30 Great Random Ideas

Last week’s NAGC Communications School provided a wealth of professional development and networking opportunities for its attendees, and we’ll devote several upcoming blog posts to some of the lessons learned, case studies and tips for improving communications in the coming weeks. One popular session in 2011 was “30 Great Ideas in 30 Minutes,” which featured quick, random tips from attendees. We brought it back this year, and here’s what people had to share:

1. A great addition to a communicator’s tool kit is duct tape in all colors. Start with gray, black and clear.

2. When pitching to the media, keep in mind a reporter’s interests and passions. Research the reporter, what they cover, and understand his/her reporting style.

3. Track your agency’s TV and radio clips in real time; it will help you be proactive in spreading the word about your services and programs.

4. When looking for a giveaway or leave behind item, consider something that is available to you at little or no cost. A great example is a pinecone – a park and recreation or environmental agency could give out pine cones. Pine cones are free, represent the great outdoors and make a unique business card holder.

5. Looking for data and information? Open data for crowd sourcing and reports is readily available at www.data.gov. One NAGC member did this, and at no cost were able to map their site through crowd sourcing!

6. Make the subject line of your e-mail look like a text. That way, the key information is available to the recipient immediately.

7. The American Red Cross has a language bank of volunteers who can assist with language translations when developing emergency messages for emergency awareness programs.

8. Use pop culture references to create awareness for a cause. A great example is the Blue Pencil Gold Screen winner, the CDC’s “Zombie Apocalypse” campaign, which took advantage of trending interest in zombies.

9. Be sure to use one of the of the URL shortening tools when posting a web link that is long – popular and recommended tools by NAGC’ers were bit.ly, ow.ly and tinyURL.com.

10. Current research and web analytics suggests that posting to Facebook between 1 and 4 p.m. weekdays. The recommendation for Twitter is Monday and Thursday between 1 and 3 p.m.

11. Microsoft Word (2007 and newer) has a word count feature that appears at the bottom of the screen. Very helpful if you are preparing your tweets for the week. It also has a language setting for passive/active.

12. To clear up your writing, you may want to consider your “Fog Factor.” It’s an index that estimates the years of formal education needed to understand text on a first reading.

13. If your social media platforms are not monitored and interactive 24/7, consider signing on and off daily. Use a message that indicates when staff will reactivate the platform and be available for assistance. Also, periodically post a reminder that tells the public what kind of services and communication you provide through social media.

14. Use your agency’s internal messaging system to have an “ask the editor” feature. This could be where grammatical questions are answered in chat room format for fellow employees.

15. Consider a technology edit for your documents.

16. Ask a reporter to tweet your information even if they can’t cover your story. They often have many followers.

17. Section 508 Compliance: YouTube automatically outputs a transcript once a video is loaded.

18. If your agency does not allow a subservient Facebook or YouTube channel, work with the IT department to launch a non-forward facing channel.

19. For your subject matter experts, develop and keep current bios on file. Be sure to include something fun or quirky about the person at the end of the bio.

20. An internal communication idea – keep a list of people who have unusual backgrounds or skills (examples given were former athletes, published writers, etc.). These make great human interest stories.

21. Take photographs of employees in various departments on a regular basis to ensure that you have current photos of employees in your library.

22. Keep the photo library (the insider/technical term is “photo morgue”) in a safe place. It’s a great resource when employees retire!

23. Cross train your employees. At a minimum, make certain that the employees in your unit or department can assist each other in the event of an emergency.

24. Always keep your documents, brochures, fact sheets and reports in their native files, and make sure that you have the right software to open these files.

25. Make sure you have fonts for PDF files and for the proper operation system (Mac or Windows).

26. Back-up, back-up, back-up. Be sure to use a thumb drive or other external drive to back up your files on a daily or weekly basis. You never know when the next power outage or network failure may occur.

27. Career stories can be great media pitches. Human interest stories can have local or national appeal to the media.

28. Use Google alerts for some reconnaissance work on your agency or your competitors.

29. Repeat tip from 2011 – When you are required to wear a nametag, be sure to wear the nametag on your right side. That way, each person you shake hands with will look form the hand shake up your arm to the nametag and then make eye contact.

30. Get media training from the media. If you are on a limited budget, invite a local reporter or multiple reporters to come and present to your staff and executives.

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Samuel Lovett

Awesome list! This reads like a communications survival guide, which is exactly what you need in many offices. I’m going to keep this close at hand (although I’m not yet sold on the idea of leaving pinecones behind as memorable calling cards (#4), haha. That one might take some getting used to).

Corey McCarren

Cool list. #2 is very important. Make sure when the reporter sees your pitch they can tell you put time into making sure that your story is in-line with their beat.

Vanessa Vogel

I can appreciate #24 and #25. As a graphic designer, it’s always a pain to open up a file and see missing fonts! You then have to try and search for them and hope you guessed right! You also never know when you might have to dig out an old file or pdf. Staying organized and putting your documents into folders is key. I have everything divided by date and subject matter which keeps things organized.