Hit reset

July 25th, 2017   •   no comments   

5 ways to hit reset and reboot your creative mind

I love summer. But perhaps not for the reasons you think.

Holidays are great but what I love most about this time of year is that everybody else takes them. Leaving me, like most freelancers, with a bit of a lull. It’s tempting to just play hooky but who has time? When things get quiet at work, it’s the perfect opportunity to give yourself some creative development time.

I call this ‘hitting reset’. Because after several months of routine, you may have lost sight of those goals you set yourself at the beginning of the year. You may need to re-evaluate if what you’re doing is working. Or you may just be in a rut.

Here is my full reset program for summer creative camp: read more

Bird by bird

May 4th, 2017   •   no comments   
Bird by bird

6 ways to write like a writer

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

Unfriendly skies

April 12th, 2017   •   no comments   

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

How to conduct a great interview

February 14th, 2017   •   no comments   

You have to be all ears

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

The power of one

January 20th, 2017   •   no comments   
The power of one

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

What will you miss?

June 8th, 2016   •   no comments   
What will you miss?

“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?

 

Distraction-free mode

May 3rd, 2016   •   no comments   
Distraction-free mode

Something beeped.

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

Do you dare to ask?

March 11th, 2016   •   no comments   
Do you dare to ask?

What’s more important: knowing all the answers or asking the right questions?

We live in a world where the value of questions is often underrated. As school children we are rewarded for knowing the right answers, not for asking the right questions. At a job interview, most people will worry about saying all the right things in response to what the interviewer asks. How many will dare to ask questions of their own?

And yet, the quality of the questions you ask, along with the degree of curiosity and interest you show, can say more about you than your best answer.

Don’t be misled by the old saying – “There are no stupid questions, only stupid people.” Like most pieces of popular wisdom, it is both true and false. Stupid questions are the ones you ask before reading the background material or without thinking first. And yes, it happens to the best of us.

We writers have to ask questions – it’s part of the job. We bubble with curiosity in meetings and during interviews, by email and whenever we talk to you. Clients, experts, colleagues – you are a vital source of the information we need to write that story, structure that presentation or focus the customer’s message.

read more

5 reasons to hire a writer

November 25th, 2015   •   no comments   
5 reasons to hire a writer

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.

  1. We put our thinking caps on
    You may have noticed that writers ask an annoying number of questions. Who is your audience? What is the news? Why are you communicating about it? Without clear answers to those questions, your words are just a bunch of characters strung together to form sentences. Writers put their thinking caps on before they start to write. They look at your project from an unbiased angle and ask all the right questions to make it shine.
  2. Because spellcheck
    No tool can replace a good pair of eyes and a sharp red pencil. Lest you think we writers are highfalutin intellectual types, let’s acknowledge the importance of editing and proofreading. This involves more than dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s – a good writer edits not just spelling and grammar but context. This will prevent you from making fatal communications errors like these.
  3. Return on investment
    No matter what the platform, every penny you invest in having a writer hone and polish your message pays big dividends. Perfectly written, engaging copy reflects well on you and your brand. And here’s a deep, dark secret: the services of a professional writer will not cost as much as you expect. In the grand scheme of things, writing is cheap. Far less than a rocket scientist.
  4. No one needs to know
    The reason they call it ‘ghost writing’ is that most professional writers work behind the scenes. Basically, we do the work and you take all the credit. PR writers like myself ghost for fellow communicators and top management, among others. We are a go-to resource when time and budgets and tight. And there is one very good reason for this…
  5. You’re better at something else
    Let’s face it: we’re all good at something. A few people are fortunate enough to be good at more than one thing. I know other communicators who are inspirational speech-writers and great presenters but who hate having to sit down before a blank page. Some of them are my clients. They come to me because my strength is the written word. Yours may be decoding data, managing a global team or selling ice cream to Eskimos. Whatever you do well or bring value to should be what you spend your time on.

I’ve got my thinking cap on now.