Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

Posts Tagged ‘journalism

For Good Communication, Less is More

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One of the best tips I ever got while working in radio journalism was to never forget the phrase “less is more.” After researching a story, interviewing an expert on the topic, editing the audio clips, and beginning to write, I felt a bit like an expert myself. That made it tough to choose which of my babies to kill. Figuratively, of course, as I worked to remove fifty percent of the excellent words I had just written, while keeping the central idea of the story. It’s not easy.

Turns out I was doing it backwards. This great article from Erika Andersen of Forbes via Lifehacker boils down the “less is more” concept to three central rules of clear communication:

  1. Listen. It’s the first and most important part of communicating. If you don’t know what the other person is saying or thinking, how can you effectively connect with them? You can’t.
  2. Cut to the chase. You absolutely must get to the point quickly and simply, or your audience will wander away. Every story should have a beginning and an end, so just get from A to Z without wasting a bunch of time on L-M-N-O-P.
  3. Read the room. Are the people you are speaking to yawning and checking their e-mails? Time to stop talking. Saying more words likely won’t make it better.

These rules may be hard to follow, but the results will be worth the effort.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.


Written by Charles Primm

April 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

The View from Nowhere

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I recently attended a convention of my state’s newspaper association, and one of the highlights of the convention was a series of training sessions on all aspects of the newspaper business.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that social media was the topic of around half of all of the training sessions. Social media is something that all communicators are grappling with, and newspapers are no exception.

The attendees were a mixture of newspaper owners/publishers and reporters/editors, but the discussions tended to focus on the business side of social media.

The topics included the return on investment for hiring dedicated social media staffers versus giving the responsibility for social media to existing staffers, and the cost-benefit analysis of creating customized newspaper “apps” for smartphones and tablet computers versus spending money to revamp newspaper websites to maximize their viewability across a variety of platforms (PCs, tablets, smartphones).

I didn’t hear much about the impact of social media on the news gathering process itself, which was too bad, because this article from GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram highlighted a problem that the editorial side of newspapers are facing with social media: using it to promote reporters (and by extension, their newspapers) while at the same time preventing those reporters from letting their personalities shine through.

According to the article, the fear is that any hint of personality shining through a reporter’s social media activities could expose the person, and by proxy, the newspaper, of bias or <shudder> a personal opinion. Objective reporting is supposed to reflect “the view from nowhere,” meaning complete impartiality.

But, as the article points out, the whole point of social media is personal connection. So it seems to me that in addition to worrying about the impact of social media on a newspaper’s bottom line, publishers ought to consider its impact on their own reporters and editors.

No one is a robot. We all have opinions and personalities. So if reporters are going to be marketed via their social media output, they have to let their personality shine through. Their reporting has to be “the view from right here.”

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

February 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Look on the Bright Side!

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Welcome to the first entry for my first blog, “Cautiously Optimistic.” True to its title, this blog is not going to break any dishes, shatter any paradigms, bloody any noses, or get too carried away. At least not too often.

What I hope it will do is set a tone of hopefulness, wisdom, and, yes, optimism about the future.

My professional background is in journalism and public relations. I will share what I have learned over the years, both in school and in the School of Hard Knocks, as well as my thoughts and opinions of current events and future trends, to explore how we can improve ourselves and each other, how we communicate, and how social media can play a role in that process of discovery and improvement.

My goal is to use this forum to persuade you that improvement is possible in all areas of our lives. Will I achieve that goal? As you might have guessed, I remain cautiously optimistic.


Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

January 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm