Category Archives: Tactics

Tactics and techniques for building, engaging and communicating with stakeholder groups and coalitions you need to solve your problems and achieve your goals.

Location-based services open engagement tracking, educating opportunities

The growth of location-based services by companies such Facebook and Foursquare bring us closer to tracking, responding to and educating high-frequency public meeting participants. With long-term, sustained tracking and rewards, it may be possible to groom “super stakeholders” who are proven to be familiar with and well-educated about long-range policy issues.

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Face to face still #1 in neighborhood communication

Coalitionists looking to get the word out about their endeavors abandon or minimize face-to-face community communication at their peril, according to a Pew Internet poll.

Although electronic communication continues to grow in importance, personal contact (face-to-face and phone) is three times more frequently used than Internet tools, at least in terms of neighborhood issues..

Good bye old friend, the playlist and AP comes to its senses and much more

As a kid, I loved an old film strip I once saw of some guy strapped up in a rocket sled that was then blasted down a track at astronomical speed.  The film cut to a close up of his face unshielded by helmet or windscreen.  The skin on his face rippled back in waves from the continuous blast of air rushing past him as he accelerated towards new knowledge and a wonderment at what the hell he had gotten himself into.

I loved it until I grew up and my professional life took on uncomfortable parallels with the rocket sled guy.  That’s one reason I’ve been social-media lite in recent weeks; the keyboard shakes uncontrollably when sled chatters down the track in excess of Mach 1.

But a big factor in my only sporadic presence when it comes to blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, Photooba, etc., has been the demise of my beloved Titanium Powerbook G4.  I bought it in 2001 when I was starting a PR agency at my kitchen counter, and it has served me faithfully ever since.  In recent years, it has semi-retired to a place next to my La-Z-Boy recliner.  There it helped give voice to every bad joke and crack-brained theory I wanted to maunder on about.  And now it’s gone.  Au revoir, ami.

So for this brief return to help me blow out the cobwebs, here’s a Coalitionist’s Saturday night playlist (with apologies to Tony) and sensible news from Associated Press.  Enjoy!

Saturday night playlist for Coalitionists

  • Let’s Stay Together, Al Green, Al Green: Greatest Hits
  • Come Together, The Beatles, Abbey Road
  • All Together Now, The Beatles, Yellow Submarine
  • We Gotta Live Together (Live at the Fillmore East), Jimi Hendrix, Live at the Fillmore East
  • Together, The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers
  • Let’s Be Together (Demo Version), Sly and the Family Stone, Who In the Funk Do You Think You Are: The Warner Bros. Recordings
  • Happy Together, The Turtles, 20 Greatest Hits Rock
  • Hope That We Can Be Together Soon [with Sharon Paige], Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes Featuring Sharon Paige, Love Train • The Sound Of Philadelphia

And the AP sees the light!

AP changes its style on website, related words

By Therese Bottomly, The Oregonian

April 17, 2010, 11:45AM

A change of style from The Associated Press, which The Oregonian largely follows in matters of usage:

The Associated Press announced it is changing its style on Web site to website to reflect increasingly common usage. It is effective at 3 a.m. EDT Saturday, April 16.

A new entry on website has been added to the AP Stylebook Online and will be included in the updated text version, the 2010 AP Stylebook, which will be published next month.

The entry says:

website: A location on the World Wide Web that maintains one or more pages at a specific address. Also, webcam, webcast andwebmaster. But as a short form and in terms with separate words,the Web, Web page and Web feed.

Rdrs wnt lss sez AW

As king of the one-sentence paragraph, not surprisingly I agree with Ann Wylie. Shorter is better (usually) when it comes time to engage and inform stakeholders. As she noted recently:

“Size does matter. All things else being equal, your readers would rather read a short piece than a long piece.

In writing — as in eating, imbibing, reality TV viewing and so much else in life — it’s good to set limits. In other words, establish an appropriate length limit for each piece you write. Here are some ideas for inspiration:

  • The recommended length of the average press release has dropped from 400 words B.I. (before Internet) to 250 words A.I. (after Internet), according toB.L. Ochman. What have you done to respond to the obstacles of screen reading in your PR and other communications?
  • What’s the best length for a tweet? While Twitter cuts you off at 140 characters, the better limit is actually 129 characters, according usability expert Jakob Nielsen. That allows for the average 11-character attribution that gets added whenever anyone retweets your status update.
  • Sandra Oliver, a researcher at Thames Valley University in London, found that employees would read about 400 words of their CEO’s message. How long is your CEO’s message? If it’s longer than 400 words, did you put the words you don’t want employees to read after the first 400?

The right length for each piece, of course, depends — on the topic, audience, medium, vehicle, budget and other matters of judgment. But using these ideas and observations, you can establish general copy length limits.”

