Do one thing to make your communications less boring: Don’t talk about “solutions”


Liz, November 1, 2017

“Solutions” is a word that people – particularly in tech and fintech – like to tack on to propositions to make them sound a bit grander.

But to your audiences, the addition of “solutions” rarely means anything. If anything, it signals that what you’re offering could be complex.

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Structure’s difficult when you don’t put customers first

Structure when writing

Liz, November 3, 2017

I’ve been dismantling some BIG documents this week. The smallest was 13,000 words long. Its big sister was a whopping 34,000.

These documents have a purpose. They need to tell a generalist audience – easily and quickly – how to comply with regulation, the law and company best practice.

The number one thing getting in the way of them being able to do this as effectively as possible was their structure. These documents made complete sense to the technical specialists who’d written them – but confused their intended audience.

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Can tights be re-imagined? It’s a valid business travel question. Honestly…

Liz, October 13, 2017

A few years ago I arrived late-ish at Zurich airport. I think I was there to run training sessions with Coutts.

I’d already spent a few days in a hotel in London before I travelled to Switzerland – and I’d already completely blasted through my stash of tights. I needed to be with my client early the next day and was heading straight to my hotel from the airport.

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10 things advisers need to know about small business


Small business

Actually, very few small businesses are shops…

Liz, October 3, 2017 

I’ve been to a few small business events over the last few days – the kind of thing organised by banks, accountants and organisations set up to support small businesses.

I’ve met some lovely people and the events have sparked a few ideas. But more than ever, they’ve left me feeling that many people and organisations whose job is to support and advise small business know absolutely bugger all about what it is to be in small business today.

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Poetry in business

Poetry in business - open book

Liz, September 29, 2017

Sometimes, just to make sure people are listening, I say to people in comms workshops: Right, now we’re all going to write poems.

A shudder of disbelief ripples around the room. A look of “surely not?” fixes itself on every face.

Corporate workplaces and poetry, it seems, just don’t mix.

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The week the country went nuts

Flower tributes

Liz, September 1, 2017

I’ve been watching coverage of the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, with interest.

I was 26 – and working on the features desk of a large regional paper – when she died. At the time, I was married to a press photographer.

Looking at the TV coverage from the week after her death now, it’s alarming how old it all looks – how much like the olden days.

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Rolling out tone of voice: Why leaving train the trainer until almost the end makes sense


train the trainer

Liz, August 17, 2017 

We’ve had a couple of questions about train the trainer sessions this week. These are the training sessions we hold towards the end of a brand language roll-out to help build training skills into the organisation we’re working with.

“But,” said one lady we were talking to, “If you do train the trainer first, we could save ourselves a lot of money and just train all our teams ourselves.”

I can see why this seems a sensible way of looking at things. Why pay for external consultants to train all your teams? Much more cost-effective to get them to train your own trainers, and then your own trainers train everyone.

But this way of thinking is based on a misunderstanding of what tone of voice training is.

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Congratulations to our client, Cardiff Bus


Congratulations to our client Cardiff Bus who’ve just launched a new fleet.

The fleet’s made up of 10 Mercedes Citaro single deck vehicles, which are as green as they come.  They’re super-accessible too and have audio announcements in English and Welsh. They’ve also got free Wifi and USB chargers.

All aboard!

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Should a workplace ever get involved in a woman’s decision to freeze her eggs?

egg freezing

Liz, August 8, 2017

In the early 90s, I started going for my first professional job interviews. Society – and the laws that governed it – were different then.

“You’d better not have plans to get married. Married women go off and have babies – pain in the arse…” was a comment as I interviewed for my first job as a reporter. When I moved on to another newspaper a couple of years later, I got the same spiel. And at the interview for my third job, it was the same again – and it was at the BBC, can you believe?

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Why do some attempts at tone of voice fail?


Liz, July 3, 2017

A little while ago we did an audit of all the tone of voice work we had ever done. I had a hunch – which turned out to be accurate – that at least half of our tone of voice projects since 2009 have been rescue jobs.

By this, I mean another agency or freelancer has had a first stab at creating a tone of voice for an organisation – but it just hasn’t worked out. So we pick it up, look at what’s happened and set out on a more solid path.

