Coping with Change
Business people have to adapt to constant change. In accord with that, The Holton Group has made a couple of changes. First, we have relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, and second, we have relaunched our website. Both of these are in many ways analogous to what business writers must do.
Coping with Change
Moving Presents Some Challenges
Our move was not for business reasons, but having accepted the necessity of relocating, we had to adapt. As you know, moving can itself be a chore, requiring careful planning and coordination with realtors, movers and workmen.
By the same token, planning is critical to any communication, and you have to understand your purpose, audience and constraints. Only then can you approach the actual writing task.
The South Is Built on Relationships
My wife Farnell grew up in North Carolina, so I didn't have to start altogether from scratch, and I was amazed at the number of people we met who knew her family, who had gone to camp or high school or college with her, or who used to live across the street from her sister or one of her brothers. Even the clerks in stores would have familiar last names and would turn out to be related to former teachers or friends of friends.
Personal relationships are critical here, and it's relatively easy to make business friends. The people we meet want to get to know us (even if, by chance, they're not already related to us). We listen to them carefully, and they listen to us in return, and everyone is open-minded about helping people out.
It's also important in writing to build relationships with clients and with other service providers, so you can work together to reach a common goal. This includes listening carefully to fully understand the client's needs.
But the South Is also More Formal
Take the example of thank you notes. Previously, although I sometimes wrote thank you notes by hand, I generally emailed them. That doesn't always work here. I met with someone recently, and afterwards I thanked him by email. I was surprised he hadn't emailed me back, but two days later I got an extremely friendly, handwritten note, and a light suddenly went on.
At the same time, however, I try to be practical. I certainly have the time and the will to write by hand. The problem is, I have terrible and at times unreadable handwriting, and I have to ask, isn't it better to send an email someone can read, than a handwritten note no one can understand?
This practicality also applies to writing assignments. You should always use correct grammar, but you shouldn't obsess about the fine points, which may simply confuse some members of your audience.
My Old Website Needed Updating
My old website was custom designed in 2001 and was programmed in Flash. For many years, it succeeded in what it had to do, but now few people use (or have the patience for) Flash, and they can't read it on cell phones or notebook computers.
I recognized that my potential audience was changing, that they had different needs, and that my site was no longer well serving its original purpose.
Consequently, I had it redesigned in a simpler and more accessible format. In doing this, I got valuable help from Mike Ellsworth of StratVantage Consulting, without whom, none of this could have happened.
The lessons here are two. First, you have to respond proactively to change, and second, when you lack the skills for a certain task, you shouldn't hesitate to bring in outside experts.
I Resisted Stock Photography and Moving Images
Although stock photography, videos and moving images can be effective elements of any website, they were not consistent with my message. My goal has always been to simplify my clients' writing tasks and to translate business and engineering jargon into plain English.
I also go to websites to get information, and I try to avoid anything that gets in the way of that. If not done right, stock photography can scream that a company is just the same as every other and that it lacks creativity. And if I'm looking for information, I have little patience for images that whoosh by faster than I can possibly read them.
I avoided these elements, despite having been advised that they were essential in today's marketplace. If my having defied convention seems odd, certainly no one can blame Mike Ellsworth.
Remember That Your Goal Is to Communicate
As always, I am impressed if someone can solve my problem. Other than that, I don't care how hard they worked or how many internet bells and whistles they know.
All the best,
P.S. Remember: a selection of my past newsletters is available online at http://www.holton.cc/archive.html.