Can you provide me with a source for your claim?
How many times have we all seen that challenge issued to someone online? Usually, it happens during a nasty back-and-forth between two or more parties disagreeing on a topic. Facebook is great for this. Go there right now and I will wager that within less than a minute you will witness it. News pages and community groups are rife with them.
It is exhausting feeling like you must do research for other people all the time. Why are they not capable of Googling themselves? Some people state as much when confronted with the demand for a source. Even when the other person plays along and lists a source, they are likely to be met with accusations of #fakenews.
Sometimes legitimate information is deemed fake news because the other person does not want to concede that their points in the discussion are invalid. Other times, they may be right that the source another person is using to back their claim is less than reliable. I am about to drop a truth bomb on you. Not everything you see on Google is true.
After you pick yourself up off the floor, read that again. Not everything you see on Google is true. There are entire websites that are chock full of someone’s opinion without any real evidence to support their claims. There are even so-called online “news” sites out there that post derogatory claims and twist facts to suit their narratives to garner views. They do this because they know it is darn near impossible to prove libel and defamation. Quite a bit of damage is done when people read and believe without verifying that what Google spits out in the search results comes from trustworthy sites.
You cannot blame Google for offering up choices. The search engine giant uses an algorithm and web crawlers to search websites for keywords searchers are using. Then, it generates a list of websites and online resources with any mention of those keywords. It is up to the consumer to validate the information they are reading.
This brings us to the topic of our post: how to ensure the information spit out by the all-knowing Google is from a credible source.
Yes, this means you will have to do some digging. Yes, it means you will have to be responsible. Trust me, it is worth it. Knowledge is power. Make sure yours is gained from credible sources.
Here are the top 3 ways to spot “fake news” and to validate the information you find online.
1. Consider the source
Website credibility lends a lot of weight when determining the accuracy of information. For this reason, I suggest avoiding websites and other online sources that are user-created when digging for verifiable facts. It may rile a certain segment of the population when I say this, but Wikipedia is a perfect example of a user-created online source that is less than reliable. While it may look credible because there are sources cited, oftentimes those sources are misconstrued or misrepresented by the Wikipedia authors. If you want to validate any of those sources, go to them and read them directly from where they originate. If it is a scientific study, read it. Make sure what the Wikipedia post is claiming the study or research is saying is true. YouTube videos are another source rife with misinformation. Just because a “talking head” is stating something does not make it true. Many viral hoaxes begin on YouTube. Sometimes people create them for grins and giggles, and other times they are intended to deliberately deceive. YouTube’s algorithm is a huge part of the problem.
So, how do you know when a website is legit for quoting as a source? Websites with articles, news, and even blogs that are verified by experts in the field it is representing are considered reliable. Here is a perfect example of what I mean. This website requires all materials to undergo a review by healthcare experts to verify information shared is accurate and follows best practices for the industry. If you look right underneath the headline for the article, it states who reviewed and verified the facts in the piece.
Online resources that have expert reviews and cite sources are considered safe bets as well. Healthline is great at following this protocol. Their articles come with a fact-checked guarantee (along with information on who verified the facts), plus links to cited sourced within the text of the articles.
2. Check for satire
The Onion. Babylon Bee. Sports Pickle. What do these three things have in common (besides being incredibly entertaining)? They are not real news sites. You would never know it, though, by how some people quote them online. These online publications are the first to loudly proclaim to their readers they are satire. Some people who miss the proclamations are utterly fooled by the content. I have witnessed more than one post consumed by outraged individuals convinced that articles with headlines like “CIA Replaces Waterboarding With 12-Hour Lectures On Intersectional Feminism” are even remotely factual. Even when someone else points out the article is satire, the original poster sometimes sticks by their claim that it is a valid source. I do not know what to tell you when that happens. Sometimes arguing with the ill-informed is not worth the energy.
3. Conduct an advanced search
Google has this handy setting on its search page that allows you to get specific about where you would like it to look for search results. Here is how it works. Once you enter a topic into the search bar, you will see the options for settings at the top right. Click on it and from the expanding menu select the option for advanced search. Here, you have a variety of options for streamlining your results. One I like to use is under the site or domain option. It allows you to require Google to search only sites with .edu or .gov, where information is fact-checked and verified via multiple sources. You also can head over to places like Research Gate to find peer-reviewed studies.
