I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

Refer to older posts…

Blogging services

HCI chat


Be creative with your messages

So often business has an image of steady, conservative and boring. And often we present our messages in that way because it’s expected, always been that way and we just don’t think about doing anything different.

Yet there is no reason we can’t add some creativity to how we present our messages.

It make take a little more thought and care to be creative with serious messages and conservative brands, but look beyond the obvious sometimes and add some life to your business materials.

Safety messages

seat belts and pills - two safety items needing clear messages

Seat belts and pills – important safety messages to communicate

Safety messages where you must tell people some rules and expectations is one area many would assume has to be done seriously and without much humour or interest.

But isn’t it better to add some interest to ensure people actually take note of the message?

The perfect example is the safety message given before every commercial flight takes off – you know, this is how to do up your seat belt, your life jacket is here and please attach your own face mask before helping others.

It is important and we should all listen to it. But once you’ve been on a few flights, it gets somewhat repetitive and we tend to tune out during the spiel.

My last few flights with Qantas have included videos with topical sportspeople talking and demonstrating how to do things – Olympians during winter and cricketers more recently. That’s a bit more interesting, especially for sports fans.

And I have seen one flight attendant ham it up so everyone near by watched him for amusement – and thus he got his message across.

Air New Zealand, from the land where Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies have been created, has improved the lot. Their latest safety video is given by people dressed as for Middle Earth, with Gandalf as the pilot, Gollum finding the path of lights and a cloaked Bilbo (well, he was invisible so I’m guessing it was Bilbo!) reading the safety chart.

It gave all the necessary information, in fact it went into more detail than others I’ve seen, and entertained as well. It probably even works as a promotional tool for the movie and New Zealand tourism.

A perfect example of how we can be more creative when giving even boring and routine information.

Can you think of other creative examples of boring messages?


A New Zealand fjord in the rain

Is this New Zealand or Middle Earth?

PS Air New Zealand has an incredible variety of ticket types and a different way of bracing in an accident – in Australia, we’re told to grasp our ankles where they are told to put hands behind their head and elbows beside their knees. I wonder if there’s any significant difference between the two in terms of comfort and protection.

A new way to get creative!

We’re all creative, it just gets a bit lost under all the stuff we have to do as adults.

I think it’s sad that so many people say “Oh, I’m not creative – can’t draw a thing”. Creativity isn’t about being able to draw (well, not exclusively about being able to draw!) and certainly isn’t about doing things to some external standard (who’s to say the drawing I made for fun or to capture a memory isn’t any good? It may not sell for millions or get an art critic’s approval, but that doesn’t mean it’s no good for me.)

Creative just means being able to think in different ways. It’s useful for problem solving, innovation and having fun as well as for creative pursuits such as drawing, writing music and knitting a jumper.

I even think you need to be creative to write well for business materials – it’s not just fiction writers who use words and ideas creatively.

So I believe in doing things to encourage creativity – I try for myself and my children.

And I could write heaps more on developing creativity!

Song writing makes you creative

Yesterday, I had lunch with my young children and somehow we got onto rhymes and songs. As you do with two and three-year olds!

My son then challenged us to write songs. With rhymes. On topics he chose.

All while thinking of a tune to put the words with.

It wasn’t easy – and my songs wouldn’t win any awards or go platinum, but it was fun.

It also woke me up and I returned to my computer fresher and with great ideas. Getting creative sparked my brain into being more creative.

Try writing songs for yourself…

You don’t have to have a three-year old urging you – just spend five minutes writing some songs. And singing them, of course!

topics in creative song writingSome of the topics I was given yesterday were…

  • doctors and the sick people
  • cows eating grass
  • potatoes eating yoghurt, potatoes eating carrots
  • a cat with sticky tape

At worst, you’ll have a laugh and a change of pace. At best, you’ll be more creative and think of new ways to use words.

Feel free to share some of your lyrics in the comments, too, to give us all a giggle and some inspiration!

Are you brave enough to run this as an activity with your business team?

Planning future communications

It’s the last day of the month and almost the end of a financial year so it seems an appropriate time to think about planning. In particular, planning your communications efforts for the next six to twelve months.

Last June, I wrote a newsletter article about some of the advantages of preparing a communications calendar. (Yes, this is the promised reference to old content!)

For people who like to be impulsive and don’t like plans, a communications schedule may seem a little restrictive – I mean, if you have rigid rules in place, you can’t decide on a new spring campaign just because the smell of flowers inspires you, can you?

I disagree (and I personally am not fond of too many rules and structures either!) as a comms calendar should be a plan, not a hard and fast schedule. So if inspiration strikes, you do a spring campaign instead of whatever you had planned for September. Or if a major event or industry changes occur, you adjust your approach to suit. You still have control. And get to be creative.

planning year of dragon communications

Grab the Dragon's power by planning

For the routine comms items, though, having them prepared ahead of time actually frees up more time and mental energy to be creative and proactive.

Have you avoided something like a comms plan because you prefer to be creative and ‘go with the flow’? I’d love to hear your experiences when you do (or did) try planning your comms ahead of time.

Making topics seasonal

My January enewsletter resulted in the question of how to make your blog or newsletter topic seasonal occasionally to generate timely interest and show an external connection.

