It’s a new year. But the fundamentals of blog writing will not change

The need for content will remain unabated, as people will continue to seek information, data, news, views and insights.

Subject matter experts will make domain knowledge more accessible than ever.

As you strive to share knowledge and insights, keep these classic rules of writing handy.

Demystify

The subject can be complex. But your writing shouldn’t be.

Whatever the topic may be, the most important reason why you are writing is to be understood.

Avoid unnecessary jargon and metaphors. Check if you can replace complicated words with simpler ones. For example, in this blog, we wrote, “it’s best to adopt neutral words and phrases” instead of “it’s best to adopt culture-agnostic words and phrases”.

Don’t be vague.

Ask what the reader wants to know and how best you can convey it.

Respect cultural and geographical sensitivities

Context matters.

Remember J K Rowling’s first book? The title “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was replaced with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for the US market. It was done because the publishers felt that American children would be less comfortable with “philosopher”.

Check if words used in your blog resonate with a particular audience, geography or culture. When writing for a global audience, it’s best to use neutral words and phrases.

However, if you are writing for a specific country and if it is important that they relate to your writing, then make sure that your vocabulary and spellings reflect that.

And don’t forget, it’s equally or more important to research what’s not okay or taboo for certain cultures or geographies.

The three golden rules

One: Keep sentences short

This has been said before and we’ll say it again. Irrespective of the length of the blog, sentences should be concise.

A long read requires sharp writing. Findings from the 3rd Annual Survey of 1000+ Bloggers from Orbit Media Studios show that the length of a blog has increased over the years. Readers prefer 800 to 1,200 words articles that can showcase substance and depth. 

If blogs are going to be long, it is imperative that sentences should be short.  Short sentences make it easier to assimilate information and insights.

Two: Avoid long paragraphs

Paragraphs are built to focus on a particular thought, theme, idea or argument. Ideally, a paragraph should not have more than four sentences.

However, more blog writers are resorting to single-sentence paragraphs.

Orthodox writers will argue that a sentence cannot be a paragraph. That would be an oxymoron!

However, one could look at it as a technique where a paragraph is being deliberately deconstructed into single sentences to achieve a distinct style of writing and to hold the reader’s attention.

It could also be driven by the fact that mobile reading has increased. Writers want to avoid paragraphs that look exceptionally long on the average mobile screen.

Read more about paragraphs here by the University of Leicester.

Three: Write in active voice, but don’t junk passive voice altogether

As a rule, write in active voice. It allows for succinct and clear sentences.

Passive voice has its uses too. It works well if you are looking to heighten emphasis for the subject receiving the action. Also, when you are unable to or don’t need to mention the doer, then passive voice comes in handy.

Include links

Provide links generously to attribute source of data, quotes, information or insights. Readers will be grateful for pointers to additional reading. It also adds immensely to the credibility of your piece.

Follow best practices in proofreading

If you treat proofreading as a routine, last minute exercise, your writing will run the risk of errors and show your blog in poor light.

There is a method and discipline to proofreading and it pays to follow it rigorously. Read about best practices in proofreading here.

For more tips and techniques, follow us on twitter.

 

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A non political hyper analysis of the first US Presidential debate, 2016

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I kept the alarm, but still woke up 10 minutes late, to watch the Presidential debates from the other end of the Atlantic.

I tweeted, made some observations and here is a television viewer’s take on the most watched debate.

90 minutes. On stage, behind the podium, in front of the audience and the moderator. Scrutiny is an understatement.

90-minutes. Millions watching and hyper analysing every word, gesture and expression.

90 minutes. No commercial breaks. No camera cuts. Just a split screen, zoomed in on the made up faces.

The preparation and homework that must have gone in is unimaginable. After all, the stakes are tied to the most powerful job in the world.

Expression. Eye contact. Gestures. Tone. Pitch. Blink. Flicker. Cough. Sip. Sniffle.

Yeah, the briefing documents must have had notes running into pages for each item.

One almost felt sorry for them. Here we were perched on the sofa with tea and an array of sandwiches, looking forward to 90-minutes of undiluted entertainment.

A chance to play God. And an endless investigation of the key issues.

In addition to no commercial breaks, there were no bio breaks either. They must have been off water, at least two hours before getting on stage.

Still, Donald sipped. And the trolls went berserk with his drinking.

Then the face needed to be arranged exactly in the manner that the campaign managers had told them to.

What to show? How to hide? There’s no place to go, when you are in the limelight.

