Welcome!

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

Email updates

Refer to older posts…

Blogging services

newsletter

Determine the quality of your life – today!

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.
~ Tony Robbins

Do you agree with Tony Robins – do we determine our own lives by how we communicate?

 Communications impact our lives

I included that quote in my June newsletter* (which was themed on quality) because I think we can control our lives to a certain extent by how we communicate.

If you are always sad and complaining, you’re unlikely to be inundated with invitations to parties and fun events – and you’re therefore likely to feel sadder.

If you are friendly and polite, showing respect for others no matter the circumstances, people will respect you and be more likely to help you. Never underestimate the power of a smile or a thank you…

If you complain and can’t see the silver lining anywhere, you may stop yourself from being creative and finding a solution or an innovation to change (your) world.

If you take no care in how your business communicates in writing, some potential clients will judge you poorly and go elsewhere for a professional service. Thus the effort (or lack thereof) determines how many clients you have and your business income and overall success.

If you always frame things in a positive way and take care what you communicate about (eg avoid gossip and criticisms), the odds are you will feel better and attract interested and interesting people. You will also have a positive mindset and spot more opportunities.

These are simplistic examples, but no less true for that.

It is a choice how we communicate. And how we communicate does influence our lives.

Should communications replace 42 as the answer?

Effective communications above 42 as the answer

Which way do you weight effective communications?

Well, it’s hard to implement 42 so communications is certainly a more actionable answer to life, the universe and everything!

We can choose to communicate better – by learning new words, more about expressing words (from grammar to using ‘you’ more than ‘me’), developing our listening skills and practising our writing skills as good starting points.

However, I don’t think communications alone makes a great life. There’s also hard work, learning and being a good person.

What do you think are the important factors in ensuring you have the best life you can?

Do you have any examples from your business on how communications directly affected the outcome or quality of an outcome?

 

* If you like reading inspirational and/or thought-provoking quotes, I include one  every month when I write my newsletter, business writing ideas. To keep the quote company, I also write some tips on business communications and improve a real life example of bad writing. Subscribing is simple – just fill in the form on my site.

 

Costs of a newsletter

News headline catches a client's eye

For many businesses, sending out a regular newsletter is an effective marketing strategy. So I sometimes get asked how much it costs to produce a newsletter.

There is no clear answer to that, but here are some of the factors that will impact on the expenses for a newsletter.

  1. how long is it? A longer newsletter takes more time and effort to layout plus requires more content so will cost more than a shorter newsletter. However, the cost of 4 pages vs 2 (for example) may be worth it if it means giving good information and/or being able to produce the newsletter less often
  2. are you doing a print version? If so, you need to allow for paper/ink/power costs to do it yourself or a printer’s bill to have it professionally done
  3. how are you distributing it? Allow $1 for stamps and envelopes if mailing it, plus time to put into envelopes; emailing it will generally be much less than that but outsourcing the sending or using specialised software will still cost money. Having a pile available in store or on your website is cheaper but doesn’t have the same impact and results as getting it to people
  4. do you have a template? Your newsletter will work much better if it looks professional so get a designer to make a nice template that works with your brand. I would suggest getting both print and html versions designed, even if you only expect to use one, so you have both options available with a matching look – it’s cheaper to get two designs at once than as two separate projects
  5. what sort of content will you use? Full articles, article excerpts with the full article online or just snippets of news? Making articles to suit can be time consuming, and specific word counts can make even shorter pieces take longer to write and edit.
  6. who will write your newsletter? Will it all be done in-house to suit, collected from outside sources (e.g. members or clients’ submissions, free or paid articles), outsourced to a professional writer, or some combination? Although paid content and editing may have a higher up front cost it will require less of your time.
    TIP: If outsourcing the content (in part or all of it) you can reduce costs by providing the topics and key points to be covered so the writer can concentrate on writing rather than thinking and research time.
  7.  who will layout the newsletter each time? An expert will place content into your template much quicker than most people – again, there is a cost in time or money. However, the best results often require additional content editing during layout (such as adjusting words to avoid orphans and strange page breaks) so it’s good if your writer and designer (whether in-house or outsource) can work together on the newsletter
  8. although a relatively small cost, uploading your newsletter to your website, and adjusting any supporting text to suit, also needs to be included – especially if someone else manages your site updates

No matter how the newsletter is produced and distributed, you also need to allow time to read the final version before it gets produced. Not only is this a safety measure against typos and layout errors, you can also check that everything is consistent with your brand and objectives. If you produce the newsletter yourself, ideally someone else should do a final review of it for you.

