Chimneys standing so tall with character and pride

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The sun shone fierce and bright
All through the week, setting so late in the night

Walks so fresh and brisk in the mornings
Ending in heavy trudges in the chilly evenings

Cottages lined along the quintessential countryside
Chimneys standing so tall with character and pride

Old world charm met adventurous cuisine at the Rusty Gun
Wooden tables ‘neath low ceilings, the roasted lamb grilled to perfection

Did we hear again the crunch of carriages on cobblestones?
Was Eliza there? Did we hear Professor Higgins intone?

The scent of apples still lingering at the market place
The charming Piazza and Somerset House, a walk away from the historic Savoy Place

The London eye showed us Big Ben and a sprawling city
So lovely in its beauty; so rich in culture and history

The cruise on the River Thames – dark and gloomy
The guide a silver lining, cheered us with his vivid commentary

Crisscrossing the underground a hundred times
How can I forget the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines?

Magic once again at 9 ¾ King’s Cross station
Gazing at St. Pancras next door, step this way said the exotic nations

Selfridges, Top Shop, Marks & Spencer’s
Can’t miss any, cried the tired shoppers

Traversing Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street
The well-worn Nikes fell off the feet

Was finally time to pack up and say goodbye
Not so soon said someone, spare some time for London Heathrow at Terminal Five

 

 

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Those words, they make me…

I sailed the seas with Odysseus
Went with the Famous Five on adventures
Never imagined I would fly a broom
Or see the world compressed in a room

Praying for Dantés, whispering – go, go go…
Relishing revenge with the Count of Monte Cristo
Adoring Atticus and admiring Rhett
Scorning Anna but forgiving Scarlett

Picking oranges with Ma and Tom Joad
Driving the truck on an endless road
Listening to John Galt and Rearden
Of vision and steel, these intriguing men

Lying curled up, weeping for Hassan
Will Sohrab smile again; can Amir be forgiven
‘There’s a way to be good again’ – a haunting question
‘For you a thousand times over’ – such a classic expression

Pride and Prejudice, I lived it all
War and peace, I saw it all
Goblet of Fire, I did it all 
Alice in Wonderland, I revelled in it all

Those writers, they wrote for me
Those stories, they were made up by me
Those books, they made me
Those words, they make me

Those books, they made me
Those words, they make me

The Glitch in the Pitch. It’s back to the basics

Blogs should share deep insights, preferably on new/emerging topics. The more the writer breaks new insights, the greater the equity. Still, here I am writing the kindergarten stuff. What to do? I had a glitch week and instead of grumbling, I thought of sharing some experiences.

I sat through a week of credentials and strategy presentations by five PR agencies on behalf of a client, an international organisation with ambitious plans for this particular market. Here’s my experience.

The brief was inked. The agencies were invited. The stage was set for the credentials and strategy presentations by a select group of PR agencies.  One by one, they trooped in, loaded with their arsenal and determined to impress.

It would have all been very impressive, except that there were glitches along the way.

 The Technical Glitch:

Most agencies arrived on dot or rushed in a minute or two later than the appointed hour. Of course, Murphy’s Law had to prevail. The projector sulked and threw a tantrum and simply refused to talk to the agency laptop. The Managing Director huffed and the Account Manager puffed, while the Account Executive frantically pulled and tugged at the wires. Finally, someone remembered and scurried to get that wonderful little device called the USB stick. The agency presentation was copied and the USB was hurriedly stuck into the client laptop. Lo! The projector was happy to recognise a familiar client and beamed brightly.

Nothing much was lost, except 17 minutes on the clock and some points on the agency score card.

The WYSIWYG glitch:

Anyway, time to move on. Introductions were made and the agency credentials rolled.

When the ‘Our Clients’ slide came up, we relaxed. The projector glitch was forgiven. It was such an impressive client portfolio. The Leaders, the Fast 50, the Top 100, the Game-Changers, the Innovators – they were all there.  Our confidence was reinforced. Then someone from the Client played spoil sport. The agency was asked to pick out the Local vs. Global, Current vs. Past logos. When the exercise was done, the ‘Current-Local’ client portfolio simply did not represent the ‘Global-Past-Present’ list.

What You See, Is What You (Don’t) Get!

The WIIFM glitch:

We shook off the mild dissonance creeping in and resolved to pay attention to the rest of the credentials. In most cases, the credentials presentation was the standard cookie-cutter stuff. It began with an over-arching global slide with ‘geo-presence’ followed by the ‘global team’ slide that had people broadly grinning down from their frames. (I half expected them to wave. The Potter-effect… my bad, anyway…). The slides continued with methodology, client portfolio, strengths and so on.   I couldn’t shake off that feeling of Déjà vu. Ah! Now I remembered. The agency website had showcased all this really well. I made note to ask about the web agency that had designed their website. Good job.

