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.

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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.

How to be a good critic

October 13th, 2015   •   no comments   
How to be a good critic

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:

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Getting out of survival mode

July 16th, 2015   •   no comments   

Every time you turn around these days it seems that someone is offering advice — how to make your life better, find purpose, accomplish your goals. This article offers a simple approach to actually making it happen. And it works! I can personally vouch for the efficacy of everything on this list, with the possible exception of the cold shower. But after all, 7 out of 8 ain’t bad, right?

8 Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 A.M.

My bilingual brain

June 18th, 2015   •   no comments   
My bilingual brain

This is not a scan of my brain, but it could be.

An MRI of my brain would likely show less activity while processing language than the brain of someone who only speaks English. That is because bilingual brains are fitter – requiring less effort to process words than a monolingual.

Several recent studies also support the multiple cognitive benefits of bilingualism, including the ability to tune out extraneous noise, flexible ways of thinking and, possibly, protection against Alzheimer’s disease.

I did not know any of these things when I began learning French, some 30 years ago, at the Alliance Française in Paris. All I knew back then was that it seemed like a Herculean effort, an impossible task. How could I ever be expected to remember the complex rules for conjugating French verbs, the gender of various objects, not to mention the vocabulary you needed just to get by in day-to-day life?

It’s amazing what the human brain is capable of. The mental gymnastics paid off. Now I can do just about anything in French without really thinking about it, although I still struggle with numbers and have a hard time speaking to dogs and small children in that language.

Along the way, I discovered there are surprising benefits to being bilingual. Here are 5 things I’ve learned:

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5 things blogging has taught me

May 12th, 2015   •   no comments   
5 things blogging has taught me

I am a writer. Ever since I was old enough to hold a pen, I’ve used it to put my thoughts on paper. From telling stories to selling widgets — you name it, I’ve written it.

As a writer who has honed her skills on just about every form of the art, I didn’t expect to learn much about the craft of writing from blogging. I was wrong. Since starting a personal blog in January 2013, my writing has improved immensely. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Blogging is a form of writing that requires a specific focus and edge. It is not enough to have something to say: sharing useful information with your audience is necessary but far from sufficient. You also need to share your personal point of view. Even if you are an expert in a particular field or niche, you need to get your point across in a voice that is uniquely yours.

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Punctuate or perish

March 19th, 2015   •   no comments   
Punctuate or perish

Think only sticklers and grammar geeks care about punctuation? Think again.

It’s tempting to view punctuation as something you no longer need to worry about in the digital age. As a writer who prides herself on dotting her i’s and crossing her t’s, I am here to tell you that this is not only wrong — it represents a crime against understanding.

In her popular book on punctuation (surprisingly, not an oxymoron), Eats, Shoots & Leaves author Lynne Truss shows us how a few simple punctuation marks stand between us and true meaning:

                                                 A woman, without her man, is nothing.

                                                 A woman: without her, man is nothing.

We can debate over which statement holds the greater truth (well, you can try) but there is no denying the difference in meaning.

Not to put too fine a point on it: the attention you pay to punctuation in any piece of written communication – from emails to tweets – says a lot about the value you place on both form and content. Depending on the message you wish to convey, and on your audience, it can be of vital importance. read more