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Letter to my younger freelance self

Thursday, November 20, 2014 @ 02:11 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

So you’re leaving the sanctuary of the corporate world, trading the steady pay cheque for the chance for greater excitement and fulfillment.

You don’t want people to tell what to do or how to do it. You’ve had enough bosses. You’re eager to fly.me40

But let me tell you what you need to know before you embark on this romantic quest, knowledge earned from my 20+ years as a freelance writer and communication planner.

You may be anxious now, but don’t fret too much about fleeing safety. The corporate world is about to become less secure. After recessions, technology and global competition, many companies will shed employees as if they’re fading glamour stars.

Fortunately for you, fewer jobs-for-life will mean more opportunity for freelancers, independents and consultants of all stripes.

The words of change

This change and uncertainty will also expand your vocabulary. You’ll learn to wield “restructuring” and a slew of words invented to shine up this rough reality.

You’ll also learn tech vocabulary. Terms like “systems migration” will roll of your tongue. Really.

Sharing will no longer be limited to giving a hungry pal half your sandwich or revealing your deep secrets.

You’ll also try to master BTW (by the way) and many other initials, once everyone starts communicating on tiny portable phones. LOL.

These tiny phones will also connect most people to the office all the time, or 24/7 as you’ll say.

Spoiler alert

When you have children, you’ll be relieved your clients’ office rarely extends into your home.  Train your clients to apologize when they call late. They’ll have young kids too.

Oops. I’m supposed to share my wisdom more than dazzle you with glimpses of how your personal life will change.

However, while I’m on spoiler alert, I can’t resist advising you to get rid of that new office you’re enjoying so much, buy a house and work there. Not just because it will help you with your growing family responsibilities, but also because it will turn out to be a kick-ass investment.

Yes, younger self, respectable people will say ass—and worse.

That’s enough new vocabulary. On to the tips that will sustain you.

Words of wisdom

When you’re working from home, you’ll need to make a point of getting out more, especially to fitness classes and networking events at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

You’ll also  need to make sure that home, especially the fridge and television, doesn’t become a distraction. Hire people more often to clean, paint and take on other chores you’ll be tempted to do when you should be marketing.

You’ll fiercely deny this advice when you’re crazy busy. But during those no-work mornings at the gym you’ll realize all too well how wise always-be-marketing is.

Don’t put your eggs into one or two baskets. Often your regular clients will seem like more than enough. But when they lose their jobs in this brave new world, you will too.

While you now think that freelancing means you’ll be your own boss, never forget that every client, most prospects and even chance encounters will be your master. Make sure you stick with the nice ones.

Make friends

That’s right. If you’re good enough, and you are, you can select clients almost as much as they choose you.

Having nice clients, suppliers and other work friends will encourage long-term relationships to blossom. If you hop from project to project, you’ll burn out. And you’ll get lonely.

Empathy will help, on both social and professional levels. You’ll need to read your clients’ minds and divine the hearts and souls of the people they want to communicate with.

Many of your long-term clients will become loyal buds, part of the rich tapestry of work, family and friends the freelance life can weave.

Learn to live with the reality that you will never have time and money together. Either you will be working long hours, but have lots coming in, or going to the gym during the day so you don’t worry  about where you’ll get your next gig.

Sharpen your tools

Hold onto that Mac. You will be tempted to switch to a PC because of lower costs and, at first, easier communication with clients. But you will be more creative, instead of bored silly by memorizing commands. You’ll be surprised by what inspires you.

Keep up your French, even if your best practice opportunities are television and trips to francophone countries.

On that subject, take more holidays, real holidays, with no kids or parents.

After all, you’ll never see written on the tombstone of a long-time freelancer: She spent too much time at the beach.

That brings me to one final piece of wisdom: Wear your bikini more often. Twenty plus years from now, you’ll understand why.

Good luck, younger self. Good laughs too.

Now if I could only channel my older self, to advise me on the next 20 or so years.

9 ways to look like a pro

Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 12:11 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

business writingYou’re busy. You’re cranking out tons of content every day, from emails to strategies to product pages.

