The World Needs More Good Writers

As a professional business writer, I’m constantly amazed at the lack of quality writing out there. I don’t mean just in the business world, but in virtually all areas of society. In the age of the computer, even spell check seems to be a bit lonely. There’s really no excuse for bad writing.

Yet everywhere I look, I see it. Misspelled words or names. Sentences that don’t make sense. Just this week, I read a report by a medical professional regarding a consultation. She misspelled the name of another physician so badly that I didn’t even recognize the person. If a respected medical professional can’t get that right, why would I trust them to perform a medical procedure? To me, detail is kind of important in an operating room.

As someone who is in daily communication with professionals, not everyone misses the mark. Yet I continue to see mistakes on websites, corporate communications materials, in emails and articles. Every day, I see errors watching the headlines on television in the spelling of basic words or names.

Now I know everyone is busy. We all have deadlines. I get it. But at least take the time to verify that a name is spelled correctly.

If you can’t take the time to run your content through spell check, then why would I trust that you or your brand would take the time to address my problems?

It seems that in an effort to guard the bottom line, many companies sacrifice quality for quantity. With so many experienced writers out there, there’s really no reason you can’t have the best of both worlds.

So the next time you’re looking for a professional writer, don’t hire the cheapest one. Or that referral from Uncle John (unless they fit the other criteria!). Hire someone who has some experience and really understands your business and your audience. Hire someone who has the ability to move an audience through words. Someone who can motivate people to take action. Just think about what impact that would have on your bottom line.

In our new and wondrous technological world, writing shouldn’t have to be a lost art. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run my post through spell check!


(Photo courtesy Katherine Firth





“Trumped”: Get Your Narrative Right and You Could Win the White House

Love him or hate him, few would disagree that Donald Trump is a master storyteller. Politics aside, Trump was the true underdog both within and outside of his own party.

Obama and many others skewered him in public. The media would often sway between sensationalism to downright skepticism in their reporting of all things Trump. Yet what the skeptics didn’t know or understand was that Trump was playing right into the hands of the American electorate.

People love the underdog story. Most can identify with what it’s like to be the outsider. It seemed that no matter what Trump said or did, he couldn’t lose. And people want to support a winner.

Perhaps even Trump himself was surprised that he was able to win over America to claim the highest office in the land. The fact is that Donald Trump is a genius at getting inside the zeitgeist of a population and in reading what it is exactly that people want. And it was time for change. Fed up with the status quo and their place in life, Trump gave his supporters what they wanted to hear. Like Superman rushing to save the screaming masses from a burning building, he was their hero and promised to fix things if they gave him a chance.

Many underestimated Trump. What his opponents and skeptics did was fail to see that through his storytelling and ability to read the current narrative playing out in America, he was able to tap into something so deep that no one else was able to reach it.

While there were many reasons that led to Trump’s victory, from a story perspective he hit all the right buttons.

Here’s what Trump did right:

  1. He tapped into people’s emotions and took them on an emotional journey. Great stories are built on great characters and he was able to create a persona for himself that instinctively drew people to his rallies by the tens of thousands
  2. He focused on what was really going on with the American people in a way that more seasoned politicians just failed to see. He read the narrative and followed the script. America was fed up and wanted to be great again. Trump offered a way out and his unconventional personality was able to draw people to his ideas
  3. His journey had many similarities to those experienced by heroes in the classic book by Christopher Vogler “The Writer’s Journey.” It’s almost as if Trump’s actions followed those in a dramatic movie script. There was a Call to Action, which led to the Hero’s Journey. Along the way, there were antagonists (or one key one – Hillary Clinton), tests, allies and enemies. After numerous challenges the hero crosses the threshold and returns with the ultimate prize – the White House

To quote Campbell, “Every storyteller bends the mythic pattern to his own purpose or the needs of her culture. That’s why the hero has a thousand faces.”

