Photo of books on a staircase

What should aspiring communicators study?

Someone asked one of the LinkedIn groups I’m in what courses an aspiring public relations practitioner should take in college. There was some good advice about writing and so on; others suggested related disciplines like marketing, or specific skills.

I came at it slightly out of left field with this:

Data-based story-telling is becoming an increasingly significant part of our practice… as is recognizing the flaws, inconsistencies and logical gaps in the data-based stories told by others. You don’t have to hold a math PhD, but I’d bet good money that in another 10 years, some fluency in statistical inference will be table stakes for communicators hoping for a strategic role.

There were a few other non-obvious answers: public administration and business, for example. That’s smart: building a foundation for understanding an organization’s strategic objectives means you can better position your communications work to support them.

What other courses would you suggest a fledgling communicator consider?

Photo of Jon Favreau in the White House, with a bowl of what are most emphatically NOT Green M&Ms

Rock star speechwriters

One of my favourite things about Facebook is that Jon Favreau’s community page lists him as “musician/band”.

Not just because he’s kind of a rock star (in, you know, speechwriter terms).

But because I’ve argued for a long time that speeches are more than a little like live music:

They rely on pace, rhythm and cadence. Pausing for effect, slowing down for emphasis, switching up sentence length, parallel structure—heck, your keyboard might as well be a drum kit.

They have a dramatic arc. Beginning, middle, end; question, conflict, resolution; a good speech has a strong dramatic structure that drives home the message and call to action.

They rely on emotional resonance. No speech works at a purely intellectual level. Persuasion (and I’d argue that every speech ultimately aims to persuade) is an emotional process. And the personal connection an audience feels to a speaker is just as emotional.

They’re bound to time. Neither a speechwriter or a live performer can rely on listeners being able to go back and re-listen if there’s something that wasn’t clear.

This comparison probably won’t help you negotiate a bowl full of green M&Ms and a Perrier fountain at your next speechwriting gig. But maybe it can help you to hear a little of the music in your writing—and strike a stronger (wait for it) chord with your next audience.

My San Francisco sketchbook

Our family spent the last two weeks in one of my favourite cities, San Francisco. (“One of,” Portland. Don’t get into a snit.) Our home was perched on a hill in North Beach, where you can’t walk two steps without tripping over a contour line.

A typical San Francisco hill, 75º incline and all
This being a family visit, we hit some of the more child-friendly sites, including the temporary home of the Randall Museum, which included a menagerie of rescued and domestic animals: a raccoon, chickens, ravens, crows, a barn owl, guinea pigs, a rabbit… the kids loved it. That said, I have a proposal for livening things up a little.
Childcare, Randall-Museum-style.
See the rest of the sketchbook

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart’s second-last moment of Zen

Jon Stewart’s farewell episode of The Daily Show wrapped with a fantastic Bruce Springsteen performance, which Stewart introduced with “Here it is, my moment of Zen.”

Twitter lit up, and rightly so; Springsteen’s song and the mass assembly of current and former TDS correspondents will probably be the most talked-about parts of the finale in the next several days.

But it’s the segment before Springsteen’s valediction that I hope has some lasting impact, because it got at the heart of what Jon Stewart seemed to me to be aiming to do for the last decade and a half. Continue reading

The (drawing) pen is mightier than the contract

This is my favourite news story in a long time. At a concert last Saturday in Quebec City, the Foo Fighters demanded that news photographers sign a contract allowing news outlets to print their photos exactly once, after which over all rights to those photos would pass to the band’s management company. Photographers would never see another dime, or even necessarily get credit.

Oh, and according to Global News, Foo Fighters’ management had the right to nix any photos before publication.

So how did Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil respond? Continue reading

Hi, this is your passion. I’m not available right now, but if you’d like to leave a brief message…

The best 12 words of speaking advice I’ve seen in a long time came from this article:

WRITE your speech from the heart. DELIVER your speech from your skill.

Your passion is real—but it isn’t always available on command. To convey the passion behind your ideas every time you speak demands skill and practice.


Filed under: Speaking, Speechwriting Tagged: passion

%d bloggers like this: