Blogging

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-latin-writing-image20423572I was fortunate; not only was I a voracious reader growing up with a natural ability with words, I also worked with some incredibly gifted writers and editors at Maclean’s. Working with some of the best in the country (I would say the world) makes you up your game. There is a much higher bar when the talent level of your colleagues is through the roof.

At AHA, we work with clients to write, review, revise and edit a wide range of documents. At some point, each project we work on involves the craft of writing – speeches, e-newsletters, web content, messaging and positioning, presentations, communications plans, video scripts, news releases, media pitches, media kits, briefing documents… the list goes on and on. And then there is the process of editing. Which is a very important piece of the puzzle. A solid edit can make a good piece great.

We are always interested in improving our craft. We take courses, participate in workshops and webinars, and read articles and books that give us tips and techniques to improve our writing skills. It is a never-ending quest for improvement.

Active voice vs. passive voice is something we look for in every document. While passive voice isn’t necessarily wrong, active voice is always right. Passive voice can be vague and it is an inefficient use of words. Active voice communicates a different energy and is more effective – it just works better. Grammar Girl has an informative blog post on it here. There is also a piece on Ragan.com that talks about cutting the fat from your writing which highlights the same approach. They are definitely worth reading.

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http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-feather-ink-bottle-image19427719Here at AHA, we do a lot of writing. And I do mean a lot. Speeches, newsletters, articles, briefing notes, annual reports, op-ed pieces, video scripts, news releases… the list goes on and on.

If you write, that means you need an editor and a proofreader. Both of these are of great value and are two very different roles. And don’t let me forget, you also need a fact checker. I am fortunate in that I spent much of my early professional life learning how to write and about the value of the roles of editors, proofreaders (we called them copy editors) and fact checkers at a national news magazine.

We act very much like a magazine does when it comes to creating written communication. It’s a process and we take the time to do it right. And because we do it right, we have achieved great success on behalf of our clients. Our speeches have received standing ovations, the articles we submit to media get picked up on a regular basis, news releases generate media attention… you get the picture. It’s not because we are these incredibly talented writers who write one draft and then magic happens. We work at our craft. And it is work. It takes time, effort and focus – on both the information you want to communicate out and on how you tell a story.

I came across a great piece on Ragan.com that offers some tips and insight for writing, editing, proofing and fact checking. For anyone who communicates as a part of their job or in their personal life, this is worth a read.

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http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-antique-typewriter-2-image7470898At our PR agency, we have been doing quite a bit of work with clients on the development of compelling content for their blogs, websites, e-newsletters and social media networking outreach. Developing content that informs, engages and creates a conversation between an organization and its stakeholders is crucial, especially in the connected world that we all live in.

Creating great content should be a priority for every organization; but quite often when I speak at conferences, present to groups or even speak with potential clients, what I hear is that content creation is frequently left to interns, junior staffers or others who don’t understand its importance. These people don’t have any content production experience (written, video, photos or images) or know how to link the content back to the organizational objectives. And, if things go sideways and there is a backlash to the content, they don’t know how to effectively respond.

When we work with clients, we make sure that we understand the organizational objectives, we work with the client to develop an editorial schedule that includes key points that need to be reflected in the content, and we set up a process not unlike the ones that are used in newsrooms and editorial offices throughout North America. It is important to take content creation seriously.

I can’t tell you how often I have had someone ask me why no one is reading their blog post or e-newsletter, or why they get people yawning (or worse) during their speeches or presentations. When I ask them what their content creation process is, they look at me blankly and say – “I sit at my computer and write down what I want to say.” While that’s a good start, there is so much more to it than that. What are your objectives with this piece? How do they relate back to the project or organizational goals? What does your audience or community want to hear? How are you going to grab their attention – through an image or a shocking, surprising or clever headline? How will you tell a story, rather than push out information? How will you engage the reader, viewer or listener’s heart, as well as their mind? How will you create a connection with that person who is on the other side of the computer screen or sitting in the audience at a conference? If your content is on your website or blog, how will the people who are interested in what you have to say find you? Do you have search engine optimized keywords threaded throughout your headlines and copy – and is it done in a way that doesn’t take away from the integrity of the content?

