Monday, June 8, 2015

How to turn data into stories: 5 insights from top data journalists

Posted by Mike Lizun
Last week, Gregory FCA brought together four top journalists to dig into the power of data for storytelling. They spoke about how reporters transform raw information into graphics and stories and the best ways companies can fuel those stories – or create their own.

Gregory FCA President Greg Matusky interviewed Steve Lohr, author and technology reporter for The New York Times; Frank Bi, starting soon as editorial engineer at The Verge; Paul Cheung, director of interactive and digital news production for the Associated Press; and Erika Owens, program manager at Knight-Mozilla OpenNews.

Here are a few of the insights they offered into data journalism.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

National journalists come to Philadelphia to share insights on data-driven storytelling

Posted by Jake Tulsky
Panel brings together reporters from The New York Times, Forbes, AP, and knight-mozilla OpenNews 

The Power of Data for Storytelling, a seminar open to professional communicators in the Philadelphia area, is being held Thursday, June 4, 2015 at the Penn Museum from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. The media panel discussion brings together four of the top minds on data, how it is transforming the way journalists do their jobs, and the way companies communicate their stories. The media panel is sponsored by Gregory FCA and will be moderated by Gregory FCA President, Greg Matusky. “Data is proving to be the most powerful asset in how stories are told in our increasingly digital economy,” says Matusky. “The panel will explore this sea change and explain how data has transformed their storytelling abilities and what goes into creating a powerful data-driven story.”

Scheduled to appear on the panel are:
  • Steve Lohr, Author and Technology Reporter at The New York Times. For more than 20 years, Lohr has reported on technology, business and economics for The Times. His recent book, Data-ism, chronicles the rise of Big Data and its impact on our economy and society.
  • Frank Bi, Data Journalist at Forbes. Bi writes and works with data across the newsroom.
  • Paul Cheung, Director of Interactive at the Associated Press. Cheung manages a global team of visual journalists who produce multimedia and information graphics for all formats, including print, online and mobile.
  • Erika Owens, Program Manager for knight-mozilla OpenNews. A web journalist, Owens helps journalists, developers, designers, data geeks, and civic hackers create awesome projects together on the open web. OpenNews is a joint project of Mozilla and the Knight Foundation, dedicated to helping journalism thrive by building an ecosystem of tools and programs to strengthen and support the community of developers and data journalists in newsrooms.
Admission is free to journalists, communicators, and public relations professionals, as well as others interested in how data is now the prime communications asset of our time.

Who should attend? Anyone who makes their living creating and sharing narratives for audiences will gain from this two-hour seminar to be held at one of the most unique settings in Philadelphia. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Of course the media is going to cover a riot, and rightly so!

Posted by Greg Matusky
Wow. Where did this notion come from, that when there’s a riot in the streets, and fires are burning down a city, the media shouldn't cover it? Rather, they should train their cameras on the thousands of peaceful protesters and not rioters threatening lives and property?

The fact of the matter is, it’s the media’s job to report on threats and risks. It’s their duty to cover the dangerous and the destructive. And this time, they did their job magnificently, particularly CNN, which is taking a lot of heat for simply doing the difficult work we rarely see done any more.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

7 things great speakers do

Posted by Greg Matusky
Most people fail as speakers simply because they don’t know the tips and tricks of great speech-giving. They don’t understand how to grab attention, connect thoughts, establish credibility, and deliver the goods in powerful, unforgettable ways. So never fear, anyone can give a masterful speech by simply following some basic tenets:

Know your audience. How many times have you sat through a talk and asked like Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show" as his fake wife promoted products to an unseen audience, “Who are you talking to?” Great speeches abide by the same first rule of great communications. First and foremost, know your audience and speak to it.  

Open with a story. Confident speech-givers are great storytellers. They draw from their life experiences to connect with audiences. And, they often open with a story before even introducing themselves or thanking the host or audience. They use stories as tools to set entire talks. My greatest opening line ever: “Everything I know about public relations I learned from two twin brothers. One a pony-tailed extrovert and the other a barefoot introvert. Together, they taught me how effective storytelling can create a $185 million empire.” Got your attention yet?

Vector in on your audience from unexpected angles. What does "Seinfeld" have to do with Moore’s Law? A great deal when you are making the case for how quickly technology evolves. Jerry and the gang’s constant confusion would have been easily overcome in today’s always connected, Internet-enabled world. GPS would have delivered them to the bubble boy without getting lost. Cell phones would have stopped them from missing each other at the diner. A wireless home alarm system would have kept Kramer from burning down George’s girlfriend’s family cabin. Nothing seems more random and nothing is more illustrative than vectoring in on Moore’s Law for how fast technology evolves by applying it to a sitcom.

Pure energy. Leave the white knuckles at the podium and take the fight to the audience. Use movement to draw the eyes of the audience. Then punctuate your talks with powerful body language that draws in attention. Oscillate your voice and show passion and conviction. Energy is the currency of a great talk! Once during a talk, I set a line of six chairs down the center aisle of a venue. Throughout, I asked the audience to write out the six greatest challenges the company faced on cards that we placed on the six chairs. At the end of the talk, to everyone’s surprise, I had a collegiate hurdler, planted in the audience, rise up and successfully hurdle each chair. Campy? Perhaps. But one year later, everyone in the room remembered the six challenges and had spent the past year working to overcome them.

The sandwich works. After an anecdotal opening, tell them what you are going to tell them. Then return frequently to what you promised to tell them. And at the end, remind them of what you told them. The classic sandwich structure never fails.

Scrap the bulleted PowerPoints. Just once, try to replace each of your slides with a single, high-impact image. For laughs and giggles, I once replaced a client’s bullet that read, "the 800-lb gorilla," with a full-screen image of an 800-lb gorilla. Searingly memorable.

