Guest Blogger: Shane McLaughlin - Would Columbus Recognize This New World?

This new world we call digital media is a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because we can get information on anything nearly as fast as it happens. Best Buy accidentally prices TVs at $9.99 and BAM everyone and their Facebook friends are crashing the company's e-commerce engines.

But it's also a curse because we are overwhelmed with that same information. Making sense of it, verifying it, even just keeping up with it, constantly gets harder. "Drinking from a fire hose" was yesterday's allegory…it's more like "swallowing a tsunami."

I have been responsible for communications to mass audiences at several FORTUNE 500 companies, including currently as the world's largest maker of cell phones. Getting your message out effectively is no small feat. But there are some simple things you can do that will help your communication -- whether it's a press release, company-wide email, executive speech or Website overhaul -- get through.

I call them "Shane's top five ways to grab attention." Here they are.

1. Be brief. Get in and get out. Make your point in as few words as possible. In fact, I've already wasted far too many words telling you that.

2. Be unique. If people wear ties around your office, your voice will probably not sound like a Silicon-Valley startup where they break for squirt gun fights. Think about what you write and how it reflects your culture, your industry, your mission, your customers…the right voice will come naturally and it will become uniquely…you.

3. Be topical. Connect with breaking news. Use the real-world story about Bernie Madoff to underscore the importance of the ethics policy. Use a big sports win to rally the sales team during crunch time. If people are talking about it, work it into your message to make your point.

4. Be funny. Humor is not always appropriate in the workplace. But it goes a long way when it's well done and can be a great stress reliever. I once wrote a phony story on April Fool's day about how the CEO had jumped ship to become a full time roadie for the company rock band. We got flooded with LOLs from all over the company.

5. Be action-oriented. This may be last on my list, but it's most important. Because it's not only about making people read your message, it's about motivating them to take action -- whether they are a customer buying your product or a reporter giving you the cover story. Make whatever action you want people to take an obvious, glaring point in your communication…if you are compelling enough, people will respond.

Shane McLaughlin is a communications manager and executive speechwriter at Nokia's North American headquarters in White Plains, New York. He has written for the Boston Globe, PR News, Best Practices in Corporate Communications, Inc. Magazine and a variety of Web-based publications. Previously, he was a speechwriter and internal communications manager at Nextel, working on M&A communications during its merger with Sprint. He is based in New York.


Solar Decathlon Week

I can't say that we have a favorable weather forecast for opening weekend, but positive attitudes and innovative structures will surely make up for some clouds at this year's Solar Decathlon.

The Decathlon is comprised of twenty teams from colleges and universities around the world including many American universities. Each team designs and builds their home months in advance of the competition. As the Decathlon gets closer, the homes are shipped to Washington for reconstruction on the Mall for competition in ten contests.

Each energy-efficient home will compete in the following categories: Architecture, Market Viability, Engineering, Lighting Design, Communications, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment, and Net Metering.

The DOE hopes to not only demonstrating the viability, potential cost savings and flexibility of solar products, but also promotes the next generation of renewable engineers and a greener workforce. For a list of teams, see the Decathlon site!

Important Dates:
• Oct. 8-16—Teams compete in 10 contests
• Oct. 9-13—Houses are open to the public
• Oct. 15-18—Houses are open to the public
• Oct. 19-21—Teams disassemble their houses.

The Solar Decathlon houses will be open for public tours 11 a.m.¬–3 p.m. Monday–Friday and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Please note that all homes will be closed Wed., Oct. 14.

As of this entry, it looks like Team California is ahead followed by Team Ontario. Personally, I'm less about who wins and just very happy for the public exposure to solar power and its benefits.

For more on solar energy check out the following resources:

Solar Energy Industry Association

Solar Electric Power Association
Renewable Energy World
Solar Today