Saturday, January 29, 2011

Quick tips for writers

Exterior view. Bronze tympanum, by Olin L. War...Image via Wikipedia
I get asked occasionally for my thoughts on writing professionally. Most of my writing output is technical documents but the same principles apply there as in any creative endeavor. Here's some tips that will help to improve your writing:
  1. Read a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron - it has some excellent discussion of how to manage the creative process.
  2. Think about how you want to manage the business of creating words in a certain order. Do you need copyrights? How about a copyleft? What happens in the long term based on short term decisions made now? 
  3. Have you covered the basic tools of writing - getting the grammar and spelling right, citing your sources properly, providing diagrams and page numbers? Editors and reviewers will need to be managed - their time and attention are valuable to you, so make the most of it by grammar-checking and spell-checking before you ask for outside input. Read your own work through at least once before asking anyone else to.
  4. Write in the present tense. Look at the written works that you admire and analyze them: is a ratio of 4:1 sentences relating to present:past a good one? How about 6:1? What is your goal and how can you make that happen in your writing?
  5. I recommend signing up for twitter. Being forced to be interesting in 140 characters has improved my writing and that of many others.
  6. Write every day, a lot, all the time. Re-read what you wrote and don't fear to ignore ideas that merit it and pursue the ones that rise to the surface. Creative destruction and the death of ideas still in their cradles is as necessary a part of the process as is the nurturing and indulgence of good ideas. 
"There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story." — Frank Herbert

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Manufacturing a holiday

    Early in November, I saw that American Express was starting a holiday - a very gutsy move. I haven't seen the birth of a holiday since Sweetest Day was promoted in the 1980s. I was curious to see what it took to make a holiday work - and to see what would work. Right now, I get the day after Thanksgiving off of work, but I haven't always. And anything that promotes the holiday status of that day after Thanksgiving is a great thing in my book.

    Small Business Saturday - involved communities
    Why though would AmEx want this holiday? First off, many small businesses I shop at have declined my AmEx in the past - my understanding has been that the merchant fees for AmEx are a barrier to them. It has gotten to the point that if I'm dealing with a small business, I don't present my AmEx anymore. So by AmEx promoting this holiday, and engaging their cardholders to promote it (for a $25 statement credit), they can put pressure on small businesses to expand their payment offerings. That's a smart move by AmEx.

    Secondly, AmEx wants more small businesses to accept AmEx. Getting AmEx cardholders to push for acceptance is smart, and hosting an event like Small Business Saturday is a good move too. According to AmEx OPEN's Kim Moon, AmEx logged more than 100,000 point-of-purchase promotional materials downloads from their Small Business Saturday Facebook page, and over 10,000 small businesses signed up and received advertising on Facebook through this program. That's a wonderful expansion for AmEx into a market they've been limited in before.

    Thirdly, this campaign was really amenable to social media tactics. In response to my inquiry to @AskAmex, I found out:
    • 1.2 million people joined the movement and helped spread the word by “liking” Small Business Saturday on Facebook.  American Express had pledged a significant donation to Girls Inc. tied to the number of “likes” on Facebook, and based on the popularity of the Facebook page, Girls Inc. will receive a $1 million donation for programs to empower young women to become entrepreneurs.  Nearly 30,000 tweets were sent using the hashtags #smallbusinesssaturday and #smallbizsaturday.  This includes consumers spreading the word about the national movement and business owners promoting offers they created specifically for the day.
    • 41 elected officials declared November 27, 2010 “Small Business Saturday.” This includes the Governors of Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Utah and the Mayors of Boston, MA; Boulder, CO; Lincoln, NE; New York City; Phoenix, AZ and Topeka, KS. 
    That's pretty neat. It makes me wonder what other kinds of holidays might be appropriate for my industry - or for any specialized area. Perhaps those founder's day parades of my youth weren't so silly after all. American Express is apparently happy with it, as they're continuing small business marketing efforts with their Make a Small Resolution campaign for 2011.

    This post was originally published at Biznology.
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