Friday, August 26, 2011

What's Good Writing Got to Do With It?

Way back when, my late father, who was managing partner in a large accounting firm, complained that many of the young people coming on board didn't know how to write properly. While these college graduates displayed sufficient talent for performing accounting tasks, the reports they were required to prepare contained writing flaws of all sorts: incomplete sentences, grammar gaffes and, of course, horrendous spelling errors.

So there were already numerous minefields out there in the writing world when along came the Web, email, Twitter and texting. And before long we were knee-deep in shorthand, because 1) we were all so busy, and 2) it was all so hip.

As an English major, I cringe when I open an email message that is not only rendered with indecipherable brevity but in all lowercase letters as well. A complete sentence might be hidden in there somewhere, but it's tough to find. And I resent even having to try.

Back in the day, good writing was essential to good business. Oddly enough, it still is. Writing, after all, is a communication skill. It is a critical component of effective marketing. It provokes thought, makes a salient point, drives clarity. Simply put, good writing packs a lot more power than even the most clever cyber shorthand.

There are so many places you can go to brush up on English usage and writing essentials, but two of my favorites -- because they are invariably useful, straightforward and entertaining -- are The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White and The Chicago Manual of Style Online.

Dad would have loved them both.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Brand Protection "Situation"

Protecting brands has risen to a new level...or maybe I should say fallen.

Abercrombie & Fitch is paying Michael "The Situation" of Jersey Shore to NOT wear their branded clothes.

Is it real outrage - or just PR? We used to say that all PR was good PR, but sometimes doesn't it just seem like trash is trash? What'cha think?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Social Politics

In a society where it's commonplace to see a "tweet" on the nightly news, it should come as no surprise that social media is quickly becoming a legitimate and mainstream tool for news and media.

Most recently, with the conclusion of the U.S. debt-ceiling crisis, we see the power of social media manifested in previously unheard of numbers. The day after President Obama's national address in favor of raising the debt ceiling, a local web server was overwhelmed with traffic, eventually crashing several sites. The web host, Fireside21, is a Washington D.C.-based firm aimed at lawmakers. It houses websites of several "celebrity" Republicans, such as Speaker John Boehner and presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, as well as the sites of many prominent Democrats. An overwhelming desire to voice an opinion left most staring at "site unavailable" messages for the day.

This uncanny ability to share, repost, and retweet news as it is currently happening gives new meaning to the term "eye witness" news. When a Pakistani man inadvertently documented the Osama Bin Ladin raid in real-time via Twitter, he was immediately thrust into the limelight and contacted by several major news sources.

Politicians and celebrities alike are coming to understand the power of having a presence in social media. If you're not "there" -- you're losing out on a valuable point of connection with your audience. Communication is no longer relegated to newspaper, television, radio or even the telephone. Integration is quickly outmoding "slower" formers of communication, forcing them to keep up with the "instant"-ness of the internet.