The slides continue to fly in and zoom out. We waited in eager anticipation to see how their story would be aligned to us, our specific challenges, our goals and our requirements. But before we knew, the pitch had ended. “Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity…. We are really hungry to win this account…”

They promised to email the presentation.

The Mobile Glitch:

The shortlisted agencies then returned to present their strategies. The client goals were ambitious and we leaned forward in anticipation.

There were some astute observations and interesting ideas. A favourable murmur went through the client team. An animated discussion was about to begin. Just then, a shiny, smart phone rattled and danced on the table. Of course, the owner had taken care to put in on vibration mode.  Sorry… the presenter punched the red button and pushed the phone in his pocket. Okay, so where were we? We went back to the discussion, determined not to be swayed by these minor distractions. Focus returned, but not for long. In just 10 minutes, another agency phone hopped madly again.

I decided that I preferred the Ring Tone to the Vibration Mode…

This takes the cake Glitch:

Ten days after getting a polite ‘No’ from us, we got a call from the agency headquarters. There had been a communication gap and the practice head was not aware of this pitch ….they had a practice team, with all the experience and expertise to fulfil our requirements….we should really give them another chance to present. Uh? Okay. We masked our disbelief… No problem. These things happen… but we really can’t be unfair to the other agencies. The credentials are done and the shortlisted agencies have been intimated. They persisted and so we relented.

We waited for the domain capability note – sharp, strategic, outlining high value. It arrived twelve days later by email.

It was the same presentation with just three new slides added.

What’s your pitch glitch story?

Best Practices for Proofreading – A practitioner’s guide

In the world of fine dining restaurants, the ‘Pass’ is a place where orders coming in and food going out of the kitchen is monitored.
In quality-obsessed restaurants, the Pass, usually sentineled by the head chef, is the ultimate test of quality before it is handed over to the service staff to take it to the customer. It’s a brilliant practice that should be replicated, especially by marketing, communication and content teams. Identify the expert and let that person be the sentinel at your Pass;
the final custodian of quality for your content.

Now for the best practices, ordered in sequence…



Edit first, proofread last
Yes, because editing is different from proofreading. Editing is a deeper exercise where the editor examines the style, tone, structure, choice of words etc., and rewrites it for overall refinement and appeal to the audience. Proofreading is more about spellings, grammar, syntax, typos and punctuation.

It is highly likely that one edits while proofreading and proofreads while editing. Still, make sure that editing and proofreading get their respective, dedicated focus. Edit first, proofread last.

The writer does not proofread
The writer/author owns the thought. An objective eye for proofreading therefore, becomes difficult. Get a second pair of eyes to proof your content.

Never proofread all aspects at the same time
Proofing requires you to be highly organised. Resist the temptation to fix everything at one go. Check only one aspect at a time. Make a checklist, print it and fix it on your soft board. Example:

Grammar and language
Facts
Sentence casing
Headlines
Subheads
Formatting
Names and spellings

Assign at least three to four rounds
Some folks, especially managers in a hurry, will ask why proofreading can’t be done at one or two rounds. Tell them that it takes more than one round to spot all the errors. Poor copy results in poor impression. Be stubborn about allocating sufficient time to proofreading. The written copy that will go into public domain deserves a keen eye and lots of patience.

Proofread on printed copy, please
The last two rounds of proofing should be on a printed copy, preferably in 14 to 16 point size.

Spellings – Check. Punctuation – Check. Formatting – Check. Establish your own Proofreading Pass for every Check
In the world of fine dining restaurants, the ‘Pass’ is a place where orders coming in and food going out of the kitchen is monitored. In quality-obsessed restaurants, the Pass, usually sentineled by the head chef, is the ultimate test of quality before it is handed over to the service staff to take it to the customer. It’s a brilliant practice that should be replicated especially by marketing, communication and content teams. Identify the expert and let that person be the sentinel at your Pass; the final custodian of quality for your content.

Hit ‘send’ to a test team first
That ‘ouch!’ moment when you spot errors after hitting the ‘send’ button is every communication manager’s nightmare. Cheat that law by sending the email, newsletter, article, blog etc., to an internal ‘test’ team first. It will let you spot the naughty, elusive errors and fix them. Do some more ‘tests’ before you are ready to go official!

Phase out the ‘send’
This best practice works for online campaigns, especially when you have a large database that includes internal and external readers. Phase out the launch of your campaign across two or three rounds. Start with the marketing and communication team in your organisation. Then move to company staff. If you’ve got global offices, send it to branch offices first and then to headquarters. Wait for a day to see if anyone points out errors. It’s a fantastic opportunity to fix something that might have been missed. The last ‘send’ should be to the customer and partner database.