Have you priced your business newsletter? A full costing is important for an accurate analysis of costs versus returns, and many people forget about including their time as a cost.

Newsletter and website update

Just a quick post to announce my newsletter has been sent out this month (yes you can see it online but it’s much easier when it arrives in your letterbox or as a Facebook link!) I wanted to share the quote I included in the newsletter:

Your website is a window into your company.
Your website is the online equivalent of your office – the place people go when they want to do business with you.
~ Shama Hyder Kabani

 

I like the analogy of a website and an office – and it ties in nicely when my blog series on the establishment of a new website as the why is at least as important as the how…

 

Choosing a newsletter format to suit

As a communications person, I do more for clients than just write. Recently, I reviewed the newsletter process for a client.

Initially, they were sending out a paper based newsletter but introduced an email version a few years ago. About a year ago, I helped them make the html (email) version shorter and more suited to emailing. The purpose of the recent review was to consider how to present their newsletter moving forward.

Here are some of the key points I considered before making a recommendation that suited the client’s needs:

  1. their subscriber list was about one third postal addresses so stopping the paper mailing wasn’t an option in the short term. The break down of the mailing list is a critical factor in such decisions
  2. the people my client sends newsletters to are literate and technology friendly so emails are acceptable, although an older sub-set still prefer paper-based communications for important news
  3. my client wanted to maintain a copy of the newsletters on the site for 2 or 3 years so we couldn’t purely do html emails in an email program (ie we had to make a version available on the website)
  4. sending an email costs a lot less – for my client, it is about $0.15 per email and $2.00 per letter, and that’s a typical price range
  5. emails and pdfs can contain hyperlinks to make the newsletter more interactive, but they are easier to insert and adjust in an email
  6. an html page can be emailed easily but doesn’t print so well, especially if you want to print to the edges of the page for a professional finish
  7. for branding, a paper/pdf newsletter must match the email version so having them designed at the same time will give the best results
  8. creating multiple pages on a site (ie one article per page) for email links is time consuming but it is difficult to direct readers directly to an article within a pdf
  9. there is software (and free to use websites) that can convert pdfs into html so creating a pdf for print and having it converted into html for emailing is an option. However, the I found the final product is not polished or professional enough for me to recommend it to a client
  10. a pdf attachment on a website is ok but sending a pdf attachment as an email newsletter is not – many spam filters will stop it, it looks messy and is larger than necessary so a pdf that can be printed, put on the site and emailed is not a solution

There is no one size fits all answer to the question of paper or html newsletter, but the above points may help you decide. What other factors do you think are important?

Newsletter subject lines

The subject line of an email is an important factor in getting it read, and that is no less important for an enewsletter.

Personally, I think it is useful to start the subject the same way for every edition of your newsletter. I suggest using the name of your business or newsletter as the subject

You can add a date or specific subject as well, but a consistent start is helpful because:

  • it is easy to identify as your newsletter whereas varied subjects may get deleted by even your keenest readers
  • it is easy for people to collate different editions in their inbox if they have the same subject
  • it helps build your brand – just a glance at the subject reminds people of you without them reading it

Thinking of enewsletters you receive, do you prefer ones with a consistent subject line?

Advertising the past is pointless

I just received an email newsletter – one I’ve been considering unsubscribing from anyway – which amazed me. It had a very long introduction, then some ads and then a list of seminars they are running.

However, the first two seminars listed were in December 2008! And the third was for today!

Ok, today’s one would have some hope of attracting some extra people to the seminar, but what is the point of advertising something I can’t go to no matter how much I would like to? It wasted their time and mine for absolutely no gain – in fact, it has annoyed me so I’m less likely to believe in what they say.

