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

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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?

Finding quirky blog content ideas

Did I convince you that using quirky ideas (or quirky sources of ideas) can make some interesting blog posts?

braille writing on a laptop screen

Braille writing on a screen – quirky inspiration?

Keeping your blog fresh and interesting can take a lot of thought and effort so why not make it fun at least some of the time?

So where can you find quirky blog post ideas?

Well the real answer is anywhere and everywhere! Just look for what is happening around you and you may be surprised at how much silliness and quirkiness there really is!

However, for specific inspiration of a quirky nature, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • find a favourite recipe site and visit it every few weeks. You can post about how delicious something sounds or how complicated a recipe is, the name of a dish may inspire laughter or memories, the layout of the site may spark a post on website navigation or colours, you could get philosophical about food and eating, or you may post about a different type of diet each month.
  • get yourself a collection of useful sites that you can share. For example, a site that converts metric into imperial, a blog directory, a recipe site that gives you meals to suit certain ingredients, a list of paper and envelope sizes, or a budget-helper like simple savings. You can post these as helpful tips or use them for inspiration – maybe the site is an example of something good or bad in your field, you can post about pricing of website information or you can ask for suggestions for a specific site you need
  • get a regular dose of a funny site – you can blog about specific stories/jokes/images or the site itself, or use it to get creative or maybe use the content to explain a concept (for instance, a joke about miscommunication is something I could use in a post about the importance of clear communications in a workplace). A couple of examples are damnyouautocorrect, thinkbeforeyousend and the Darwin Awards
  • really look at the signs you pass – it may be the sign looks great or doesn’t make sense, it may be hung in a silly place or be easily misinterpreted, it may make you laugh or grimace, but signs can give you ideas if you don’t take them for granted
  • grab an old reference book and note the differences with modern expectations. Think about a plane company posting about the world being flat or a surgeon posting about the latest hair styles for gentlemen, then see what changes could apply to your industry or humour
  • read some kids’ books, especially something like Dr Seuss or Roald Dahl, or something quirky like a Terry Pratchett novel. Even if you don’t get direct ideas for your blog, they are sure to get you thinking quirky and creative things!

What other quirky idea generators do you use?

Intranet for fun

What do you think a company intranet is for? Should it just be official and practical, or should it be personal and fun, maybe even wacky?

I think the main purpose of an intranet is to help staff do their jobs efficiently so it needs to contain information to help them. Having provided that information, I think an intranet can also include less formal items.

I see a number of advantages to a more friendly intranet:

  • it can aid staff communication and relationships
  • the occasional smile is good for staff productivity!
  • higher morale reduces staff turnover and makes it more likely staff will complete tasks rather than watch the clock

So what can be added?

  • daily weather updates – practical but nice if staff can see what other offices are experiencing
  • tips – could be semi-serious like word of the day or funny or a motivational quote
  • photo gallery of staff events and news (work Christmas parties, staff weddings, business launches, award ceremonies)
  • tipping competition and results (why limit it to football? Try cricket, basketball, athletics or triathlons)
  • information about charities staff/the business are involved in – and links for sponsorship
  • menus of local lunch spots
  • RSS feed of public transport updates in the area
  • funny corner – add those joke, cartoons, etc that everyone will just email each other anyway
  • health tips, recipes, office exercises, etc
  • interesting seminars, webinars, training courses, etc coming up

They’re just my ideas – what else can you add?

Mad libs to teach sentence contructions?

Have you ever done some “mad libs”? Is this something you remember fondly from school days – at least more fondly than the usual grammar lessons?

Personally, I hadn’t heard of mad libs until finding them mentioned in another blog, but apparently they have been widely used to teach children some grammatical terms in a fun way – maybe this is more common in the USA, or maybe I just missed out!

Anyway, a mad lib is where you choose some randoms words – nouns, adjectives, verbs and so on – and they are inserted into a piece of writing. The end result is usually nonsensical, but funny – and especially so for children I suspect!

I remember playing games where we each wrote a type of word, folded the piece of paper and passed it on to write another word on someone else’s piece of paper. The final result there was a funny sentence. Mad libs are similar to that game, but you don’t come up with the entire story with your words.

