Write clearly to avoid the reality gap

Sometimes we can spend too much time worrying about the latest Google update, smartphone or OS version and forget that effective communication – for that’s what all these tools are there to support – often needs to be clear and simple.

This runs throughout our lives, as I found when I was booked into my local hospital for a medical procedure. I had a preparatory appointment with a nurse to brief me and took home a leaflet giving detailed instructions. I also had a preparation to start taking on the day before the procedure.

On that day, I found some of the information from the nurse, the leaflet and on the box containing the preparation conflicted. It was a Sunday so I used my common sense to work out the problem: a minor niggle that didn’t matter much.

I was getting concerned because the leaflet said the procedure would take 30-40 minutes to complete and, knowing that it was likely to be uncomfortable and that sedation would not knock me out completely, I braced myself for this mentally. I felt it was going to be tough. As it turned out, just before my turn the doctor mentioned that he was timing each procedure for a study and that the average time was 6-7 minutes: I breathed a sigh of relief.

I am glad to say the procedure was quick, painless and the results were fine. However, I had approached it in completely the wrong frame of mind as a result of the details in the leaflet.

Such gaps between perception and reality can be created by any written instructions. Whether we’re selling a flat-pack wardrobe, an electrical gadget or a holiday, it can be easy to plant the wrong impression in a customer’s mind. Once planted, that seed can grow into a dream or worry that bears no relation to the real product, service or experience.

For businesses selling products and services, this can create unrealistic expectations, impossible to deliver; for doctors it can cause unnecessary worry in patients.

Consistency and clarity are essential when writing instructions or descriptions. Not only do they prevent confusion and wrong impressions, they help to create happy customers . . . and patients.

Use the phone to save hours of travel

Yesterday I could have arranged to travel to three face-to-face interviews for articles I am writing. The travel alone would have taken 3.5 hours. This morning I’ve just finished a 20-minute telephone interview that would have required a further 1.5-hour journey. Now when there are deadlines to meet, I just can’t spare that time.

I agree that face-to-face meetings can be valuable and enjoyable; I always enjoy guided tours of businesses I write about. Sometimes it is necessary to get a really thorough understanding through a visit, but this isn’t always the case. It’s like the TV news reporter standing outside 10 Downing Street on a dark, cold, rainy night relaying the news that nothing has happened back to the studio presenter who is probably more informed on the topic: they add nothing, but expend a lot of energy being there.

I’ve been conducting telephone interviews and doing research by email for many years. When working at British Airways, I used to compile a weekly report based on telexed information from cities around the world. Often it was all I had to go on.

Now I know that some people are wary of talking on the phone, even though nearly everyone working has a mobile these days. I was lucky enough to have excellent telephone training when I worked at British Airways, so I’ve always been comfortable talking to anyone remotely.

Sometimes when I suggest a telephone interview, people sound reticent. I like to give them some advance warning to get their thoughts together. When we come to do the interview, what is important is to make the subject feel comfortable, to ask questions that draw information out of them, to listen to their answers and build on these to ask further questions. Before they know it, they are talking away enthusiastically and telling an interesting story: just what I need for an article.

I can’t understand why some people don’t use the phone more but insist on travelling to meetings. I complete most of my work through remote collaboration. In fact, we never meet 90% of our clients, but still develop long-lasting relationships with them.

I am sure that many businesses and other organisations could improve efficiency and save time through better use of phone, internet and other communications technology, especially when transport costs are soaring.

Is there still a need for face-to-face meetings? Yes, and there always will be, but I think a lot more could be accomplished remotely.

What do you think?