Too overwhelmed to capture your brand, articulate your key message, click with your key audience?  Too stressed to tighten and show you respect your readers’ time? Too rushed to find mistakes spellcheck can’t catch or capitalize consistently?

Unfortunately, in today’s busy world, the critical step of rewriting and self-editing is too often given short shrift, by even the smartest and most seasoned communication pros.

Rewriting entails standing back and taking a look at the big picture. Self-editing means focusing on the details. Although you may do this more with big content and big objectives, don’t forget that emails, social media updates and other small content will also benefit from this scrutiny.

To be efficient with your time, here’s what to focus on:

Retouch the big picture

Read more at Toronto IABC.

Warning: This post is not about the overused, trivial “awesome,” which I provided alternatives for in my most popular post. What I want to talk about today is how you can inspire awe.

Awe, in its best sense, is rarely specified in advice on what makes content go viral in posts such as The Science of Viral Content, The Often Forgotten Viral Content Marketing Tactic and 13 Lessons from Upworthy and Buzzfeed.

But many awe factors, such as emotion, surprise and social activism, are woven through their share-worthy observations.

For the busy people who want the quick goods, here are five tips I gleaned from poring over research about awe.

  1. Write about an idea that will transform the individual’s way of looking at the world. This can range from discovering a new planet or a cure for the common cold to a new way to put on your eyeliner or clean your floor.
  2. Connect the dots in a way that nobody saw before. Like Copernicus discovering that the universe revolved around the sun, not the earth. Or Steve Jobs’ understanding of the hunger for an intuitive interface, instead of robotic computer commands.
  3. Feed steroids to beautiful, admirable, surprising, joyful, loving, scary and ground-breaking. If you think a Monet painting is beautiful, you will stare at it for a few minutes. If you’re in awe of the painting, you may start viewing lush landscapes from this perspective.
  4. Star powerful people who are bigger and shinier than the individual. Following a charismatic leader, whether it’s Osama bin Laden or Kim Kardashian, makes people do things they’d be afraid to do, or feel little point in doing, on their own.
  5. Think religion, social advocacy, politics and other good and uniting causes, the bigger the better. People want to belong to something that transcends themselves.

Slide1Why this works

For those patient, or skeptical, readers who want to know how I came up with these tips, keep reading.

I was inspired by a post from the New York Times about a 2010 University of Pennsylvania study that found its most-emailed posts tended to be longer, the theme of my last post.

For days, nattering away at the back of my mind, was the revelation that the most-shared posts relied on way more than word count. Above and beyond any other factor, Jonah Berger and Katherine A. Milkman found that they inspired awe.

Let me stress that I’m not talking about the banal use of awesome or the trivial kind of content that goes viral. I too share quizzes, dog videos and other content that would fit into this category, but awe is the objective here.

As the Pennsylvania research found, the content that has the longest legs inspires awe, which explains why scientific breakthroughs were so widely shared by Times’ readers.

The researchers defined awe as an “emotion of self-transcendence, a feeling of admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.” Immense in scale, awe forces the reader to view the world in a radically different way.

According to an interesting article in the Huffington Post, awe-inspiring experiences can make you happier, less stressed and more creative. True.

But what I found most helpful in searching for the key to awesomeness and virality was a 2003 indepth study of awe in religion, sociology, philosophy and psychology by Dachter Keltner at the University of California at Berkeley and Jonathon Haidt of the University of Virginia, big influencers on the Pennsylvania concept of awe.

What inspires awe?

Citing the examples of Arjuna in the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and Paul of Damascus from the Bible, they pointed out how their god revealed knowledge that profoundly changed the hero’s worldview.

From sociology, they borrowed Max Weber’s analysis of charismatic leaders, such as Buddha, Ghandi, Hitler and Martin Luther King. By inspiring awe, they persuaded people to embark on heroic, self-sacrificing missions.

In philosophy, they looked to Edmund Burke’s writing on the sublime, which involves expanded thought and greatness of mind, inspired by art, literature and nature.