Just the facts, ma'am
These are just three of the ways you can make sure your sources are reputable before tossing them into the fray. Interested in learning more about spotting fake news? Check out my interview with Nour Negm, where we discuss some of the best sources online for verifying information before you post it. Happy fact-checking, everyone! And remember…there is no such thing as alternative facts.
When I was a reporter, I often found myself smiling and nodding my head while secretly wondering what in the world some of my sources were talking about. Covering education and politics can have that kind of an effect on a person. I am certain if you all think about it long enough, you will come up with a time (or several times) this has happened in your lives. You struck up a lovely conversation with another person, only to find they began talking about a subject you know nothing about. To make matters worse, they used jargon specific to the topic, which further confused matters. No matter how educated you think you are on a subject, there always is someone who knows more.
Any time I found myself struggling to understand what a source was conveying I would ask them to explain it to me like I’m 5. It was my way of indicating that while they may be an expert in their field, neither myself nor the people reading the article were as well educated on the matter. Using simple words to break down complex ideas was going to be necessary for me and for my readers. It was a method that served me well throughout my reporting career.
Flash-forward to today and this method is everywhere. If you regularly visit social media and other online platforms, you have likely encountered the “explain it to me like I’m 5” phenomenon. Sometimes it is simply conveyed with the alphabet soup ELI5. Sometimes people use it as a sort of underhanded insult to suggest another person is out of their element and should leave the conversation. Other times, they are genuine in their request to have a topic explained in simpler terms so they can grasp another person’s view on a topic or issue. When an ELI5 suggestion is made online, how well it is received depends on the parties involved in the exchange.
It is an unfortunate possibility that the listener to whom the information is being conveyed will feel the communicator is insulting their intelligence by “dumbing it down” for them. The communicator also might feel slighted if they are asked to explain something in a way that they feel does not showcase their knowledge of the subject. A third possibility is that both parties will agree ELI5 is a great idea, and an amazing exchange of information will occur.
To help increase your odds of achieving that third outcome, here are five secrets to simple communication anyone can use. Whether you are having a face-to-face conversation, giving a lecture, or writing a blog post about a topic, the ELI5 technique works well when you incorporate some (or all) of these strategies.
As a professional copywriter, one of the questions I get frequently from prospective clients is, “How long will it take you to write a blog post?” That query usually is followed up by, “How much will it cost to write a blog post?” Reputable copywriters have a process and always are happy to explain it to their clients. Where we tend to get into a conundrum is when clients come into the process with a preconceived notion of how long a project should take and what is involved in producing the work.
One of my favorite assumptions as of late is the idea that any copywriter worth their salt can write the perfect blog post in an hour. Apparently, there is a so-called expert out there claiming this, complete with instructional videos on how to create the perfect 1,500-word blog post in one hour. That sure does sound appealing. I can understand why clients would be enticed by such a claim. The problem is it is not realistic. Can you write a blog post in an hour? Sure. Is it going to be top quality? Probably not.
Let’s break down the rationale behind this “perfect blog post in an hour” promise and explore why it is not the best method for producing the kind of content search engines will adore.
Claim #1: Hit lists
Keeping a “hit list” of articles reduces writing time. The theory is that if you have a go-to list of topics that already includes relevant keywords and some subheadings for inclusion, it will save you time later.
This is not an entirely bad idea. Many copywriters who have clients in specific niches find creating such a list helpful. The downside to this is if you have several clients within the same niche, you risk repeating copy for clients. Then you get into spun content territory, which never ranks well on search engines. What is spun content? It is taking the exact same copy and reworking it just enough that it appears slightly different to search engines. It contains all the same keywords and basic ideas, just rearranged a bit. Sometimes search engines can be slow to catch on to spun content, but Google’s bots are getting better at detecting it. Google dislikes this practice, and if it catches a website egregiously using spun content, it will penalize it by ranking it poorly.
Claim #2: The guy next door
Some of these self-proclaimed writing experts suggest you can cut your research time in half by taking the “guy next door” approach in your response. Rather than do proper research, the notion is to admit you are not an expert in the subject and that you had to do some quick Googling yourself to get the answers. Then just state the information without citing your sources.
While the “I’m not an expert, I just play one on TV” approach might work sometimes, it is not appropriate for every blog post. Some clients may be experts in their fields and require content that establishes them as an authority. In fact, 95 percent of the content I write for clients falls into this category. Conducting proper research and citing sources takes time (most definitely more than an hour).
Claim #3: Earning rich snippets
Anyone can earn a rich snippet if you just follow this guide to writing the perfect blog in an hour. At least, that is the claim from some self-appointed writing gurus. Before we explain why it is harder than it looks, you are probably wondering what the heck a rich snippet is and why you need to earn one. Amiright?
A normal snippet displays the page title, the URL where it is located, and a short description of what the page is about. A rich snippet includes extra information above and beyond the norm. It can include photos and reviews or ratings from customers if it is a product or business page. Rich snippets are important because they tend to produce a higher click-through rate on websites. Consumers love search results that give them a lot of information upfront. Here is an example of what a rich snippet looks like:
The claim says to earn the coveted rich snippet, you should write your opening sentence and paragraph before you do anything else. You must write it in a question-answer format known as a response-style blog. A response-style blog poses a question (ideally in the headline or opening sentence) and then answers it within the first paragraph of the blog post. To help boost your chances of earning a rich snippet, these experts suggest bolding the answer part of your response. The thinking is bolding text will help Google’s bots know you mean business and to reward you for your efforts. While bolding text is an old SEO copywriting trick to attract Google’s attention, it is not a surefire technique.
Why can it go wrong? Well, we can think of a few reasons. The most obvious is that your content is not original. We are going to circle back to that whole idea of spun content again. If you did the “guy next door” approach to your research, chances are, there is not much new or unique about your bolded content. So, even if the bolded text initially attracts Google’s web crawlers, they still may refuse your content a rich snippet if it is just like 20 other posts on the same topic.
Claim #4: Subheads can hurt your ranking
Long-form content ranks better with search engines. Why? Thorough content has a greater chance of earning quality backlinks that can boost your rating with search engines. One of the final aspects of these so-called perfect blogs in an hour is a warning that Google can sometimes treat long-form content like puny, thin content. Why? Their rationale is the subheadings lack substance and are irrelevant to the original topic.
On this, we can agree – to a point. Copywriters who shove subheadings into a blog just to reach word count are doing their clients a disservice. If the content does not add value, Google’s web crawlers will completely discount it.
The best way to keep long-form content relevant and exciting to Google and other search engines is to turn long-tail SEO keywords into subheadings. It is a sneaky way to ensure your extra words stay on target while giving them some extra oomph.
Quality trumps quantity every time
Cranking out the perfect 1,500-word blog post in an hour is simply unrealistic. The methods that some of these writing gurus tout will not earn your blogs the ratings they promise. Like any other “get rich quick” scheme, it really is too good to be true. It will just end up causing you frustration when these methods do not produce the promised results. Quality trumps quantity every time. Any good copywriter understands this and will never agree to methods that do not promote thorough research that produces engaging and relevant content. Ready to learn more about the right way to produce unique content that adds value to your brand? Contact us today to schedule a no-obligation consultation.
This is probably going to sound a bit bizarre coming from someone who makes her living writing SEO copy for clients. Here goes anyway: Do not rely on SEO keywords to rank well on Google.
You did not misread that. I did, indeed, just suggest that you should not rely on SEO keywords to rank well on Google. I told you it was going to sound insane coming from an SEO copywriter. There is a method to my madness, though.
Don’t get me wrong. SEO keywords are a valuable tool for any website. The mistake is in making them your only strategy. For years, SEO experts like myself have worked hard to raise awareness about the importance of SEO keywords in all branded content. The downside to our efforts is that some organizations have gone all-in with SEO, thinking it some miracle cure-all. There is such a thing as keyword stuffing, and the golden hand of Google can and will smack you down if you engage in it.
