A Breath of Fresh Air

Whether you’re interviewing people professionally, talking with clients during a business meeting, or simply making casual conversation with people… isn’t it amazing how certain people stand out thanks to their passion?

It’s that kind of passion, zest for life, and energy devoted to a cause or goal that helps us–especially journalists, marketers, public relations professionals–hone in on a message that tells their story.

Some of the most giving, caring people I had the privilege to meet recently, volunteer for an organization called The Fresh Air Fund. The children who benefit from this organization were A JOY to meet and interview as well. My heart is full, changed, inspired, after researching and writing this story… Continue reading

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The “Visual Vocabulary” of Social Media

Social Media Week NYC - Buzzing with Energy

Social Media Week NYC – Buzzing with Energy

By Karen Hendricks

One of the prominent themes woven into last week’s Social Media Week NYC was the increasingly growing use of photos on all forms of social media. Images now comprise 40% of the internet and 70% of all social media channels. Wow.

A few more statistics:

  • In our lightning-fast-paced society, people process images 60,000 times faster than text.
  • During a recent survey, two out of three people said images are more powerful than text.
  • Six in ten people report they are taking more photos than ever before, thanks in great part to cell phone cameras.

What does all this mean, for those of us involved in Marketing and Social Media?

Images are compelling: Our eyes can certainly “read” images faster than text; our eyes are drawn to images. Photos can trigger emotional responses. A picture is worth a thousand words. Social media strategists even know which colors our eye prefer–a recent study of Instagram photos revealed that blue-tinged images receive 24% more “likes” than red-hued images.

Feedback from social media images is valuable: Major companies, including retailer Nordstrom, are adapting their marketing campaigns based upon direct feedback from images on social media including the number of “likes” or “pins” garnered by photos of new fashions. Nike is even designing custom shoes based upon fans’ Instagram photos.

Images need to be put into context: What are we losing as we shift (from text to visuals)? Answer: Context. Images, although powerful and emotional, can be taken out of context. When we post images, it’s up to us to provide an accompanying message.

It doesn’t mean we don’t read anymore. Yes, images are the driving force of social media. On Facebook, more people engage with photos than text posted alone. The entire concept of Pinterest is based upon the pinning of images. But “combining text and visuals is much more effective,” according to Will Palley, Trends Strategist for Marketing Communications giant JWT. The length of text shared via social media depends on the time of day. During the workday, brief is better. But on weeknights or weekends, when people are relaxed and have a bit more time, successful communications can include more details.

We still love a great story. Storytelling is still a “very deeply basic human interaction,” shared Ji Lee, Creative Director for Facebook. It’s just that more and more of our stories shared via social media begin with a compelling image. And that’s changing the dynamics of news-gathering organizations everywhere. “One of the biggest challenges to journalists today is adapting storytelling techniques to a visual standpoint,” explained Jim Roberts of Mashable. Journalists need to tell stories that grow out of a great visual.

Ownership is an issue. The idea of intellectual property changes per generation. While people of all ages seem to know that text is copyrighted and owned by the writer, there is a learning curve with images. Many people think they can just “grab” them from the internet or social media. Millennials, or Generation Y, perhaps due to their freeness in sharing photos on Instagram, especially do not recognize that photographs do indeed belong to the photographer and should not be used without permission. (All photos in this post were indeed snapped by the author!)

Panel Discussion - "Reading is No Longer Fundamental: The Shift Towards Visual Vocabulary" - #SMWJWT

Panel Discussion – “Reading is No Longer Fundamental: The Shift Towards Visual Vocabulary” – #SMWJWT

Credit for these social media insights and tips are thanks to two workshops primarily:

  • Social Media Week NYC’s Reading is No Longer Fundamental: The Shift Towards Visual Vocabulary
  • Social Media Week NYC’s The Changing Face of News Consumption Hosted by the WSJ

Social Media Week, February 17-21, featured more than 800 events in eight cities, drawing more than 25,000 attendees total.

Social Media Week NYC took place at Highline Stages, 15th Street.

Given the topic, I have to include one more visual! – Social Media Week NYC took place at Highline Stages, 15th Street.

Diagnosis; Sharing the Story

By Karen Hendricks

If you would have told me last week that being a doctor was a lot like being a PR practitioner, I would have laughed.

But this week I learned that it’s actually the truth, because it all comes down to “the story.”

Former CBS News Producer-turned-MD Lisa Sanders helped me arrive at this revelation, as I had the pleasure of hearing her speak earlier this week.  Author of the New York Times Magazine “Diagnosis” column, Sanders provided the inspiration for the wildly popular and offbeat TV show House.  Dr. Gregory House, aka Hugh Laurie, solves medical mysteries by using his instincts and clues, often gathered through unconventional means.  His demeanor doesn’t exactly encourage his patients to talk to him and tell their “stories.”

