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Keeping the Remote under control

21 Jun

With the repose of technology, independent workers today have a choice to work anywhere for anyone. Clients sprinkled all across the globe,the communication cycle with long-term clients can quickly fall into a set pattern. Brief received. Clarification made. Deadline set. Research, interview, tappety-tap, edit, send, sometimes refine further. Both parties account for the time difference, and deadlines for assignments are so set.

This works brilliantly as most of my clients are 8-12 hours ahead in Asia & Europe. Even though they are sending me the assignment last thing on their Friday evening, dawn is just cracking through the blinds in my part of the hemisphere. Gives me all day to research, write, edit and complete the assignment. Suppose we were in the same time-zone, this would mean sacrificing my Friday evening, and grudgingly keying out the first available information I could acquire.

An unhurried meticulous writer, I get nervous and make the most mistakes when someone is breathing down my neck, asking to turn a piece in in 10 minutes. The 20 minutes spent editing such a piece would be spared if deadlines were not ridiculously crunched up.

With the different daytime, I can peacefully complete my work, and it reaches their inbox before the rooster starts crowing at the other shore of the Pacific Ocean. This neat little setting however is not flawless. What I enjoy in calm, I miss out on the warm, sometimes heated editorial meetings; fertile sometimes ground for sparking story themes and team-effort.

Also, the ocean-cooled conversations can cause dissonance if not detected at nascent stage with just a word or phrase out-of-place. And this is a dangerous fault line in client-relationship.

I seem to have adopted the right path, according to this article on 10 Ways to Stay in Touch with Your Long-Distance Clients. The list includes the most obvious champions – Email, Skype and Phone, and the addictive yet most candid, social media tools – Twitter, Facebook. I am surprised that the author did not list IM. If find online chat the quickest mode of communication.

While I have most of my basics covered, there is room for improvement. I would like to create a webinar, but for starters I plan to get on a video.

What are the resources you find the most useful to keep in touch with your clients? Feel free to discuss them in the Comments.


A new dimension to communication V2

10 May

For most people a dreary and slightly unnerving prospect, moving from one city to another for short span of time, is something I have come to enjoy. In the recent week, I was in New York for the finale of The Light of India Awards, an awards event I had worked on for over five months.

Rather than being just a ‘writer’, I prefer being referred as a communication specialist. My understanding of various aspects of media communication over the past decade, have allowed me to enjoy this expedition, where I got to explore the various aspects of writing and communication. While my interest has not weaned away from feature writing, I have been more and more interested in business communication.

Here’s how it all started. A few months ago, Sapnna Vats from Evolve Entertainment, whom I’d interacted during the US tour of The Blue Mug play in 2010, presented me with the opportunity to promote Light of India Awards 2011, an awards ceremony to honor Non Resident Indians living abroad. At first, the going was slow, as we began to develop templates and style-sheet for everything — invitations to nominees to sponsorship proposals.

One of my earliest incentives, which kicked in the adrenaline, was a positive feedback for invitation from the office of Ambassador of India, Honorable Meera Shankar, who became the Chief Guest for the event.

As I explored the various aspects of bringing together 200+ people in one room, from across the globe, only through invitation, I realized that there are bound to be cracks in the communication channel at some points, since the interactions were via intermediary parties like secretaries, PR agencies, corporate spin doctors, and in one case, the daughter of a nominee.

The Venue – Empire Room at Waldorf Astoria, New York

Here are five points I educed from my experience of organizing The Light of India Awards 2011, which are akin to the process of writing.

1. Consistency

As the months rolled by, I began receiving and sending out hundreds of letters each day, several of them on the official letterhead, using the templates designed earlier. The fortified responses, which underwent inspection for style consistency in the first month of the project, were soon overcome, as everyone slipped into the style-sheet I’d built. Now, it was a mere job of Cut and Paste, which everyone easily replicated, without missing out any of the vital information.

2. Multi-Tasking

With my PR hat firmly in place, I helped polish the press releases; telephone conversation scripts; website content profiles; print ads; scripts for the Emcees, speeches for the Awardees; itineraries and the show schedule. Suddenly, I’d begun juggling 10 knives, each of them razor-sharp and can’t let any of them slip. I did make my fair share of mistakes, considering we were just 3 people pulling off for 10.

I’d like to digress here, and chronicle the fun-night, the day before the event. One of the jury members preponed his arrival and came to New York city a day prior to the booking we’d made for him at Waldorf Astoria. He requested for us to book him a room, and since none were available in the same hotel, we booked an executive suite at Hilton New York. His wife badgered us for the inconvenience, and he didn’t even check in at his room. Since it was a day before the event, we were too tired to travel to Jersey City, and decided to shack up at the room, which had been paid for, but was not used. The hotel had upgraded us to a Presidential Suite, 4500 sq ft of luxurious accommodation on the 41st floor, overlooking Central Park from the window behind the leather-trimmed desk, and shimmering city lights.


The two other musketeers – Jitin & Sapnna, thrilled that we are staying in the Presidential Suite

A pleased grin, after spending the night in the lap of luxury

And now, back to the list

3. Repetition

Habituated in earlier episodes of email communication, to receive response, either Yes or No, in the third, if not second reminder notification. I was astonished to learn that most of my emails were ending up in Junk, and so never reached the right person. If the follow-up email made no sense to the person, it’s because they had no idea what I was talking about. I began to restate the purpose of my communication clearly in the subject line, as well as the first paragraph of my email, even when the follow-up email had a trail of the earlier communication. Like any editor worth their salt will order, copy needs to capture attention and have an immediate call-to-action.

Which is where my next point of encapsulation came in handy.

4. Capsulize

Telephone communication is not as easy for a writer as I’d imagined. The telephone scripts and templates which I’d hoped would come to my rescue, turned to be too long drawn, when I had to hook the attention of the hearer, stating all the W’s (Who What When Where How) in under 15 seconds. As I condensed the core concept, my rate of success increased. I was able to get across the event concept quicker when I’d finally nailed it all down into a single crisp statement, followed by a call of action from the person at the other end. And this statement was the first point I began to refer to in every communication, email, phone or in person. 

5. A Pinch of Good Luck

I wouldn’t give all the credit to Lady Luck, but after a lot of follow-up and persuasion, she did step in to give that last nudge. One of the nominees, heading a large Multinational Company, and the winner of the most coveted award, had expressed right at the start, that he had other plans, but would join in the award ceremony, if he could. ‘Maybe’ is better than ‘No’, and a door which beckons to be knocked. After weeks of follow-up, our star nominee confirmed on the morning of the event that he would be joining us, sans his wife, as he’d be arriving directly from a foreign travel. Not only did he dazzle the gathering with his acceptance speech, but also impressed the stately guests at his table. This was also picked up by the news agencies later that day.

There were many a sleepless nights and frayed nerves, but those two hours of glitz and glamour are a memory I will long cherish.

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4 May

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