There is a website that actually creates the mad libs by asking you for the words and then producing the story for you. I tried it, inserting various Australian nouns, verbs and adjectives (in bold below), and got the following story as a result:

A Typical History Test
By: Roger Price & Leonard Stern   
Instructions: When the Australia rings, unfold your papers and answer the following Victorians.1. What general won the Battle of Adelaide.2. Which American river said, “Give me liberty or give me trees“?3. Who was the first president of the United animals of New Zealand?4. Why did Benjamin Franklin fly a/an bird during a thunderstorm?5. Who made the first beautiful flag?Answers to Test:1. Jackson2. Mel Gibson, when he was executed by Russell Crowe for riding.3. Ian Thorpe4. He was discovering koalas.5. Sigrid Thornton

Finding a fun way to teach children the different types of words (nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc) is important for them to be able to construct good sentences and stories – but it isn’t always a fun topic to study!

Mad libs are certainly light-hearted but do require some knowledge of word types to work. The mad libs site includes definitions of the word types, too, to help children learn as the select words.

Do you think this is a useful tool in teaching children what a noun/verb/adjective/etc is? I’ll be letting my children have a go at these stories and see what they think of them. If I remember, I may even ask their teachers how they view this from an educational point of view.

Use your words wisely!

Back from cuboree!

At the end of March, I wrote about joining 4,500 scouting people at the 5th Victorian Cuboree. I’ve been back home for a bit over a week now and am still exhausted from it, but figured it was time to report back!

The camp was a lot of fun – we were busy with activities all day and entertainment at night, lots of fun and walking around in the bush (well, the bush with lots of people and tents anyway!) We arrived on the Monday and came home (late) on the Friday.

We had some extra excitement with massive storms on the Wednesday – the worst to hit Victoria I heard, with winds hitting 130kms an hour! We were in the area of Victoria worst hit so we certainly were aware of the storm, lol. We spent nearly 8 hours in a strong marquee (rated to 90 km winds) with over 700 cubs and leaders, plus support staff – the kids coped with it really well which made the experience manageable. As leaders, we were really proud of how the cubs behaved well and accepted the limitations forced upon us – they lived up to their honour and promise of doing their best. In our pack, we had one tent damaged beyond use and two tents we considered at risk from a branch so we sent 12 of our cubs (plus some leaders) to sleep in the marquee although the rest of use slept in our usual campsite.

The entertainment consisted of a group of four wanderers looking for the 2010 Australian Jamboree – finding the 1908 jamboree, Rio’s carnivale and cuboree instead! Many of the cuboree cubs are now looking forward to attending jamboree.

I enjoyed being with the cubs – most of whom I didn’t know beforehand, plus three from my home pack – and we had a great bunch of leaders in our pack, too. Will I go again? I’d definitely consider it! Seriously, if the circumstances were right for me personally, then yes I would go again – but would ensure I had some extra time off to recover afterwards!

Would I send my own kids to the next cuboree (age limits allowing of course!), most definitely – I think it is a great experience for them.

Have you ever been to something like cuboree? Is it something you look back on fondly?

And I even learned a few things that may just come in handy as a writer and business owner 🙂 Watch for upcoming blog posts!

Telling the tale…

I’ve heard of a fun way to write a story and find a lot of new blogs. It’s as simple as each person writing one sentence and building the story as we go – and there will be multiple versions of the story in the end, too.

Here’s what we have to do…

Here is the way it works:

1. Copy these instructions and the following story into a post on your blog.

2. Read the story so far and add your sentence to it. It must make sense because this will eventually be a real story.

3. Add your blog link to the links listed. Every time a new sentence and blog link is added yours will receive some link love too.

4. The only rule is that no smutty sentences are allowed!

“Telling the Tale

I really don’t remember how we came to be here.  I am not sure that I really want to know!

However one thing that I do remember is that we followed a really bright light, that flashed every once in a while. We followed it blindly for some time and then when we came to a stop we were utterly amazed!

Looking down into a valley, we could see it wasn’t just one light, but hundreds of them converging.”

Contributing Authors:

The Tall Poppy
Just Delete That.
Small Business Diva
Word Constructions

 Have fun – I look forward to reading some great stories!

Word Constructions
Word Constructions ~ for all your business writing needs