Few people are writers but everyone has to write, even if it’s only an email to accompany their CV. Whether you are writing a social media post, a project report or a cover letter to a prospective employer, you need to get your message across in a way that is clear, comprehensible and letter-perfect.
I write for a living, which means I can’t afford to get it wrong. My clients come to me for copywriting and editorial support on documents that need drafting or ‘doctoring’ after rounds of revisions. Also, I write as a hobby. In addition to my corporate communications blog, I blog about life in France, am currently completing a memoir and starting work on a novel. When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading.
One of the most treasured tomes on my bookshelf is ‘Bird by Bird’ by writer and humorist Anne Lamott. Offering ‘some instructions on writing and life’, it wraps up nuggets of wisdom in simple, down-to-earth stories from the author’s own life. The title was inspired by one such tale about Lamott’s little brother, and how he became immobilized by the enormity of the task at hand: completing a class report on birds that he’d had three months to write and was due the next day. Her father sat him down and gave his son the best advice any writer could ask for: ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’
Breaking any big job into smaller, more manageable pieces can help move it forward. The important thing is to get it out of the starting blocks. Because let’s face it: even for those of us who do it for a living, writing can sometimes feel like pulling teeth.
Here are 6 tried-and-true tips to get that job written quickly and professionally. read more
This is a cautionary tale — about reputation, story and social media.
The world loves a story. United Airlines’ misadventure in passenger ‘re-accommodation’ on a flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday is a reminder of what can go wrong when companies fail to remember that.
If the world loves a story, the internet loves outrage. And nothing helps outrage go viral better than Facebook, where a fellow passenger first posted the video of the man – a doctor – being bodily dragged from the plane by security agents. Later images of his bleeding head only served to fan the flames.
It seemed that once the story was out, it was like a train speeding out of control – impossible to derail before the train wreck.
But it was only once the damage hit the company where it hurt – in its share price – that the CEO finally issued an apology. A real one, not the the wooden excuse first issued by United on its website. Timing is everything, and had this statement been issued immediately, it may have helped avert the worst disaster. read more
Interviews are a rich source of content – for your website, content marketing campaign or background research. Asking the right questions opens the door for the people who matter to your organization to tell their story: an employee talking about what makes their job unique, an expert sharing insight into the challenges of your industry or a satisfied customer telling us why they bring you their business. Whoever is answering the questions, interviews give a human face to your content.
Throughout my writing career I’ve conducted dozens of interviews. No matter who you’re talking to – from CEOs to engineers, scientists, medical professionals and people-on-the-street – each interviewee has a unique story to tell. Your job as the interviewer is getting them to share it. Sometimes the goal of the interview is just one good sound bite; other times you want to scratch the surface and discover the deeper story. No matter what the objective, each interview is different, as is each individual’s personality, story, mood and agenda.
One key quality of interviewing that should run throughout the discussion is empathy. The ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes will enable you to ask the right questions: the ones your audience wants answers to, and the ones the interviewee wants you to ask. That, combined with a certain killer instinct for probing questions, is the hallmark of the great interviewer.
Conducting a successful interview requires some advance planning and a lot of listening. Here are five tips to ensure you make the most of yours: read more
When you work as a freelance writer, you quickly learn the secrets of flying solo.
At first it can be daunting. Let’s face it: there are things you give up when you go out on your own. Like being part of a team, having colleagues to cover your back, not to mention the perks of full-time employment – the comfort of knowing you will be paid at the end of the month.
Then there are the amazing upsides. There’s the satisfaction of bringing real value to a client who chooses you for their project. The focus and perspective you are able to provide while sitting on the outside. The opportunity to learn about different clients and connect with their culture. All while enjoying freedom from team meetings, office politics, and the ability to pick and choose who you go to lunch with.
Independence doesn’t come without its challenges. When you are accountable only to yourself, there are no excuses. And there are plenty of objectives. First and foremost, find work. Get it done. Get paid. read more
“This is one thing I won’t miss!” said one of my clients the other day.
We were going over the latest round of changes to a document she had asked me to draft. She may have been referring to the politics of approvals, a tendency by certain members of executive management to nitpick, too many urgent projects and not enough time. Whatever it was, it struck me then and there: there are things we love and hate about our jobs, things that we will and won’t miss when we leave.
