Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Raise your hand, volunteer

Friday, May 6th, 2011
Raise hands from FreeFoto.comRaise hands from FreeFoto.com

As a writer, a sole proprietor of a business communications company I need to know where my time goes. It isn’t all spent staring out the window looking for inspiration for a catchy phrase for a subject line of an e-newsletter. Sometimes I need to take a hard look at how I spend my time and re-focus on activities that are productive. You may say, define productive. Can you measure the results of the time you spend doing volunteer work?

Expectations of volunteering

Do you simply compare the time spent to the rewards achieved? Remember what Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.”

What are your expectations of volunteer activities? Are you looking for business, personal enrichment, knowledge, social interaction, recognition, work experience?

Do you want to share knowledge, help others, promote a good cause, nurture other businesses, give back to your community, raise funds for a charity, enrich your spiritual life?

Volunteers are the critical core of success of many organizations. Putting a dollar value on volunteer activities takes away the real meaning. Motivated volunteers hold our community together and allow useful organizations to exist and continue to provide useful services.

Where do you volunteer?

I do most of my work in my office, by myself, as I try to create content for websites and newsletters. When a volunteer activity comes up, I usually jump at the chance to get out of my office and I cherish the opportunity to talk to people face to face.

As a volunteer ambassador with the Brampton Board of Trade I can help businesses make connections with each other at After Hours Events. My principle has always been to give. Many years ago when I started my first business, I found that other business owners provided me with helpful advice and connections. I hope I can do the same as an ambassador. It’s not about selling my business services it’s about helping others make connections.

Since the early or mid 1990s I have been a member of HPCA (the Halton Peel Communications Association.) For this past year I have been on the 5-person executive serving as the Meeting Coordinator. My job is to organize monthly events with speakers or activities that provide professional development for a group of sole proprietors who are writers, editors, podcasters, videographers, PR professionals, photographers, graphic designers and web developers.

HPCA is such a friendly group of talented people. The members are an endless source of information and help. The time commitment is insignificant when compared to what this group gives back in knowledge, collaboration, and camaraderie. In the course of conversations with other board members, I pick up all sorts of helpful information on the latest tools and technology and strategies to handle this ever-changing world of communication.

In addition to these business-related volunteer contributions, I spend a similar amount of time on church committees and activities. This deep commitment is a very personal one that brings me satisfaction because I feel I am helping where I can. All I have, (and that is GREAT deal) comes from God above, and I am committed to giving back as best I can.

Many hands

I still do have time to run my business and my household. Sometimes it is hard to keep a proper balance and I force myself to make tough choices. In a volunteer context, the old phrase, “many hands make light work” holds true.

It’s my hope that more business owners would step up and volunteer when a need is expressed. If you are like me, by volunteering, you’ll uncover talents that you have not yet allowed yourself to exercise. You’ll have fun, you’ll laugh and yes, sometimes you’ll cry. You’ll meet new and inspiring people. You’ll experience a sense of accomplishment that cannot be measured and cannot be evaluated with price tag.

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Power of words in business

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Good or bad communications, how we use words, determine our success in business and at home. We all send messages in one way or another to employees, stakeholders, co-workers, family and friends. As savvy communicators we connect on a professional and social level and are aware of the signals our words and body language send. The way we communicate is changing all the time. New words are created. Grammar rules evolve. New communication tools are created. Website content, advertisements and videos need to use just the right words to tell our stories in the proper tone, and voice to get the results we want.

Today, text messages are fired off rapidly and responses come back only seconds later. We now use a variety of short forms, abbreviated words and symbols. It is a new language of sorts. I need to study it some more. Some of the more common initialisms are quite logical when you think about them. Others take a bit of thought. Some are profane and not particularly articulate.

Are we losing the ability to eloquently express ourselves? Are we limiting our vocabulary by resorting to these short forms?