Once an event is finished, there is really no point advertising it – as far as I know, no one has invented a time machine yet! Discuss how good it was, lessons learned or give testimonials afterwards by all means, by advertising it may hurt your business more than help it!

Leading others to want it your way…

One of the newsletters I receive in my in box is design lines, from Shel Design. I was just flicking through some of her older editions and came across this quote which I felt was worth sharing:

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it
Dwight Eisenhower

It is an interesting statement. Some people act as if leadership is about making others do what you want, regardless of their wants and needs, but the results are much better if the people following can work towards something they want, too.

So next time you have to lead someone, think about how you can put the project into their terms. For instance, instead of “You need to make more sales so I make more money”, approach it as “If you increase sales by x%, I will give you a bonus.”

 

September Newsletter

Our September newsletter is now available and was sent out earlier this month!

One key message in the newsletter is that Word Constructions is closed to new projects between 12 September and 5 November as I am on maternity leave.

The other topics covered this month include: the importance of taking a break from work, no matter how impossible this may feel at the time it is important for your health, and how crucial it is for your business to know the audience.

You can subscribe to receive this newsletter monthly for helpful writing tips and information.

Business writing ideas newsletter

Finding material to blog about

Some days, words will just flow onto your blog, but there are times when it is harder to know what to write about. It’s normal to have days where we’re less creative, or are tired, or overwhelmed or a multitude of other things that get in our way.

A week or so ago, I looked at a new blog – well, newish as it replaces a previous blog by the same person – and noticed a few spelling errors. Knowing the blogger, I let her know about them and thought nothing else of it. A few days later, I noticed that Melissa had added a new post in which she talked about fixing those errors I had pointed out and the importance of proof reading.

This reminded me of how we can find blogging (or article or newsletter, etc) topics from the simple events that happen in our business and personal lives. Small events can remind us of important things or create a useful learning tool. So here are some suggestions for next time you are stuck on what to write…

  • questions clients have recently asked you – e.g. I recently explained bleeds to a couple of clients and I have been asked if I do editing of articles (which I do!), and both of those could become a blog post
  • tips you come across from other business people – for example, I shared some decluttering tips I gained from a workshop I attended
  • mistakes you see in others’ work – not as a means of criticising others, but as a means of learning from their mistakes
  • turning points and changes in your business – either just to let people know of them, or as a means of teaching others alternatives

By including little things in your list of ideas is a good way to increase the amount of topics you have to write about.

Use your words wisely!

 

Email subjects

Like the heading of an ad or article, the subject of an email is important.

For one thing, if someone needs to find some information you sent them, it is much easier to sort through emails if the subject clearly identifies the email contents. I have been known to send the same person three emails in a row so that each topic is in its own email for easier sorting and answering, rather than one long email covering three topics.

If you are emailing someone new or sending out an enewsletter, your choice of subject can mean the difference between someone reading it or deleting it. Some points to consider in writing your subject are:

  • avoid hype and over-used words as many people can’t be bothered with more of the same
  • be honest. For example, I recently received an email via my website with the subject ‘business cooperation’. The subject interested me so I read it only to find it was purely an ad for their services. Not only is their subject dishonest, it annoyed me so much I would never use their services and added their email address to my junk mail list.
  • relate it to the reader –  and that is easier when you know more about who you are emailing in the first place. As an example, “help with your marketing” has more appeal than “we offer great marketing services” but neither will appeal much to a retiree or a school child!
  • personalise it if you have the technical ability to do so – but be warned that trying to personalise it and getting it wrong is not good. Yes, I have received emails addressed “Special message for {add name}” – the word ‘you’ would have been a better, safer option
  • add an enticement or call to action – sometimes a time frame can help, such as “sale this weekend only”
  • keep it as short and simple as possible – for one thing, some people’s email system doesn’t give much space for the subject so if it takes too long to get to the point, people may miss the point altogether

How often do you put much effort into your email subject? And I’m curious – do you usually write the email or the subject first?

Happy writing!