Archive for October, 2012

Discover the ultimate cliché experience!

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

The copywriter entrusted with this ad from Bombay Sapphire clearly wasn’t feeling “infused with imagination” on the day she dredged up from her psyche this sorry piece of work. (more…)

Now here’s how you write an apology…

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

On a recent trip to her local cinema, a good friend of mine had to abandon the film half way through because a fight broke out between other customers. Horrific, eh?

So she contacted Curzon, the cinema operator, via its website. She was hoping for a refund but didn’t really expect to hear anything back.

Soon afterwards, however, she got an email from Nigel Stowe, Director of Operations at Curzon. Nigel’s letter thoroughly delighted her – and we can see why. It’s a great example of how a well-executed apology can translate a disaster into customer loyalty. (more…)

Here’s what’s wrong with internal comms – and the simple thing you can do about it

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

When I worked in the internal comms team of a large bank, here’s what you’d typically find on our intranet:

1. Shout-outs about big deals the firm had successfully closed. All thanks, of course, to global teamwork, creative thinking and an unrelenting passion for doing right by the client.

2. Q&As with senior management revealing their grand visions for the firm, each presented in the manner of a great journalistic scoop. Said visions invariably involved more global teamwork, creative thinking and unrelenting passion for doing right by the client.

3. Heart-warming tales of employees volunteering in their local communities. Stories that proved we didn’t, after all, work for the devil. Because teamwork, creative thinking and unrelenting passion for doing the right thing can make the world a better place, you know.

But every summer we had a problem. The markets slept. Tumbleweed bestrew the streets of London, Hong Kong and New York. The whole firm, it seemed, was in the Maldives. No doubt sloughing off the stress of maintaining for an entire year all that global teamwork, creative thinking and unrelenting passion for doing right by the client.

Story leads died in the face of unanswered phone calls and out-of-office replies. Meanwhile, the three-week-old tale of deal making, strategising or selfless community service (inspired by teamwork, creative thinking and unrelenting passion) was looking distinctly stale.

We needed something fresh for what readers we had. The ones, presumably, whose bonus didn’t stretch to a fortnight in the Maldives.

So every summer, we were forced to dig out the same failsafe article to make it look like someone was, you know, actually still here. A little embarrassed, we’d rerun the one piece of the year that was devoid of global teamwork, creative thinking and unrelenting passion.

This article’s title? How to use templates in Word.

And you know what? Overwhelmingly, it got more clicks than any other article we’d published all year.

Now, perhaps that tells you something about the kind of employees whose bonus doesn’t stretch to a fortnight in the Maldives.

Or perhaps it tells you something else. Perhaps it tells you that you can bombard people with all the blather in the world about global teamwork, creative thinking and an unrelenting passion for doing right by the client.

But what employees really want isn’t a load of key messages. Like all readers, they just want insanely useful stuff.

So if you’re in internal comms, consider this: your job isn’t to “engage” (whatever that means anyway).

Your job isn’t to “align and embed business strategy” (no, we don’t really know what that entails either).

Your job isn’t, rather ambitiously, to build an army of brand ambassadors who’ll freak out their friends with their cultish devotion to the firm (yuck).

Your job is simply this: help people do their jobs better.

Do that, and the other stuff will come.

36 tips for lean writing

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

I recently met with a client at a large firm that’s trying to introduce “lean” working processes across the organisation. His team of writers were producing distinctly unlean documents, which is why he needed help.

“Lean” processes were first developed in Japanese manufacturing firms in the 1940s and the concept has spread to other businesses. The idea is that you don’t waste resources on anything that doesn’t “add value” to the end customer. It’s about achieving more with less.

We’re not massively keen on those MBA-ishly jargony words “adding value”, but we do think there’s something in this idea of lean production. Here’s how we think lean principles apply to writing. (more…)

Three free tools for better business writing

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Wouldn’t it be great to get professional feedback on every document you write? If getting a second pair of eyes on your business writing isn’t possible, the next best thing is to run your work through an online readability tool.

Here, we review three free tools that can help you sharpen up your business writing skills. All of them give you a visual snapshot of how readable a piece of writing is. (more…)