While it’s true that Google likes making things … challenging … for content providers, earning a page one Google ranking organically isn’t some golden chalice from which the average peasant will never drink. It is attainable when you commit to a multi-tiered approach to SEO. Here are 4 ways to kick your game into gear and get your brand noticed.
Finding an idea that works in a short film is one of the biggest challenges in independent filmmaking. Rushing to get behind the camera instead of taking things slowly to ensure the script is fully developed is a close second.
Jeff Vande Zande teaches fiction writing, screenwriting, and film production at Delta College in Michigan. More than 200 national and international film festivals have accepted his award-winning films. He is the recipient of more than 20 awards for cinematography, screenplay, and directing. From comedy to horror, his short films embrace several genres but never disappoint.
In our forthcoming Reflections Spring 2021 newsletter, we sit down with Jeff to talk about what it takes to make it as a short filmmaker. He offers up his best tips for the trade, and dishes on some of the challenges and joys he has experienced in his 12 years as an independent filmmaker.
Do not miss out on the chance to peek inside the life of a successful independent filmmaker. Worried you might forget to check back in for this amazing issue? Sign up to have our newsletter delivered directly to your inbox when it is released. You will never miss another issue again. In the meantime, you can learn more about Jeff by checking out his blog.
Figuring out Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is tricky. Most businesses and organizations know they need it, even if they do not entirely understand it. Toss in terms like white hat, black hat, and gray hat SEO, and the confusion level increases. That is why you must have an SEO copywriter and web designer you can trust. SEO experts not only comprehend the differences they can explain them to their clients in a way that will make sense.
What is white hat SEO?
I may be dating myself here (but I am willing to take that risk for a good analogy). I grew up watching classic Westerns. You know, back when televisions only had 3 channels and you had to get off your duff to change them. My point is, I always knew who the good guys were in these films. From John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, their white hat gave them away. The good guys always wore them.
White hat SEO is a lot like those good guys from classic Westerns. They defeated the bad guys by playing by the rules. When you engage in white hat SEO, you are using ethical methods and following search engine guidelines. You never cut corners to get quicker results.
What is black hat SEO?
Going back to my Westerns analogy, the bad guys always wore black hats. No one had to tell you who was about to turn up in town and cause trouble. That hat signaled their intentions long before they engaged in any bad behavior. Black hat SEO is just like the bad guys. Talk to any SEO expert and they will tell you there is no doubt black hat SEO tactics work. They will get your brand right to the top of the Google search results in a hurry.
It can be a short-lived victory if Google catches you in the act. The search giant will issue a manual action report in Google Search Console. Webmasters and other SEO experts use Google Search Console to check your website’s indexing status and visibility online among other things. It also is how Google hands out penalties to organizations that are caught using underhanded SEO practices. If Google catches you using black hat SEO, it will put you in search engine “jail.” What it translates into is lost organic search visibility, traffic, and revenue. Your brand simply will not turn up in the search results when potential customers search for your products or services.
What is gray hat SEO?
Somewhere in the middle of white hat and black hat SEO lies a gray area. There are differing opinions among SEO experts as to what, exactly, constitutes gray hat SEO. For our purposes (and so as not to totally confuse you), we will go with a simple explanation. Gray hat SEO is a mixture of the two techniques.
Just because it contains elements of white hat SEO does not mean it is any more acceptable than black hat SEO. Let me say that again for the people in the back. Just because it contains elements of white hat SEO does not mean it is any more acceptable than black hat SEO.
Search engines – especially Google – interpret it as a blurred line. Search engines may or may not penalize a website using gray hat SEO practices. Their decision to punish comes down to one factor: intent. If you are using gray hat SEO with the sole purpose of helping your site soar above the competition in search rankings, you might get your wings clipped. We never recommend trying your luck with gray hat SEO for this reason. We recommend playing by the rules for the best long-term results, no matter how tempting those “quick results” promises are with black hat and gray hat SEO tactics. You will thank me later.
White Hat SEO Graphic Designed by Shari Berg, The Write Reflection.
