Carcillo on mental health: The beauty of the 1st-person narrative

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 8.13.01 PMWhen done right, the first-person narrative is a beautiful thing that delivers authenticity and impact.

I really love stories of impact and need that are told as first-person narratives. This means asking people to tell their own stories. It isn’t always easy, people don’t always open up the way you’d like – or deliver the message that you want.

In order for someone to tell their own story effectively in a first-person narrative, you must create a balance between making that person feel comfortable with you (and a camera), and asking them the right questions. Sometimes this takes time, other times – you’ll be surprised at how people want to talk.

Last week I found this amazing guest blog post on the (NHLPA’s) Players Tribune by Chicago Blackhawk Daniel Carcillo, writing about his reaction to the suicide death of his friend and former teammate Steve Montador:

 When I rejoined the team after taking a few days off for Monty’s funeral, I couldn’t put what happened out of my mind. One night on the road, I started writing down my thoughts on Hilton hotel notepads. Why do NHL players struggle so much with moving on from the game? Why are so many former players I know battling depression? Why does the hockey community ignore them when they’re gone? And why can’t we create a more concrete program to help them transition into real life?

Later on in the post, Carcillo sits in front of a camera and talks. The rawness of his emotion will grab you in the first 20 seconds. Here is a professional athlete talking about the mental health of NHL players, and his own mental health.*

As you watch this video, think about the comfort he feels opening up. Think of the open-ended questions that Carcillo was asked to get him to talk about his emotions around losing his friend, talking about how players feel when they leave the NHL… and how they got him to link it into the services provided by the NHLPA.

*Kudos to Carcillo for speaking out about mental health and the NHL.

 

‘What five words describe your personal brand?’

Cattle branding ironsLast week, a woman I know only professionally, asked me this fantastic question out of nowhere.

She asked me to consider people who only knew me through social media, people who might not really know me personally. She asked:

What five words might they use to describe your personal brand?

I challenge you to answer this quickly. Think only of your Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/Google+/Linkedin feeds… what words would they use to describe you?

Of course, always the argumentative one, I slyly answered (and yes I was attempting to buy time) that I was giving her a list of words I hoped  people would use to describe me. Here’s my list:

  • Integrity
  • Honest
  • Curious
  • Informative
  • Fun

I’ve no idea if this is the right answer, but I suspect there isn’t a right answer. But it made me think of some of the people I follow on social media – and don’t know personally – and for a few of them, I made up my own list of words that describe how I see them. I’ll bet they included words they wouldn’t want to see on that list.

It’s something to consider when posting to social media. Personal brands, like corporate brands, are created over time. Whether you want them to be or not. If you want to have a brand that has a specific set of lists and ideals, you need to construct your posts to support that brand.

(You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think the biggest brands out there aren’t already doing this)

I remind my students to think of their personal brands before posting that photo of themselves dancing on the keg at that end-of-year party.

After all, potential clients and employers can make their own lists too.

How we used Twitter to help our community to tell its own story

community camerasI’m a huge fan of driving engagement by getting the community involved.

I have always argued that there are more folks on the ground than reporters, and often they can tell their story better than any outsider can.

Case in point: The @UW_Cameras twitter account from United Way Ottawa, where I work. United Way Ottawa gave some of the agencies it funds a wifi-enabled iPhone (dubbed a ‘community camera’) and gave access to this twitter account. We then asked them to show the world how they are changing lives on a daily basis.

The photos are stunning, and they tell a story better than we at United Way ever could. Take a look:

Continue reading How we used Twitter to help our community to tell its own story

5 simple ways to be a better publisher

Industrial age print presses are no longer required.
Industrial age print presses are no longer required to get your message out.

Publishing content has never been this easy, companies no longer have to rely on traditional media to get their message out.

Whether you’re publishing content as a company or an individual, there are a few fundamentals to keep in mind.

1. Know your audience

Who are you writing for? This is the first and most important step towards designing content to appeal to that audience. Take the highly-coveted world of the ‘mommy blogger.’  Pampers has created ‘Mommy Corner’, with lots of parenting tips for newbie parents. The site offers tips on how to get babies to sleep through the night, what to do with your toddler on a rainy day, cooking with your child… and coupons and explanations of its full product line.
BONUS: Get your audience to join in, and create its own content! Lots of sites have an active community of writers, looking to get their voice out to a wider audience. Involve your audience in the discussion, and watch your web traffic grow as they share with their networks.

Continue reading 5 simple ways to be a better publisher

Watching a hashtag spoil

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake mock those talking in hashtags in this great spot.

More than a few times, I’ve found myself in the uncomfortable position of selecting a hashtag.

