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Category Archives: Communications

Itchy fingers, clumsy tweets

Donald Trump’s (ab)use of his Twitter account will one day be looked at by historians in about the same way archeologists scrutinize cave paintings.

Back in April, when I was working on my June column for LMD, I had this sense that Trump’s clumsy (but some would say strategic) tweets would be worth focusing on.  Besides the political and international furor swiring about them, there are lessons in them tweets for anyone using social media.

And that was even before he bestowed upon us covfefe.

 

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Could they be social minus the media? Dire mental health finding

If you have teenagers, you know the dilemma. How do we get them to make connections without a device?

A subset of this includes:

  • How do we keep the phone away from the dinner table?
  • At what time should all devices be off in the home?
  • Is there a good reason to allow my daughter to use Snapchat? Or Instagram?*

As someone who once conducted workshops on how to adopt social media, I feel it is my responsibility to now warn young people about the unintended consequences of trying to be ‘social’ via a screen. We don’t need research to tell us that a generation could be experiencing serious issues very soon if we thrust smart phones into their hands, and hope for the best.

This research just in: Mental health and Instagram. 

Conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, it has young people using words like ‘fake,’ ‘intimidating,’ and ‘superficial’ to describe platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. The report explains how:

  • Young people say that 4 of the 5 social media channels make their feelings of anxiety worse!
  • A phenomenon called ‘Facebook Depression‘ which involves being ‘constantly contactable’ and having unrealistic expectations of reality. I had never heard of such a phenomenon, though suspected this existed.
  • FoMo (Fear of missing out) is also a thing, and is another cause of distress, something adults are just getting to know about.
  • There are indeed opportunities, despite the dire warning this report sends out.

Not many young people realize that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp. 

 

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Why good writing matters. Even in the PowerPoint obsessed business world

The reason we teach writing is to get students to illuminate their ideas. The craft of writing is indeed on the decline, a topic I have dealt with in many posts before.

So I was heartened when I came across how Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon insists that his staff write memos with a ‘narrative structure.’ (See Fortune magazine article on this.) The reason? He requires someone to communicate clear thinking. Unfortunately, we let bullet points take the place of rationales, criticism, and memos. Or even advertisements.

I see an ad for a charter school that’s the biggest mish-mash of bullet points and headlines I’ve ever seen. It comes up as a slide in a cinema I visit. Every ‘important’ point has been thrown in for the audience to consume in about 4 seconds.

I do hope they teach writing, though. The Elements of (Jeff Bezos) style, at least.

 
 

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‘Customers Not Cargo’ act thanks to United Airlines

You’ve heard of ‘cattle class‘ – the seating area most of us are herded into?

After last week’s horrible incident in which a doctor was dragged, bloodied and asked to get off a United Airlines flight, congresswoman Jan Schakowsky plans to introduce legislation “that would end the practice of involuntarily ‘bumping’ passengers from oversold aircrafts once and for all.” Likewise in the senate, Chris Van Hollen is introducing a similar ‘Customers Not Cargo’ bill.

The gist of it is that an airline which oversells a flight for business reasons has to come up with a business solution (not a law-enforcement one) to make sure the flight is emptied of the excess passengers who paid for that spot, anyway.

Now I’m not sure we need to have laws to ensure businesses treat customers with respect. But if you’re like me having been adequately bruised, and given the cattle prod, you’d agree they had this coming. Especially the folks who wax about the ‘friendly skies.’ (The Leo Burnett-inspired slogan dates back to 1965, and was brought back in 2013.)

Note the ad on the right. About embarking at Chicago. As the 1960s headline promised, the airline would later ‘catch’ Dr. Dao not far from the gate at Chicago O’Hare. The body copy goes further to suggest being friendly is catching. Hmmm)

Bonus Reading: Read the business evolved between United’s and Continental Airlines merger Wired Magazine

 

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Surprising things happen when Digital Natives get their hands on old-school cameras

Here’s a batch of pictures taken by my students yesterday. Cameras may seem ‘old school’ but there’s always an interest in the basics of aperture, lighting, and perspective. In my Ed-Tech class, 5th and 6th graders can’t seem to have enough of this, as the results show.

An accidental homage to Silicon Valley?


Digital City?

Two very different perspectives of a robotic arm

There are much more! Who knows what ideas they will come back with after Spring Break?

 

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Art imitates life. Sometimes it anticipates it

Remember this quote from Michael Douglas, playing the American president?

“We’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight.”

Worth a listen. Fast forward to 3:06 in the video.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in Communications, government

 

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Typos in educashen tweets mask bigger issues

I’m sure Dan Quayle, the vice president who got famous for (mis)spelling ‘potatoe must feel vindicated, now that the new US Education secretary had a tweet sent out to correct a typo in a previous tweet. Unfortunately the apology contained this gem:

“Post updated – our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.”

Now I’m not going to join the bandwagon and frame it as the end times in education. We all make mistakes. Even one like this, as her staff did. Mistakes happen when we blurt things out without much thought.

However, there are some lessons here worth repeating about using a social media handle to go public:

What is the purpose? Micro-blogging, or trying to communicate in 140 characters requires a different discipline (from say shouting, or firing off a press release). One needs to craft the message to the channel and its audience. What was the point of the Education secretary’s Twitter handle being used to publish a quote from the essayist and author? Just to show that the department is clued up on sociology and civil rights? Come on! Does the Dalai Lama need to quote Gandhi to prove himself?

Whose ‘voice’ is it? A department or an organization comprises many divisions. But the top dog sets the tone of voice. A random quote is quite an anemic way to communicate, since it basically reflects no one. Is the channel a news feed, or for insight into the workings of the organization? Is it a place to link to important assets, or ideas? It can’t be all things to all people. Define your brand voice!

Who is doing it for you? Sure someone else may manage the communication, but you oversee it. Or, as some companies like Dell do it, set up multiple Twitter accounts for different constituents. This was something we discussed in 2009 and 2010.

Perhaps government agencies shood should go back to Twitter skhool school. Or at laest least take communication 101.

 

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