They also compared awe to what psychologist Abraham Maslow’s found in peak experiences, which includes disorientation, suspension of time and submission in the presence of something greater than yourself.

Although frequently hopeful, awe can also scary. For example, during an earthquake, you could be awestruck by the shaking, bangs and the earth opening up in ways you never thought possible.

People often feel awe during times of crisis, when they need to shed a way of thinking that no longer makes sense. This may explain why those jihadi cries go viral with distressed young men.

Can awe pass today’s share test?

Of course, all this deep thinking that has gone on for centuries is not worth a hill of beans to you if awe doesn’t play a role in going viral. What’s more, the University of Pennsylvania research involved The New York Times, which may have an older, better educated demographic than you’re trying to please.

Plus, the study focused on emailing, a far more popular way of sharing when the study was done five years ago. Maybe today’s social media platforms rely less on awe. But relying on the wisdom of the ages is worth a try.

So the next time you create content that you want to be awesome in the best sense, ask yourself does it

  • transform the individual’s way of looking at the world
  • explain something important in a brand new way
  • show something extremely beautiful, admirable, joyful, surprising or ground-breaking
  • star charismatic people
  • provide a noble cause the individual can belong to?

Seriously awesome content often does not hit all these buttons. But it must hit a few.

The more awe factors, the better

Take the example of this slick music video that publicized the launch of BBC Music.

The video lets us interpret an old song in new ways, with a mix of styles and vocalists, all charismatic music leaders. They performed in unexpected settings, such as a tiger climbing on creator Brian Wilson’s piano. I was in awe, as were the millions of people who shared this video. However, unlike other videos that use a roster of stars to reimagine classic hits to champion world peace or raise money for hunger, this one does not make people feel they belong to a noble social cause.

In contrast, this amateur video  about a homeless man playing piano in Edmonton changes perceptions of disadvantaged people. It bonded people who want to help. But did Rob have the charisma to attract followers? Probably not. Ironically, the lack of charisma and slick production values made this video more awesome to me.

So what does this mean for content creators who want more shares? In a nutshell, the more awe factors, the better.

At last week’s Meshmarketing conference, Ann Handley pointed to the large number of viral post titles that contain the words “mind-blowing,”  evidence that content marketers are pursuing the seriously shareable meaning of awesome.

Or as Trudy, the schizo bag lady in the play In Search of Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe would have said, creators of seriously awesome content are going for goose bumps.

Content: the long and the short of it

Monday, November 3, 2014 @ 10:11 AM
posted by Barbsawyers

Should I write long or short content? That’s a question frequently raised by content marketers.

Before you decide, you need to clarify what your objective is. Shares, hits, emails, search engine rankings, quality leads, sales or some slippery dream?

I’ve heard so many respected people debate the issue, yet reach no consensus. So when my friend Sue Horner recently wrote about the need to write short for impatient people, I decided to revisit some of the research.

Short-haired-DachshundBusy readers

Like Sue, I strongly believe that short content is usually the best. We are all busy.

Plus I’m put off by content that’s unnecessarily long, because the creator has not bothered, or doesn’t know how, to keep content concise. Clue: think clearly before writing and chop like crazy after.

I fall asleep over long content by authors still trying to satisfy an old professor’s word-count requirements. I’ve worked with too many well-educated people who think that efforts to tighten their writing, or make it easier to understand, mean they’re being dumbed them down.

Smarten up

The opposite is true, as anyone knows who has wrangled hundreds of words into a tight tagline.

Still, I’d read many successful people who claimed better results from longer content. And let me confess that I often enjoy longer content, when the writing style is enthralling as Copyblogger or the posts as indepth as the venerable Atlantic.

On the other hand, I love the short posts of Seth Godin and appreciate writers who can say much in few words. I have fun snacking on content bits on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

I know Google favors long, in-depth content over thin content. I’ve even had editors tell me to pad guest posts so they reach the 500-word threshold. Now Googles wants more.