The key goal to selecting a hashtag is hoping people will use it. And use it as you intended.

Without the necessary foresight, a hashtag can go bad in an instant.

Case in point this week is Carleton University’s upcoming 75th anniversary in 2017, and its very public launch of its website and branding #DistinctlyCarleton. The University even devoted a full page to the campaign.

I’m sure the communications folks were hoping to read lovely comments from faculty, staff, students and alumnae when they tweeted about the relaunch:

Continue reading Watching a hashtag spoil

What to do with this space

No, not that kind of space. But nice image, Hubble.
No, not that kind of space. But nice image, Hubble.

I’ve been thinking about space for awhile.

Not the nebula taken by the Hubble you see beside this post, but more micro than that. This space. This blog.

What do I want this blog to be? For the past five years I’ve blogged mostly about journalism under the blog name ‘Journomel.com’.

(At the end of October, I’m retiring that URL, replacing it with the name you see at the top of this page. I know, original.)

Maybe this space suffered an identity crisis? After 16 years in newsrooms, I’m now a ‘Communications professional’ – someone called me that to my face the other day , so I guess it must be true –  and now I’m left wondering how best to use this space. For months, I’ve written nothing. Not-so-deep space, you might say.

But here’s the thing – I’m writing, editing, producing and storytelling more than ever.  My life has always been, and continues to be, about content.

I’ve been telling stories since I was two. Sure, at that time I was developing plot lines around my best/imaginary friend Cheeky, who was the most dynamic character you’d ever imagine. But from there I was writing short stories and poems in grade school, columns for the town paper in high school and I never looked back from the student newspaper office in university.

And who doesn’t love a good story? Who doesn’t love examining how content can make its audience react?  How simple letters/words/video/visuals can move us?

I’m going to be talking about amazing digital content here people.

That’s what this space is about.

The most important element of online storytelling

hookIf you haven’t got me interested with your your first sentence, I’m out.

I’m fickle, ruthless and impatient with online content. And I’m not alone.

Journalists have always known the importance of snappy headlines and crafting a lead that makes a reader want to know more.

That’s why most stories written are in an ‘inverted pyramid’ style, with the most pressing information at the top and less information (traditionally it could be cut from a printed page) at the bottom.

With digital distractions (yes, I’m looking at you social media) all over the web, it’s important to remember that your reader is only one click from moving on. Continue reading The most important element of online storytelling

5 fundamental things you must understand about Twitter

twitter-policies

Such a lovely, silly name for such an important social media tool.

In my last post, I wrote the five fundamental things you must know about Facebook. In it, I called Twitter a ‘sexy flirt.’ Some of my Twitter followers took offence to that, and pointed out how often I’m on the social media tool.

It’s true – I tweet a lot. Last night I live blogged/tweeted a fascinating debate on Canada’s Press Gallery, asking ‘Does it matter?’ It was great to get immediate feedback from twitter followers on the statements made by panelists in real time.

So, to give my close companion – sexy flirt that Twitter is – its due, I’m going to offer five fundamentals you must know about Twitter.

Continue reading 5 fundamental things you must understand about Twitter

5 fundamental things you must understand about Facebook

facebookI’m not denying that Twitter is sexy. Something about those 140 characters is so alluring. Perhaps it’s the challenge of displaying wit and intellect in a soundbite.

I love Twitter, don’t get me wrong.

But I also find it interesting that during conversations I’ve had with people (journalists, politicos, public relations/communications professionals) about social media, they think Twitter first. There’s no doubt that there are some key influencers on Twitter.

The New York Times’ David Carr recently said at a Boston University recent conference on narrative:

‘Being big on Twitter is like being big in Japan. You can’t use it as a metric of your actual reach.’

Twitter may be a sexy flirt, but Facebook is a player.

Continue reading 5 fundamental things you must understand about Facebook

We need to keep experimenting in journalism

This photo from the high school science class I really wish I'd taken.
This photo from the high school science class I really wish I’d taken.

Any good scientist will tell you that not all experiments succeed, but it’s important to keep at it.

It’s sad to hear that Digital First Media in the U.S. is closing its Thunderdome shop and selling some of its papers. There were a lot of quality journalists working on the team to centralize news for all DFM news properties.

Steve Buttry, one Thunderdome’s many talented journalists, has written this completely honest post on the demise of the project. In it he writes:

I knew the risks in 2011 when I went to work for a company owned by hedge funds. And I knew the risks in 2012 when I turned down an attractive offer from a family-owned newspaper company to stay with the company owned by hedge funds.

All this makes the j-school students I teach, the journalists of the future, nervous.

Continue reading We need to keep experimenting in journalism