Great stories are mythic in nature and speak directly to the human spirit.They tap into a mythological core that teaches us something about ourselves.

From a storytelling perspective, Trump nailed it on all levels. Add to that his brand of authenticity yet unseen in the world of Washington politics and he proved to be a worthy opponent.

For Donald Trump, his final act is yet to be written. In the meantime, there will be more tests, allies and enemies along the way as he leaves the ordinary world and prepares to enter the brand new world of politics.




Narrative Assets Announces Plot Change....

As a note of interest to my loyal readers, I wanted to announce that I've accepted an 8 month full-time contract in Communications starting tomorrow. I'll be working as a Communications Specialist for an organization that supports and services professionals in the financial services industry.

The opportunity is a great one with lots of potential, and gives me the opportunity to put my writing, strategic and project management skills to good use.

I will still continue to blog, although the timeline for posts might not be as frequent as in the past. I look forward to reading more of your comments.

If anyone has ideas on content they would like to see on Narrative Assets, please let me know and I would be happy to provide it.

According to brand guru Scott Bedbury, a "great brand is a story that's never completely told. A brand is a metaphorical story that's evolving all the time." If we as marketers and communicators think of ourselves as a brand, then each decision we make gives us the chance to add another chapter to our story. Nobody is ever sure how the story is going to end, but that's what makes life interesting isn't it?

I look forward to writing more stories - and to hearing more about your own.

Keep reading...and keep thinking. The world is full of stories yet to be told.


Building Trust - How Poor Communication Loses My Vote




As Ontario gears up for an election in October, we're being inundated with the usual flurry of promotional pieces. Election promises abound as candidates strive to make their message heard. Debates are won and lost, press interviews are countless - and television ads occupy our airtime.

Recently, one of the candidates left a brochure on our door outlining his promises for a better Ontario. What strikes me as a bit ironic is the fact that I found numerous typos in the brochure (not one, but several), as well as notable inconsistencies in design and format. Call me a perfectionist, but if I am to put my faith and trust in a candidate, you'd think they would at least take the time to use a spell-checker.

The idea of not taking the time to double check your work isn't just a problem in the political arena. When I was hiring interns from a nearby college, many of their cover letters contained numerous typos. I've seen emails from Executive Directors of national associations so poorly written, that it made me wonder how the person ever got (and kept) their high profile job in the first place.

Have we become too busy to care about the way we communicate? Politicians spend oodles of money on campaigns, yet lose credibility when they fail to remember the basic rules of communication.

That's not to say that all this will be the key factor in choosing my favourite candidate. But I have to wonder if a person who can't seem to handle things on a small stage, will have the skills needed to lead on a larger one.

Communicating Through Film: Lessons from Hollywood

In just a few weeks the glitz, glamour and mayhem known as the Toronto International Film Festival will be in town.  I attended my first festival years ago, and it's definitely an exciting experience.

I've always been entranced by film. To me, it represents something extraordinary, something out of this world. I find myself caught up in the story, and in the buzz created by being part of a group who is enjoying a similar experience.

In the world of communication, the mark of a good communicator is someone who, through their story and ability to engage an audience, is able to make people understand their message. The ability to do this through film provides added benefits as the experience is quite different from more "static" methods.

It is in this spirit that I propose several ways in which companies could learn from communication techniques used in Hollywood:

  • In every organization, there will always have to be someone in control - the CEO is the Director of your company's story
  • To better engage people, create some buzz - give people a reason to be a character in your company's vision
  • Tell it like it is - documentary filmmakers do this all the time
  • Find out what people want to buy, and give it to them
  • When formulating company strategy, put yourself in your audience's shoes - how do you want them to feel when they buy your product?
  • Managers have to act first, before they can direct
  • To engage shareholders, CEO's have to be good actors and storytellers

As Ingmar Bergman once said, "To shoot a film is to organize an entire universe." The techniques needed to lead a company in the real world aren't much different than those used in the magical world of Hollywood.