More than algorithms

But while everyone wants to rank highly in search, smart content creators know that pleasing the robots is only the beginning.

Sue’s post was inspired by Jakob Nielsen, the usability expert we’re both fans of. His research confirms that people spend seconds scanning content. I agree, especially when it comes to email.

But let’s listen to some other experts. According to Salma Jafri at Search Engine Watch, the decision on length should depend on several factors.

Examine your needs

Newer businesses should focus on shorter, shareable content, she advised, while industry heavyweights should pour their expertise into longer content. Also consider your personal style, content goals, whether it’s being consumed on a small or large device, your audience’s preferences and the requirements of your topic.

For example, you can’t unravel the complexities of the Middle East conflict, quantitative easing or stem cell research in a few hundred words, though you can tweet a pithy quote on each one.

Note that Salma, whose post was about 1,000 words, is a fairly tight writer. However, she repeated some of her main ideas in text boxes, bullets and charts. This not only helped her reach the magic 1,000-word mark, but also let scanning readers consume the information in the way they prefer, confirming the wisdom of my last post.

Some of the research on content length is individual. Take the example of Neil Patel, whose comparative testing of his own content revealed that people were more like to buy more with longer content. He also found that longer content resulted in more tweets, likes and shares on social media.

Length can add weight

His findings hold up on some larger samples, notably a more comprehensive study from the University of Pennsylvania of the most emailed posts from the New York Times. A  study by Buzzsumo also found that longer content was more likely to be shared.

Let me stress that none of the long-content proponents support flabby writing. Quality still trumps quantity. The longer your content, the more need for a weighty anchor idea and the more time you should spend nipping and tucking. Make every word count.

My advice

From my meta-review of this and other research Google ranks highly, here are my conclusions:

If you’re writing an email, social post or other routine content, write short content.

If you’re not a gifted writer, or won’t spend the money on a professional writer or editor, write short content.

If you don’t have time to revise and shorten, write short content.

But if what you have to say is deep and complex, and you have a way with words, don’t be afraid of longer content.

If your content isn’t all that deep and complex, but you’re determined to appease the search gods, express your ideas in different ways, to reflect different reader preferences.

Consider the dachshund. Content can be long, yet compact.

Photo credit

 

 

You know when all that noise is interrupted by the clank of sound waves colliding? That happened to me recently when two experts in different fields confirmed that personal autonomy is the best way to motivate people.

Personal autonomy simply means letting the individual decide how to do something. The teacher or boss may set the objective, such as learning a formula or completing a task. But it’s up to the individual to decide how to get it done.

At a recent conference on teaching English as a second language, a professor surveyed lots of research demonstrating the kinds of motivation that work best for students.

Tulasana_yoga_poseEngagement

For maximum engagement, she insisted, the best thing a teacher can do is give choices and let each student decide how they want to absorb knowledge.

Visuals cues, listening to audio tracks, assembling details, dissecting the big picture, online on their own, live in a group… ? Offer variety and let the individual choose.

At a seminar earlier this month, on how corporate trainers can motivate, a psychologist had said basically the same thing. Personal autonomy is the number one engager, she pointed out, the best way to encourage employees to give their best.

You decide what

Smart companies know this. They don’t set hours, as long as employees get the job done—well done of course. Instead of providing a script that customer reps they must stick to, smart companies encourage dialogue. Both the employees and customers feel better when they’re in control.

Last summer, I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) to international students and business writing to professional communicators. Because neither involved lengthy terms, I didn’t get to know individual students well enough to grasp their preferred learning style.

Although I had lessons plans to guide me, often I flew by the seat of my pants.

They decide how

For example, I spent a week trying to teach students with several different first languages the correct word order for asking questions. Many preferred to read the formula, each part of speech a different color on the board. Some liked to fill in the blanks in their exercise books. Others loved asking each other questions about how men and women behave differently in relationships.

With the professional communicators, I talked about the importance of planning what you’re going to write. I encouraged them to choose between academic-type outlines, visual mind maps or conversations, a technique my daughter and I often use before she starts an essay. Choosing how to plan is personal autonomy.

I encouraged the employees to use whatever method worked best for them—as long as they thought before they hit the keyboard. They’re now rambling less and saving time because they think first. Better still, they own it.

Correct to correct?

Last week, I attended a small yoga class. Because work was so busy over the summer, I’d gone to only weekend classes, too large for instructors to suggest individual corrections. Because there’s only one way to do each pose, I appreciated the instructor’s personal prompting.

Mostly. Sometimes I wanted to do it my way. For example, when I wobbled in a position she told me to support myself on one knee. But I knew I’d strengthen and balance faster if I allowed some wiggling. Plus I didn’t want to look like I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the class.

So even when there’s only one way to do something correctly, be it the word order of a question, the need to nail your main idea or a shaky yoga pose, learners should decide how they want to accomplish it.

Sure, many people are comfortable with detailed instructions, such as the people who study a manual in detail before they try something new. Others mess around, trial and error, until they figure it out, considering manuals a last resort. Many watch other people, then copy.

It matters not how they do it, but what they achieve.

So the next time you’re trying to explain how to accomplish something, do so in many different ways. Let individuals decide which one to choose.

Many better practices can be more engaging than one best practice.

On the other hand, that’s a lot of work. Don’t hold your breath while I turn this post into an infographic, video, manual…

Photo credit 

 

Letter to my younger sister Ann Handley

Monday, October 20, 2014 @ 01:10 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

Dear Ann

When I first heard about your new book, Everybody Writes, I was ready to call my lawyer. Our ideas are so much alike, I figured you’d copied my book, Write Like You Talk Only Better.  Actually, I was flattered.

everybody writesLike me, you believe that pretty much anyone can write, provided they follow a solid process. That’s why you called your book “Everybody Writes.” My PR mentors  brought me up to believe that you need to precede “everybody” with “almost” to maintain your credibility, though I admire your spunk.

After reading a couple posts and listening to a podcast, I was so confident I’d like your book that included it on a short list of must-reads for a business writing workshop I was teaching. I was not disappointed.

You had me at being the last girl picked for the baseball team. Just as you and I had to overcome our lack of natural physical prowess through trainers and gyms, so can people whose writing seems clumsy build the muscle and coordination they need to write strongly. Well said.

Almost everybody writes, we agree.  As in preparing a presentation, composing an email, creating a plan, texting, collaborating or chatting online, practically  everyone relies on the written word.

I say they need a road map. You, younger sister, say they need a GPS.

We both understand that writing is less about making words pretty and more about thinking. Although your process is broken down into more steps, our road map/GPS process is strikingly similar. Think about who you’re writing for, what you want to focus on and how you’re going to explain it before you start.  “Think before you ink,” as you say.

We also insist that you think again after you’ve written that big ugly first draft, so you can shorten, organize and improve.

Our grammar points echo. I’ve become even more adamant about ignoring dangling participles, split infinitives and other old-fashioned rules since I started teaching and discovered that nobody (or should I say almost nobody) learns them anymore.

I handle the first draft process a little differently than you, advising people to simply imagine they’re having a conversation with the person they most want to connect with. That’s because my target reader loves talking, almost everybody’s first and favorite way to communicate. I also point out that many of our errors go back to people relying on what sounds right.

No problem. We’re sisters, not identical twins.

Let me stress you are the smarter sister. In real life I grew up with a younger brother whose IQ blew nearly everyone out of the water, so I’m used to smarter siblings. No hard feelings, though a Christmas card might be nice.

While my general advice is intended for almost any kind of content, you broke yours down specifically for LinkedIn profiles, landing pages and lots more. Very comprehensive.

On top of that, you sprinkled your book with many helpful sites and tools, magic fairy dust for content creators. This was one of the best examples I’ve seen of links in e-books. I hope everybody’s reading it that way. I know I’ll go back and explore many of these valuable references again and again.

