S17 – Digital Communication: Blog Post #2 Honestly? Make it a good story.

The key to storytelling is honesty. If the audience doesn’t feel like it can trust what you wrote, you’ve squandered an opportunity to engage with it. The way to get there is through clear, concise, correct and complete content. Making sure your content doesn’t “trip up” the reader means that your message will not be lost and your call to action may be headed.

Not everyone can be a storyteller but everyone can write properly. Sometimes that’s the way to engaging your audience. Using the inverted pyramid as a guide means that the most important information will be read first. At the very least, you’ll have someone who can quote what they’ve read. At the most, they’ve continued to read and can elaborate on the points you want them to remember.

Getting the reader’s attention is the hardest part. A catchy headline and lead helps to draw that attention. However it’s the honesty of the writing that will keep that attention. Proper grammar, plain language, clear sentence structure and solid research will gain that trust and open the door for more engagement.

If you open that door, make sure that you stay engaged with your audience. Facebook responses must be timely. Replies to tweets must be immediate. Commenting on Instagram photos are required. Audiences like to feel that the businesses they engage with are interested in what they think or how they feel. Creating that bond is important but maintaining it is critical.

An attention-getting story, well-written content and staying engaged with audiences will help a business move forward with achieving its business goals.

S17-Digital Communication – Blog post #1 Québec City: Three nights, three days, and a whole lot of time on the train.

Our anniversary weekend getaway was planned way back in the dead of winter and we could hardly believe it was here. No kids, time together, and a wee adventure all in one glorious long weekend.

When we had first decided to go to Québec City, I envisioned a road trip along the St. Lawrence, poking in at the various towns along the way. My husband was the one who suggested the train and I went along with it, but I wasn’t keen on it.

Boy was I wrong.

No hassle, good food, friendly staff and pure relaxation is how we spent the six hour journey. Despite the ungodly departure time (6:30 a.m.) we were able to recuperate with a nap and our picnic breakfast of bagels, smoke salmon cream cheese, champagne and orange juice and, of course, coffee.

The train arrives right outside Vieux Québec, and was just steps from our hotel – Only five hundred metres away. What the guidebooks don’t tell you is that it’s a vertical five hundred metres! We quickly realized how out of shape we were when we arrived at our hotel red-faced and gasping for air.

Fortunately our room was ready when we arrived and we were able to freshen up and take on the sites of the old city. We soon realized that Québec City is uphill, no matter which way you go. The great news was that our hotel was always on the way down those hills which made retiring at the end of the day particularly sweet.

I need to mention right away how wonderful this hotel was. Every morning, at 8 a.m., a basket was hung outside our door that contained a delightful breakfast. Every. Morning. I was in heaven!

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We headed first to the main attraction of Québec City: le Château Frontenac. There we sat and had a lovely drink with a lovely view.

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From there, we went to what can only be described as a restaurant not much bigger than my own kitchen. And the food was cooked on a simple white stove and the atmosphere was as if you were visiting an old friend. And we had the most amazing food we’ve ever eaten. Scallops that melted in your mouth. Lobster that was divine. And I now have a new-found love for Jerusalem artichokes.

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The next day we roamed around the city taking in the sights and enjoying the laid-back, Euro-Canadian atmosphere. At dusk, we took the ferry to Lévis to watch the sun set over the city. It was a warm, calm evening to cross the St. Lawrence and made for the perfect beginning of our evening.

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From there we wandered the cobblestone streets and settled on a patio where lanterns hung overhead, growing brighter as the day grew darker. Because we were at river level, there was another climb up the hill before we could make our way down the hill to the hotel. To our joy, we discovered that Québec City has a funicular! As it climbed the massive cliff, we emerged above the rooftops to another stunning view of the city at night.

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For our last day, we made our way to the Plains of Abraham. In a bit of spectacular strategic planning, we walked along the wall at St. Louis Gates and then climbed the hill at the Citadel. After another self promise to work out more, we recovered in the pavilion at the top to more breathtaking views on a clear, sunny day.

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The spectacular strategic planning came in as we made our way down, not up, the 301 stairs to the edge of the Château Frontenac. To celebrate our brilliance, we treated ourselves to a gourmet poutine at le Chic Shack

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The next day we left at a much more civilized time and walked downhill to the train station. We had loads of time before our departure so we checked our luggage and went to the Marché du Vieux Port. There were perused around the best Quebec has to offer: fresh seafood from le Gaspé, blueberry jam, pear cider, baked goods and the biggest assortment of maple products I’ve ever seen.

For the train ride home, we splurged and sat in Business Class.

Oh my.

Lots of room; a lunch and dinner served; and wine came with both meals!

Looking for a séjour that is reasonable in budget and travel time? Go to Québec City.

Ça vaut la peine.

