Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Monday, September 24, 2012
I just came across an article on PR Daily called "How to Handle Minor Misquotes in the Press."
This article really struck home for me. You see, before I started here at CGR, I worked as a reporting intern for two very small newspapers in South Carolina. The PR Daily article discusses what a person should do if a reporter misquotes them, responding that they should just forget about it in most cases, assuming the error was minor and in no way damaging. If the error is more serious or detrimental to your reputation, especially if it borders on libel, it should definitely be reported.
As a past-reporter and current freelancer, if there's one thing I know, it's this: typos happen. And, in the case of print journalism, it isn't as easy to fix them. I currently write for a few blogs and contribute one freelance article a week to an online running website, and, for those, it's typically as easy as clicking "edit" or contacting my administrator for the problem to disappear. From my work at the newspapers, however, I know firsthand how glaring an out of place comma or a misspelled name can be when the "edit" button is no longer an option. Reporters, and anyone who contributes the written word, must be extra-careful to ensure that their facts are correct, and their writing polished, because even the smallest error could result in total loss of credibility.
Let me recall one of the last stories that I covered before moving to Charlotte. My editor, knowing that I was a runner, assigned me to write a story on each of the five cross-country teams in the area. I was ecstatic. I soon realized, however, that, not only do all high school kids start to look alike the older you get, they say similar things, as well. This meant that I had twenty quotes from each team about how they love their sport, love their team, and can't wait to see what happens this season, and I had to keep track of which person said which variation of the same.
So you can imagine my distress, when, on one of the afternoons, a coach insisted that I talk to his two prized athletes. Twins. Identical twins. My two best friends are identical twins, and I've never had any problem telling them apart, but it was no consolation to these girls, as I confused their names for the hundredth time, when I said, "My best friends are twins! I know this is annoying!"
Regardless, my interview time ran up because they had to continue with practice, and I was left with a jumble of quotes, unsure which words connected and who said what. Rather than risking a misquote in the article, and knowing I had to meet deadline, I was forced to use only the quotes whose speakers I knew for sure. There were a few really great quotes that I chose to discard because they'd been reduced to less than shorthand in the flustering interview, so I wasn't sure exactly what was said...or even who said it!
Awful. Before this, I'd considered myself a fairly good interviewer for an amateur, but this was easily my worst effort as a report thus far.
So now let me take you through misquotes from a reporter's point of view.
As a reporter, you always want to make the article as relevant and read-worthy as possible, without being a sensationalist article. In the case of blatant, or pointed, misquotes, some reporters lose sight of this. However, in the event of a minor misquote, it is usually the result of a typo, poorly organized notes, or distracted attention. Although as an interviewee, you may feel that the interviewer has the easy job, simply writing down your answers, this isn't always the case.
Interviews need to be held at conversational pace, and, if the conversation picks up faster than the interviewer can write (if, like me, they haven't ingeniously invested in a recording device yet), some vital contents may be lost in the process. It can be impossible for an interviewer to ask you to repeat yourself or slow down, especially in a hurried event.
HOWEVER, what all reporters should do, and what I wish I had done, is, in the case there is any question on a quote, name, or fact, call the subject back and verify. For the most part, people love to talk, and, if it means making sure their voice is 100% heard, they're happy to repeat it.
That being said, and I know I don't speak for all reporters, I see nothing wrong with calling about a misquote. Do so nicely, and, if anything, it will remind both reporters and editors to hone their reporting skills for future articles. As I said earlier, a misquote, or a typo, can completely ruin a news organization's reputation, where much of their communication is written. Who are you going to trust? The article that, although well-written, has an obvious typo, or the one that is polished and thorough?
In relation to marketing and business, I can't tell you how many times I've refused to use a business or a product due to poor grammar or misspelled words. It's not just because I'm a Grammar Nerd (I am), but it also makes me question the legitimacy and professionalism of the company or brand. Just as quickly as a creative design can attract the eye, a typo can push it away.
What are your thoughts on misquotes/typos? How do you think they reflect on a business?
Friday, September 21, 2012
One of the biggest mistakes people make is this: they try too hard.
Before you kickback in your seat at the office, throwing your feet on the desk to catch a quick snooze, that’s not what I meant. What I mean is that people are so antsy to achieve success and perfection that they end up forcing a mediocre, less impressive final result...just to get it done. People tend to envision a final goal, just to reach it, even if they lose possibilities along the way.
We see this every day. We see it in the singers on the X-Factor, belting out off-key “notes” in an attempt to show their range in a short time. We see it in fashionistas, who, as they endeavor to start a trend, create obscure outfits that, although providing shock value, do not reflect their talent at all. And, in marketing, we see it in advertisements that utilize loud colors, patterns, and designs so thought-out and unoriginal as to be nearly blinding and, in the case of neon, headache-inducing.
In college, I took a visual communications course, where our semester project was to re-brand a communications room on campus. The room was going to be the epicenter for meetings, group discussions, student-led seminars, and a variety of other things, as well as a creative study space for students when it wasn’t otherwise occupied.
It was actually a really cool idea, and I was excited to be a part of it. In a society where competition thrives, we were split into groups. At the end of the semester, a “winner” would be declared, their brand image used. As an English major, and the current in-house writer for CGR, my experience with visual arts and graphic design was limited to the occasional use of Photoshop and personal web design.
As a group, we decided that the best way to complete the project would be to work individually-together. What I mean is that we each decided to create a model for the brand requirements (ie: a business card, a logo, a brochure, etc.), and together we would fuse our favorite aspects of each individual’s design into one final product. We were all happy with this plan, as it would give us each plenty of hands-on work to complete, and we also thought it would give our client the opportunity to choose without limitation.
But there’s always that one group member who rocks the boat.
For us, his name was Jon, and he was the quintessence of this kind of “trying too hard”--aka going nowhere, fast. At the start of each class, two of the other group members and I would congregate a corner in the computer lab, where we would work, show each other our designs, and help each other. It is one of the best group experiences I've had, second to working at CGR. Without fail, Jon would come bursting into the classroom about thirty minutes later, in a red hoodie (every day—for a semester—the same hoodie), mumbling some excuse about how he hated the bus, and take over. He’d shove my hand away from the mouse and restructure my designs, or he would loom over the shoulder of another group member and criticize their work. And then he did this really cool thing where he would interrupt our idea-sharing discussions to say, “That's okay...but I have a better idea--much easier, more efficient.” He also attempted to write our final brand report, insisting, "People like it when you use long words. It makes it sound better. I just make them up to sound smarter."
Hi, I'm all for creativity, but no.
Jon did very little actual work, and his ideas were appalling, as he utilized vulgar humor for the logo and a lack of professionalism and creativity for everything else. His only goal was to finish the semester, to win, and to attract attention…with minimum work and as little exertion as possible because sometimes trying too hard to "be done" is the same as not trying at all.
It should come as no surprise that the other group members and I were sick of it. At one point, we met with the client to show him our progress and to receive feedback. The three of us had a variety of examples of our combined work, as well as a portfolio containing each individual’s examples so that we could cover all bases and give him the power to choose. Imagine our surprise when Jon showed up with his own manila folder and announced that he would be presenting independently. Somewhere in the midst of being late to class and wearing his red hoodie, Jon had found the time to complete his own brand work.
At first I was worried that the colorful, shock value of Jon’s approach would appeal to the client.
But guess what?
The client was unimpressed, calling Jon’s overdone work “distracting”, "unoriginal", and “forgettable”. What he was impressed with, however, was a logo design that the other members and I had made through our combined efforts. We had placed it at the bottom of the stack because it was honestly a creative mistake. It happened one day in class, when we were really tired, and really bored, so we just frantically clicked random buttons on Photoshop. What resulted was something like a tiger slash in the middle of the screen. Did I mention that our school mascot was a tiger?
But a slash. That was it. We couldn’t figure out how to get rid of it, so we included it simply to bulk up our portfolio.
And that’s what impressed the client. It wasn’t the well-planned designs or the perfectly centered logos, and it certainly wasn’t Jon’s “one and done” approach. It was a slash.
In a society where competition reigns, but no one wins, we discovered that, at some point in the semester, our client had secretly planned his own brand design and never intended to use any of ours. Regardless, we discovered something about work: it can be fun. It had been what happened when we weren’t trying too hard or focusing on the end that had given us personal success. It was what happened when we were having fun.
I think we all learned a lesson from that class. Well, all of us except for Jon, who, at the end of the semester, snatched from my hand the large binder we’d spent days organizing and handed it to our professor saying, “All of these ideas are mine; they just didn't credit me" before walking out the door. (I’m not kidding. Luckily, the professor had already told us that Jon would be failing the course based on his attendance and...surprise, surprise...lack of work.)
My lesson to you is this. You should always try your hardest. You should always have a goal in sight. You should be great because you are great. But sometimes you’ll find the greatest success when you take a deep breath, relax, and let yourself have fun because, sometimes, it isn't the end that matters--it's what you did to get there.
Besides, why do lackluster work when you’re better than that?
Thursday, September 20, 2012
If I had penny for every time someone I know saw something cool and said, “Instagram it!”, I’d probably have, like, five bucks, which is a lot, considering the fact that Instagram is a fairly new application. (I say fairly new because it was introduced earlier this year, which, in the technology world, makes it middle-aged. Luckily, Instagram frequently adds changes to their app, keeping it mod and up-to-date.)
It took me a while to download it. Social media has already taken over so much of my life that the last thing I need is another outlet. If I want to share a milestone, I post it on Facebook. If I have a philosophical, hilarious, or cynical thought, I post it on Twitter. If I go for a run, I post it on LifeKraze. Want to know about my day? Check out my blog. I mean, I feel like my life has become Show-And-Tell times infinity, except the notes from the Tooth Fairy and rocks found in my backyard were way more entertaining to my Kindergarten classmates than anything I’m doing now. (What? You don’t want to know what I’ve eaten for.every.meal. or what I'm doing every.second.? TWITPIC!)
Last July, however, it all changed. I went on a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina with a few friends from college. We stayed at my aunt’s new vacation house and spent our days at the pool and our nights gossiping and eating chocolate cake from our favorite bakery in Greenville, South Carolina, Brickstreet. One night, I noticed that one of my friends hadn’t started eating her slice of cake, as she stood poised over it, pointing her camera phone at it.
At this point I was rounding the corner of my last bite, when I finally asked, “What are you doing?” I asked for two reasons: one, I really wanted to know what she was doing and, two, if she wasn’t going to eat the cake, I would.
“I’m trying to take the perfect picture to post on Instagram,” she said, as she took her first bite, at last satisfied with the picture. “Now I just need to pick out the filter…”
I rolled my eyes. I was so sick of this Instagram business. People would take pictures of their friends, dogs, or food (that’s basically all Instagram is, right?) and then edit it to make it look artsy. It took me back to my middle school MySpace days, when we would all over-contrast our pictures, or, if all else failed, put it in black and white because everyone looks better in black and white.
Responding to my eye roll with another eye roll, she said, “Of all people, you’re one to judge.”
Guilty, I thought, as I sent a status out to every social media account on my phone.
“Fine,” I said. “Tell me a little bit more about it."
Over the course of five minutes (I’m ashamed to say that’s all it took), she showed me around Instagram, I downloaded it, and the rest is history.
What is it about Instagram, though, that makes it so appealing? Even my friends who have deleted their Facebook accounts or refuse to set up a Twitter account love Instagram.
First, like most social media networks today, it's easily accessible. You can either take a picture from your phone or upload one directly to the app. You can send it to your other accounts at the same time, and then, not only does it post it for your friends to see, it saves it in your Photos folder just for you.
Second, it isn't text-heavy. A lot of people dislike other social media sites because they don't care to read what everyone is doing, and they don't think that their life is interesting enough to put into words. With Instagram, though, it's as easy as point, shoot, and post. You don't have to pick a filter if you don't want one, and you don't even have to post a caption. And, from the viewpoint of checking out other friends' postings, all you have to do is scroll and look.
Third, pictures are more appealing than words; it's the show, don't tell school of thought. You can tell me how delicious your dinner was, how last night's sunset was the most beautiful you've ever seen, or how much fun you are having with your friends, but telling me doesn't have the same effect as showing me.
Why do you think Instagram has gotten to be so popular?
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
“I’m not creative.”
This kills me. Whenever people say this to me, I’m tempted to patter on about how “Everyone is creative”, “You just have your own sense of imagination”, and “Creativity isn't limited to art”, but, despite the fact that these are my true beliefs, I know that it comes off as nothing more than a sales pitch, with a side of motherly advice. At least I don’t include the tag “in your own special way” at the end of my pattering. Right?
I mean, I, for instance, could easily say, “I can’t paint.” But that’s not true. Despite what fellow classmates in a painting class may have told you, I can put a paintbrush in my hands, dip it in some paint, and slap it on a canvas. Voila. I painted. What I should be saying is, “I won’t be recognized for my painting.” Oh, well. For whatever reason, people tend to believe that they aren’t creative if they don’t get paid, if other people aren’t ‘entertained’, or if they're unable to receive outside approval.
Why, oh why, would you let other people determine your creativity? Have you seen other people lately? Miley Cyrus cut her hair to look like Draco Malfoy (if you know what I’m talking about, virtual *high five*), they’re bringing sideburns back in style, and, on a personal note, I can hear my next-door neighbor serenading her chihuahua through the walls. It seems to me that these ‘other people’ may not be the end-all-be-all determining forces in discovering your creativity.
Oh, and it’s your creativity—emphasis on you.
Still don’t believe me? Well I’ll help you with the first step right now.
What is something that makes you happy? No--more than happy. I hate that word, anyway—it never seems strong enough. So what gives you that indefinable, indescribable feeling of happiness, euphoria, joy, and bliss all in one. And then, what does it inspire you to do? For me, I can best describe it as a chai tea latte after a refreshing run in brisk autumn weather, with Joe Purdy playing in the background. And then, when I get that inspirational inclination that others describe as “happy”, I write.
What is it that you like to do when you’re inspired? I’m not asking what inspires you (although I am interested in that, as well). I’m asking what do you do when you’re inspired?
You may not paint, sculpt, perform, write, or take pictures, but creativity is not limited to the expected outlets. Maybe you have a favorite sport, and, when you’re inspired, you want to play a game, or a match. You thrive on the competition, both with yourself and with opponents, and you push to better yourself each time. Or maybe you've started your own business, and, after years of searching for your purpose, you've found it. You go into work each day with new ideas to improve the business, and, although you’re physically tired at the end of the day, you secretly look forward to tomorrow, your motivation remaining strong. Poetry isn’t always on paper, after all. Sometimes it’s in the kick of a soccer ball or the innovation of a business.
A friend of mine believes that he isn’t creative.
“I just wasn’t born with it,” he says, insisting that his strengths are “strictly logical”.
But I’ve seen him build six-foot tall shelves, without taking a single look at the instruction manual, fix chairs that were labeled irreparable, and even untie the knots of necklaces that were considered to be permanently tangled. And, I know what you're thinking, he isn't even Superman! Kidding aside, he is able to look at building, creating, and repairing in a way that most people can't.
Can his creativity be put on paper or burned to a mix tape? Maybe not. But not all creativity has to be mainstream. It’s 2012; don’t we reject the mainstream anyway?
So the next time you try to say, “I’m not creative”, please reconsider: Anything you do, especially that which you feel inspired to do, is creative and unique to you. Maybe you’ve improved a homemade cake recipe. Maybe you have perfect comedic timing in everyday conversations, which, although it may not take you to SNL, makes your friends and family laugh. You might give really good advice or know how to make people look at basic situations in a different light. Or maybe you’re one of those people who sets your shampoo bottles upside down, so that the shampoo is already at the lid when you’re ready to open it--By Jove, I think you're onto something!.
Okay, maybe I was reaching with that last one, but you get the idea. Creativity can sometimes be found in the mundane. And, for my last bit of motherly advice, I believe in you!
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I recently moved into a new apartment. Almost as soon as the lease was signed, I began to plan its interior design to the point that I considered pitching myself to HGTV for an interior design show because, you know, there really aren’t enough of those already. I’m only partially kidding. The only thing holding me back from this endeavor was the fact that I know next to nothing (and less) about interior design. That being said, I am convinced that my interior style, termed by others as “tacky” and “confusing” (thanks, Mom), will one day be “in”. This generation just isn’t ready to combine Moroccan with Country French, which, according to my aunt, is exactly what I’ve done in my apartment.
First on my list of things to get was a couch. The couch I had been using had been in my parents’ first home, before they gave it to an uncle, who passed it on to another relative, and so on. It was eventually bestowed upon my brother when he was in college. He gave it to my sister. She gave it to me. It spent its off years in storage units, in the depths of dark basements, and in the far corner of the garage with the rest of the junk, which we intend to eventually organize…eventually (when we get around to it). Always, however, the couch has managed to find its way into the heart (and seat, I guess) of a new owner.
Being the most recent inheritor of the couch, I found that I’d grown especially fond of it. Although I’d disguised its bright blue and green plaid upholstery with an ill-fitting slipcover, the equivalence of a paper bag for unsightly furniture, I've always appreciated its history. In a family without a specific heirloom (unless a sweet tooth counts), this couch seems to have lived and grown with my family from the very beginning. It is the couch that has been used in “first apartments” and “first homes”. Although seemingly a placeholder for a new and improved couch, it actually represents the start of something new, of new beginnings, of a new life. Not to mention the fact that the cushions have been worn down to perfection; it has never refused me the perfect nap, nor I it.
These clearly over-sentimental feelings for a couch caused me to be torn in the weeks before my move, when relatives and friends asked which couch I was taking. When I told them, reactions varied, if by “varied” I mean that everyone was really against it. They all feared what my new neighbors would think of me if they saw an old couch with a broken armrest; the word “weird” was thrown around a little too loosely. It took some convincing, and the promise of frozen yogurt, but after one trip to the furniture store, I decided to buy a new couch. It was beige, with a fun, colorful trim and came with a trendy ottoman, and don't even get me started on how fluffy the cushions were; I was too stubborn to admit it, but it was love at first sit.
The long-winded point that I’m trying to make is that sometimes, a lot of the time, change is good. My old couch worked for me. It was, in the most basic sense of the word, comfortable. The same can be said when marketing a business. You may use the school of thought “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, when what you should really be thinking is, “If it ain’t broke, fix it before it is.” This may sound like a cynical approach, but the truth is that things change quickly. What attracts people to your company one day could bore or even go unnoticed by them the next. My old couch, for instance, is the perfect exemplification of the past. It worked, sure, but, to be truthful, the cushions had been worn to near flatness, and the slipcover didn’t even fit, causing glimpses of faded plaid to peek through. I opted for change and embraced a new idea, and everything has been better because of it, especially naps (I mean, metaphors aside, I am still talking about a couch). Creativity, uniqueness, and ability to change are the triad to success.
That being said, even though I got a new couch, I didn’t set the other one on fire, or send it to a black hole in space, never to be seen again. I left it at my parents’ house, where it first began its journey, to come full circle in its life because, just like everything else, it has a cycle and may just reemerge again when the new stuff becomes outdated.
Friday, July 27, 2012
If five years ago you told me that touch screens were the next big thing, I never would have believed you. Even as touch screen cell phones were starting to become popular, I had zero interest. I figured they wouldn't work as well as buttons and the typing must be impossible. I was a die-hard Blackberry user and swore that I'd never use an iPhone... that didn't last long.
One by one, all of my friends got iPhones, and I began to count down the days until my contract was up. I couldn't wait to get an iPhone. As I switched from my beloved Blackberry to my new iPhone, I felt a little bit nostalgic. I had really loved my Blackberry. A few weeks later, I was addicted. I loved the big screen and the ease of my new iPhone. I loved all of the apps and I loved Siri.
I can't imagine using anything but my iPhone, and I am excited to see what the new iPhone 5 can do. The internet is swirling with rumors about what it will look like. So far it is rumored to have a bigger screen, thinner appearance, and a smaller dock connector. I'm hoping the new iPhone also has an improved Siri. Sales for the iPhone 4S are slowing, as Apple gets ready to release the iPhone 5. It's rumored that the new iPhone will be released in October. This is all rumor, of course, but until then, I will be anxiously awaiting the release of the new iPhone.