Computer Talk: Incorporating Speech Recognition Software into Daily Tasks

Getting more done in less time. That is a typical mantra for technical writers and communicators. Perhaps you have expressed needing an extra hand; your voice could be that extra hand. Using speech recognition software allows you to control your computer with simple voice commands. Microsoft does not promote it much, but newer Windows versions contain Windows Speech Recognition preinstalled.

Enabling Speech Recognition

  1. In the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen, click the search.
  2. Type Speech Recognition.
  3. Click Windows Speech Recognition It will open a window where you can select microphone type.
  4. Click Next.
  5. You will be prompted to read a sentence for the software to recognize your voice. click Next when ready.
  6. After reading, click Next.
  7. Select other necessary options such as document review, and speech recognition enabled on startup. Click Next after each option to advance through the wizard.
  8. Once completed, the status box appears. You can use this to switch Voice Recognition on and off.

Using Speech Recognition

To start, say “start listening”.  Once enabled you can use it to open applications such as Word, notepad, or a new email. Once an email or document is open, just start talking to dictate text.

You can also tell the computer to open the command line box, restart or shutdown. When you want to stop, say “stop listening”.

Yes you can even use it to play Solitaire!


Here’s a Notepad file created entirely using speech recognition:

These are the words used to create it:

  • Start listening
  • Open Notepad
  • Hello notepad
  • comma
  • press enter
  • today’s reminders are
  • colon
  • press enter
  • press tab
  • business writing exercise one
  • press enter
  • press tab
  • promote blog articles
  • press enter
  • press tab
  • request degree review for graduation
  • press enter
  • press file
  • press save
  • home
  • to do list
  • backspace
  • delete
  • save
  • stop listening

This is a technology worth exploring. As communicators and technical writers we must keep our skills fresh and always evaluate new technology to add to our tool set.

Content Automation: Impact on Communicators and Writers

Content Automation

Content Automation Defined

Automation is a term we here most being applied to manufacturing; technology and machinery that controls the production and delivery of goods. Performing tasks previously performed by humans. Automation can be incorporated into various industries including communication and technical writing as Content Automation. Communicators/writers create a large volume of content for specific people, at specific times, on specific devices. Traditional methods of creation, management, and delivery can be cumbersome, time consuming, and do not prevent duplication of content.

Content automation the process gives communicators/writers a whole new process to create and manage reusable chunks of content. The chunks can then be assembled, tracked, managed and updated. When Artificial Intelligence (AI) is applied to content these chunks can be self-assembling.

Content and User Experience (UX)

Improving user experience is a top responsibility for communicators/writers. Accuracy of information and timeliness of delivery are keys to increasing UX. There is some debate on whether content strategy is a part of UX strategy. Some say no because the content does not live within an application. It is this writer’s opinion that content must be considered a part of UX simply because the users use it. Communications and written aids do impact success levels.

Clients or end users need to have the most accurate and up-to-date standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to the job they are trying to perform. For instance, emergency procedures for evacuating nursing homes during a natural disaster. These procedures could be different today than for the last disaster even if that was in the last few weeks. User experience with content comes down to correct content, at the correct time, and the correct place.

Start with a Content Audit

When trying to adopt content automation, the first step is to know your content. Perform a content audit to determine the current state of the materials. This involves how it is created, by which teams, the roles of the communicators/writers, current tools used, method of deliver, and the frequency it needs to be updated. The results of the content audit will guide your next steps. Once the content is evaluated, you can set goals for the next iteration of the content.

Power of Content Automation

When traditional static documents (Word or PDF) are created. This is time consuming, has a higher error rate, and the information is locked in the document and cannot be reused. When content automation is applied, communicators/writers create intelligent content or reusable components of text, charts, images, and video. Once a component is created it can be added to multiple documents; it is reused over and over. When the component is changed each use of it is updated automatically. These components become the single source of truth.

Let’s say your company is hosting a trade show.  You have created online, and print versions of the vendor showcase floor layout, session guide, and networking events.  As session presenters are accepted you add them to a location and time for presentation. John Presenter has an emergency and cannot make it to his session nor will he be displaying in the vendor showcase. He offers to send Jane in his place. If you are single sourcing/chunking information, you can change John’s name to Jane on  in the main location or chunk where this information appears, rather than to change the name on each online or print piece. Once changed, the information will automatically update in the online and print versions.