 

 

 

Factotum

There’s a common phrase for us comms folk: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” The premise being that we need to be multi-talented to be effective communicators. It means a multitude of skills and abilities to keep up on how to best promote that message, work with the egos of clients, and work with the egos of your own bosses. It means keeping an eye on the bottom line of the budget while finding a way to fit everything within the budget. It’s providing the same advice over and over while refraining from saying “I told you so” over and over. It’s fixing it, promoting it, editing it, rewriting it, and….the list really does go on and on.

We’re the first ones on the budget chopping block and then asked how to “spin the message.” We’re the last ones invited to the table but the first ones called when it goes wrong. We’re the first ones asked to everything because “you’re in communications” that no one else wants to do. We’re the ones in the background when it’s going perfectly and the ones at the front when it’s not.

The communications world is constantly changing and, as a communicator, you’re expected to keep up with the changes, to be knowledgeable and practical about current trends. You are also expected to justify expenses related to ensuring that your organization can keep up with those current trends. Some days you’re the CEO’s right-hand-man. Some days, you’re the last to know about something that’s been in the works for months. And through it all, you need to be able to constantly think two steps ahead so the big picture is always in view, while ensuring the details aren’t overlooked.

Writing, public speaking, planning, pitching, fixing, enabling, creating, learning, knowing, producing, teaching, convincing, organizing, helping: These are all words lived by communicators every day. A factotum of abilities that are needed in today’s communications environment.

 

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LinkedIn post:  Top 10 skills essential for today’s communicator. (Link to post)

Facebook post: Things I wish I knew when I started in communications (Link to post)

Twitter post: Think you have what it takes to work in communications? Here’s what you need to know. (Link to article)

Lackadaisical

It’s the first sunny and reasonably warm weekend of the year where, after several fake-outs, spring actually looks like it’s going to happen. People are noticeably happier; they walk with a lighter step; birds are chirping; and snow is starting to melt quickly in the warmth of the sun.

It’s a day where my list book beckons me to start spring planning: spring cleaning; garden to organize; clothes to cull and to buy; Easter lunch for 19 people; summer vacation. But even though I love planning and making lists, today lacks the motivation to do all the very things I know I need to do.

The word “lackadaisical” means lazy, lethargic, or listless. And today is definitely a day to be list-less (See what I did there?). The sunshine’s call is louder and a long walk allows me to simply enjoy the day for what it is. It’s a day to give pause and let the brain and spirit regenerate by resting. It’s a day to let creativity re-build instead of deplete. It’s a day to catch up with my family after a crazy week of work, school, social commitments and lessons.

Despite initial howls of protest from my kids due to a day-long moratorium on screens, they have settled into their books and share interesting tidbits with us about anecdotes they find interesting. The conversation is easy and relaxed with none of the time constraints that usually hurry it along. A third cup of coffee feels relaxing, not necessary (as it usually does), and the caffeine has a chance to truly flow through my body making me feel like I can accomplish anything, which will be nothing.

As someone who works in the communications world, there is a feeling to be always be “on”: always checking social media, always making a list of ideas, and always feeling a need to be planning. As countless articles, posts, and other blogs attest, unplugging is essential to quality life. But it’s not only that. It’s essential for quality of work too. After a walk, my mind feels clear. Being at the cottage replenishes my spirit. Hanging out with my kids makes my soul feel happy and being with my husband makes my heart feel full and content. All of this helps the strategic, creative process that makes me a better communicator. And in a world that’s always feels go-go-go, it’s just as important to be lazy and list-less every now and then.

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Ignus fatuus: Foolish Fire

Organizational culture is the inspiration today’s writings.

Culture in an organization is so important, but it seems that there is much time spent discussing it and little time spent nurturing it. Organizations heavily advocate why they are great places to work to outsiders but do they strive to meet the day-to-day expectations of their own staff?

To me, the foolish fire is working to attract because you think it’s trendy or the way things are done because “everyone is doing it.” It’s creating a big buzz or campaign to attract the best candidates but then falling short once they’ve signed their letter of offer.

I believe that it’s important to have an overall work culture that doesn’t just attract people but keeps them there.

In one large industry, for example, the lures are great salaries, excellent benefits, and a wide array of internal opportunities.

But, when you arrive on your first day and there is no computer for you to work on; when you don’t have a security pass and have to rely on someone to sign you in for days; when you don’t get paid for weeks; it dulls the shine of all that is amazing of that employer. It’s foolish fire.

Heavily promoting initiatives through social media but not allowing staff access is foolish fire.

Encouraging professional development but only within a narrow parameter and scope is foolish fire.

Advocating for fearless innovation but being too risk-adverse is foolish fire.

These all may appear to be minor things but they all add up to the big picture that represents an organizations. The expectations that are set in the day-to-day are critical to maintaining the culture that organizations believe they have.

The power of words: People believe them and employers have to live up to them.

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