Smile! Hillary did plenty of that, poor woman, giving in to the criticism that she doesn’t.

Don’t smirk or shake your head. But Trump went ahead and did just that after fifteen minutes of polished restraint. His campaign manager must have sent a text message to his colleague – smh.

He sniffled a bit too and got written about it. Wondering how that comes in the way of Presidency though…

In addition to sniffling, was there shuffling? Who could tell? The podium covered it well. Thank God! You can’t be seen shuffling if you are running for the President’s office.

Don’t cough. You are allowed to choke, preferably on a pretzel and after you become President. But don’t cough. If you cough, you will be written off. She didn’t.

But she did her famous shoulder shimmy, just once. And the trolls went to town with the now famous shimmy GIF.

What to wear? Bright? Sober? Pleasant? Feminine? Humane?

Hillary pulled off the bright red jacket brilliantly, along with the expertly coiffed hair.

Just how many hours were spent selecting the colour and cut? How much analysis and psychological connections of subliminal derivations of colour must have been done.

Looks like it worked. She looked sensational. And Trump saw Red. That explains why he interrupted Hillary 25 times in 26 minutes.

The carefully selected blue silk tie stood out pretty well against Trump’s crisp white shirt. It seemed to have a calming effect on Hillary.

She won this round, in my estimate. Not hands down. Or not because she was brilliant. Mostly, because he was being himself. A brat.

 

Here’s looking at you America…

An interpretation, through the songs of Simon & Garfunkel

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“They’ve all come to look for America” – America, Simon & Garfunkel.
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“New York, to that tall skyline, I come flyin'” – A Heart in New York, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Manhattan, NYC
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“New York, like a scene from all those movies, but you’re real enough to me…” A Heart in New York, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Manhattan, NYC
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“New York, lookin down on Central Park” – A Heart in New York, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: The Pond, Central Park
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“New York, you’ve got money on your mind” – A Heart in New York, Simon & Garfunkel.  Pic: NYSE
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“A heart in New York, a rose on the street, I write my song to that city heartbeat” – A Heart in New York, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: One WTC, Lower Manhattan, NYC
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“Old friends, sat on a park bench like bookends…Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly; how terribly strange to be seventy” – Old Friends/Bookends,  Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Central Park, middle-upper Manhattan, New York City
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“Hello lamp post, whatcha doin? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin. Ain’t you got no rhymes for me?” – 59th bridge street song, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: George Town, Washington DC
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“All come to look for America” – America, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Manhattan skyline on a cloudy evening.
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“And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made” – Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Times Square, NYC
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“Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, they’ve all come to look for America” – America, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Somewhere on a Turnpike…
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“I’m sitting at a railway station, with a ticket to my destination” – Homeward Bound, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Railway Station, Trenton, New Jersey.
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“Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together. I’ve got some real estate here in my bag…” America, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Detroit Airport, Michigan
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“Michigan seems like a dream to me now…” America, Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Orchard Lake Road, Michigan.

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“When you’re weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all.  I’m on your side, oh when times get rough and friends just can’t be found, Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down…Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way. See how they shine. Oh, if you need a friend, I’m sailing right behind. Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind” – Bridge Over Troubled Waters Simon & Garfunkel. Pic: Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls.

All pictures featured on this post belong to the author of this blog post/page

The speeches of Philadelphia – powerful messages of equality & humanity

What an amazing week of speeches it has been.

As I blogger and speechwriter, I drooled and envied and applauded the speeches, their writers and the people who delivered them with such grace and sincerity.

These speeches, they weren’t mere election rhetoric.

They inspired and put faith back in people’s hearts to where it belonged.

They touched people across nations and gave them hope. For their own people and their own situations.

They were powerful messages of equality, of humanity and of togetherness; of the need for restraint and equally of being able to take a stand; of leaving something back for our children and being role models for them; of decency and generosity; of courage and grace and optimism.

These speeches were not just about America.

They did not just inspire and touch a nation.

When people saw whites and people of Anglo-Saxon and Caucasian origin cheering and crying during the speeches of First Lady Michelle and President Obama, you knew that people across the world are just as good.

That the human race, across nations, will go beyond race, colour, class and caste.

That the whites will take a stand for blacks; and the blacks will fight for the whites; that Christians will support the Moslems; and Moslems will be friends with Hindus; that Hindus will help Christians and Moslems will weep for the Sikhs and that the Sikhs will always support a noble cause.