White hat SEO techniques
White hat SEO improves search performance on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) by using several proven techniques. Each of these methods falls within webmaster guidelines for Google and other search engines like Yahoo and Bing. Here are some of the most popular white hat SEO practices.
We know what you must be thinking. Isn’t black hat SEO illegal? Nope. Nada. Nuh-uh. If you fail to follow search engine guidelines, the police are not going to come a-knocking on your door. Well, they might, if you engage in nefarious black hat SEO practices like hacking. Otherwise, it is not illegal. But it sure is unethical. Here are some of the most common black hat SEO tactics that can get your organization in hot water with search engines.
What does Google say?
What does Google say about white hat vs. black hat vs. gray hat SEO? More importantly, why should we care what Google thinks? Whether you love it or hate it, it is hard to deny that Google is the king of the proverbial search engine castle. Google holds 85.86 percent of the global search market. Bing is next up, with a paltry 6.84 percent of the global market share.
Google’s search engine first launched in 1995. From day one, Google went out of its way to differentiate itself from other search engines. Search engines like Yahoo placed a lot of emphasis on paid ads. Yahoo made no secret that it prioritized its paid search service, Overture. It required folks to fork over beaucoup bucks to earn the coveted top spot in their search results. Google decided it wanted to level the playing field for all users. Its algorithm considers several factors, including page quality, backlinks, and relevance to a user’s search (this is where SEO comes in handy). That is not to say Google is above accepting cold, hard cash from advertisers to earn a better ranking. It is just not the only factor Google uses.
Google provides clear guidelines for webmasters that SEO copywriters like me use to determine what is white hat, gray hat, and black hat SEO. Reputable SEO copywriters never cross lines, risking your website and your brand. When Google catches on to underhanded SEO tactics – and trust us, they will catch on eventually – you risk having your brand banned from their search engines. That can spell sudden death when the king of internet search engines banishes you from the kingdom.
A final word on the best SEO strategies
For your own sake, never work with an SEO copywriter or agency that promises you quick results. When that happens, you can almost bank on the fact they are using gray or black hat techniques. While you might think you are getting the best bang for your buck, you could be risking your livelihood by making it harder for your brand to be found online.
We get it. Doing SEO the right way can feel painfully slow. You want new traffic and leads now. While niche businesses using SEO keyword topics with little to no competition may see results in a few weeks, the average organization can expect to wait up to six months or more for their return on investment. We promise, committing to working with SEO experts who value best practices pays off in the long run.
If you are ready to learn more about how white hat SEO copywriting can help boost your brand’s visibility online, give us a shout-out at 724-713-3254 or contact us online to schedule your no-obligation consultation.
Graphic designed by The Write Reflection
That is how long ago it was when I first drafted words and called myself a professional writer. Not only was I doing what I loved, but I was paying the bills while doing it! Ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil, I would carry spare sheets of paper or a small notebook around in case the urge to write something struck me. Poems about squirrels preparing for winter and fanfiction about my favorite television programs were tops on my list back then. The older I became, the more in-depth my writing.
Up until my junior year in high school, I mostly was flying blind with my writing. I knew I liked to write, but I had no direction. Then I met Ms. Sally Caruso, one of two English teachers who would set me on the path I now journey. She taught me a love for journalism. As the advisor for our student newspaper, she molded my writing into a journalistic style and showed me how to tune into my natural curiosity to produce newsworthy pieces.
Journalism became my new passion, and I fervently pursued it, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree to prove my knowledge and skill. I worked in the field for more than a decade before motherhood prompted me to explore other avenues. The life of a journalist – working long, odd hours that are deadline-driven – was simply not compatible with family life. Still, abandoning my lifelong love of writing was not in the cards, either. Thus, The Write Reflection was born.
What is a copywriter?
Shifting gears from journalistic writing to sales-oriented copywriting was quite an adjustment. Journalism is storytelling, sure, but it also is a quest for the facts. Copywriting was storytelling, too, but with quite a different bent.
What, exactly, is a copywriter? Well, if my son is to be believed, a copywriter is nothing more than a “processor of words.” He is not entirely wrong. Many hours are spent at the computer, processing words to describe a product or service for one of my clients. Sometimes I must come up with just the right pitch to convert potential leads into fervent brand ambassadors.
Sometimes my copy is used as part of a larger project, like a newsletter, magazine, or promotional flyer. When that happens, most copywriters are responsible for creating a creative brief for a graphic designer. This brief outlines the objectives for the content, guiding the graphic designer in the best way to display your masterpiece. Sometimes this process works in the reverse order, especially if I am writing content for a website. The graphic designer provides me with a creative brief that dictates what kind of copy I write and how it will be displayed on the page. It is a symbiotic relationship.
Graphic design by The Write Reflection
What is a graphic designer?
Just as a copywriter communicates with words, a graphic designer connects with an audience through the visual arts. Graphic designers must be skilled in the art of visual thinking and creative problem-solving. In their quest to help their clients stand out in the crowd, graphic designers must go big or go home.
If you have ever enjoyed reading a magazine, a newspaper, a book, or a sales ad, you have a graphic designer to thank for the experience. Businesses rely on graphic designers to take their branded content and convey it in such a way as to captivate their customer base. While being a graphic designer requires a love of visual arts and a creative flair, it also involves certain skills with design software needed to create visually stunning pieces. One of the tools of the trade is the Adobe Creative Cloud. With apps like Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, Adobe CC is considered the gold standard in the graphic design industry.
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Now that we know what a copywriter and graphic designer do, which comes first? This question has prevailed for as long as copywriters and graphic designers have collaborated. While copy and design inform each other, it is challenging to determine which logically should come first when working on a project. Sometimes it is a no-brainer. For example, for a quarterly newsletter that maintains the same basic design from issue to issue, it makes more sense to work on the copy first, then plugs it into the standard design and adjust as needed. When it comes to a website, it may make sense to create the design first, then fill it out with copy that complements the visual features while staying on brand.
Copywriter vs. graphic designer
So, who holds the most influence over a project? This is hardly a case of Godzilla vs. Mothra. When it comes right down to it, you cannot have one without the other. Copy and design work hand in hand to influence brand ambassadors and convert traffic into viable leads. There is one advantage graphic designers hold over copywriters, and that is the ability to land in-house employment with marketing agencies and other companies that rely on graphic design to promote their products and services.
Compilation of graphic designs by The Write Reflection
Benefits of using a copywriter designer
In recent years, a growing trend has taken hold of the industry: the rise of the copywriter designer. It is not a complicated thing to explain, as it pretty much is exactly as it sounds. Copywriters, in a quest to up the ante and increase their unique value propositions, learned graphic design skills. Now, they no longer needed to play the chicken or the egg game. They controlled which logically should come first based on their workflow and project management needs.
Of course, not every copywriter is an effective graphic artist. While writing and designing are both creative fields, they are on different ends of the spectrum. The lucky few who manage to write and design tap into a basic need for most clients: keeping all their creative services in-house. It is more convenient for clients to work with one person for both the copy and design, streamlining the amount of time they spend explaining their needs and marketing goals.
The combination of skills is beneficial in other ways as well. When you are trying to meet a tight deadline, fewer things are more frustrating than being at the mercy of a graphic artist who may not get to your project as quickly as you – or your client – would like. The ability to write copy and design it into an attractive display eliminates this obstacle and boosts your net worth at the same time.
Roughly six years ago, I worked with a graphic artist who repeatedly made me late on deadline with my clients. When one of those clients threatened to take their business elsewhere, it was the motivation I needed to become more proficient at graphic design. I had taken graphic design courses in college but never loved it as much as writing. Still, I realized the value in keeping both services under my control, so I reintroduced myself to the wonders of Adobe and have not looked back since. I am pleased to count myself as one of the fortunate copywriters who can make a go of graphic design as part of a powerhouse service package to clients.
Interested in learning more about how a copywriter designer can help with your marketing goals? Reach out to The Write Reflection today to schedule a no-obligation consultation.
George Bernard Shaw offered some deep insight into communication when he said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Drop the mic (as the young folk like to say).