A couple of months ago I got an iPhone and I am still trying to get used to the sensitive touchscreen. My fat fingers and the auto correct function can send some pretty crazy messages. The web is full of embarrassing auto correct gaffs. The tool (iPhone) is handy, and has some great apps. Until my fingers get more adept, I will use the touchscreen keyboard with caution.

Using language effectively allows us to deliver messages that in a clear, concise and often beautiful way. We don’t have to use flowery and verbose sentences. We need to know how and when to use the right words. When we can articulate our thoughts and feelings in words, we communicate and we get results.  As Albert Einstein said, “make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

A colleague, David Hunter pointed me to this YouTube video that demonstrates the power of using the right words – real words, not abbreviations.

Are you challenged with the new text message abbreviations? Does your audience understand them?

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Research, research, research – a mantra for writers

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

My first job after university was with the Nova Scotia Museum as a Curatorial Assistant. In that job, research was a part of my daily activity. When I wasn’t cataloguing artifacts, I was conducting research in the archives, or in the records of local historical societies. By using diaries, contemporary newspapers, probate records and correspondence we were able to provide background information for gallery exhibits or to determine appropriate furnishings for a particular historic house or what grew in the garden. I loved the work.

The challenge was to find out all we could about someone, or something and fit that information into a context for a specific audience. In my business today, I use the same research principles when writing articles, white papers, case studies, or website content for specific target markets.

In the museum context, I wrote material for the various age groups of exhibit visitors. Children aged 6-10 years, teens and adults. I also wrote a “Coles Notes” version of the life in 18th century Nova Scotia to provide some context for historic house guides for sites such as Ross-Thomson House in Shelburne, N.S. I also wrote for a more academic audience with an entry in Volume VI of the Dictionary of Canadian Bilography.

Research was the basis for all that writing and research is the basis of all the writing that I do now. The resources are no longer musty handwritten documents that require deciphering. The skills of understanding what the audience/customer needs, asking questions, seeking out information, keeping notes, organizing and analyzing research material are the same.

Today’s resources

Most of my work today is writing website content. The main information resource is often a one-on-one interview with my customer. At this discovery stage, I digitally record interviews so that I can be sure to grasp the important technical vocabulary and nuances. On second listening the recording often provides new insight. I also take notes but the recording fills in a gap or two.

YouTube provides an immense resource on every imaginable topic. But you must consider the source, its authority, motivation and reliability.

Blogs also provide a great deal of information and advice. I sometimes think of blogs and comments on blogs as the very worst of open line radio talk shows. Everyone has a voice (including me) and not everyone knows of what he speaks! Blogs do give voice to previously unheard contributors. We make careful choices on our listening selection. Every good researcher considers his source.

Similarly, historical research is limited to the documents that have survived. We strive to determine the relevance of the source. Sometimes we don’t know if the writers of these old documents were the nutbars of their time.

In historical research, a primary source such as a diary is always considered preferable. The diary of Anne Frank, for example is a stunning first hand account that delivers colour and context in a way that a history textbook cannot.

Blogs are the 21st century version of a diary and they can be useful sources of information, opinion and context.

WikiHow and Wikipedia also provide helpful backgrounder information on every topic. Do they speak with the same authority as Encyclopedia Britannica once did? This everyman authentication gives a broader interpretation of the world we live in.

Google search is probably the first place people go to find information. The quantity and quality of information is overwhelming. Organizing the information that you find can be a challenge. Bookmarking tools when used properly are a huge help.

Social bookmarking

Sites such as Del.icio.us  can provide useful links to new-to-me information. For a helpful tutorial watch Donna Papacosta’s video about using Del.icio.us to advantage.

Get organized

The two-fold benefit of finding resources that other people are using and organizing your own bookmarks make Del.icio.us a powerful tool.

Uncover the nuggets and write

Research uncovers the nuggets of information that will make your writing glow. Information collected during the research phase provides the foundation for your writing. Research tells you how much more you need to research. That is always the challenge. You need to know when to start writing.

