Tag: Melanie Ferris

Let’s talk about acronyms

A computer with flowers, magazines, and a phone
Acronyms might be your best friend, but I’d like to remind you that they aren’t the best friend of everyone.

Oxford Dictionaries define acronyms as words formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as they are spelled, not as separate letters. Examples of common acronyms in Canada include the CBC, AIDS, and RCMP.

If your reader doesn’t know your acronyms, they are likely missing out on your message(s). If your reader doesn’t understand your message, you might be alienating your reader.

I’d like to encourage you to reduce the number of acronyms you use in your written and verbal communication. This will help your audience know they can depend on you to share information that is easy to understand.

You may work at an organization with a lengthy name and you may be thinking something along the lines of “but our name is too long to spell out every time.”

If your organization has a long name, I suggest that you avoid acronyms by using something similar to the following examples:

Canadian Public Health Association                                 call it “The Association”

National Institute for the Blind                                           call it “The Institute”

The National Public Health Centre                                     call it “The Centre”

If you are going to follow this guideline, it is a good practice to first introduce the name of your organization in full at the beginning of your communication, and let the audience know what you will be calling it after the first mention. So if I’m going to write about the Canadian Public Health Association (“The Association”), I add those brackets and quotations marks after the full name. This tells the reader that I’m calling it the Association for the rest of the document.

If I were writing a speech, I would write something like, “I am pleased to present at the Canadian Public Health Association’s annual conference. For the rest of my speech, I’ll refer to the organization simply as ‘The Association.’”

If you are determined to use acronyms in your writing, I encourage you to follow these guidelines:

  • Spell out your acronym at the first mention—for example, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Once you spell out the acronym, follow it with brackets that define the acronym: for example, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
  • Be consistent throughout the rest of your document with using your chosen acronym—don’t switch between CBC and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Use all capital letters for your acronym–for example, don’t write Cbc
  • Do not add punctuation to your acronym (don’t write C.B.C., write CBC)

For further learning about acronyms:


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A social media book for strategic thinkers

Book review:

Financial Times Guides: Social Media Strategy: Boost Your Business, Manage Risk and Develop Your Personal Brand (2018) by Martin Thomas

By Melanie Ferris

Strategic thinkers rejoice! This is the social media book for you. While many social media books look at why people should be using social media, this book asks: How can people get better at social media?

The cover of Social Media Strategy by Martin Thomas
The cover of Social Media Strategy by Martin Thomas

Boost Your Business is useful for anyone working in any organization that is going to be in the public eye. As the author says, “just about every company, charity, community group and public sector organization has some form of media presence.”

Thomas asserts that since social media is no longer a passing fad, it’s best to just take it seriously. He explains, “Social media is emerging as a powerful leadership tool in the hands of a generation of leaders.”

While social media use abounds, the author explains that most organizations lack robust systems and processes OR the resources to make the most of social media and minimize its risks. He does a great job of helping the reader think about ways that plans can help to minimize and proactively address the risks that come with using social media.

This four-part book includes tips/direction for:

  • Developing a successful social media strategy
  • Harnessing the power of social media to boost your business
  • Managing risks and measuring performance
  • Developing your personal profile and leadership skills

The author provides examples of different types of social media. The two pages of examples is an extensive list that gives the reader a clear understanding of just how widespread social media is. Some examples of popular social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Youtube. There are many other lesser-known platforms such as Trello, Slack, Periscope, ClassDojo, Slideshare, Glassdoor, and more.

With the sheer volume of social media platforms, the author explains that it’s important for organizations to “focus your attention on those social media channels where your stakeholders are spending the majority of their time or the channels that have the greatest influence on their behaviour and attitudes.”

One way to determine which social media platforms are most suitable for your organization is by doing a survey with your customers/users. Page 11 of the book provides 5 questions to ask your customers/users and suggests you repeat the survey on a yearly basis.

One important lesson the reader will get from this book is that you should use strategic planning when undertaking social media activities. The planning process includes:

  • Defining objectives
  • Measuring success
  • Creating an operating system
  • Developing a program of activity
  • Ensuring management safeguards are put in place to anticipate and litigate problems and handle crisis

The book walks you through all the steps for using strategic planning in your social media activities. It addresses common misconceptions about social media and contains great diagrams to help you plan, do, check, and be. One common misconception, for example, is that the youngest person in a company might be the person best equipped to handle social media management. The author provides plenty of explanation about why this may not be the case.

“My primary purpose in writing this book is to encourage you to think, to analyse, to plan, to ask questions before embarking on any social media initiative or making any significant investments.” explains Thomas.

I think he did a great job as I personally felt more excited about my own social media initiatives after reading his book. I also feel more equipped to work with leaders and Boards of Directors to help them learn more about how and why they should play an integral part of any social media strategy connected to their organization.

Diagram showing social media tips for leaders
The author shares these social media tips for leaders

The only downside to the book was that the book was published in the United Kingdom, so some examples or case studies may not be relevant to people living outside of the UK. The author provides suggested action steps and case studies throughout the book, which makes it a very user-friendly book except for some minor editing/formatting issues. I would have recommended that this book go through one final edit to clean up the text and formatting a little more, but it’s still worth a read.

If you pick up the book, be sure to let me know what you think! You can contact me here.

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