Monday, May 28, 2012

The First Step

I'm 55 pages into Deanna Zandt's Share This!  I've had two big surprises so far.  One is that the book has said very little about techniques or tactics for using social media: it's mainly about the attitude you bring to it.  I tried to summarize that attitude in my very first tweet:
Recipe for good conversation: Listen. Ask questions. Pay attention to answers. Contribute when you can keep the conversation going.
(And, I might add, be yourself.  Not necessarily your whole self, everywhere, all the time...but nothing but yourself.  People will trust you partly because you show you consider them trustworthy.)

Surprise #2: most of this is what I do already, face to face.  I would never dream of walking into a room and telling everybody, "Listen to me because what I have to say is the most important thing"--so why would I walk online and do that?  And on the positive side: I try to share information and ideas and make introductions that I thing people would benefit from.  Does it really matter whether I do that face to face, on the phone, by email, or on Facebook or LinkedIn?

What We Have Here is Tailored to Communicate

"Tell me a story."

Beginning in childhood, we all ask to hear stories.  They entertain us.  They delight us.  They help us make sense of a world that's been there before us and that's going on all around us, which we spend our lives trying to understand.  As adults, we discover new techniques for making sense of the world: measurements, statistics, correlations, theory.  Graphs and charts help us make discoveries.  Photos and artwork call our attention in ways words can't, and music touches us in places that words don't.  Still and all, when people mobilize to get things done, it's usually because we have seen ourselves as characters in a story.  The pictures, the numbers, and the words all come together and we see the present moment as part of an ongoing drama.  When the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," that was one of the shortest stories ever told...and one of the most compelling.

I've come to realize that in my work life, what I do best and what I like to do the most is to tell the story of an organization, to make its case, so that people want to devote their time, their money, their energy, their ideas to helping it succeed.  In my years at CAAS and in the nonprofit world, I've enjoyed many ways of communicating, from in-person and on-air interviews to written proposals, from helping Reflection Films produce a video about CAAS to helping Andy Metzger write articles about poverty for the Somerville Journal--and of course, writing this blog.

I'm starting a journey toward making Communications a bigger part of what I do every day.  Come along with me.  I'll share some of the sights and sounds and reflect on what I meet along the way.  Some of you may be experienced travelers who can give me tips for the journey and point out milestones as they pass.  All of you are welcome.