And if you aren’t convinced, see this post from Ann:

“How long is too long?

When it comes to paragraphs, the shorter the paragraph, the better, according to The Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack III study.

“The bottom line is that stories with shorter paragraphs got more than twice as many overall eye fixations than those with longer paragraphs,” the Poynter researchers wrote. “These data suggest that the longer-paragraph format discourages reading and that short-paragraph format overwhelmingly encourages reading.”

That’s not really surprising to anyone who’s studied the effects of paragraph length in print or online: People tend to skip long paragraphs in either medium. What is surprising is what constitutes a “short” paragraph on the Web.

The Eyetrack researchers measured this way:

  • Short paragraphs: one or two sentences long
  • Medium paragraphs: up to six sentences long
  • Long paragraphs: up to 18 sentences long

Bottom line: Online, hit return every paragraph or two.”

Nudging people to find the middle path

Since finding compromises is often the hallmark of a good coalitionist, I thought this from The Frontal Cortex might be of interest…

“I found this minor anecdote, from Peter Baker’s authoritative NY Times article on Obama’s decision-making process for Afghanistan, to be quite fascinating:

On Oct. 9, Mr. Obama and his team reviewed General McChrystal’s troop proposals for the first time. Some in the White House were surprised by the numbers, assuming there would be a middle ground between 10,000 and 40,000.

‘Why wasn’t there a 25 number?’ one senior administration official asked in an interview. He then answered his own question: ‘It would have been too tempting.’

General McChrystal, it turns out, is a shrewd student of decision-making. He realized that the introduction of a compromise option – say, a troop buildup of 25,000 soldiers – would have been irrationally attractive. This is known as the compromise effect, and it was first documented by Amos Tversky and Itamar Simonson.

Here’s an example of the compromise bias in action: A group of sixty undergraduates received descriptions and pictures of microwave ovens taken from an actual catalog. They were asked to choose between an Emerson oven priced at $110 and a Panasonic priced at $180, which had a few more features. Both items were on sale, a third off the regular price. In this scenario, 57 percent of subjects chose the Emerson and 43 percent chose the Panasonic.

Now let’s consider a second scenario, faced by another group of undergraduates. They were presented with the same two microwave options, but given a third choice as well: a $200 Panasonic oven at a 10 percent discount. Of course, this Panasonic oven is a clearly inferior choice, since it comes with a much smaller discount; it’s mere presence in the catalog shouldn’t influence our decision. Nevertheless, the introduction of this new alternative dramatically increased the attractiveness of the other Panasonic oven, so that 60 percent of subjects new chose it.

Retail stores have long manipulated this bias, as they constantly present consumers with deliberately mediocre and expensive options, just so other options seem more reasonable. (The easiest way to make a $50 T-shirt seem like a good deal is to surround it with $100 T-shirts.) When it comes to decision-making, context is everything.

The point is that most of us are natural compromisers, eager to find a middle-way. (There’s some suggestive evidence that the tendency to pursue the compromise option is mediated by culture, with East Asians more likely than Westerners to show the compromise effect.) Furthermore, our compromising tendencies can be skewed by the audience: when American subjects were told that they might have to defend their choice in front of a whole classroom, they shifted towards the safety of the middle option. Obama, of course, needed to justify his decision to an entire planet.

Read the comments on this post…

(Via The Frontal Cortex.)

Visualizations help stakeholders understand complex issues

Seeing is believing.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

All true when it comes to helping stakeholders and potential coalition members, allies and partners understand the importance of a complex issue.

Here’s a good example.  As the Missouri Dept. of Transportation wrestles with how to rejuvenate Interstate 70, it found that its efforts to keep traffic moving smoothly on America’s Main Street complicated its communication about the dire state of the highway. 

Specifically, resurfacing in recent years had smoothed the ride enough to hide the structural issues underlying the highway – and perhaps mute public interest in fixing the long-term problems with the Interstate. 

So MoDOT developed a clever simulation that enables stakeholders to see how pavement begins decaying almost as soon as it is poured and, more importantly, how there are limits to how many times you can replace existing pavement.

They made an interesting – and thoroughly understandable – visual that helps their audiences get a better grip on an important technical issue: http://www.youtube.com/user/modotvideo

How To: Poynter Shares Ideas for How to Make Commenting Systems Work Better

Here’s an interesting conversation on how to add value to the comment sections of websites.

Commenting is going to grow in importance as more and more stakeholder engagement clients lose their squeamishness about unfettered public discussion of agencies and their actions.

And the truth of the matter is, it does takes pretty vigorous oversight and technology to manage out the dreck that sometimes overfills comment sections.

Ideas for How to Make Commenting Systems Work Better: “Many journalists complain that comment threads to their news stories represent the worst of online media. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

(Via E-Media Tidbits.)