Summer Fun and Blogging

Memorial Day has come and gone, which means it’s time for summer fun, scaling back and relaxing.

For the next few months, I’ve decided to post only once a week to Cynthia’s Communique. Making such a decision wasn’t easy, but since I’ve been writing about time management and work/life balance, I have concluded it was the right thing for me to do.

I didn’t want to simply end the blog because so many of you have shared that you appreciate the content. And I really enjoy writing it.

For the past four years, I’ve been publishing twice weekly and more frequently during NFPW conferences.

I’m going to use the time to recommit, which means identifying topics, researching them and taking photos to go with the posts.

I also want to listen more. I’d like to hear what you have to say. I want to catch up on other blogs and hear what others think.

(Photo by Cynthia Price)

(Photo by Cynthia Price)

And I want to kick back and enjoy the summer.

I hope you’ll keep reading and sharing my blog with others. And don’t hesitate to share what topics you’d like me to cover.

Thanks for understanding as I take some time to relax.

Enjoy the summer!

Take Time to Play Each Day

About a year ago I learned about Parkour through an NFPW member whose son is an active participant. When I first watched a video depicting it, I was drawn to how each person moved throughout the space. I recalled movements from my childhood. Yet, these were adults who seemed to be playing.

In actuality, Parkour, according to Wikipedia, is a “holistic training discipline [in which] practitioners aim to move quickly and efficiently through their environment using only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves.”

After watching Ryan Ford and his friends, I found myself wanting to skip more and jump from the bottom step (sometimes I even jump a few steps, but not when I’m wearing heals!). Recently, Ford gave a Tedx and encouraged the audience to “take time each day to play.”

You might feel a bit silly skipping down the hall, but maybe you could spin your desk chair once. Or you could balance on a sidewalk curb. Be creative about what you try. Ford encourages, “There are no obstacles, only opportunities.”

The point is about putting movement and play into your day.

As George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

How will you play today?

How to Use Video Stories to Move People

Video is everywhere.

According to Digiday, 89 million people watch 1.2 billion online videos today. That number will grow to 1.5 billion online video users in 2016.

However, it’s important to remember that 19 percent of viewers abandon an online video after 10 seconds. And 44 percent of viewers abandon an online video after 60 seconds.

If you want to keep viewers watching your videos then you are going to have to engage the audience. “Let the character’s story communicate the organization’s impact and guide the audience to the message,” said Catherine Orr, co-founder of StoryMineMedia.

To create a strong video story, follow this roadmap that StoryMineMedia shared:

  1. Establish context: What are the broad goals of your organization
  2. Define pupose: What is the specific purpose of this video? Is it to raise awareness? To create a call to action?
  3. Look for universal themes: How will you build a bridge between your story and your audience? Universal themes include family, home, health, for example.
  4. Brainstorm storylines: What are the hypothetical stories that could illustrate your message? Could you show struggle and change? You could also share a best-case scenario.
  5. Choose characters: Use your networks to create a list of actual people who have been impacted by the work of your organization. Don’t always use a “talking head.”

Using Infographics to Tell a Compelling Story

In today’s visual age, infographics reign.

An infographic is a visual representation of data, processes or locations. And while we like to think of them as new, they’ve been around for a long time – think about early cave drawings.

Using images that are familiar to many make it easier to understand an infographic.

Using images that are familiar to many make it easier to understand an infographic.

Alicia Parlapiano, graphics editor, for The New York Times, said they are a way to share information and tell stories.

“Our rule of thumb is that the instant you look at an infographic it should be instantly understandable,” added Gary Seidman, president of SwitchYard Media. “It doesn’t really require any learning.”

The two were on an infographics panel at the InterAction Forum 2013 recently held in Arlington, Va.

Infographics, Seidman said, must be organized, succinct and easy to read.

Before beginning the graphic, Parlapiano recommended creating an abstract or summary to guide in the creation of the graphic. This also will help viewers to understand the purpose of the graphic.

When a person engages with an infographic, Seidman said, you need to consider what the person will take away and what you want them to remember.

Once you know the data you want to show, Parlapiano said to use the appropriate form – one that doesn’t make the display of the information too complex. The infographic also should follow the organization’s style guide by using approved fonts and layouts. She recommended creating some approved layouts for infographics so the designer doesn’t always have to begin fresh.

Other tips include:

  • Don’t use excessive labeling
  • Remove axes if distracting
  • Add a headline and some text to describe what the viewer is supposed to be seeing
  • Add a source line
  • Add a credit
  • Use visual shorthands with which people are familiar (examples include thumbs up and wifi symbols)

If you want to know more about infographics, check out The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics by Dona Wong. The book is all about the fundamentals so it’s a good starting point.