How do you conduct research? What tools do you find the most helpful? How do you organize your notes, interviews, bookmarks?

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Collaboration is essential for success

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

No matter the size of your company, it is difficult to work alone and still succeed. As a start-up business or as an established freelance writer, we all have to work, consult and collaborate with others to complete projects. Who is in your network that can help you with the next assignment? Who is in the next cubicle or in the office down the hall with knowledge or skills to help you? What is it that you do best and how can you use your time to the best advantage?

A puzzling collaboration

I once conducted a face-to-face communication seminar for front line managers at a company with about 150 employees. We had three or four teams of managers at the session. We started out discussing the importance of teamwork and pride of accomplishment. Each team picked a name to help them boost team identity. I gave each team a bag full of jigsaw puzzle pieces and told them they had seven minutes to solve all the puzzles. What I did not tell them was that each puzzle had a couple of missing pieces and that the other teams the missing pieces.  Unless they collaborated with the other teams, no one could complete a puzzle.

It was fascinating to watch how the exercise unfolded and to slowly see the light dawn. One team realized that they couldn’t solve the puzzle and started looking around the room. They would have to ask another team for help. ONLY by pooling all their resources were they able to solve all the puzzles. Perhaps it was a trite way to make a point. Throughout the day the message was reinforced. Communicate and collaborate for success. Eventually they recognized that in their everyday work as well, not just in this exercise, they needed to engage with others who had essential roles to play.

Collaborative partners supplement your expertise

In my own business providing writing services, my most profitable projects have been ones in which I collaborated with other professionals who complement my skill set.  I am a writer and I don’t do page layout, unless the client wants the final product to look like my eighth grade art project. When design and page layout are needed I call a professional graphic designer to provide the quality product my client wants.

I am a writer of web content and I don’t do website design or development. When a client needs web design I call in a professional web site designer to do the job. Or, when web designers have clients that need web content written, they call me. It works both ways.

Collaborators learn from each other

Working on a common challenge with people who are willing and open to share ideas and solutions can be powerful and profitable. I have found that giving and receiving feedback helps me to identify ways to improve and change. It makes us all better at what we do.

Where can you add value to your client’s projects? When is it time to call in reinforcements to meet a deadline or to complete a task where your expertise is lacking? Can you set up a team of experts to enable you to submit proposals for bigger projects?

You’ll have an opportunity to hear about successful collaborations and learn about the depth of expertise in the membership of HPCA at our March 22 Bring and Brag Event.

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Top Ten Reasons Clients Need To Outsource Writing Services

Monday, January 31st, 2011

At a recent networking group meeting I shared these situations and phrases that I have found to be indicators that a company needs writing services.

1. The to-do list is getting unmanageable.

When a small business owner gets overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks, writing new marketing material, a new testimonial story,  updating of the website or writing the customer newsletter usually get pushed off the to-do list.

Business owners can concentrate on running the business when they outsource their writing tasks. Professional writers are skilled at coordinating communication tasks, conducting interviews, collecting the required information to distill messages and write the story for the targeted purpose. They can do the job efficiently.

2. I’ve never written anything like this before.

You may have some experience in writing a specific type of content but sometimes business owners fail to recognize the differences in various writing styles. Brochures, web content, white papers, case studies, media releases, corporate video scripts, advertisements, e-newsletters each require a different style and format. A professional writer knows where to start and how to finish the task with clear, concise messaging aimed at the targeted market and in the appropriate style.

3. My first language is not English.

When a business targets a Canadian English audience, they may need some help with editing text to make sure the message is clear, and uses local phrasing and terminology.

4. I’m too close to this subject.

Familiar subject matter gets in the way of defining the real message. The saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees” illustrates your dilemma. You see all the little details, every fern frond and every pine needle without seeing the bigger picture of the forest. A professional writer can bring a fresh set of eyes to help define or find your message and write it for a particular audience. A proofreader can find all the typos that you cannot see because you are too close the material.