And that everyone will help and pray and take a stand for everyone who is down.

Acrimony and terror and the hate mongering may have made people cringe and withdraw and be in doubt.

And the wolves may have cashed in on fear, to divide people on race, colour, class and caste.

But the speeches of Philadelphia helped to remind and reinforce that good will prevail over bad. Not just in America, but across continents and countries.

And for that reminder, speechwriters, go on, take a bow!

References:

First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama full speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016

President of the United States, Barack Obama full speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016

Democratic Presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton full speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016

Father of deceased Muslim US soldier, Khizr Khan full speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016

Note from the author:
This post may also appear on other third party websites, including the author’s personal blog page. The post may be subject to edits as per the discretion of the third party websites.

Leadership Lessons from Master Chef Australia

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I have been watching Master Chef Australia for about five years now and it never fails to touch a chord. It is much more than a cooking reality show. While it does celebrate food, flavor, culinary skills, technique and presentation, it also packs in more lessons.

Watch how Gary, Matt and George don their roles as coaches and mentors and provide unmistakable lessons for leadership.

Cooking
When the participants are cooking and racing against time, the trio steps in to provide that bit of valuable advice or to flag-off a potential cooking disaster. It is always done professionally and is always about the skill, technique, ingredient, speed and never about the person.
Take-Away for leaders:
Don’t wait till appraisal time to provide inputs or comments. Be involved, observe carefully and ensure you don’t set your team up for failure.

Tasting
This is leadership in action! Watch every tasting ceremony and see how sensitivity, compassion and objectivity become the core values of an ‘appraisal’ or ‘review’. When the participant places the dish for the ultimate test of tasting, the judges’ body language and expression is neither condescending nor critical. The first remark, whatever the outcome would be, is always positive like –“Wow! That looks good”.

When the stakes are high, especially in an elimination round, every tasting is preceded with a personal conversation – “what’s driving you?”, “how did you do today?”, “is something bothering you?”. There’s so much empathy that is demonstrated, especially with the participant who has struggled the most or whose dish is showing problems.

We see expert, incisive knowledge as the basis of observations and comments. Even though the viewers aren’t tasting the dish, we know exactly what went right or awry with the flavour, technique or ingredient. No personal biases come in the way.

Take-Away for leaders:
Demonstrate deep domain knowledge and let objectivity and fairness ride supreme. This way the candidate is completely enrolled in your evaluation and respects the decision. And don’t fake the personal conversation. Insincerity is always detected.

Scoring
The judges clearly spell out reasons for their score and you can’t fault their verdict.  The good points are unfailingly highlighted, along with the poor ones. In a close tie, the ultimate parameters are flavor and balance. Presentation, hard work, team spirit all get their due. But when its down to the last crumb and every dish is a visual treat, then it is all about the core value – how did the food taste.

Take-Away for leaders:
Let your employee know exactly the reason behind your scores and always align performance to the ultimate objective or core value of the role/project.

Elimination
This is when the participant with the lowest score gets eliminated from the show. And how! The best moments are showcased, strengths and achievements are celebrated and the participant is reminded of his/her goal or dream.

What’s beautiful is that much after the elimination, the last frame tells the viewers about the participant’s current journey and success – “We wish you well”, “We know you’ll do well” “We’ll look out for you”.

Take-Away?

About the author:

Azra Fathima is a communication expert. In her own words –

“I architect highly coherent strategies that help organisations and teams to move from an idea to a successful, repeatable and sustainable outcome.

While leading strategic and global marketing (focus on US, UK and India) in multinational companies across technology and related industries, I have also instituted landmark initiatives and strategic properties that are supported with robust implementation plans. These have helped organisations to make quantum leaps in their stated objectives.

My core competencies include communication; writing; organisational strategy; marketing strategy; brand transformation; messaging; content strategy; content management, demand generation and high operational efficiency.

I love writing and am featured among HuffPost’s signature lineup of contributors for their blog page.”

For more, please read here – https://in.linkedin.com/in/azrafathima

How unique! Everyone has a differentiator

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 3.01.29 pmYOU have set up a new business or a new practice within your existing business.

You think you have something unique to offer.

You find out that:

EVERYONE ELSE has a “differentiator”. And almost everyone has proof points.

YOUR PROSPECTS do not look at your offering as unique.

THE CHALLENGE IS NOT about getting initial customer attention.

THE CHALLENGE IS about breaking their resistance to buy into your story.