Sure, I have the odd quibble, such as your approval of emails that come from a company instead of a person, your use of “tasked with” and the occasional YA-DA-YA-DA (an expression we both use), despite your admonitions to the contrary.

But on the whole, this is best book I have read about writing since Stephen King’s On Writing. And the best book on nonfiction writing since Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. A go-to guide indeed.

I know it’s a little awkward having a relatively unknown blogger/teacher/crone try to claim you as a sister. But if you’d like to glimpse our kindred spirit, please read my book Write Like You Talk Only Better, which I’ve attached for you. You get me.

I know you’re busy, what with book tours, Marketing Profs, Entrepreneur.com and all that other high-rolling stuff you do.  So I won’t be hurt if you don’t get back to me right away.

I hope you’ll remember, when you receive that Christmas card from Toronto Canada, that there is another business writer out there who thinks like you and applauds how you’re saving us from hours, make that decades, of reading tedium and writing frustration.

With the exception of most trained staff in communication and marketing and random beacons in other departments, everybody writes ridiculously bad content. But if they read your book–or mine if you they have only a few hours to spare—they can go from spending the game on the bench, like we did in high school, to scoring home runs.

Thank you so much. And let me know if you’re coming to Toronto. You’re welcome to stay in my guest room.

Love

Your older but not wiser sister, Barb

Push or pull?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 @ 03:10 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

It happens to everyone at least once. You’re trying to enter a busy building, but the door won’t open. You push harder. A passerby smirks. You look down at your hands and the “pull” sign.

So it’s not surprisingly that marketing writers sometimes confuse push and pull. Especially if they’re used to pushing, the traditional approach to moving prospects along the sales cycle.

Before the Internet, we spent more time pushing. Even when we used pull tactics, such as true stories or educational campaigns, the commercial message was clear.pull in people with content marketing

We wanted people to buy; we still do. But with content marketing, the emphasis is on building relationships, so you can sell later. Maybe.

You pull on the handles of education and entertainment, hoping that people will look, admire and remember. You pull on their heart strings, funny bone or brain, hoping they will like, share or do something else easy by which you measure success.

Read more on the Toronto IABC blog.

 

Write like a princess for happy e-endings

Monday, September 29, 2014 @ 07:09 AM
posted by Barbsawyers
m4s0n501

Once upon a time there was a princess named Constance, of the kingdom of Constant Contact (where I spoke last week), who reigned over an online fashion empire.

She loved to stay in touch with her far-flung customers through her email newsletter.Slide1

They loved reading her latest and greatest insight and information on fashion trends.

Writing is like talking

While she was confident about her fashion smarts, Princess Constance wasn’t so sure about her writing. Conveying runway excitement was not at all like those essays she’d slaved over in business school.

She’d tried hiring professional writers, but they didn’t capture her personality and expertise. After all, she was a princess. It was up to her.

After she read Write Like You Talk Only Better, everything changed. Writing became easy and effective once she combined her brains and love of talking.

Her newsletter, and online fashion empire, continued to thrive.

Makeovers meet challenges

Even though she was a princess, life threw challenges her way. She had to rise above them.

First, it was social media, which everyone insisted would lead to the extinction of email newsletters. Princess Constance started a Facebook page, but wisely kept the newsletter.

Soon she discovered the two fed off each other, with new subscribers hailing from Facebook and newsletter fans seeking more frequent updates through her growing social media channels.

Her star was rising, she realized, because she was adding more entertainment to her information on fashion trends. Her funny posts about fashion crimes at high society events and true tales about royal teas sometimes went viral. So Princess Constance decided to focus more attention to polished reality, humorous observations, fashion mysteries and games.

During this content makeover, she briefly considered abandoning the newsletter for social media. But her analytics confirmed that the newsletter was far more effective in driving people to her site to buy.

But soon she discovered that although more people were glimpsing her newsletter, fewer seemed to be clicking on the links to her site.

Smaller size, higher stakes

As she glanced through her photos of a recent ball, she noticed that many royals were holding smartphones. Maybe that had something to do with her latest challenge.