It has been three years since I left the corporate world to pursue a different work-life balance. It was the right choice. As an independent professional, I am fortunate to have good clients who appreciate my expertise as a writer. They come to me with (mostly) interesting and varied projects; I provide them with the level of support they need – creative, strategic, flexible, reliable. I don’t mind the wordsmithing on certain jobs because I know it adds value to have a text read just right. And I also know that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches when a top executive wants to edit out the best parts.
What do I miss most? There are days when I miss being part of a team. Going for coffee or lunch with people you work with and appreciate on a day-to-day basis. I miss my work family. Even though we had a few dysfunctional members and frequent moments of frustration.
What do I miss least? The endless hours wasted trying to achieve things as a group. Meetings that often felt futile; we all knew there was probably a better way but meetings were part of the process. And the commutes – I don’t miss them either. I have a dedicated home office with a door that closes and a view over beautiful Lake Geneva. I enjoy the days when I go to meet with clients or stop by my business center but the rest of the time is mine to manage.
If you left your job tomorrow, what would you miss most? Or not at all?
It wasn’t my phone: no calls, no messages. Nor was it a desktop notification from my Mac – they’re mostly disabled anyway, and I’ve also muted all sound from my keyboard so as to enable distraction-free work.
It could have been one of the smoke detectors, advising me that the battery needs replacing. Or the dishwasher, letting me know that it has completed its cycle. It may even have been my husband’s sports watch, notifying him of a complete charge.
I wander around my home office, looking for the culprit. In my mind, composing a letter of complaint to the Chief Engineer of beep technology. Surely, in this age of the internet of things, there must be a better way? read more
Let’s talk about that project that’s been sitting on your to-do list. It could be updating the company website, planning a content marketing campaign or writing a thank-you letter to the team. You could always write the copy yourself. You know the brief and besides, it’s not like writing is rocket science or even graphic design – both of which would obviously require a professional. That kind of thinking is why so many communications arrive late, lack focus or fail to provide an intelligible message.
Here are 5 reasons why you should consider hiring a professional writer for your next communications project.
I’ve got my thinking cap on now.
Few things in the world of corporate brands evoke more passionate debate than a new logo. And few meetings are as painful for the creative team.
“It’s hard to read. What font is that?” asks an executive, squinting at the screen upon which the agency have projected their latest iteration of the new company logo. “It’s type! Not font!” something inside me screams, while I work on keeping an appropriately neutral professional face.
The name is too small, the graphic too big. The colours are too dull, or perhaps too bright. And just what does that swoosh represent anyway?
Brand meetings are tough. Everybody has an opinion and emotions tend to run high. At times like these I’ve seen even conservative financial officers and deep-thinking strategists lose their cool. All over a few letters, graphic symbols and colours. Perhaps because the logo is the most visual representation of a brand, it evokes more gut reactions and personal turf wars than any other aspect of a company’s identity. Other brand elements like name and positioning, arguably at least as important, are less subject to debate.
Logo, an abbreviation of logotype, from the Greek word logos, is a graphic mark, emblem or symbol commonly used by commercial enterprises and organizations to aid and promote instant public recognition. Logos are either purely graphic symbols or icons, or include the name of the organization in a logotype or wordmark.
The problem is that the logo is not the brand, although most people think of it that way. The logo is the visible tip of the massive iceberg that is the brand, 80% of which is hidden below the surface. Who are you, where have you come from, how do you work, and more importantly, think? What are your values? How do your customers see you? All of these combine to create brand. A new logo does not a brand make, although it can go a fair way towards helping you build one. read more
Critics get a bad rap. “It’s easy to criticize.” “Everyone’s a critic!” Or that old refrain – “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That may be true in many areas of life, but it is not the right approach to getting good results from a creative team.
The creative process requires criticism. Writers, designers and other creative people cannot work in a vacuum – actually, we can, but the results will not likely be on strategy. No matter how much they complain about the idiots in accounts or on the client side, creative people of every ilk need direction to make sure their work is on the money. In the agency world, this is called input, feedback or simply, direction.
However, there is a right way and a wrong way to provide constructive criticism. Tom Fishburne aka the Marketoonist‘s cartoon series about bad critics is bang on. During my years in the agency world, as well as a few on the client side, I have personally experienced almost every version of these comic approaches to creative criticism.
In a nutshell, here are a few helpful do’s and don’ts to make sure your input is heard and understood: