The Value of a Checklist

I feel vindicated. Checklists are a good thing. In fact, we should be “ready to accept the virtues of regimentation.”

“The Checklist” is an article written by Atul Gawande and published in The New Yorker on Dec. 10, 2007. It explores how checklists transformed intensive care. I became aware of the article through a book club I belong to at work. (We agreed we could also read articles.)

The article highlighted that intensive-care medicine had become “the art of managing extreme complexity.” The way to manage that complexity, says Peter Pronovost of John Hopkins Hospital is a checklist, which helps establish a higher standard of baseline performance. Pronovost was named a 2008 winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called “genius grant,” which recognizes recipients for their creativity, originality and potential to make important contributions in the future. He also was named by Time Magazine as one of its 100 most influential people in 2008.

Peter Pronovost (Photo:

In the article, Pronovost says checklist help with memory recall, especially with mundane matters. A second benefit was to make “explicit the minimum, expected steps in complex processes.”

I had never thought of checklists as having the ability to save lives but it makes sense. Of course, checklists also have practical purposes in other areas, whether the checklists save lives or not.

When I worked in law enforcement, one of the first things I did was create a call-out checklist. One of the items on it was to grab a bottle of water. This might seem trivial, but it’s not, especially when you are standing in 90-degree weather for several hours at a crime scene. Dehydration can set in quickly.

The checklist also included key phone numbers, talking points, and media contacts, all of which made it easier and more efficient to perform our jobs. When you’re being called out, a checklist keeps you from forgetting any important steps.

In my current job, I created a checklist for distributing press releases. It includes check-offs for approving the release, posting the release and distributing it internally. None of the steps are life-threatening, but if overlooked could prevent the press release from being fully visible.

Do you think a checklist can transform your work?

Social Media Expands Communications Options

Social media continues to expand communications options.

During a panel discussion, “Effective Uses of Social Media Platforms” several users of social media shared how they are using social media to enhance their business. The discussion was part of “Social Media Smarts” organized by Media Women of South Carolina.

Russell Stall of the Greenville Forward says he doesn’t even like the name social media. “I like connected media,” he says. “With a couple of key strokes you’re connected.”

For Jim O’Donnell of Wolff Industries, social media allows him to grow a relationship and then turn it over to salespeople. Even television is impacted by social media, says Diana Watson of FOX News in Greenville. “Viewers don’t want to wait around until the 6 o’clock news. They want to be updated all the time,” she says. “We’re finding that viewers are demanding more and more.”

She says social media gives the station “an instant connection to what people are thinking or what they want to know about.” While people are watching the news, they also are able to immediately share what they think of the news. “It gives us instantaneous results,” Diana says.

At Wofford College, Russ Bradley says using YouTube has allowed the school to make lesser sports more accessible. The school started by putting the football show on YouTube instead of paying for airtime on a television station. “Our viewership has tripled,” Bradley says. “We’re using it to promote the brand.”

The school is able to spotlight the expertise of professors on YouTube, which often leads to media outlets requesting interviews.

How are you using social media effectively?

Women’s Stories Waiting to be Told in D.C. at NWHM

Washington, D.C., is a city of symbols. So what does it say when there is no museum to honor the women who have shaped this country?

The National Women’s History Museum mission affirms the value of knowing women’s history. One way it does this is through its online women’s history education. It has produced 19 online exhibits and corresponding lesson plans.

NWHM is pursuing a building site at 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW, a federal property on the Mall. Because the land the museum seeks is adjacent to the National Mall, Congress must pass legislation authorizing its purchase at fair market value. The National Federation of Press Women is one of many organizations that supports the museum through the NWHM National Coalition.

I recently spoke with Joan Wages, president and CEO for NWHM, who emphasized the need for such a museum. “Women are left out of the story,” she said. She noted that in today’s textbooks only 1 out of 10 figures is a woman. Only 1 in 5 statues is a woman.

“It’s remarkable what women have done to change our nation,” she said. “And yet so much of women’s history is missing.”

NFPW joined others in support of the National Women's History Museum.

Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney reintroduced legislation to negotiate with the GSA for the museum’s site. On the day the legislation was introduced Carol Pierce and Gloria Watkins, both of NFPW’s management team, attended a press conference on behalf of NFPW showing support for the legislation.

If the legislation passes, Joan said it will be five to seven years before the doors open. “First we’ll have to raise the funds,” she said.

In the meantime, you can show your support by visiting the website.

Social Media One Year Later

As I was putting together my presentation for Media Women of South Carolina, I updated the number of users on each of the social media sites I was going to discuss. I use social media every day and find the various platforms to be powerful communications tools. I had no idea just how powerful their reach is, though, until I saw the comparisons.

In April 2010, Facebook had 350 million active users worldwide. If Facebook were a country, it would have been the fourth largest country in the world. Today Facebook has 600 million active users worldwide. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world – behind China and India. The population of the United States is smaller now than Facebook’s population.

One year ago Twitter had 24 million users per month. A year later that number has soared to 190 million Twitter users per month.  That equates to about 65 million tweets a day and more than 800,000 search queries per day, according to – Quantcast Audience Profile.

YouTube has become the number two search engine behind Google. One year ago, people were uploading 20 hours of video to YouTube every minute. Today 35 hours of video are uploaded every minute.

If you’re looking for a job, consider that a year ago, LinkedIn had 50 million members in more than 200 countries. Today, it has 100 million members.

Do you have something to say? Then consider writing your own blog, but be aware, you aren’t alone. BlogPulse reports that 156 million blogs exist, including this one.

Are you communicating where you need to be?

Flip Cam Goes the Way of the 8-Track

I was a big fan of the Flip cam. But during the NFPW board meeting, I realized its limitations. We wanted to make a short video, but we had to worry about sound. And when someone else pulled out their smart phone with built-invideo capabilities, I wondered why I still carried the Flip cam with me.

So it was no surprise when I read yesterday that Cisco announced it was ending its Flip camera business.

Still, the Flip served a purpose. The Flip became a key communications tool. Easy to carry and easy to use, suddenly every communications division could produce a video and share it on YouTube. Newspaper reporters became videographers, posting breaking news stories to the newspapers’ websites before footage could air on broadcast stations.

The Flip cam may cease to exist, but video isn’t going to go away. Smart phones and digital video recorders that are more powerful and with more features and costing about as much as a Flip cam will continue to grow.

How do you shoot video?