While waiting for her celebrity date at a film gala, she surreptitiously spied an actress scrolling her newsletter on her smartphone, only to be distracted by a message that popped up on her screen.

Suddenly Princess Constance realized that her content was too fat to fit on the small screen. What’s more, the content had to be so riveting that the actress would ignore the message for long enough to click to her site. Princess Constance recorded this insight on her smartphone.

The next day she put her content on a diet. At the same time, she focused on squeezing more out of every pound–or pixel. Once again, her content–and sales–improved.

Too busy 

Then along came CASL, the Canadian legislation that required her subscribers to click to confirm they wanted to continue receiving her newsletter. Her subscriber list shrank, though not too dramatically.

The lost followers she talked to insisted they still liked her newsletter. They’d just been too busy to notice the newsletter that asked them to click the annoying confirmation link.

Time for another makeover, not only to freshen her content and attract more subscriber-buyers, but also to fit the newsletter into her increasingly busy life.

Princess Constance was now engaged to a duke, adding more duties to her royal calendar.

What’s more, she could not erode her royal reputation with those humiliating mistakes she was prone to when she was super busy.

Inspired by customers

Reflecting on how she came up with content ideas, Princess Constance realized that customers were her prime inspiration. If one asked a question, she could bet many more were wondering the same thing. If one had difficulty grasping a new trend, like tiara-matching anklets, she knew others were in the same yacht.

She could also tie her fashion information and entertainment to what was going on the world. For example, she’d spotted some earth-friendly fabrics in clothes at the recent climate change demonstrations. And why not give that British princess some tips on maternity styles?

Her list of content ideas grew. But how was she going to tackle it all?

She knew she had to get faster at writing. So she returned to Write Like You Talk Only Better and realized she’d pick up speed if she spent a little more time planning her content, focusing on the hearts and minds of those she wanted to reach, what she wanted to say and how to say it. Like making detailed lists before she headed out shopping, she’d track down what she most wanted and save loads of time.

Get help

Although the princess would continue to create her own content, she could use more help with the organizational side. Because the best ideas floated into her head when she wasn’t trying, she usually ended up sorting through bookmarked links, ideas on napkins and smartphone notes.

So she got her lady-in-waiting to pour all this into a master calendar for both newsletters and social media, that she would review and update at the start of every month. Just thinking about it made her feel less stressed.

Her lady, an Ivy League arts grad, could also help more with the goof proofing, to make sure she was never again got caught by those mistakes that spell check and auto-correct can’t catch. Like the time she wrote “Your never going to believe what I saw…,” “it’s highest honor”  or “he reins over a kingdom.” Never again!

Once again, Princess Constance was pleased with the results of her makeover. A practical princess, she knew the ending would not be “happily ever after,” even with a hot duke by her side.

But just as she’s faced the challenges of social media, smartphones and annoying laws, she’d deal with future challenges with a makeover. After all, if it worked for her image, it would work for her content too.

Breaking bad email –10 ways to kill what we hate at work

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 @ 04:09 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

Everyone complains about too much, too long email. Let’s face it: email is a huge productivity drain.

Perched between the classical memos of yesterday and the hip hop texts of today, email writers don’t seem to have any best practices to follow. To get the ball rolling, I’ve drafted my 10 best practices.breaking

Read more on the Toronto IABC blog.

I won the grand prize!

Monday, August 18, 2014 @ 01:08 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

If you’ve been speaking English all your life, you probably never stop and ponder the difference between these verb tenses: the present present, as in I have gone, and the past simple, as in I went.

As I discovered when I was practice teaching, and have confirmed as a real teacher this summer, it’s a tricky distinction to make.

Slide1Searching for a clear explanation, I read boring books and watched snoozy webcam lectures. There had to be a more interesting way to learn!

I guess the judges at TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) Ontario must have thought I’d made progress, when they awarded me the grand prize in the instructor category.

So be grateful you have been programmed to understand English. And pass this alone to anyone who is learning. They’ll thank you.

The Search for the Present Perfect.

 

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