Inspiring Stories Lead to International Reporting Award

“If it bleeds, it leads” is a common refrain in journalism.

One journalist, though, became passionate about sharing inspiring stories about how people are making a difference. And that reporter, Christopher Dawson, recently was presented with InterAction’s award for Excellence in International Reporting.

Christopher Dawson is passionate about sharing inspiring stories about how peole are making a difference. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Christopher Dawson is passionate about sharing inspiring stories about how people are making a difference. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

During a brief interview with me at InterAction’s 2013 conference, which gathered hundreds of organizations working in developing countries, Dawson talked about empowering journalism.

“Most news seems to be about how badly we can treat each other and about the failings of man,” he said. “To me, that was depressing.”

Fortunately, the company for which he worked – CNN – wanted to air more inspiring stories. The stories also proved popular with advertisers, which don’t want to connect with negative stories, Dawson said. “A sponsored series worked because it’s hopeful and newsworthy.”

Dawson became the lead producer for CNN’s Impact Your World in 2007. Throughout the next four years, he built the project into an award-winning cross-platform initiative for CNN, CNN International, HLN, CNN.com, CNN Mobile and CNN Radio. Impact Your World shares stories of great need and the inspiring examples of charities and volunteers making a difference.

He receives pitches from viewers about stories that inspire and encourage them. Dawson also looks carefully at the problems posed by disasters. “When reporting on a disaster, it’s important to go to the next step,” he said. “You want to find out who is responding and who is restoring the balance.”

Dawson, who also won the ShelterBox Global Media Award in 2011, values the impact of social media on the stories, too. Social media allows for actionable steps that viewers can take. “They are so hungry to participate in the good,” Dawson said. “The story continues beyond our broadcast.”

As for the recognition of his work, Dawson said, “My hope with such an award is that it would encourage more journalists to share these stories to empower and inspire their audiences.”

Checklist to Spring Clean Your Office

Spring is the time for cleaning and freshening up our environs, which means it’s a perfect time to clean your office. Here’s a short checklist to help you:

Dust: Start by removing everything from surfaces and thoroughly dusting. Don’t cheat and dust around items. You’ll be amazed by what is hiding underneath. As you put things back in place, you may find yourself tossing things you no longer need.

Vacuum: Thoroughly vacuum or mop the floors. If you can move furniture easily, this is the time to do so.

Declutter: Now it’s time to tackle the piles. Sort through them and toss what you no longer need. File anything you can. Whatever you do, do NOT create a miscellaneous folder. Even if a folder only has one sheet of paper in it, it will at least be labeled for future reference.

Order: Check your supplies. Do you need ink cartridges, paper, file folders? Make a list and get those ordered, if not for the year then at least for the next six months. It will be one less thing you have to remember to do.

Sort: Open your file drawers and determine if anything can be tossed. I have a rule that everything needs to fit within two file drawers. If both are full, I know it’s time to purge. I’m finding I have fewer file folders because of online documents.

Electronic sort: As part of your spring cleaning, take some time to clean your computer. Delete folders you don’t need anymore. Clean out your emails. Update your software.

There! You’re done with your spring cleaning and your office should be good to go until you start the piles again.

Writing Email Subject Lines

A successful email marketing campaign begins with a basic skill – writing effective subject lines.

The same can be said when you write an email to a colleague. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t complain about email overload so why not help your colleagues by writing clear, concise subject lines?

When you do this, you are ensuring that your email won’t be ignored or deleted.

Here are some things you can do to get your emails read:

Identify the content. If I require the person to take an action, I label my email with “ACTION” followed by what I am expecting the person to do. This provides an immediate framework for the receiver. Sometimes, I am sharing information that I think might be useful, but, it’s clearly not urgent. In that instance, I include, “FYI” and the topic in the subject line. This allows the receivers to filter the email to suit them.

Be concise. Nowadays, people are reading emails on smartphones and tablets. If the subject line is too long, they might move on to the next email with a subject line they can read in the entirety. Think of the subject line as if it were a headline. If you can say it in three words, don’t write it in five.

Act now. If the email I am sending requires a deadline, my subject line is simple, “DEADLINE: Tomorrow.” That way the receiver knows there is a deadline looming and when. If it is a tight deadline, the recipient is immediately made aware. If it’s a few days out, he or she can file it and respond at the appropriate time.

A good marketing email must have value. The same should hold true of emails sent to colleagues.