Figure 1: John Presenter

Figure 2: Jane Presenter

Impact for Communicators/Writers

The goal of content automation for communicators/writers is to allow them to focus on their strengths. Content automation allows these workers to focus less on managing information and reviewing materials. They can spend more time on creating original content.

Neil Perlin has identified 4 characteristics of content in Information 4.0 which includes content automation. These characteristics embody not only the words that are written, but the format, chunking, release, timeliness, accessibility, and responsiveness to context of that information.

  • Dynamic: Content chunks that can be updated in real-time. When information in the system changes, the content or the user should be able to trigger its build or generation, rather than the writer.
  • Ubiquitous: Content available everywhere, independent of device. It must be online searchable and find-able.
  • Offered: Specific content made available when users encounter an issue rather than all information related to all tasks all the time. Content is online, print medium is ruled out.
  • Spontaneous: Content triggered by the context. Meaning the orientation of the device being used or perhaps a specific context for an issue. An example is that information for de-icing a plane would only be available if the outside temperature is near 32 degrees.

Top Skills for an Interviewer

At some point we have all been in an interview as the interviewee. Perhaps you were interviewed for a job or for an article or a newspaper. Some interviews are great, you connect with the interviewer and feel as though you have gotten our point across. Other interviews fall short. You may feel as though you and the interviewer are speaking different language and you may leave the interview wondering what you could have done better. I have been interviewed more times than I have conducted an interview. In an effort to push through my comfort zone, I would like to become an interviewer. Watching those with this skill set conduct an interview is much like watching a great painter paint.

Lets break down the interview structure; the one-one-one conversation. The whole crux of an interview is to gain information about the respondent and their point of view in a manner that they feel comfortable enough to surrender their true thoughts. This holds true while interviewing a candidate for a hiring position, conducting a journalistic interview of your favorite writer, and when moderating a focus group for market research. The interviewee has information that you need for yourself or that needs disseminated to a larger audience. Your task as the interviewer is to get the information out, the truthful, usable information.

The Interviewers To-do List:

  1. Punctuality: Once the interview appointment is scheduled the interviewer should be ready to start at the agreed upon time. Do not be fashionably late.
  2. Prepare the Interviewee: Let the person or persons know what to expect. This could be the order of operations if there is a group being interviewed vs. a single person or simply how long the interview will take. Knowing what will happen will make the person being interviewed more comfortable.
  3. Environment: Select a location that will limit distractions. If the interview is over the phone or Internet, be sure to select a quiet place. The environment can have a negative impact on the interview. Dogs barking or doors slamming can be a detraction.
  4. Prepare Notes: You want to be prepared with questions to ask and notes on the background research you have done on the person and subject matter. These notes are to help you prepare and for reference if you need them but relying on notes to heavily can make you seem unprepared. You want to ask insightful questions about their vision, ideas, and goals. These questions are to be open-ended, but no so open or vague that the interviewer does not know how to answer. For instance, “Tell me about yourself” is very vague. Here’s a great question I was asked at my graduate entrance interview, “Can you tell us why you have selected Chatham University’s Master of Professional Writing program?”. As a person I usually choke when I am asked to speak about myself, it is not my favorite topic. But when asked about a program of study I find it easy to put words together. I can put a purpose to it.
  5. Let go of Your Ego: Even though the interview is a one-on-one conversation, the interview is about the interviewee, not you. As the interviewer, when you speak encourage the other person to talk about their story or experience. The words you use should always be taking the interview further, diving deeper into questions to gain more insight or information.
  6. Be a Good Listener: Practicing active listening will help you know when to dive deeper into a question or take the questioning in a different direction. Listening will also show that you are genuinely interested. There is no need to take notes during the interview, just listen. Asking the interviewee if they mind the interview being recorded will provide a method of going back and allow you to listen instead of taking notes. While they are speaking this is their chance to get the point across. Their answer to a question may help you select which question to ask next.
  7. Not-So-Awkward Pause: No one wants the uncomfortable pause but taking a slight pause rather than interjecting with the next question too quickly can allow time for the responder to add more information. Use the silence to draw out more information. Maybe they will add more info on the question or offer information on a new idea.
  8. Close the Interview: Too short of an interview may show your disinterest as an interviewer and too long of an interviewer may result in diminishing returns in the quality of information gained. Once you have finished with your questions, be sure to ask the interviewee if there is anything they would like to add; you may be surprised that they will offer information you did not think to ask about. Finally, be sure to thank your interviewee and be sure to help them exit the interview as you

Conducting an interview involves critical reasoning skills and imaginative thinking skills. Be aware of the details without losing sight of the big picture. Much like any other form of communication or writing, the more you are an interviewer, the better you will be.