5. It’s a big project but it’s still six months away.

When you start a large project, such as a website redesign or a trade show, deadlines seem to be in the distant future. As a result, your everyday work always pushes the big projects back.

A professional writer brought in at the beginning can handle the writing tasks ensuring the project is done well without the stress of trying to do it all at the last minute.

6. We need some planning time but we still have to get the newsletter out.

I actually had a client ask me to step in to finish some writing assignments so that they could take some blue sky moments with staff for a strategic planning session. They came back with plans for the next year and I had the assignments completed. Calling in a writer to take care of the deadline driven projects was an effective use of their resources.

7. I’m bored with this stuff.

When you are simply bored with the material you’re working on generating any kind of reasonable copy is a major challenge. You have no new ideas and you need a fresh perspective. A professional writer can bring the creative burst that you need.

8. It’s time for some fresh ideas.

Professional writers are skilled at thinking outside the cubicle. We work with a variety of clients in a variety of industries. As a result, we are exposed to fresh ideas and creative people who help to generate new points of view, new directions. The enthusiasm that we bring to our clients is contagious.

9. What is my unique message?

You do have a unique story to tell about your product or service and it needs to be told in an enthusiastic and believable way. A professional writer will ask enough of the right questions to draw out the unique message and tell your story in a way that is suitable for print, the web, podcast or video. The underlying message may be the same but the words and style will vary by the method of delivery. You need an independent writing professional to craft your message.

10. We don’t have anyone we can assign full time to this project.

Businesses need flexibility. Writers work by professional standards on an as-needed basis or by project. Generally, we are flexible with time. This is essential to meet our customers’ deadlines. We constantly push boundaries and strive to deliver value to customers. Customers who see value in the work of freelancers are satisfied customers. Satisfied customers provide referrals and that’s the best business we can get.

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Consistent messages generate desired action

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Is it a lever, a button, a knob, a handle, a toggle, or a switch? Do you pull it; push it; press it; activate it? Does it matter? When I was editing an instruction manual, I found all these terms: turn the knob, activate the switch, pull the lever, and flip the toggle. In an attempt to be even more creative, the writer then instructed the reader to “push the handle.” Facing a control panel with multiple buttons, I was confused. No doubt, a first-time operator would be looking for six different locations to perform each of these tasks. I talked to the equipment designer and determined that each of these instructions referred to the identical action using the same switch.

Consistency is essential to writing clear instructions. You just confuse the issue by changing the words. Sometimes we are just not aware that we are creating the confusion. The instruction may have been clear to the designer but an operator would have been stymied!  Here are some suggestions for improving instruction manuals. These principles have broader applications too. Keep them in mind for product literature, sales presentations and web content.

Set up a naming system. For technical products, it is a common practice to establish nomenclature for the product. This is simply a system of assigning names. Manuals often include a diagram or schematic that illustrates each component of the machine. Once you have a list of names and definitions, then it’s essential to use the names consistently. This is not the time to get creative. Repetition is important. Use the same set of words to describe the same action, every time.

Translators who work on your instructions will thank you for your consistent use of the vocabulary.

Writing a style guide or glossary of terms can provide a useful foundation for branding your marketing material and website content. By using this tool, you can ensure that you present your products and services in a consistent way so that your customers learn to use your branding style and vocabulary. The same terminology should be used in your spec sheets and your sales presentations to reinforce your brand. Ensure that everyone in your organization refers to the product by its appropriate and approved name.

Use the active voice. This is especially important for instruction manuals and is a key feature of successful business writing.

Instructions tell the operator what to do. “The switch should then be activated” uses the passive voice and uses 35 characters. It is weak, indirect and uses more words than necessary.

“Turn on the switch,” uses the active voice. It is more direct and compelling and uses only 18 characters.

Put first things first. On this same project, there was a list of eight sequential instructions. This is the way it should be. Each action logically follows in sequence from beginning to end. But wait a minute, at the very end of the list it says, “Before you start Step 1, ensure that you …”  To avoid confusion, and in some cases serious injury put first things first. It is unrealistic to expect the operator to read all the instructions before he starts Step 1.