Don’t assume you can only use major events (like Christmas, the end of financial year and Mothers Day) for a seasonal flavour to your blog and newsletter. Find seasonal things throughout the year that are relevant for your clients – especially things around times when your marketing may need an extra boost.

Here is a list  of seasonal examples I’ve though of to get your creativity flowing…

  • at the start of summer, a hairdresser writing a hair care blog can discuss protecting hair from chlorine and salt
  • many businesses can find a new year’s link – make a resolution to get fit, sort out your accounts, update your will, care for your heath (quit smoking, visit a dentist, get your eyes tested, etc), buy new tyres or learn something new are just a few possibilities. Write about what is possible and give tips on how to achieve it
  • a car detailer could write a newsletter article on how to make a car nice before taking out someone special on Valentines Day
  • anyone in security (including computer security) can give blog tips on protecting empty homes and offices leading up to major holidays (Christmas, Australia Day and Easter for instance) when people won’t be at home
  • any business can support an awareness or fundraising event so write about your efforts even if not directly related to your goods or services – e.g. give a discount to all new parents during world breastfeeding week, offer a part of profits to the cancer council in Movember. Use the newsletter article or blog post to explain why the cause matters. The event or cause may not be related to your industry but make sure it does align with your brand and company beliefs.
  • write blog posts and newsletter pieces about clients or suppliers who do community work around a specific event (such as a client who shaves for ‘shave for a cure’ or a cafe who hosts a ‘biggest morning tea’)
  • in September or October, a VA could write about spring cleaning a filing system and a ducting specialist can write about the importance of cleaning heating ducts
  • a nutritionist could explain the benefits of hen eggs over chocolate eggs around Easter time
  • a physio interested in RSI topics will find plenty of examples during January with the Hopman Cup, Brisbane International and Australian Open underway
  • a town planner has the Tour Down Under and Tour de France to inspire blog posts about including bike paths in developments
  • Clean up Australia Day is a great time to post about reducing clutter (any organisers or storage solution people?) and cleaning (cleaners, cleaning product sellers and chimney sweeps)
  • a conservationist can give non-paper wrapping tips in December and environmentally friendly cleaning ideas for Clean up Australia Day or spring cleaning – in an electronic (not paper) newsletter of course!

What creative seasonal ties have you used in your blog posts and newsletter articles?

Brilliance in contingency planning!

Unfortunately, we have seen many instances supporting contingency planning this year – earthquakes, floods, fires, tsunamis.

Wendy Davie has shared a tip from a Christchurch client which I think is great. Having a disaster kit somewhere accessible but protected could be highly valuable in a natural disaster or other catastrophe, and Mary’s idea of using a wheelie bin is blindingly simple.

I wanted to say I love how we all respond to someone grabbing the obvious as a solution to something. A wheelie bin has obvious advantages for a disaster kits (waterproof, portable, easy to get, affordable) but how many people actually thought to use one like that? I see it as a good reminder to stop over thinking things, maybe step away completely and be a little creative – you never know what you’ll come up with!

While Mary’s idea was about life-saving disaster supplies (water, blankets, first aid, and so on), a similar concept could apply to business, especially businesses in disaster prone areas or at least in areas on high alert. If a disaster occurs during business hours, the same materials will be important (water, first aid kits, batteries, pen & paper) for the safety and comfort of you and your team. But, as a business, you may include a few extras such as a list of contacts (including contacts for all employees and their families), a copy of your contingency plan and checklists and weekly back up discs (if your kit is secure enough).

What’s your ‘wheelie bin’ idea for contingency planning?

Getting creative

Do you consider yourself to be creative? Do you take any steps to inspire or nurture your creativity?

I must admit I haven’t thought about creativity for a while, but was recently inspired to think about it by Michelle Grice’s post about musical inspiration.

I believe creativity is important to help us solve issues and stay interested, and it doesn’t have to be creative in any specific way. Many people say “I can’t draw/paint/sew/sculpt so I’m not creative” but I disagree with that as a narrow view of creativity.

The people who thought of liquid paper, sticky notepads and tea bags were all creative – and for all we know they couldn’t draw, sew or sing either!

Developing creativity is fun, and it can help you see things in a different way, find solutions to challenges and grab new opportunities. I think doing anything out of the ordinary and basically avoiding being in a rut will develop creativity, but here are some more specific ideas to get you (and me!) started:

  • move to some energetic music – don’t call it dancing if that will limit you, just move!
  • grab a pencil and draw your favourite holiday – interpret that in any way you like!
  • do some mind teasers – pictures hidden in a see of dots, conundrums, riddles, and so on
  • think of a different ending for the last movie you saw or book you read
  • spend  5 minutes looking at some artwork online – look at the colours, think about your responses, follow your instincts
  • think of how to make your Christmas break up suit a theme – maybe Knights & Damsels, The Jungle, Fairies & Elves or Hollywood inspires you with decorations, costumes, menus and more. It never has to be done, just imagine it
  • let your mind follow some music without focussing on any lyrics
  • imagine you just won $5million – what would you spend it on? where would you go? how would you resign/leave your clients?

What other ideas do you have for getting creative?

And for today’s brain teaser… if four men take two hours to dig a hole, how long will it take eight men to dig half a hole?