Social Media Writing: It’s Not As Simple As 140 Characters

Social media is growing larger every minute, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Businesses are learning the importance of this platform and are looking for individuals who are proficient in it. Being a skilled social media writer is not as simple as it seems. Personal posts can be designed however you want, for a business though, there are certain strategies that are benefitial to making the best post.


Short and Sweet

Most social media platforms, such as Twitter, only allow a certain number of characters per post. Even if one allows longer posts, it’s not recommended to go lengthy. When a person sees an entire paragraph, most likely they’ll keep scrolling. Keeping it simple engages the reader and gets to the point! If you do need to write a lengthier post, include a picture as an attention grabber.



Hashtags are a way of connecting your post to larger posts. Creating your own brand hashtag is a great way

 to gain engagement. Hashtags are also a way for people to discover your posts. Remember to keep them relevant to your post and don’t go overboard. #No #one #wants #to #read #this. Not to mention, it’s unprofessional.


Your readers are your audience, and it’s important to cater to them. As important as your posts may be to you, without engaging your audience, you can lose their interest. Doing this can be as simple as posting a picture to Instagram asking your viewers to “caption this.” Polls on Twitter are also a great way to gain insight into your audience’s opinions. At the end of the day, social media is about connecting to others.

Be Authentic

Just as we avoid pushy salespeople in stores, we do the same online. Don’t outright create a sales pitch, ease the tone by writing in a joke or posting a picture. You want to make your audience click to see more. Invoke their curiosity, don’t tell the whole story, add a link to make them click through. Show you’re a real human behind the computer screen.

Even though this writing may be conducted online, it doesn’t take the power away from the written word. Knowing how to harness that power for your own benefit or a company you work for is the key to success. Now that you have the knowledge, go out and take on the world, in 140 characters or less!



5 Tips to Help Build a PR Resumé

Resumés are a “snapshot” of yourself that secures you an interview or makes you stand-out in the interview process. That is why it is important to create the best resumé imaginable to capture the attention of a possible employer.

  1. Make a statement

– This is not your average resumé, you can be flashy with it. The first step is making your name your logo.

  1. Design

– As a public relations candidate, your resumé must differentiate from others. This is done by making your resumé jump out with design elements. This is the easiest way to demonstrate your style and creativity. Don’t be afraid to be big and colorful to separate you from the rest.

  1. Attention grabber

– Wow the possible employer with an opening statement. This is your elevator pitch (a short pitch gathering interest in yourself). Once you have their attention, you can continue with the “meat” of your resumé. This includes experience and skills, which should be located near the top so it’s seen even if it’s just getting a quick scan.

  1. Customize

– No employer wants to feel as if they’re reading something that was sent out to 50 others. It’s easy to customize a cover letter for an employer, but it makes you stand out more if you do it with your resumé as well. You can do this by providing keywords from the job posting.

  1. Provide evidence

– Don’t just say you’re PR savvy, prove it. This can be done by providing a portfolio along with your resumé. You can also add links to articles or presentations you’ve created. Also provide links to social media as well. Everyone knows that social media is the new platform for public relations. It is crucial to provide your possible employer with examples of your social media expertise.

As a representation of the communications community, it is important to demonstrate those skills you’ve learned throughout your studies. You aren’t applying for a dull job, and by following these 5 tips, you can avoid your resumé from being thrown into the no pile.

10,000 Hours, or One Golden Hour?

10,000 Hours

Outlier: A person, situation, or thing that is different from others (Gladwell, M). In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells us that with the perfect combination of time and opportunity people can be successful. The magic number is 10,000 hours. If someone can put in 10,000 hours worth of practice at a given task, then he can become a master. Bill Gates and the Beatles are both outliers; they put in 10,000 hours, and they are considered masters in their field. Better than the rest and known for their success. In a time of crisis PR professionals don’t have 10,000 hours to work with, they have mere minutes.