Know your audience

When you have a really clear picture of your customer, end user, or reader you will know the words and phrases that your audience will understand.

Your message needs to be concise and easy to understand. While this is important for instruction manuals, it is especially true for web content. Headlines and bulleted lists are the essential way to deliver content. Similar guidelines hold true for brochures, technical literature, white papers and instruction manuals. Forget about the technogab and make it clear, concise and consistent.

How do you prepare instructions? What format works for you?

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Critique my work, please.

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

As a freelance writer, I strive to meet my customers’ expectations, deadlines and budget. Who would say anything else? It would be self-defeating to say that I try to miss deadlines, go over budget and deliver sloppy copy. How do you persuade customers to provide feedback that you can use to improve your writing assignments? Generally speaking, the corporate world does not have editors who tell you why your story does not work. I think that most freelancers would appreciate receiving constructive customer feedback – feedback that helps identify strengths and weaknesses.

Work comes to me in various forms. Ideally, I want to receive a creative brief that

  • outlines the goal of the project
  • describes a product or service
  • provides insight into the target audience
  • explains the desired style and tone
  • provides lots of background information and resources
  • details the project schedule.

It’s not an ideal world, so most of my assignments come to me as the result of a phone call or an email. I get requests to write media releases,  white papers, some web pages, brochures or  corporate video scripts.  I ask questions until I have enough information to create my own creative brief for each project. Based on that information I do the necessary research, create an outline and start writing. Asking follow-up questions early in the process (before submitting the first draft) is a huge time saver for the client and for me.

If my submission is not acceptable, I’ll hear about it. The phone will ring or there will be a quick reply to my email, with questions and requests for revisions, etc. When this happens it gives me more insight into the client and what they need and like. This valuable information contributes to on-target messaging for the current project and gives useful background for future assignments with this client. I consider it really helpful to know where my writing missed its mark.

Satisfied customers seldom respond with anything more than an acknowledgement that they received the file with a brief comment such as, “Great work,” “thanks, got the file now we’ll be able to meet our deadline.” So what did they like about it? What created the satisfaction? What was it that worked especially well? How will I know the best way to handle their next writing assignment?

As a freelance writer, I appreciate receiving feedback on what was especially good about the submission, or what strayed from desired result. I encourage managers who are outsourcing writing assignments to provide specific and detailed feedback to their writers. It’s the only way we can improve our services to meet your expectations, deadlines and budget.

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Tips for writing product literature

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

It’s been my experience that those who are involved in the design and manufacture of technology are sometimes challenged to identify the benefits of their products in a way their customer will understand. They clearly understand all the tiny details of the design but have difficulty seeing their product  through their customer’s eyes. To make matters more challenging many product designers are also expected to write about their creations. Many product designers just want to get on with the next project. In most cases they are not interested, or don’t have the time to write about their products for media releases, web content or product literature. At the same time they often they fear that their products and services are being overshadowed by the competition.

Effective product literature and brochures are essential business communication tools. They can provide important support information for website download or as an email attachment. In print form, they can serve as a reminder of your sales call, or a visit to your trade show booth. They provide in-your-face information about your product or service.

Today business happens at the speed of your internet feed – FAST. It takes time and talent to write effective marketing material. At  buzz4biz we assist  product designers/manufacturers and marketing managers to develop marketing materials. We ask lots of questions to get the information required to write the material needed. Here are some tips to help you write effective product literature and brochures.

1.  Identify the purpose of the brochure. Is it a general introduction to your product/service or does it provide a large amount of detailed specifications? What action do you want the reader take? What do you want your reader to do after reading the brochure? Do you want them to phone you, place an order, make an appointment, send you an email? What is your call to action?

