Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Telling the Energy Story

A few months back, we gave our strong endorsement to Daniel Yergin’s new work, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World. Yesterday, a group of us made our way up the street to the International Monetary Fund to hear him talk about the book and our rapidly changing energy landscape.

As communicators on complex subjects go, he’s one of the best. For more than an hour he spoke and answered questions on a range of issues, including the geopolitical implications of shale oil and gas development, the future of the U.S. as an energy exporter and the exploding demand for automobiles in China.

He’s a master of the anecdote. Yergin understands that regardless the topic, the best way to relay information and hold an audience’s attention is to tell a story. And oh what a story he tells. I walked into Yergin’s talk expecting to be flooded with insight about energy markets and energy security in an interdependent world – don’t worry, I was – but walked away most impressed with his approach to communications. It’s likely there are a few others who know the energy world as well, but I’d wager there’s no one better at telling the story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

POLITICOPro Energy Briefing -- Will Talking Points Save Us

As I sit here listening to a DC PoliticoPro energy briefing this morning, the insiders guide to policy and politics in Washington, I am struck by the talking point culture of this city.

Public relations professionals often discuss the need to speak in sound bites and bridge back to your message. However, in political circles it is sometimes shocking to hear talking point after talking point flying at you like verbal gunfire.

Here at the briefing, the Obama Administration's representative is being questioned right now by reporters from Politico. Even though these journalists pry and probe to get a scoop, this person is not leaving the script. Who can blame her, that's what she is trained to do. And she is just person one in a line of talking points deliverers for the morning.

To start this session, a rep from the sponsor company read a sleep-inducing boiler plate while a bevy of lobbyists slowly tried to wake up while choking down their continental breakfast. Following the Administration's glowing review of President Obama's "visionary" leadership, Sen. Lamar Alexander began to deliver his points revealing the problems in the "Obama" economy. Sheesh!

So what are we to do?

Staying on message will always be important, but we need to practice adding authenticity to delivery. We have all watched political interviews and anyone can tell the difference between a talking point and a message delivered with authentic care.

As communications practitioners it is part of our job to move people past the key message and on to the key message -- authentically delivered.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Congratulations to IEEE Spectrum

We were happy to see that the IEEE Spectrum just received the Thought-Leader Magazine of the Year Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors. Its category had a heavyweight group of finalists: The American Scholar, Aperture, The New Republic and Virginia Quarterly Review.

It truly is a thought-leader on a wide range of topics. The current issue examines the future of photography, the surprisingly strong revenues of the U.S. Post Office, the promise of “squishy” robots and the possibility of mind reading. And amazingly, not a mention of a Kardashian.
FYI, the other big winners of the night:
Magazine of the Year: Time
General Interest: Bloomberg Businessweek
Women’s Magazine: O, The Oprah Magazine
Lifestyle Magazine: House Beautiful
Special-Interest Magazine: Inc.
You’re in good company, Spectrum. Congratulations

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Newspapers - Trying To Fight Back?

It appears that the “dead-tree” media may be fighting back. We’re seeing signs of a resurgence in daily newspapers – largely because they may be figuring out how to make the digital world work for them.

According to new circulation reports, daily newspapers halted their long decline and showed a slight increase in the last six months. And their Sunday editions gained a full 5 percent. These numbers count print sales and paid digital subscriptions.

The biggest winners seem to be those that have stopped giving away their content online. Today's Poynter Institute blog points out that the biggest Sunday gainers – Dallas Morning News, New York Times and Newsday – have all put up “pay walls” to charge readers for regular access to their coverage. And many of the biggest losers were those that continue to give it away. It doesn’t take much of a crystal ball to see where that leads.

Another Poynter item today about the relevance of traditional media is even more intriguing. An NPR staffer dug into the recent State of the News Media report to try to find a flaw in one of its findings. But nope, it turned out to be real: 22 percent of the Gen-Y’ers polled – people born in the ‘80s and ‘90s – do indeed admit to reading a real newspaper at least every other day. That’s well below all adults (40 percent). But still . . .