Practice, we’re talking about practice. The best presenters I know practice, and practice again. And once they are comfortable, they practice one last time. It takes a lot of work to appear casual and impromptu. After all, it’s all about sincerity, and once you can fake that due to practice, you’re on your way to becoming a remarkable public speaker.

So you got it? Anyone can give a memorable talk. You just have to know some of the tips and tricks we train our clients to live by while in front of an audience.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Rand Paul Loses His Wits and Fails to Connect

Posted by Greg Matusky
What the heck was the Senator and eye surgeon from Kentucky thinking when he broke the cardinal rule of spin and attacked the media? Get a grip guy. In this game, everyone learns early that there’s no grass to green by criticizing your interrogator. And Rand Paul only wasted precious time by lecturing Today Show co-host Savannah Guthrie on how to ask a question. Was Wednesday's set up more opinion than probing? Sure. Was that to be expected? Absolutely. The game in these instances isn't to be right, or to confront. Rather, it’s to deliver the goods, on message and on mark, regardless of how the question is asked. Save the sermon Rand Paul. What you should have done was:
  1. Don’t take the bait. Rather pound away at the message. Hit it again and again. Save the attack for your opponent, not the media. Get right into it: “Savannah, you raise some very important questions. Unlike the President, I do see Iran as a threat that must be dealt with and prevented from developing highly lethal nuclear weapons that pose tremendous risk to us and our friend Israel.” Get it?
  2. Never show your teeth or frustration. It doesn't play well, but even worse, shows a lack of grace under pressure. It was Howard Dean’s guttural growl that ended his 2004 Presidential campaign. Rand Paul isn't even into primary season yet and he’s already lost it over a line of questioning. I would hate to see him take on Putin or al-Assad after seeing what Guthrie did to him.
  3. Always know what you want to leave your audience with. It’s a basic tenant of media training. No matter the question asked, make sure you leave them with what you want them to know. Yet, that’s surprisingly difficult for many to remember. Need to prioritize your message? Do this exercise. If the President of the United States walked into the room, what would you want him to know about you, your company, your mission, or your passion?
  4. You gain little by ever criticizing the media. One of my greatest surprises across my entire career is just how thin-skinned those responsible for probing and criticizing others are when criticism is leveled at them. You gain nothing by attacking a reporter’s style of reporting. If it’s not a mistake of fact, let it go, man. And alternatively work to persuade and enlighten instead of waging a war on a journalist's style.  
  5. Oh, yea, it made a big difference that she was a woman. Finger wagging never works, but it’s particularly inflammatory when directed at women or minorities. It’s not a question of intent. Rather, it’s what women hear and remember once spoken down to.
  6. Really? Eight no’s? “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Listen, you've editorialized," shouted Paul. Now neuro-linguistic programming might be nothing more than new age Tony Robbin’s mumbo jumbo. But, Rand, eight times?        
Hey, the really good news in Wednesday’s Rand Paul melt down is that we just gained another how-not-to video for our media training seminars. Thanks Rand for reminding us how to never win friends and influence people.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The New Republic: Have we confused viral with consequence?

Posted by Greg Matusky
I got schooled last night. Bloomberg’s Charlie Rose was interviewing Leon Wieseltier, the former literary editor of The New Republic, the liberal journal of arts and culture. I had only followed TNR’s implosion from a distance, intrigued by its owner, Chris Hughes, whose net worth hangs at about $1 billion thanks to having been a Harvard roommate of Mark Zuckerberg and helping him to co-found Facebook.

This winter, Hughes faced a newsroom mutiny when most of his staff writers, including Wieseltier, resigned in protest rather than accept Hughes’ plan to transform the 100-year old journal into something more akin to an online technology publication with more audio, video, graphics, and revenue generated by snappier, shorter articles attended by clickable headlines.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How to land a story in Popular Mechanics

Posted by Mike Lizun
Every tech company wants and needs exposure to win customers, sell products, and distinguish itself from the competition. But what does it take to land a tech-related story in the national media? 

Photo (CC-BY-2.0) Keoni Cabral on Flickr.
I’ve been interviewing some of the nation’s top tech editors about that very topic and will be sharing their insights with you over the next few months. 

We start with Alexander George, Associate Editor for Popular Mechanics. Popular Mechanics commands great respect and readership, including a circulation of 1.2 million early-adopter, influential readers who can make or break the success of the newest tech products.

Here’s his perspective on how to win the attention of Popular Mechanics and earn coverage for your technology product.

Mike Lizun: What catches your eye when you’re looking for a story?

Alexander George: When you're going through hundreds of pitches each day, especially about new products, a really compelling image or video always helps. Besides, especially for a magazine like mine, a story has to include a photo or illustration, and if it's a great one, that's how you get a reader's attention.

Writers whose pitches we take often have a savvy time-specific element. A friend who did one on acoustics at outdoor concert venues for a summer issue of Wired was a great idea.

If there's a way to add something prescriptive to a story, to give some lucid, actionable advice, that's always appealing, too. You can talk about those concert acoustics, but there needs to be an element where you can tell readers whether they should go see their favorite band inside or outside.

It's basic but bears repeating: The story has to fit the magazine. Our magazine is trying new things now, so I don't mean there's a mold, but when I see the idea or I'm coming up with one, I need to think that this story is a Popular Mechanics story, not a Wired or IEEE Spectrum story. That comes down to the angle, as well. We did a watch guide for the March issue, and some of it could've fit in a typical men's magazine, but we focused on the engineering and design history.

Thanks, Alexander. Check back soon for more insights into what the top tech reporters and editors are looking for and how to tell your story so it can’t be ignored. 
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