Communication is a vital life skill. Yet so many people seem incapable of mastering it. If we spend a few moments thinking about it, I am confident we can each recall at least one example when an attempt to communicate with another person has failed miserably. You may think you have conveyed the message clearly, but the other person has received something quite different than intended.
Sometimes the misfire results in hilarity. The misunderstanding is identified, everyone has a good laugh, and then you go about the business of trying again. If you are not so lucky, hurt feelings not easily resolved can occur. Maybe the other person does not even tell you they are upset by your words, so you go about life assuming the intended message was received loud and clear. The other person is silently stewing about it, building up resentment. In the workplace, that can lead to an inability to collaborate effectively as a team and lost productivity.
Communicating Effectively with a Remote Team
Communication already was difficult enough without adding remote working to the equation. Thanks to a global pandemic, remote work is becoming the norm rather than the exception. More companies are embracing the notion of a permanent shift toward permitting employees to work from home according to data from a June 2020 PwC report.
That is leaving many businesses wondering how to improve communication with a remote workforce if they struggled with it when their employees were all on-site. Here are some suggestions and practical tips for developing effective remote communication.
Tip #1: Pucker up, buttercup
When I was in Journalism school, one of the first rules of writing I learned was the K.I.S.S. method. If you are panicking, relax. It does not require you to literally pucker up. K.I.S.S. is short for a basic piece of communication advice: Keep It Simple Stupid.
Now, this does not imply that people are too dumb to understand complex thoughts. It is a nod to the way most people choose to communicate with one another. Imagine your coworker sends you a message about a joint project that starts out like this: “In this brief missive, I will explore the rationale for pursuing an economizing of our overheads.” You would probably roll your eyes hard enough to give yourself a concussion. And rightly so. A simple, “I’m working on ways to reduce our costs” would have worked fine. These are what I like to call $25 words. You might think they make you sound all fancy and smart, but they open the door for miscommunication. If you want to reduce the chances of a communication failure, speak (or type) simply.
Tip #2: Pick a tool, any tool
The average worker spends 2.6 hours each day reading and responding to email. That does not even account for the phone calls, Zoom conferences, and check-ins on Microsoft Teams. With so many new channels of communication available these days, it is easy to get so caught up with checking in that you get nothing else accomplished. Do not go down the rabbit hole of communication when working remotely. Every team needs clear guidelines on preferred methods for relaying information to their coworkers, clients, and management. Chat channels like Slack work great for teams to keep in touch while collaborating on projects or for daily updates on progress. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet are great options for weekly staff meetings.
Whatever options you choose, make sure you are not expecting workers to jump from one to the other all day long. Choose specific times – and communication tools – for touching base and reserve the rest of your working hours for attending to work-related tasks.
Tip #3: Tone it down
With written communication methods – email, chat, text – it is important to follow formatting rules. One of the biggest challenges with this kind of communication is the difficulty in denoting another person’s tone. You may think your words are pleasant and polite, but the person on the other end may interpret them quite differently. There are some things you can do to help lessen confusion.
Tip #4: Watch it, buddy
Everybody seems all about video conferencing these days. Videoconferencing services reported upticks in usage since the global pandemic hit earlier this year. Using these platforms to keep in touch with coworkers and clients is an advantage for remote workers. The convenience is not without drawbacks. When we are on video, there is any number of things that can – and usually do – go wrong. From pets and children wandering into the background to embarrassing gaffes when the mic is still live, there is hardly a shortage of examples of videoconferencing gone wrong.
Some of these mishaps are out of our control. Others are not. For example, body language. It speaks volumes about how we are feeling whether we mean to convey those feelings or not. Sitting up straight, holding eye contact, and minimizing hand gestures is a great way to keep your body from betraying your private thoughts and feelings. Yes, meetings can be boring. You probably have 20 other things to do. Your job at that moment is to be invested in the conversation. Act accordingly.
Tip #5: Break down (on the communication highway)
Do not wait until there is a complete breakdown of communication to address any issues. Remote work is challenging, especially for those who are used to an office dynamic. If you find colleagues are not responding in a timely fashion and it is impacting your workflow, take steps to address the breakdown before a complete communication failure occurs. When emails and texts are ignored, pick up the phone and call. Electronic communication is not foolproof. Emails end up in spam and texts sometimes do not get delivered. It can be tempting to rely on the convenience of all these handy new electronic tools, but sometimes, a good old-fashioned phone call is best. As a last resort, reach out to management to help resolve communication failures.