Posted via email from z2zine

How to write the best social media profile . . . for you

Many of the best marketers learn the rules of marketing so they can break them to stand out from the crowd. Social media is a lot newer so the rules are still being written, if it’ll ever be possible to have rules in such a fast-moving, constantly shifting environment.
So how can you write an effective personal profile to post on social media sites?
It’s about you . . .
Whereas you’re probably used to writing about your business, not yourself, social media is about people. Potential followers will want to know about you, the person, and a combination of your business and personal interests, experience and expertise. Sometimes it can be the most unlikely topic that connects two people and creates a valuable business relationship, so your profile has to be as open as possible while remaining within the safe limits of what you are prepared to publish online.
. . . connecting with other people
You want to connect with other people. If you have a social media strategy, you’ll have already identified the type of person you want to attract and what interests they have. Perhaps you’re looking for new clients, suppliers, business partners, advisers, a business support network or friends in the same field. If you’re using social media for business, then your goals will probably include one or more of these.
By entering relevant keywords in your profile you can make it easier for your targeted group to find you in searches, while your profile’s content and style will then attract them to follow or contact you. The ideal reaction is “he sounds interesting” or “I need to connect with her”. If you achieve these, you’ll attract your target group to follow you by choice without using automated following tools.
Developing your personal style and tone
A quality portrait photograph and suitable logos to brand your business create a good visual first impression. Your text has to go beyond this to convince readers that you are a genuine, approachable and valuable contact.
Developing the right tone of voice is important. You want people to hear in their minds how you would greet them in real life at a business meeting or other event. You’ll probably want a mix of professional and friendly, although depending on your business sector people could expect you to be more formal/informal, conservative/modern or representative of the way people talk in your industry.
This is a very personal choice and you will have to decide what is suitable. Remember, nothing is set in stone and if you find your profile does not work effectively at first, you can refine it or even re-write it completely. Sometimes experimenting can be useful to discover what works and what doesn’t.
One thing to consider carefully is the use of humour. Everyone has a different sense of humour and what you find funny may strike others as anything other than funny. Humour can be very effective in communicating, but needs to be handled very carefully. There seem to be more failed comedians using social media than successful ones.
Heading
Where a site lets you post a heading, this gives you the opportunity to summarise yourself in five or six words. You could say “an accountant with 20 years’ experience”, but that sounds boring. “Award-winning accountant who understands business” suggests you are a leader in your field and are able to get beyond numbers and filing tax returns. “Approachable accountant helping Berkshire businesses” shows that you are easy to work with and serve clients in a specific place.
As with tone, your heading is a matter of personal choice. There are many different approaches, but all of them enable you to highlight the one or two most important characteristics you want readers to notice. Most sites let you edit your profile, so you can change your heading to reflect a change in interest, different times of year or events.
Profile text
What do you write when faced with an empty dialogue box? Well, what are you trying to achieve through your social media strategy? Who do you want to attract? What is it you want to interest them in? What balance of business and personal information do you want to give? The answers to these question will help you sort the information to include.
Also, how do you intend to participate in a specific service, such as twitter, or on a forum? Will you write tweets giving out advice, find people to help on a specific issue, publish blogs on a specialist topic? Will you be projecting a business persona or are your opinions going to be purely personal? Do you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field or do you just want to talk to people for fun? Again, these are serious questions that need to be answered if you want to achieve specific aims.
Even if you want to establish yourself as a serious expert, it’s going to be you talking, not your business. So write in the first person as if you were speaking, using I, rather than in the third person, using he/she/it, which is usually the case in business and could sound overly formal here. However, you probably don’t want to repeat I, I, I all the time as it will put many people off. If the profile has separate personal and business sections, you can write about the business as ‘it’ or ‘we’ in that section.
Highlight your achievements and expertise, but think how you would view someone who arrives at a business meeting, then launches into how successful they are, what awards they’ve won and much business they’ve got. Be careful that your achievements do not come across as bragging.
How will you know if what you’ve written is suitable? Let a trusted colleague or associate read it and give you constructive criticism. They could have some very good ideas for improving it. Don’t worry about criticism, because writing about yourself is one of the most difficult things anyone can do and probably the reason why so many people put off writing profiles.
Also, check you grammar, punctuation and spelling. If you can, ask someone else to check it: a fresh eye is more likely to pick up typos.
What’s the best length?
Some profiles limit how many words you can enter, so use this to focus on what you really want to say. If there is no limit, it’s still a good idea to be succinct. If you have several things to talk about, split these into sections. If you’re able to use html in the profile, you could create basic navigation so people can click on a heading to go to that section. However, if it’s too long, people could just give up. The best balance is where you write enough for a reader to find you interesting: not too little and not too much.
How do people find you?
Many social media services and sites feature keyword searching, so include relevant words to feature in search results. Think about what words and phrases your targets are likely to enter in the search box. Again, if you can use html, you could use the keywords to link to your web site to drive more web traffic to it.
Where do I start?
Taking this all into account, why not start writing your profile now? If you can’t decide on which approach is for you, look at other people’s profiles for inspiration. How do those in the same industry write their profiles? Don’t copy them, but decide what you like about them and what you don’t like. Adopt the approaches you like and apply these to writing your own original profile.
Let’s get personal
Remember that your profile is about you: it’s personal. It’s there to make you stand out, so the more individual you can make it, the more readers are likely to find it interesting. Don’t be afraid to experiment, as most sites let you edit your text. There are millions of profiles out there, so if you discover a unique way to present yourself that works well, then use it.
Do you have your own profile tips?
There are so many personal choices to be made when writing your profile. What do you find works particularly well? Please share your experience and tips.

Many of the best marketers learn the rules of marketing so they can break them to stand out from the crowd. Social media is a lot newer, so the rules are still being written, if it’ll ever be possible to have rules in such a fast-moving, constantly shifting environment.

So how can you write an effective personal profile to post on social media sites?

It’s about you . . .

Whereas you’re probably used to writing about your business, not yourself, social media is about people. Potential followers will want to know about you, the person, and a combination of your business and personal interests, experience and expertise. Sometimes it can be the most unlikely topic that connects two people and creates a valuable business relationship, so your profile has to be as open as possible while remaining within the safe limits of what you are prepared to publish online.