Great content takes time and effort to produce and it is well worth it.

Do you have a process for creating compelling, engaging content?

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Brand Journalism

How can your organization’s stories be told?

Media relations is an important component of what we do here at our Vancouver PR agency. We love developing newsworthy media pitches and connecting with journalists. It’s exciting, interesting and fun. And it’s more challenging than ever to grab the media’s attention – even with a great story pitch.

The world of journalism has changed. There are fewer resources being put towards the types of stories that we, as PR professionals, pitch to media. Good stories aren’t picked up because of lack of space, airtime and journalists to cover them. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a conversation with one of our media contacts and they say: “I love this story, but we don’t have the resources available.” I have to admit, there are days when it is a little heartbreaking. However, there is a silver lining to this shift.

Organizations can tell their own stories in a compelling, authentic and engaging editorial style. Your stakeholders are out there looking for information about your product, services and brand, and you have the opportunity to provide it to them through your website, your blog, social media and other online sites, videos (and they don’t have to be expensive, slick corporate videos – flip style or editorial style videos can be great and far more reasonable than you may expect), articles, white papers, etc.

We are quite thoughtful about our media pitches. We go through the same process of gathering information that I learned at Maclean’s magazine. We take our media pitches very seriously and our high success rate at getting pick up in media outlets reflects the quality of our work in this area. Although sometimes, there just aren’t the resources available for a media outlet to cover the story. That’s when we take the media pitch and use it to build out an article, a broadcast segment, or a series of blog posts that we share via social media networking sites. This means that if a good pitch doesn’t get picked up, it still has huge value. And I have to say, sometimes the results that we get from the organization producing their own content is more relevant than if it had been covered by traditional media.

How could you tell the stories about your organization? Would it be by using video? A blog? An editorial style article? There are huge opportunities in this area. It’s very exciting for PR agencies like ours, that have writing and storytelling skills, and for our clients.

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Trenz_logo_nauticalHere at AHA, we are preparing to head to New Zealand for the 5th year of TRENZblog, the social media campaign that has us blogging and tweeting from the country. First, as we check out areas on a familiarization trip (this year it’s Wellington, the Marlborough region, and the Christchurch & Canterbury region), and then from TRENZ, New Zealand’s largest travel trade show.

We are always excited to head back to New Zealand – it’s a fabulous place. The beauty of the country is breathtaking and each region has its own unique charm. And the people of New Zealand are exceptional. Friendly, welcoming and more than a little bit cheeky.

Five years ago, TRENZblog was a bit of a leap of faith on the part of Tourism New Zealand. In 2008, the online world was just finding acceptance in the mainstream. In fact, five years ago I had the opportunity to interview New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and I was the first travel blogger to be granted an interview with him.

TRENZblog has now become a bit of a “regular” connection between trade media and New Zealand tourism operators. This project is a resource in providing trade media and travel trade professionals with timely and relevant information about tourism activities in the country.

We have recently been working on several proposals and that always makes us take a look at ourselves as communicators and what and how we do things. TRENZblog is a good example of seeing a shift in the landscape and moving that way. We recognized that the online world and social media were game changers when it came to PR and strategic communication and we knew that in order to serve our clients well, we had to evolve. TRENZblog is one of those projects that could have easily slipped by without much fanfare. It’s kind of workhorse PR initiative. It’s not big and flashy and it likely won’t win us any awards, but it gets the job done – and it gets done well. TRENZblog produces results and over the past four years, we have measured and reviewed what we could do differently, what works and what doesn’t, how we can continue to improve.

We’re really proud of TRENZblog. It’s a good project that meets its objective. The fact that we get to spend time in New Zealand while we implement it is a bonus.

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