The Bottom Line on Remote Communication
Communicating remotely is a challenge, but it should never be an excuse for failure. We live in an era of amazing possibilities, with technological advancements and tools designed to facilitate better communication readily at our disposal. It may take some trial and error to find the right fit but committing to a remote communication plan is worth the effort.
Need help improving your remote workforce’s communication plan? Reach out to The Write Reflection to schedule your no-obligation consultation with one of our team members today.
T.J. likes to daydream. A lot. He gets into trouble for drifting off into his thoughts in the middle of class and frustrates his family with his inability to stay in the moment. For T.J. daydreaming is a coping mechanism. It is how he controls his angry outbursts and feelings of inadequacy, which seem to happen a lot if he spends too much time in the real world.
Author Tim Kostilnik can relate to the main character of his Christian children’s books in The God’sCool Reading Series. The first book, titled “I’m So Angry,” introduces readers to T.J. as a child battling a lot of different feelings he has no idea how to handle. T.J. learns God’s way of dealing with his feelings from his wise Grandpa Sol.
Not only did Tim daydream a lot as a child, but he has also struggled with the urge to give in to angry outbursts. “Anger is something I’ve dealt with my entire life, so it was kind of cathartic for me to write this character who is struggling with his anger,” said Kostilnik. “There is a difference between Godly anger and selfish anger. No one told me that when I was a kid. I want to break the cycle by giving kids a story they can relate to with a character who learns this valuable lesson.”
“I Hate Myself” is the second book in the God’sCool series. T.J. and his friends all have things that they hate about themselves but never share with anyone. The story describes how they learn to love and accept themselves and see themselves the way that God sees them. The series is geared toward readers in the 9 to 11 age range and includes helpful discussion questions and additional resources for parents.
“I wanted families to be able to tackle these problems in a Godly way,” said Kostilnik. “I’m a firm believer that the Bible and God’s word is the way to handle any positive or negative experience. I hope to end the cycle of toxic family traditions concerning child-rearing by providing parents with an alternative resource.”
Kostilnik pulls double-duty as the book’s author and illustrator, leaning on his graphic design skills to help bring his stories to life.
A total of 12 books are planned for the series, each featuring the same characters introduced in books one and two, with new friends joining in along the way. “I plan to include diverse characters in my books so more children and families can relate to them.” Every book in the series focuses on a specific lesson. The third book, which Kostilnik currently is writing, explores how to handle death from a Godly perspective. He is still fleshing out the details of the story but plans to introduce a soldier as one of the main characters. The goal is to have the third installment in the series available in early 2021.
“I Hate Myself” and “I’m So Angry” are available on Amazon.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Pittsburgh, PA - August 19, 2020 – Do you sometimes find yourself wishing there was a 25th hour in every day so you could get caught up on everything life throws your way? We are all pressed for time and no matter how much we wish for it we are limited in how many hours a day we can realistically devote to accomplishing tasks.
Virtual assistants are a great way to help lessen the burden and free yourself up to enjoy the important things in life, while still tackling your professional goals. The Write Reflection is pleased to announce an expansion of its services to include virtual assistance. Let us help reduce your anxiety with a competent virtual assistant who can help carry the load.
Virtual assistance is now available in the following areas:
Virtual assistant services are provided by team member Ann Kerekes, who has more than three decades of administrative experience. She has a proven track record in senior-level support, management, and training. Her key strengths include organizational management, fostering personal relationships, maximizing efficiency, and streamlining processes.
“We are extremely excited to add Ann to our team at The Write Reflection,” said Write Reflection CEO and Founder Shari Berg. “She is an ambitious and outgoing professional with a passion for helping others. Ann is a self-motivated and valuable forward-facing asset for any company or organization, and we are excited to be able to offer her services to our clients.”
Contact us today to learn more about how Ann can virtually assist you.
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for over 20 years.