The Golden Hour

PR Professionals have a mere sixty minutes to handle a crisis. This one hour can make or break a company if handled incorrectly. In this time PR should notify news media, social media, internal publics, external publics, and lawyers. With technology at our fingertips, we demand information immediately following a crisis.

Court of Law vs. Court of Public Opinion

A PR professional must make an important decision when crisis arises, will the organization be scrutinized under the court of law or under the court of public opinion? We all know that under the court of law we are ‘innocent until proven guilty;’ however, in the court of public opinion, we are ‘guilty until proven innocent.’

PR Outliers

Johnson and Johnson

Most of you are probably familiar with the Johnson and Johnson crisis of 1982. Someone (still unknown) laced tylenol with cyanide and killed seven people in the Chicago area. Johnson and Johnson is still studied in books now because of the way they masterfully handled the situation.


In 2007, Jetblue left passengers stranded on a runway due to snow. Even though the crisis was due to weather, Jetblue took full responsibility for the incident and promised to take future steps to prevent future problems.


After the owner of the Clippers, Donald Sterling, was recorded making racist comments the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, took quick action against him.

After the incident the NBA went on to create a “We Are One” ad.

Future Recommendations

  • Assess your risks before they happen.
  • Create a crisis plan (framework, teams and responsibilities, key messaging, procedures, internal and external contact lists, checklists).
  • Designate a spokesperson.
  • Create a sense of “we-ness” among internal publics (employees, management, interns, retirees, stakeholders).
  • Get information out fast, but always be accurate.
  • Never reveal assumptions to the media.
  • A crisis is interesting. Make it uninteresting by continuously providing information to the public.
  • Know your key message, and keep reiterating it to your audience.
  • Never turn a problem into a crisis. Fix the problem, but don’t make it bigger than it needs to be.

Say it With an Infographic

Some people are visual learners and easily recall pictures. Other think in numbers and need to see something quantified in order to believe it. There is also the “left brain/right brain” debate, where some people gravitate towards logical arguments over creative ones. It is always important to know your audience when presenting information. But with so many different learning styles, what if you can’t settle on just one approach? What if you are pitching an idea to a panel of senior leaders in a company that includes a design professional and the head of the accounting department?

Selecting one presentation style can be limiting if you have diversity in your audience. An innovative and effective way to present important information while appealing to different styles is to use an infographic.

What is an Infographic?

Infographic are visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly. They combine the best of all worlds, and the result is a visually appealing way to convey your thoughts.

Here is an infographic on an infographic! I pulled this from the source, Kathy Shrock’s Guide to Everything. This is an example of what an infographic looks like as well as cool information about the tool itself.

What Does An Infographic Look Like?

If you are wondering if this visual presentation style could work for you, here is an example of an infographic on the topic of coffee.

As you can see, there is value to using different types of visual representations. Combining text, numbers, and images in a visually appealing way will make readers want to pay attention to the data you’re presenting. You don’t have to settle for one style of boring chart, or even create a lengthy slide show presentation. Infographics make it possible to make many assertions about a topic all in one place.

How Can I Make an Infographic?

Here is a cheat sheet from Piktochart that shows how to arrange data if you want to create your own infographic. Different layouts visually make more sense depending on the information that you present.

Is an Infographic Right for My Presentation?

According to the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, an info graphic is 30 times more likely to be read than a purely textual article. People remember 80% of what they see and do, compared with just 20% of what they read. While research looks promising on infographics, it is important to keep a few potential limitations in mind. Some settings and topics would not be appropriate for infographics, so it is important to be clear on your assignment and audience expectations. Also, sometimes infographics can appear cluttered if they have too much information in too little of a space, or if they go on for too long on a website and force users to keep scrolling to get to the end. If your presentation style allows a visual element and you keep your facts concise enough, infographics can be a creative way to combine graphics and text to reach your audience.

Where To Start With a Grant Proposal

Grant writing can seem like a daunting process at first, especially if you are working on your first project. All foundations and funders will have different processes for processing grant requests, but there are a few basic things that you can do to get started that will help put you ahead of the rest.

