Imagining a world without words

I’ve grown addicted to WNYC’s ‘Radiolab‘ podcast. With all the time I’ve spent in the car this summer, Radiolab has been a savior, making five-hour trips seem like 30 minutes. The show is similar to Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life, but a little less smug and a little more nerdy.

A recent episode on “Words” is nerdtopia for communicators like me. The one-hour show tries to imagine what the world would be like without words, and investigates how language shapes and structures the way we communicate and interpret the world. From looking at turns of phrase coined by Shakespeare, to following a group of deaf children in Nicaragua who created their own language, to studying how babies’ brains make connections between group of words (it happens later than you think) — I was riveted.

Carve out an hour of your day and take a listen here.

Also check out this cool video produced to accompany the episode. It took me until the second watch to “get it”, but it’s clever and beautifully done:

How to pitch Op-Eds to USA Today

I’ve spent this week in Washington, DC at the PRSA Counselors to Higher Education Senior Summit, talking with current readMedia clients and learning about the issues higher ed communicators face. The sessions yesterday were held at the headquarters of USA Today in McLean, Va., and included a panel discussion with three USA Today editors.

I snagged this quick video during the Q&A session, after a participant asked about how to pitch Op-Ed pieces:

There are some great reminders for PR folks: know the outlet you’re pitching and how they operate, be relevant and provocative, and remember that a story idea that doesn’t get picked up the first time around can often be repurposed or repackaged later on.

The latest miracle of news gathering is here!

Want to really appreciate how amazing it is that you can take and send photos from your mobile phone? Check out this educational film from 1937, which explains how photographs were sent across the wire:

It’s actually wildly fascinating (and gets pretty “technical” in the middle).

If you didn’t know the film was from 1937, it wouldn’t sound entirely out of place today when talking about snapping and sending photos on iPhones, Flip Cams, or Blackberrys to frame a news event as it unfolds:

“Every available development of science and engineering has been utilized to get the story to the reader in the shortest possible time.

It is only a matter of minutes after a news event has occurred before newspapers all over the country are carrying pictures that tell the story more graphically and completely than the printed word. Pictures sent from any location, by simply picking up a telephone.”

What once was old is new again…

Luring ‘Specialized’ candidates through social HR

I’m really fortunate to be in a job that I love at a company that’s a great fit for me. But so many people in a variety of industries and careers are struggling right now to find a job — and they also want to make sure it’s the right job. Likewise, companies want to hire the best candidates who can get the work done but who also fit in with the company culture. Often this matchmaking is difficult because each side doesn’t effectively articulate what it’s looking for — especially on the company side.

Sure, plenty of corporate sites have dry and bland “Careers” sections that give a few paragraphs on the company environment with (sometimes stock) photos of happy looking people in generic conference rooms. Then they dump the job seeker into a dizzying maze of job search queries (function, business unit, department, location, etc.).

If finding the right talent is so important to companies, why are so few taking advantage of social media and other avenues to help them communicate to job seekers what they’re looking for? It’s fairly quick and easy these days to add context to a careers Web site and give candidates a lot more information about what to expect.

One company that is doing it right is Specialized (Disclaimer 1: I’m a loyal Jamis rider. But the Tarmac is one sexy bike. Disclaimer 2: Team Saxo Bank rides Specialized and I love Frank Schleck). The most prominent feature on the Careers section of its Web site? Videos. Embedded from YouTube, these videos interview employees and describe some of the interesting benefits Specialized employees receive. You get a nice sense of not only what the company offers, but also what the people who work there are like.

What’s most impressive is this video interview with Specialized’s director of HR. She tells candidates exactly what the company is looking for and what job seekers need to do to land a gig there:

She answers the real questions that most job seekers want to know. What kind of people are you looking for? What do you want to see in a cover letter? What are the steps in the hiring process? How can I impress you in the interview?

Specialized could have easily listed out this information on its site, but the video interview makes a much greater impact. What’s more, the videos on the site can be easily shared and linked to. Maybe a job seeker realizes that the company isn’t a good fit for him or her, but knows of someone who would be great at Specialized. A few clicks and that person can post a link to the YouTube video to a friend’s Facebook page.

Companies don’t have to dive headlong into a social media strategy before they’re ready, but quick hits like this are a relatively easy way to connect with an audience in a more personal and engaging way.

One Question: HubSpot’s Rick Burnes

How can businesses use Twitter to drive leads? Rick Burnes of HubSpot shared his thoughts at the New York Capital Region American Marketing Association’s “Twitter for Business” workshop. I snagged Rick after the presentation to ask him this one question:

Two other good tips from Rick during the presentation:

  • Companies should create a page on their Web sites with a list and links to the Twitter handles of all their employees.
  • “Favoriting” positive mentions of your company on Twitter is a great way to assemble third-party endorsements. You can send the link to your favorites so that people can see what’s being said about you.

Check out Rick’s full presentation on SlideShare.