency group on LinkedIn started by Claudia Schwegmann of Open Aid.

The U.K's aid agency is inviting input on how to be more transparent.

What efforts do you know of that are fostering more open and transparent government?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Stories make us human

Country report are good. In fact, they are required. But stories are better for communicating to outside audiences. That is why to show the impact of the work you do, you need to tell a story. Stories strike a chord deep within us. Stories make us human.

This week as part of its series on what makes us human, National Public Radio looked at storytelling. We have been telling stories since the spoken word. Through stories we shape our lives and give meaning to our existence.

As Melinda Gates said in her blog post yesterday, "Stories can change the world."

To get inspired to tell your story, visit ViewChange.org. This multimedia website uses stories to show why international development matters. Participate in the ViewChange online film contest. Starting today you can vote for your favorite video. Voting ends September 15, 2010.

Wim Wenders directed one of the most entertaining films, Person to person. I liked the message, but also the communications angle of the piece.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yahoo! style guide helps writers

Hats off to Yahoo! for creating this style guide for the Web. While the AP Stylebook has served me well over the years, this online guide for the digital age has a lot to offer. It features articles on how to write for the Web, search engine optimization, and eye tracking. It even lets you download its word list to use as a starting point in creating your own.

You can win a copy by answering the question, What have you learned from the guide that you did not know before? Contest ends today.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is your content strategy in place?

Content is what drives people to your site. Whether you are about to do a redesign or are going to develop a new site, focus on the content. Good content should be
  • engaging
  • relevant
  • useful
  • current
  • flexible
  • social
Content that possesses these attributes will strengthen your brand.

Content on the Web, and I am referring to text here, differs from copy for a printed brochure. It is expected to do more. Once you provide your users with the information they desire, then you can start marketing to them. But first you need to give them what they want.

To make sure your content works for you, have a strategy. The strategy should include an analysis of what you already have, a workflow, and a maintenance plan. Too often organizations are eager to put something on their websites without thinking how it supports their business objectives and who will own it.

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson is an excellent place to begin your journey toward great content. She maps out how to devise a strategy that will help your content satisfy both the organization’s and the users’ goals.

Some key steps:
  • Analyze what you have with a content audit
  • Know what business objective each piece of content achieves
  • Clarify who owns the content
  • Identify how users will find the content
  • Have a plan for creation and maintenance
Listen to the podcast on content marketing v. content strategy  in which Kristina and Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute discuss what can make your organization stand out from the rest.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pitching in the digital age

Information overload? Journalists get it, too. As resources at news outlets decline, the pressure is on for people who work in media to produce—round the clock—even as they are getting bombarded with pitches.

Those interested in building relationships with journalists need to focus on the basics:

Know a reporter’s beat. These can change, but do your homework.
Give something substantive. Provide information or a perspective not found elsewhere. Point out deficiencies in conventional wisdom—or your competitors.
Use a fact sheet.
Include the peg. Every story has an arc. Hitch a local story to a national trend.
Personalize the e-mail. Here’s a great post about a broadcast service and why creating your own lists can be more effective. The same blog, Bad Pitch Blog, had an example of a good pitch.

Hear what Chris Brogan author of Trust Agents had to say about pitches.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Last week I attended Anne Wylie’s workshop on how to sharpen your writing. Below are some of the helpful points she made.

1. Start with the message in mind.
Think like your reader. What do you want that person to remember about your press release, blog post, or feature story? Back in the day, we were taught how to get our messages out. Today the challenge is how to get our messages in. The way to do that is to start with the benefit.

Think about your own life. How do you decide what to spend time on? (Reading means spending time even if it is only 10 seconds.) How do you decide what to read? Simple: when what you hope to gain is of greater value than the amount of time or effort it takes. Here is the formula:

Expectation of reward / effort required

2. Try starting with “you.”

When writing a press release, skip the traditional format of leading with “Who, what, where, when.” Focus on your readers and the benefit to them. One way to do this is to start with “you.” For example, “You will save money…,” “You will get to work faster…,” “You will be more secure thanks to XYZ’s innovative product.”

3. Use short paragraphs, short sentences.

Keep paragraphs short: 42 words is a good target length. The job of the first paragraph is to get the reader to the second paragraph. It can be 2 to 25 words. According to recent research, the rate of comprehension goes below 90% when sentences are longer than 14 words. If you find you are writing long sentences, break them into two or start using bullets.

4. Use a summary sentence after the headline.

Often called a deck, the one or two sentences after a headline summary the article. This is especially important when writing for the Web. Visitors to your site will use this information to decide to click through or not. Here is a recent example.

The deck lets you know if you want to read the article.

5. Review and cut.

Good writing takes time. Go through your drafts keeping the reader in mind. Where can you trim the excess? Here’s a fun quote Ann mentioned by Peter DeVries:

When I see a paragraph shrinking under my eyes like a strip of bacon in a skillet, I know I’m on the right track.

You can get more tips at RevUpReadership.com Anne Wylie’s service for writers.