It’s a situation that gives you some really good insight into what doesn’t work – and why.

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Stop listening to polls, start listening to people

focus group

Liz, June 9, 2017

So – a hung parliament. Just what the country needs at a time when we’re about to break up with our biggest trading partner.

The PM seems to have made the fatal error of actually believing what the polls say.

For years now, I’ve been encouraging our clients not to bother with focus groups. Or at least, if they really do want to have them, to take them with a hefty dose of salt.

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How to make a success of that piece of work you don’t really want to do

brainache pxls

Liz, May 19, 2017

Here are the tell-tale signs: My desk is tidy. Really tidy. I have answered all my emails… and even opened a few junk ones. My admin is done. My household paperwork is filed.

This abnormal activity can only mean one thing. There is a piece of work on my schedule that, for reasons unknown, is not setting my world on fire.

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Why I hate language snobbery


Liz, April 28, 2017

I opened a newsletter from a rival copywriting company today. It was full of “helpful” advice about how to not embarrass yourself by muddling words. It also tried to kick off a debate on when and where it’s OK to correct someone else’s grammar.

So I’m just going to put it out there: I hate it, HATE it, when language gets talked about as an elitist set of rules that can only be accessed by a privileged few.

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Stuck for ideas?


You’re staring at the one third of a report you’ve managed to – somehow – scratch out. The deadline is looming. BBC News and Facebook have given your battered brain mild relief for the last 40 minutes. But, sadly, they’ve given you no ideas about what to put next.

You’re tired. You’re bored. And as the clock ticks, you’re beginning to feel slight flutters of panic.

We have a couple of unorthodox – but highly effective – suggestions for getting your brain into the zone and bursting with ideas when you’re feeling flat and uninspired.

They’re both about NOT THINKING. Or more precisely, about removing analytical filters from your thinking.

Because our brains are playful little treasure troves. And if we let them talk to us without censorship, we can fire up all sorts of innovative ways forward.

So if you’re stuck, try these things.

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What tone of voice is… and what it isn’t (or shouldn’t be)


Every now and again, we get a call that goes like this:

Person representing organisation: “We need a tone of voice. We don’t have a lot of budget because we’ve already done all the brand work with a design agency. In fact, they’ve done some of the tone of voice already, so all we need you to do is the engagement piece – you know, just get everyone to buy into the brand and communicate in a completely new way…”

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New friends – and great writing


Last Friday we held our Become a Better Copywriter in a Day workshop at the beautiful Linnean Society in Piccadilly – and we couldn’t have picked a better group of writers to join us.

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Poor service is costing companies big bucks – so why does it happen?

Contact centre

In the last few days, the Ombudsman Services has published data suggesting that poor customer service costs companies somewhere in the region of £37bn.

This calculation comes from figures that say more than a quarter of customers took their business elsewhere last year – or spent less money with a company – after receiving shoddy service.

So why does this happen? And what can organisations do to improve customer service?

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Turning the culture of a hospital around


Eight years ago, Birmingham Children’s Hospital was criticised for not having enough beds, operating theatres or trained staff. This week, it became the first hospital to be given an “outstanding” rating by inspectors.

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Corporations need creativity. Yet hierarchies, processes and rules squish free thinking. So what can be done?


Liz, February 10, 2017

Years ago, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I went to a talk in the science tent where authors talked about the number one need for creativity: Getting views and approaches from outside your own discipline.

The best ideas came, they said, when different ways of thinking came together.

And this week, we heard an interesting extension of that argument – that of course bringing ideas together is important… but it has to be done in a spirit and culture of collaboration.

So where does that culture of collaboration come from?

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Communicating with stakeholders… or keeping everyone who needs to know in the loop

Communicating with Stakeholders

Liz, January 20, 2017

Everyone knows (or should know) that when you’re trying to get work done, you need to communicate regularly with all the members of the team who are doing the work.

In a well-run project, you do it to make sure the work happens efficiently and to deadline.

But there’s another group of people that organisations regularly forget about including in updates – and they’re the stakeholders.

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