This post is inspired by the poem ‘Spelling’ by Margaret Atwood, one of the writers I admire most. While she uses spelling as a metaphor for the power so often denied to women, the quote about words themselves as a source of power resonates on many levels. Read the poem in its entirety below.
Margaret Atwood is a leading Canadian poet, short story writer, novelist, critic and environmental activist. A prolific writer, she is celebrated as the author of works from Surfacing (1972) to the Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Alias Grace (1996). Feminist ideals are at the heart of her work.
I had the privilege of attending the 11th Geneva Writers’ Conference last weekend. It was hosted by the Geneva Writers’ Group, founded in 1993, an international group that brings together 300 English-language writers from 30 countries.
It was my second time at the conference. I earn a living as a freelance corporate writer and when I’m not working, I spend my free time…writing. (Not all of my time, but a good deal of it.) Of course, there is writing and WRITING, and the work I do for my clients, while gratifying on many levels, is not the same as the writing I do for myself.
So, I hear you thinking, sitting in a room full of writers all weekend. Dotting the i’s and cross the t’s together. How nerdy is that? In fact, it was a lot of fun. We plotted and pitched, assassinated characters and created entire universes together.
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
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have missed the fact that storytelling is making headlines:
Harness the power of storytelling!
How to use story to improve customer buy-in!
Top storytelling techniques to build your business!
If you’re like me, you’ve wondered: why is it suddenly okay to tell stories?
As a child, storytelling was frowned upon – unless it happened in the library, where you sat in strict silence, listening to an adult read a book. Or when you wrote a story as an assignment for English class. Telling stories was quite another matter.
“Somebody’s been telling tales out of school!” I remember being told when I ratted out one of my siblings. Being a tell-tale was not cool. Also heard: “That’s a tall tale if I ever heard one.” “Somebody has an active imagination!” (Not necessarily a good thing, judging by the looks exchanged between adults). The message? It was a short step from telling stories to perjury, prison and life as a hardened criminal.
So when did storytelling become acceptable? As an advertising copywriter back in the 1980s, any attempt to bring story to copy was tough. Long copy had gone out with David Ogilvy. Splashy art direction with short headlines ruled the day. As far as the marketers were concerned, the product was the hero of any ad; in retail it was often the price point itself. The consumer was the target market, the audience, and if he got involved at all he was often portrayed as the chump.
And if you need help putting your story together, be sure to contact Cognito!
Which path has your career taken?
An inspiring story about the choices we make and how they impact our lives.
Reblogged from Medium.
It seems fitting to begin with a story. I’m a writer who believes in leaving no story untold, so here’s a recent chapter of my own: how I came to start up an independent communication consultancy.
In April 2012, the multinational group I was working for announced its decision to close divisional headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. This was not entirely unexpected – we’d experienced some setbacks in the pipeline and, like many pharmaceutical companies, needed to streamline operations.
Change is never easy. The announcement that over 1,000 jobs would leave the beautiful glass tower we occupied in Geneva shattered quite a few illusions. News on that scale leaves no one unmoved. Being one for silver linings, however, I began almost immediately to think about my own plan B.
Attending a social media workshop at the university a few days later, I found myself uttering the words that had begun to crystallize in my mind: “I currently work for a major biopharmaceutical company but am preparing to launch a business as a freelance copywriter and communication consultant.”
At the break, one of the other participants came up to me and commented: “So, you’re leaving the corporate world?”
“Leaving the corporate world.” That gave me pause. It sounded so harsh and final, as if I were permanently exiling myself from a known world. “Well, yes, although I still hope to stay in touch with it through my future clients,” I smiled. But her question was well-timed in that it made me ask myself a few tough questions. read more