As a former journalist, “stories” have always been at the heart of Sanders’ work, even when she made the transition to the medical field.  One of three Technical Advisors to House, Sanders dreams up the shows’ fascinating medical storylines.  Her latest book Every Patient Tells a Story describes “Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis.”  It all comes down to patients who communicate their stories accurately and doctors truly taking the time to listen to their patients’ stories.  Between 70 to 90 percent of all medical diagnoses are made, not based upon physical exams or specialized tests, but upon patients’ stories.But Sanders’ use of “the story” doesn’t end there.  She contends, one of the most powerful gifts a doctor can give to his/her patient, is the communication of a diagnosis.  How the doctor relays this information, explains a disease or shares information, is the first step to helping a patient heal.  Sanders writes, “A story that can help a patient make sense of even a devastating illness is a story that can heal.”

Ok so what does this have to do with PR and marketing?

Just as doctors search for diagnoses, PR and marketing professionals seek “diagnoses” for their clients.  The messages and stories that form the backbone of a PR or marketing campaign are often found, not by examining the number of website page views or other diagnostic numbers, but simply by listening to clients’ stories and employing them directly into the heart of the campaign.  Compelling, stories, emotional, human and fascinating, translate into a more effective PR or marketing campaign.  Take the time to find out why or how your client is unique (I know—over-used word but it fits) through their stories.

I once interviewed an artist who had an unusual, but beautiful, perspective on landscapes that seemed to stretch on and on in layers.  As one of dozens of artists I interviewed for an arts festival’s PR campaign, he explained that he preferred painting from high mountaintops, as high an elevation as he could reach, for a birds-eye perspective.   I asked a series of questions about his background and it turned out that his early artistic ambitions had been put on hold for a stint in the U.S. Air Force.  Perhaps that experience provided the training ground for his unique approach to landscape painting?  What an interesting twist to “his story” that provided a “diagnosis” of sorts.

While I’m listening and focused on a client’s stories, I always take the time to capture quotes.  They inject color and emotion into press releases or marketing materials!  I recently worked with a young political candidate who projected such enthusiasm and passion through his quotes and interviews, while demonstrating a firm grasp of issues at hand, that he attracted attention and was elected to office.  He communicated his story and connected to his constituency well!

Everyone has a story to tell, medically or otherwise.  Are you taking the time to listen?  And are you retelling the story and sharing it?

House: often closes the door on communication

P.S. Many thanks to Lisa Sanders for the great book inscription!

Communicate in 8

By Karen Hendricks

The average person’s attention span is 8 seconds long, according to statistics compiled by the Associated Press in 2012.  Compare that to the average attention span in 2000 which was a whopping 12 seconds.  Or better yet, compare that to the average attention span of a goldfish at 9 seconds.  (How is that determined?!)

The simple truth is that communicating is more challenging today than ever before.  So what does it take, to capture someone’s attention span for 8 seconds or more and convey a compelling message?  Here are a few tips, gleaned from 20+ years in the communications field, used regularly at Hendricks Communications:

1.  Tell Personal Stories:  Good public relations and marketing campaigns are transformed into great campaigns when they’re based upon captivating, real-life experiences.  People are fascinating!  Taking the time to understand and tell a client’s story, highlighted with anecdotes or quotes, injects an element of emotion.

2.  Use A Hook:  Think of a hook as something that draws you in and compels you to read further, listen longer, click on a link or turn a page.  The hook can take any number of angles–clever writing, an attention-grabbing quote or a shocking statistic but it grabs your attention instantly and piques your curiousity.

3.  Know the Facts and Stats:  Don’t overwhelm your reader, but strengthen your writing with a handful of carefully-researched and selected facts and figures.  Statistics add a powerful punch.

4.  Use Words that Wow:  Using a rich variety of language, including attention-grabbing vocabulary, engages a reader or listener.  Ten dollar words aren’t necessarily needed; quick and clever words with zing are just as effective, if not more so.  Spice up your vocabulary with playful prose or strong speech to suit the tone and subject.

5.  Be Brief:  Stick to the point, weave the story with colorful quotes, lanuage or facts where needed and come to a compelling conclusion.  Remember your audience has an average attention span of 8 seconds; if you hold their attention any longer, it can be considered a victory.

6.  Remember Appearance Counts:  Good design, clean fonts and a touch of color encourage the reader to actually read your text.  Make it easy to read; not complicated or requiring a road map.  A similar piece of advice works for the spoken word:  make your presentation easy to understand so that main points are clearly defined.

7.  Feature Photos:  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so use one (or more!) to enhance your writing.  Photographs convey mood, tone and expression so much more effectively, and quickly, than text.

8. Check the 5 Ws and 1 H:  The foundation of good journalism depends on asking the right questions and then making sure you’ve “covered all the bases” in your writing.  Who, what, where, when, why and how:  All of these questions should be answered or you’re bound to have gaps in your writing.  Once a reader discovers a gap, he or she tunes your message out.

Remember your audience may only be with you for 8 seconds–coincidentally the same amount of time that a rodeo rider must stay atop a bull in order to be awarded a score and win.