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Creating and Sending Ideas: Mouzon's Masterful Guide to New Media

Deron Lovaas

Posted September 30, 2013 in Living Sustainably, The Media and the Environment

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NRDC Communications Intern Adiel Kaplan knows how to use lots of new media effectively

I just finished reading Steve Mouzon’s New Media for Designers and Builders, which was no mean feat since it spans nearly 200 pages and is rich with useful content. The book, as its colorful spiderweb-like cover graphic implies, describes the various means of communicating and how they complement and build-up one another. And I learned this morning from my colleague Kaid Benfield, who is glowingly mentioned in the book reviewed it as well, that he and I were among a couple of hundred people approached by Steve for reviews on blogs or – as he refers to tweeting or other shorter-than-blogging medium – “microblogs.” Clearly he practices what he preaches.

This fact underpins the entire book, as he walks through in detail all the lessons he has learned about using those two tools, as well as online communities, discussions, email, “idea cards,” images, publishing, speaking gigs and websites to promote, flesh out and challenge ideas. Steve thinks we have entered the “age of ideas” where we are all increasingly free agents who must develop and deploy ideas relentlessly via the various new media.

Kaid included the ten tips Steve provides for use of all these tools, as well as his own 11th which I heartily endorse, so I won’t do that here. I will note that Steve also provides “top ten” rules lists for each of the new media tools he describes, adding up to more than 100 rules for getting the most mileage out of them. While some of the rules were familiar – “Be Visually Simple” with web sites, “Speak, Don’t Read” when giving presentations – others were news to me. “Use Infectious Phrases” when speaking is smart, since those can then be repeated and tweeted to build your reputation. “Leave Room for RTs” rather than taking up all 140 characters when tweeting is so intuitive and simple but no one told me that before. “Limit Yourself to Six Sentences” in emails, something he credits to Guy Kawasaki (whose book Enchantment I bought after seeing it referenced several times), seems very effective.

The book is replete with such useful information, and a huge number of links and references to people and resources Steve admires and uses. In spite of his advice to read through the book once and then circle back for a second perusal of the many links, by the time I finished I had 20 or 30 window tabs open in my browser! I enjoyed reading through them all, especially those from his web site.

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Photo from Steve's Original Green website, which is also worth a look

This is because Steve is a remarkably clear writer, who invests time distilling his ideas so they are not just “warm fuzzies” as he would say.  The book is a pleasure to read, and I will have it ready as a reference whenever I communicate with my tweeps and other audiences.

The sections on how these tools enhance one another at the end of each chapter, or how they “feed” one another are also especially useful, and something I will have to put to work here at NRDC. Steve's first chapter covers blog as a tool which makes sense given that content posted there should be a cornerstone for communication. I already tweet when I blog, which then gets automatically posted to Facebook. However, I don’t always publicize my speaking gigs online, including an unusual one this morning where I talked about the environmental benefits of modernizing air traffic control. And Steve might have even recommended that I tweet about fellow panelist talks during the event!

In short, Steve’s book is well-worth the read. A substantial time investment is required, however, and I think the book could have benefited from more editing. The short “Getting Started” chapter, other than the “First Two Weeks” checklist, doesn’t add much. And the chapters could be less subdivided, tightening it up more. In fact, in book format the organization seems ironically to undermine Steve’s sage advice on blogging and emails. While sections make for good scanning of a blog and 6 sentences ensures email readability, similar rules yield choppiness in a book.

I also hungered for more on the “idea card” concept, since that is new to me and I have difficulty understanding how it plays as big a role as the other new media described in the book. However, it’s possible this is of greater utility to designers and builders, the book’s target audience.

But these are quibbles. Designers, builders and others would do well to read and heed what Steve writes here, and I’m sure many of them are hungry for advice given how hard they’ve been hit by the economic downturn (the book says about half of those in Steve's field are out-of-work compared to 2005!). This is an outstanding contribution to the literature, and I hope it sells well and gets used to good effect by communicators nationwide.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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