IT’S WHERE sales and marketing folks struggle most – to be seen, and to be heard.


“I’ll see it when I believe it”

The battleground for getting customer / investor attention has shifted. It’s at a treacherous paradigm called “I’ll see it when I believe it”.

Clients/prospects/investors on the other side are surveying hundreds of offerings, promises and differentiators.

To them everything looks the same. That’s the single biggest reason for the stubborn mindset – “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

Communication managers have a real opportunity here to take control and change the filters through which the narrative is being viewed. And it goes beyond clever headlines, enthralling graphics and creative content.

Design thinking for communication

We can have the best innovation designed in our labs.

But how do we get our prospects to have a conversation about it?

It’s only logical that innovation in communication follows innovation in product and process.

When applied to communication, design thinking will transform the way we navigate and get in front of the customers; to get their attention and to get their active participation in our narrative.


Five key attributes of design thinking for communication

Listening is everything

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”  – Larry King

It’s not a new rule and it will never go away.

Executive interviews, client questions, prospect objections, conversations, data, analytics, observations – everything contributes to valuable insights. Teams should place themselves at the intersection of their organisation and the client and listen keenly to both ends of the spectrum – the client end and the organisation end. Design thinking begins here.


“Your problem”, “your customers”, “your outcomes”

Despite all the focus, when it comes to communication, most websites, emails, presentations and collateral will reveal a routine disregard for customer centricity.

Clients may not come knocking on the door, asking for a solution. But the truth is they are looking for answers to their problems.

Nothing can change the deep cynicism that sets in when the communication landscape continues to be littered with stereotype phrases like “our solution”, “our methodology”, “our process”, “our differentiator”, “our success” and “why us”.

Customer-centricity needs to move from being the rhetoric of an annual strategy meet to real action in every sphere of the business.

It takes immense courage and conviction to break away from the focus on “us” to “you”.

In marketing, we hear the oft-repeated phrase “does it resonate?” In design thinking, the first principle is empathy.

When there is empathy, communication will resonate. Empathy also means deep customisation of the communication plan that endeavours to address the client concerns.


Ask the right questions

The process of design thinking requires us to ask questions that will evoke compelling answers leading to a persuasive and well-founded communication plan. Examples:

  • Question: What information do we have about the client/prospect
    Change to: What is the prospect mindset?
  • Question: How do we showcase our value proposition?
    Change to: What is the client’s biggest problem?
  • Question: What communication channels do we use?
    Change to: Where, when and how will the client want to see the communication?
  • Question: What call for action should we include?
    Change to: How can we get the client to be excited to have meaningful conversations?


Don’t tell. Show

That golden rule is not just for book writers. It’s where social media has already gone – Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Pinterest and even Twitter.

Visual, tactile and tangible outputs have an incredible impact on storytelling.

Watch the Volvo Trucks video of the Epic Split Feat by Van Damme, Live Test here  and see how spectacular cinematography, a minimal but powerful narrative and haunting music come together in a riveting video that demonstrates the stability and precision of Volvo dynamic steering.

So little said; but so much conveyed in just one minute and 17 seconds.

It went viral on YouTube with nearly 68 million views.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Volvo Truck sales rose 31 percent in November 2013. An email or a page on the website wouldn’t have done that.

Communication teams will need to work with design, engineering, analytics, technology, operations and digital marketing teams to integrate message with channel and create narratives that will defy stubborn mindsets.

White boarding with simple sketches and patterns to design the communication journey is a great place to start.


Call to converse – A different kind of call to action

A call to action can no longer be asking the client to reply with an appointment, download a brochure, make a call, view a film, fill a form or scan a QR code.

Design thinking requires ‘call to action’ to evolve to ‘call to converse’.

It’s about getting the customer to participate in the uniqueness of your innovation and getting them to engage with your solution and having meaningful conversations.


Not a department function, but an organisational strategy

Design thinking for communication will have to be deployed as an organisational strategy. It can work for marketing and communication only when it works for the organisation as a whole.

When done well, the communication plan can break new ground to overcome the existing mindset “I’ll see when I believe it.”

References:

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” —Tim Brown, President and CEO, IDEO. For more, please read here.

“In its simplest form, design thinking is a process—applicable to all walks of life—of creating new and innovative ideas and solving problems. It is not limited to a specific industry or area of expertise.” – Kaan Turnali, Global Senior Director, Enterprise Analytics, SAP. For more, please read this Forbes article here.

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

 

 

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.