2. Target your audience. Who is going to read the material? Are they engineers, purchasing managers, CEOs, front line managers, technicians, lawyers, school children or entrepreneurs. Be as specific as you can to paint a complete picture, including age bracket, income level.

3. Determine the appropriate vocabulary and writing style for the target. Are your readers familiar with the technical jargon or do they prefer snappy, humorous or clear and concise prose? What written material do they usually read? Will this be a web-based brochure or a print document? For web-based documents use headlines, bulleted lists and short sentences. For a print edition use paragraphs and slightly longer sentences.

4. What information do your readers need before they phone you; place an order; make an appointment; send you an email? Do they need information about sizes, prices, technical details, delivery information, quality assurance or do they need a general understanding of your company capabilities?

5. Determine the key benefits and differentiators of your product or service. Sometimes it is easier to talk about features of a product but buyers need to know the benefits. In preparation for writing your marketing piece, make a list all the features of your product and ask “So What?” It is the answer to that question that will provide valuable information to your customer. It’s the answer to the “so what” question that should form the basis of your written piece. For example, let’s talk about a ballpoint pen. After each feature ask, “So What?”

Feature: ink cartridge in a clear plastic cylinder

Benefit: visible indicator of available ink

Feature: metal ball nib

Benefit: writes every time you use it

Feature: plastic parts

Benefit: inexpensive, cost effective

Benefit: light weight, no hand strain to use it

Feature: ¼-inch diameter

Benefit: thin, fits in right or left hand comfortably

Feature: available individually or in boxes of 12

Benefit: buy them as you need them or have a supply in your office

You get the idea. Sometimes we really have to think about the answer. You need to state the obvious and assume that your customer is unaware of the benefits of the features of your product. Then you can rank the most important benefits. Which ones are critical to get your point across? Which ones are different from your competitor? You may not have room to cover all of them in your brochure.

6. Write in a conversational tone—the way you talk. Sometimes technical language is required, but keep it straightforward. Make it as personal as possible. Use the second person “you.” Involve the reader.

    Draft 1: The company wants to hire a freelancer to write the brochure.

    Draft 2: The company wants to hire you to write the brochure.

    Draft 3: We want to hire you to write the brochure.

    7. Use the active voice. Research paper writers often use passive voice but even that is now changing. You can make your message direct and to the point, and often reduce the word count, by using the active voice.

    Passive voice: The research study was written by the R&D manager.

    Active voice: The R&D manager wrote the research study.

    8. Use positive statements.

    Negative statement: Don’t write your own brochures.

    Positive statement: Use an outside supplier to write your brochure.

    9. Limit the use of the verb “to be” – is, are, was, were.  Powerful and descriptive verbs add wind to the sails of good writing. The verb “to be” has no action or motion.

    10. Edit: Read your draft aloud. Once you have written it, can you say it? Does it flow, as a conversation should? Does it make sense? Does it meet the criteria that you set? Will it answer your customers’ questions? For most writers, this step identifies what is missing, what is awkward and what makes little sense.

    11. Set it aside for a period of time. Let the piece have some breathing room. If you have the luxury of putting it aside for a day two, do it. When you look at it again, you will have new insight. After the space of a couple of days, look it over again and fine-tune it. No time? Then, at the very least, work on something else for an hour or so and then go back to it for a final read through.

    12. Proofread. Take one more step than your spellchecker takes. Thoroughly check every word. As the writer, your familiarization with the words cripples your ability to proofread it. Seek an independent set of trained eyes to do the final proofreading.

    Model sailboat instructions read: “raise mats and booms for sails.” The manufacturer’s spellchecker approved “mats” as a legitimate word. Yes, it is in the dictionary but it is not the correct word in this context. It should have been “masts.”

    13. Effective design enhances well-chosen words. Unformatted words on a page are unimpressive. The creative use of colour, images and white space helps to enhance your message. From the single page envelope stuffer or catalog sheet to a professional service package or major proposal, appropriate page layout combined with an effective message will deliver success.

