How to win the name game

February 27th, 2014   •   1 comment   
How to win the name game

In my former job working in communications for Merck’s biopharma division, I struggled daily with the company name.

Here’s the thing: I did not work for Merck & Co. — aka the American Merck, the bigger of the two and the one that 99% of people assume you mean when they hear the name.

My employer was Merck KGaA. Ah, the German Merck, people would say. Yes, the original Merck, its family owners would have you know. The world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. They didn’t really care that they were dwarfed in size by their bigger American cousin. They had the legal rights to the name everywhere in the world but in North America, and they used it with pride. And if people didn’t understand, well…that was their problem.

While I understood their position from a historic point of view, as a communicator it was counter-intuitive. We PR folk want a solid base upon which to build our brand’s reputation, a clearly differentiated identity and strengths compared to competitors. The confusion around ‘Which Merck?’ only served to water down anything we had to say about the company. read more

What’s all the buzz about content?

January 31st, 2014   •   1 comment   
What’s all the buzz about content?

Content is more than just another digital buzzword. Seems it’s just about all anybody talks about these days: content marketing, sticky content, how to write content that engages your audience.

But what is content, anyway? And why is it such a big deal?

There are different ways of defining content. As a student at university, I first encountered the philosophical debate around content versus form: which was more important to our appreciation of art? Later, when I worked in advertising, the debate resurfaced between us copywriters and the art directors who wanted to design an aesthetic layout with as few words as possible.  It all comes down to the same question: is it what you have to say or how you say it? The medium or the message? read more

How to be a superhero

December 10th, 2013   •   no comments   
How to be a superhero

As we reach the end of 2013, it’s a time when many of us reflect back on the year and ask ourselves, ‘What could I have done better?’

This presentation from Bruce Kasanoff offers some of the best advice I can think of. (Especially Rule #1) Whether you apply it to your business, your relationships or any other aspect of your life…the world needs more heroes!

Give it a read: it’s quick, it’s fun and it’s something we can all do to make our world better.
Click to view on SlideShare: How to be a superhero!

How to tell a compelling story

November 26th, 2013   •   no comments   
How to tell a compelling story

A story is the shortest distance between you and your audience. How can you make storytelling work for your business or brand?

With the rise of social media, everyone with a smartphone has a picture to post, a point of view to blog about or a new link to share across the digital world. The explosion of so much content makes it all the more challenging for brands to cut through the clutter.

You can create compelling content that will engage your customers and keep them coming back. Content marketing has transformed the way brands interact with their customers – and storytelling is an essential tool for building relationships.  What’s more, your business is brimming with stories just waiting to be told. Stories that are relevant, timely and worthy of sharing.

To do this successfully requires a basic understanding of the art of storytelling. And that begs the question: how do you tell a compelling story? read more

Message from the White House

October 10th, 2013   •   no comments   
Message from the White House

As a communication professional I admire good PR regardless of creed or politics. So I’ve decided to share a letter that the Obama White House issued to address the government shutdown with U.S. federal employees. Simply because it provides, in my opinion, an example of good PR writing.

Why? Because it begins with an understanding of audience. Continues with an emphasis on the 3 most important letters in PR (“y-o-u”). Because it tells the truth (or contains factual information). Because it is true to its brand, with core messages throughout. Along with ample amounts of the secret ingredient of all good communication: emotion. read more

Flying solo

October 2nd, 2013   •   2 comments   
Flying solo

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