. . . connecting with other people

You want to connect with other people. If you have a social media strategy, you’ll have already identified the type of person you want to attract and what interests they have. Perhaps you’re looking for new clients, suppliers, business partners, advisers, a business support network or friends in the same field. If you’re using social media for business, then your goals will probably include one or more of these.

By entering relevant keywords in your profile you can make it easier for your targeted group to find you in searches, while your profile’s content and style will then attract them to follow or contact you. The ideal reaction is “he sounds interesting” or “I need to connect with her”. If you achieve these, you’ll attract your target group to follow you by choice without using automated following tools.

Developing your personal style and tone

A quality portrait photograph and suitable logos to brand your business create a good visual first impression. Your text has to go beyond this to convince readers that you are a genuine, approachable and valuable contact.

Developing the right tone of voice is important. You want people to hear in their minds how you would greet them in real life at a business meeting or other event. You’ll probably want a mix of professional and friendly, although depending on your business sector people could expect you to be more formal/informal, conservative/modern or representative of the way people talk in your industry.

This is a very personal choice and you will have to decide what is suitable. Remember, nothing is set in stone and if you find your profile does not work effectively at first, you can refine it or even re-write it completely. Sometimes experimenting can be useful to discover what works and what doesn’t.

One thing to consider carefully is the use of humour. Everyone has a different sense of humour and what you find funny may strike others as anything other than funny. Humour can be very effective in communicating, but needs to be handled carefully. There seem to be more failed comedians using social media than successful ones.

Attract followers with an interesting heading

Where a site lets you post a heading, this gives you the opportunity to summarise yourself in five or six words. You could say “an accountant with 20 years’ experience”, but that sounds boring. “Award-winning accountant who understands business” suggests you are a leader in your field and are able to get beyond numbers and filing tax returns. “Approachable accountant helping Berkshire businesses” shows that you are easy to work with and serve clients in a specific place.

As with tone, your heading is a matter of personal choice. There are many different approaches, but all of them enable you to highlight the one or two most important characteristics you want readers to notice. Most sites let you edit your profile, so you can change your heading to reflect a change in interest, different times of year or events.

Shaping your profile text

What do you write when faced with an empty dialogue box? Well, what are you trying to achieve through your social media strategy? Who do you want to attract? What is it you want to interest them in? What balance of business and personal information do you want to give? The answers to these question will help you sort the information to include.

Also, how do you intend to participate in a specific service, such as twitter, or on a forum? Will you write tweets giving out advice, find people to help on a specific issue, publish blogs on a specialist topic? Will you be projecting a business persona or are your opinions going to be purely personal? Do you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field or do you just want to talk to people for fun? Again, these are serious questions that need to be answered if you want to achieve specific aims.

Even if you want to establish yourself as a serious expert, it’s going to be you talking, not your business. So write in the first person as if you were speaking, using I, rather than in the third person, using he/she/it, which is usually the case in business and could sound overly formal here. However, you probably don’t want to repeat I, I, I all the time as it will put many people off. If the profile has separate personal and business sections, you can write about the business as ‘it’ or ‘we’ in that section.

Highlight your achievements and expertise, but think how you would view someone who arrives at a business meeting, then launches into how successful they are, what awards they’ve won and much business they’ve got. Be careful that your achievements do not come across as bragging.

How will you know if what you’ve written is suitable? Let a trusted colleague or associate read it and give you constructive criticism. They could have some very good ideas for improving it. Don’t worry about criticism, because writing about yourself is one of the most difficult things anyone can do and probably the reason why so many people put off writing profiles.

Also, check you grammar, punctuation and spelling. If you can, ask someone else to check it: a fresh eye is more likely to pick up typos.

What’s the best length for a profile?

Some profiles limit how many words you can enter, so use this to focus on what you really want to say. If there is no limit, it’s still a good idea to be succinct. If you have several things to talk about, split these into sections. If you’re able to use html in the profile, you could create basic navigation so people can click on a heading to go to that section. However, if it’s too long, people could just give up. The best balance is where you write enough for a reader to find you interesting: not too little and not too much.

How do people find you?

Many social media services and sites feature keyword searching, so include relevant words to feature in search results. Think about what words and phrases your targets are likely to enter in the search box. Again, if you can use html, you could use the keywords to link to your web site to drive more web traffic to it.

Where do you start?

Taking this all into account, why not start writing your profile now? If you can’t decide on which approach is for you, look at other people’s profiles for inspiration. How do those in the same industry write their profiles? Don’t copy them, but decide what you like about them and what you don’t like. Adopt the approaches you like and apply these to writing your own original profile.

Let’s get personal

Remember that your profile is about you: it’s personal. It’s there to make you stand out, so the more individual you can make it, the more readers are likely to find it interesting. Don’t be afraid to experiment, as most sites let you edit your text. There are millions of profiles out there, so if you discover a unique way to present yourself that works well, then use it.

Do you have your own profile tips?

There are so many personal choices to be made when writing your profile. What do you find works particularly well? Please share your experience and tips.

email: hello@z2z.com
Telephone: 0333 0444 354