Find Foundations Whose Mission Matches Yours
A lot of funders are passionate about specific areas such as education or the environment. No matter what your proposal is, try to find a funder who will be interested and passionate about your cause. You will be able to elaborate on this connection in your grant proposal, which will make it more personal. For example, if you hope to start a community garden, searching the internet for “environmental grants” or “community grants” will show you foundations with an interest in projects like yours. You can also try search engines specifically for grants, such as Grant Watch.

Explore 990 Forms
Each year, nonprofits must file documents with the IRS outlining their financial information. This form, called a 990, is highly detailed and will give you some insight as to what a foundation has funded in the past. Guide Star is a great resource for finding nonprofit documents. Once you find a foundation that seems compatible with your project, seeing the average amount of grants that they award, how many projects they fund, and the exact nature of these projects will give you valuable insight.

Identify a Contact Person
Each foundation will have different steps for processing grant requests. Sometimes a project will be assigned one staff person as a point of contact, while other times you won’t ever see one person’s name on any correspondence. Before you even submit your request, try to identify someone within the foundation to form a relationship. If a website does not list a point of contact for grant proposals, give the foundation a call, describe your project, and see if there is someone available to be assigned to your case. Having a connection with someone will help to streamline correspondence.

Map Out a Story
Every project has a story. Listing facts tells what an organization does. Sharing someone’s experience shows what an organization does. By bringing a more human element into your proposal, you will make it much more memorable than a dry proposal that is driven only by data. Prior to writing the proposal, think about interesting angles you can take. Maybe there is an inspiring story from someone who benefitted from your service. Maybe someone on your staff has a personal connection to your chosen issue and can offer a unique take on it. Having a story in mind before writing your proposal will help to guide you in a more creative way as you put it all together.

By investing some time in some of these pre writing practices, you will be in a position to make the most out of your grant proposal. Making a connection with the mission of a foundation, their staff, and your own project will greatly benefit your chances of receiving funding.

Social Media for Nonprofits: New and Innovative or Disruptive?

Nonprofits are using more digital means to reach out to the general public, but do they benefit from this outreach?

Recently, technology has facilitated easier online and text donations. Even virtual reality has been used to give donors a way to have more first-hand experience with a cause.  Many articles can be found that summarize the identifiable trends for nonprofit organizations utilizing social media to reach potential donors and current supporters.

To adjust for these trends, fundraisers must be aware of the challenges that technology brings and be able to navigate around them.

“The Digital Divide”
Amy Sample Ward warns that some Americans do not use the internet at home or do not have internet access at all. She encourages groups to examine the “Digital Divide” between generations and between demographics. When bridging this gap, entire communities can unite for a cause and become involved in their activities.

Nonprofit organizations can easily get retweets, likes, and use of their hashtags on social media, but support sometimes stops there. Recent years have shown many examples of people becoming aware of causes, spreading the word of them, but not moving toward any action. These groups are already clearly interested in the mission of the organization or support their movement, but the challenge becomes showing them the value in actually joining in.

Make it Personal
A way to make social media more than just a way to talk about causes is to make it more personal. Kevin Scaly, director of digital marketing for Smile Train, claims that individual interactions between and organization’s social media outlets and its followers can do wonders for its reputation. He thinks that by liking posts, responding to tweets, and sending personalized messages to followers, nonprofits are making a more special connection with their supporters. Engaging with them and putting more effort forth motivates interested and concerned people to join the movement.

Back to Basics
Interestingly enough, despite all of the social media and campaign strategists asked about trends in fundraising, Miriam Kagan has a slightly different idea. She noted that “less focus has been on the right ask at the right time to the right audience” because organizations are more concerned with keeping up with new technology. She believes that returning to basic storytelling and call to action is a refreshing way to make sure that the organization is staying true to its cause. Moving forward it would be helpful for organizations to work these basic strategies back into their digital efforts in order to blend traditional, tried and true methods with an evolving, technological world.

It is important for nonprofits to realize that technology affects the lives of their donors, and therefore also affects their strategies. Social media offers a unique way to connect with the public, but could also create new barriers. By assessing audiences and making appropriate choices in social media and technology, a nonprofit will be able to uniquely position itself as accessible while still staying true to traditional donation strategies.

Norris, Sean. “80 Nonprofit Trends for 2016.” NonProfit PRO. N.p., 09 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <>.