Tag Archives: writing


This Writer’s 2012 New Years Blogging Resolutions

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I’ve begun to feel a convergence lately—of tools and motivation, of desire and actual potentials toward reality, of wherewithal and professional and personal need, of hubris and humility. I ain’t all that good at this social media thing—and I need to be. And so I’ve determined to more directly invoke my editorial calendar and focus on the task at hand: writing productivity. Continue reading

Social Selling

Providing writing support to sales reps IS sales enablement

Gerhard Gschwandtner talks with Deborah Dumaine of Better Communications about the importance of good writing for sales success. The usual suspects are all here:

  • Don’t make it all about your company
  • Use a style that matches the recipient
  • Don’t use texting language
  • Don’t make grammar mistakes
  • Spell check
  • Proofread before you click send

As a professional communicator attached to sales teams, I see this all the time–in proposals, in letters, on LinkedIn.

The temptation is often to write these reps off as either wholly incompetent or else so narcissistic as to believe their smile or their product will seal the deal for them.

In the complex world of competitive bids, even the greenest of salespeople understands the old saw about buyers “looking for reasons to NOT deal with you.” Your logo’s the wrong color/font, your proposal’s too long/short, your handshake’s too firm/dead-fishy.

“Why,” I would ask myself, “would anybody allow this writing to leave the firewall bound for a prospective paying customer?”

Today, however, I’ve seen too many reps who don’t know subject from predicate actually succeed quarter over quarter, despite their indigent deliverables. And why? Bright smiles. Strong offerings. Just-right handshakes. And a driving determination to serve the customer despite the hurdles and hoop-jumping of a longer cycle.

Writing, to these grinders, isn’t everything.

Now if you know me, and are familiar with my writing elsewhere on this blog, you’ll understand where I’m headed here. Sales support, enablement, administration, operations (pick your title) must be more than CRM expertise and conference calls with revrec (though these too are important).

A well-maintained and usable library of sales scripts and templates, mapped to the sales workflow, integrated into corporate applications, and trained trained trained. This is the task of enterprise sales support. This is a critical component of an effective sales operations program.

We should expect a minimal level of writing skill from our sales professionals in the field. But we shoot ourselves in the foot withholding tools to help them write better, faster, and more consistently.

Standards as the Enemy of the Good

Neil Perlin, from “Perfect vs. Good Enough”—Writing Quality in the Online Age:

I got a call from a dot-com looking for a “content provider.” It was the first time I’d ever heard that title so I laughed and said, “So you’re looking for a writer?” I was taken aback when the caller said, “No! We don’t want a writer.”

I’ve worked with (and for) many who would also be shocked by that line. Perlin goes on to reveal much of what I’ve experienced in my evolution from a dyed-in-the-wool, perfectionist technical communicator. The speed of business today means dot releases and pilot programs: Strict adherence and dedication to The Levels of Edit can seem rather silly when you’re actually in the trenches.

“Perfect vs. Good Enough”—Writing Quality in the Online Age from Intercom, December ’09

The Growing Need for Terminology Management

I continually marvel at just how intrusive ‘luck following the prepared’ can be. I’m trying to work over here! Anyway, just in time to fortify my current research diet into Content Strategy, in Whaddya Call It?, Don DePalma makes valid arguments around the justification for a more focused approach to what we call things:

The question of correct and consistent terminology is one that should command the attention of a company across its product lines and within the industry where it operates. Simply stated, terminology management concerns the terms that represent the system of concepts of a particular company, industry, science, art, government, or even social entity like a family unit.

DePalma’s ideas are equally as valid as other less easily-digestible fare, and they reinforce many of the discussions I’ve been having internally around the need for a controlled vocabulary at my company. Certainly, any kind of technological innovation we implement for document and content management will rely on a search system that has the flexibility to translate disparate terms into valid searches across the board. But socialization of a controlled vocabulary would go a long way toward sparing us those conversations we overhear in the hallways that typically include on or about the 4-minute mark, “Yeah, yeah, same thing… Tomato, Tomahto…”

“About Us” Information on Websites

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox reports finding “a 9 percent improvement in the usability of ‘About Us’ information on Websites over the past five years, but companies and organizations are largely still unable to explain what they do in a single paragraph.”

An accurate representation of a company or organization on the Internet is one of a Website’s most important tasks, as effectively explaining the company’s purpose and what it stands for provides support for all of the Website’s other goals.

The Alertbox suggests providing About Us information at four levels of detail.

  • First, a tagline on the homepage, just a few words or brief sentence, should summarize what the organization does.
  • Second, a one- to two-paragraph summary at the top of the main About Us page should offer more detail about the organization’s goals and main accomplishments.
  • Third, a fact sheet following the summary should elaborate on key points and other essential facts about the organization.
  • Fourth, subsidiary pages with greater depth should provide more detailed information for people looking for more about the organization.

Such a layered approach creates an inverted pyramid that uses hypertext to shield users from overwhelming details, while simultaneously providing specific information for those who want it.

A Rundown of the “Writer” vs. “Communicator” Issue from STC

The government’s Standard Occupational Classifications (SOC) is under ongoing pressure from the Society for Technical Communication (STC) to modify its classification of those professionals historically referred to as Technical Writers. Now, a clearinghouse of past discussion is available (members only?) detailing what this means to those in the profession and those looking to hire us.

Immediacy vs. Perfectionism in Corporate Blogging

Cluetrain’s David Weinberger, in conversation with Fast Company:

In part, you have to be willing to write really badly. That’s part of the deal; you have to willing to publish things, to make things public, pretty much as soon as you’ve written them. The deal with the reader is that the reader gives you preemptive forgiveness for the bad writing, for errors. That’s the only way this social transaction can go forward. And many people — not just in business, but especially in business, where documents are your avatar — are reluctant to expose writing that’s suboptimal.