    Good luck with the process. Write winning words for www and for print.

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    2010 plans and resolutions

    Monday, January 4th, 2010

    2010 is starting cool and serene in my office and “baby it’s cold outside!” We escaped for a few days at Christmas and we got caught up with family and friends at New Year’s. Now, it’s Monday morning and the start to another week, another decade, another year.

    Where do I start? I have never really made New Year’s resolutions but I am going to take part of today to set realistic goals for my business and figure out how to measure my success in achieving them.

    In the past I have found that when I was the happiest, the most at ease and the most successful I had managed to balance work, play (exercise of the mind and body) and my spiritual life. For this year, I am going to strive to find that balance again. Things certainly got out of kilter last year.

    As sole proprietor of a business, closing the office door at the end of the day is a challenge—there is always something else to do.  So I will set aside time for exercising the mind and body during my week. Heaven (and my doctor) knows this old body certainly needs some exercise.

    I will seek out opportunities to listen and learn new things. New knowledge will stimulate creativity.

    I will seek mentors who can help my business and me and I will seek protégés who might benefit from my experience.

    Perhaps these seem a little too lofty but they may help me keep focused. The more challenging task is setting the business goals and determining a method to measure their success.

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    Blogs and crows send messages

    Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

    Every evening at my cottage the crows gather in a nearby ravine and create a terrific noise with their cawing, crowing and cackling. I guess you have to be a crow to understand the significance of this ritual. They are communicating with each other, I presume, but to the general annoyance of their human neighbours. Does the trend to blog, email, chatter, tweet, discuss, comment, friend, unfriend, linkin create a similar annoyance to those who don’t understand social media?

    Not far from that crow’s ravine, a long steep trail leads to a secluded beach. As children, we sometimes talked, other times raced each other down the path but at the same turn in the road, we would always be startled by the sudden flutter of large wings and very loud “caw” to announce our descent through private crow territory. It always fascinated me that a crow was watching us and thought it important to tell other crows. We, of course, responded with loud “caws” of our own. Shortly, we would hear other crows along the shore, cawing and we would see them flying away.

    I feel somewhat the same about blogging. Am I the crow that caws about something that is important to me and no one else? If I caw loudly enough will the other crows hear me and respond? Why would they be interested?

    In my previous writing endeavors there were few opportunities for readers to respond to my prose. Columns in business papers, articles in magazines or newspapers, media releases, business profiles seldom generated any feedback. Admittedly, they were not controversial articles, either!

    I readily admit, it has taken me some time to get my mind around the concept of blogging. Rob Clark of the Elusive Fish says “these networked conversation are enabling powerful forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

    Sharing information, it seems to me, is one of the great values of blogging. Over the past several months, I have followed these new trends and watched how they benefit businesses and individuals. In some work environments, social media still plays no role in daily work activities and it may never be appropriate in some workplaces. Many blogs reinforce similar messages. Tweeters, re-tweet information from one site to another group of people – just like to crows relaying the message to other crows. Others respond with comments and further insights, so that topics are discussed in greater depth. It is the participation of others that provides the value to the readers.

    When we took long family trips in the car, my father took delight in spotting three crows sitting in a tree and he would launch into song “there were three crows sat on a tree.” We would all join in with a resounding “caw, caw, caw” at the end and he would produce a very realistic “caw” sound – to our great delight. As a result, I was always on the look out for crows so that we could sing together.

    As a corporate communications specialist I create success for my clients using the written word. In the course of operating my business, I attend networking events, seminars, association meetings and trade shows where people gather and discuss issues face-to-face. Perhaps I will be the crow that announces some news, or maybe I’ll just be one of the crows in the tree repeating interesting news about the issues of the day.

    This blog will contribute to that phenomenon of interactive electronic conversations.

    “A mile as the crow flies, but three miles by this mountain road” is a term from the 1700s that refers to the most direct route. It looks to me as if blogging is the new most direct route to clients, colleagues and potential clients.

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