Tuesday, January 8, 2013

After the speech ... lead with the news

Get more mileage out of speeches by writing them "news style" for newsletters and press releases. (Photo by Liz Cezat)

Leading with the news is one of the best ways to get a reader’s attention. When it comes to reporting on an executive’s speech, many corporate publications and association newsletters write a lead only telling who spoke and where they spoke – rather than what was said.  Then, the writer may throw in a bunch of background information, such as the audience included members of an ad hoc committee that is working on shoring up quality standards in the industry. (ho hum).
Who wants to sift through a bunch of corporate-speak before getting to the meat of the article? If written news style (typically how journalists write for print media and corporate newsletters), the lead sentences should contain the elements of “who, what, when and where” – “why” is optional.  
The “what” would be the most important take-away from the speech. Any good speech typically has one to three main points that the speaker wants the audience to know. The other main points can be elaborated on further down in the article. But they too should come before a wordy explanation of what the ad hoc committee does.
Think of an inverted pyramid, with the most important information at the widest point (or at the beginning of an article), supported by details as you read on. The very end of the article – the tip of the pyramid – should contain the background information that is nice to have but not essential to the story. That way, if readers don’t finish the article, they still have the main take-away points.
The beauty of using a freelance writer, such as myself, is that I know how to structure the article (or press release) to get the key concepts across in an informative and engaging manner. Too often, the staff writer may actually only be wearing that hat in addition to performing HR functions. Or, the staff writer may be too immersed in industry jargon to deliver the news from the speech in a fresh, reader-friendly manner.
Take a look at your company's press releases regarding speeches and see what approach is taken. Is it "corporate speak" or news style?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Find bigger donors through social media

It’s no secret that fundraisers keep dossiers on people of high net worth when they are cultivating them for a major gift. To speed up the time frame between collecting information and getting to the “ask,” it pays to link-up with or follow some high net worth individuals online.

Many high net worth individuals have staff or assistants who do their social networking for them. You may need to go the circuitous route: follow their companies, their spokespeople or their foundations. Chances are they don't have a Facebook page but check anyway. Some may be on LinkedIn. Their foundations or companies likely have a Twitter account. These high net worth individuals can be tracked online in some fashion.

For universities, alumni are a major group of supporters. If you are a fundraiser at a college, join your organization’s alumni group on LinkedIn. Glean information from alumni about their allegiance to their alma mater, find out how many received scholarships and frame a question about whether they would support a student through a scholarship. Make the initial “ask” in a conversational manner rather than a formal request. Then follow-up with a phone call, e-mail or personal visit. Don’t put someone on the spot on a visible communication stream.

On Twitter, search for: family foundation, CEOs, and board of directors. These categories could produce some surprising new sources of donors or advisers who work with high net worth individuals.

Get creative about finding your supporters online. Do you follow prospective supporters and funders? Have you made a successful “ask” of someone who you met on social media? Share your story.

A potential donor inquires about supporting the Heidelberg Project in Detroit. (Photo by Liz Cezat.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

13 ways to make life better in 2013

Irma Thomas, Soul Queen of New Orleans, performed rousing spirituals at Noel Night in Detroit. Photo by Liz Cezat.
These “daily living tips” can apply to both your personal and professional life. I’m a bit rusty practicing some of these, but know they have the power to keep me grounded and also soar. I debated about whether to put this on my professional or personal blog, but decided on the former to give you a sense of who I am aside from being a writer and marketing consultant.
May this be a great year for you and those you are closest to. Here are my top 13 tips:
1.     Love. It’s the most important thing in life.
2.     Fix things that are broken. (Your relationship. Your car. Your computer. Your house. Your clothing. Your skis. You get the picture.) The more things are left broken, the harder they are to repair or replace – cost-wise and psychologically.
3.     Find your strengths and skills and apply them daily. It will give you a sense of accomplishment.
4.     Eat vegetables. It helps ward off disease.
5.     Find a sport or exercise that you like and do it regularly. I’ve been swimming three miles a week for nearly 30 years. A woman that I met at the fitness center has been running 20 miles a week for 25 years. Your exercise regimen doesn’t have to impress anyone, it just needs to make you feel good & stay fit.
6.     Pay attention to your money. I’m reading Suze Orman books so I don’t fear money management.
7.     When things get rough for you, help someone else. Let people know you are having a setback, so they can give you some support.
8.     Smile at a stranger. It will make you feel better, especially if they smile back.
9.     Motivate one another. A compliment. An attaboy. It empowers us to do our best. I’m writing this blog post because I was inspired by Scott Frangos, who gave me an endorsement for social media on LinkedIn.
10. Organize your office, your home, your closets, your car. You can find things faster and get rid of things that bog down your life.
11.  Plan something.  A party. A vacation. Lunch with a business associate. A seminar. It gives you something to look forward to.
12. Don’t over think anything. Perform an action that puts into practice what you are thinking.
13. Find a spiritual outlet. For me, it’s God. But it’s also nature. I pray the rosary for those who are sick or in need of prayers.
Let me know what you think of these and feel free to add some of your own.