Still that comms guy; still enjoying it

I’ve been working as THAT COMMS GUY for over two years now and am pleased to say that things are working out well. 2018 was a busy year, but also a balanced one, with plenty of time for family, music and other projects.

About 50% of my time last year was spent working for the DVB Project, providing communications support on a mix of operational and strategic tasks. I worked for DVB from 2004 to 2009, so I’ve been going back to the future; and I’m glad to continue this work for the next 12 months. The DVB World 2019 conference in Dublin looks set to be one highlight and there are other exciting developments in the pipeline.

Almost another 40% of my client work is for the European Broadcasting Union, another former employer (and the host of the DVB Project Office, which is handy!). I continue to provide support on events and publications for the Technology & Innovation Department, and also did some report writing for the Media Department, notably in connection with the Digital Transformation Initiative. I particularly enjoy editing the quarterly tech-i magazine and am looking forward to a new podcast-related project in 2019.

How my client work broke down in 2018.

While all this means – and the chart illustrates – that 90% of my income effectively comes from one building in Geneva, DVB and the EBU are two entirely separate organizations, so it’s not as risky as it sounds. And the remaining 10% comes from several other interesting clients: I’ve continued to do some copywriting for Hilti AG, provided web support for Partners for a New Economy, Bright Green Learning and Fondation Segré, and event communications support for SDNsquare. I was also pleased to work with the Sphere organization for a couple of days.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier with how this adventure in freelancing is working out. I’m grateful to all the people I work with for their trust and confidence in me.

I’m hoping that 2019 will bring the same mix of stable, stimulating work from my regular clients along with one or new things to keep me on my toes. Get in touch if you’d like to chat!

Montage of photos showing a mug with the THAT COMMS GUY logo.
Oh, and I also got a new mug in 2018!

A practical tip when writing for the web

When writing for the web, it often turns out that your last sentence is actually your first sentence. Allow me to explain.

I’ve been editing text a lot recently and have noticed that short articles, whether news items, event reports or blog posts, can often be made more immediate and engaging by using what was originally written as a closing sentence as the opening sentence. Or at least using a sentence from elsewhere in the article, and I find that it’s usually close to the end.

We all have a habit, when telling stories, of starting by establishing the context. We do this whether we’re telling an anecdote at the pub or writing a report in a professional context. And in general, when you have a captive audience, it’s a good habit. You get to set the scene and fill in the background before building to the climax. However, when it comes to writing short texts for the web – say 150 to 500 words – you probably don’t have a captive audience, and you certainly do have an easily distracted audience. You need to engage readers right from the start; but also to ensure that if you lose them quickly, they will at least have picked up the main information.

In practice, it can be hard to sit down and write an engaging and informative opening sentence off the top of your head. I usually just start drafting the text in the normal way and then look to see if the best opening sentence is buried somewhere within the text. Another way of thinking of it is to ask yourself which sentence you might choose as a pull quote or even a tweet. You may well find that, well, when writing for the web, it often turns out that your last sentence is actually your first sentence!

 

If in doubt, call it what it is

A café in the village where I live closed down recently, just a few months after it had opened. I wasn’t surpised. Located in a new park for small businesses, it was a little off the beaten track, with very little direct passing trade. It was only after it had closed that I noticed the sign outside the business park on the main road.  Read more

My go-to sites for free photographs

A picture is not always worth a thousand words. While online communication is dominated by visuals these days, often the photographs, graphics or icons used don’t add much value. Just look at the photo below for example!

Nevertheless, it is usually a good idea to include some sort of eye candy, as long as you maintain a good balance between style and substance. Smart use of typography and layout can sometimes be enough, but you’ll probably find yourself hunting for photos sooner or later. Read more

WordPress wins for websites but Wix works well

I’ve had a chance to work with both Wix and Squarespace on recent projects. While WordPress remains my preferred platform for building and maintaining websites, these site builder services are clearly attractive for those who want to quickly and easily get a professional-looking site online. Read more

Note to self: update blog

How often have you clicked through to the blog section of a website and found that the most recent post dates from many months or even years ago? It doesn’t look great, does it. So, the simple message of this post is: post something! Read more

MailChimp may not be the best solution for your members

For membership-based organizations, regular and reliable communication with the member community is essential. Email newsletters are a commonly used tool for this and whenever email newsletters are mentioned, you can be sure MailChimp will come up as an option. But you shouldn’t be too hasty in embracing that friendly monkey! Read more

Treat your website to a content audit

Taking a few hours to do a content audit of your website represents time very well spent. Both the process itself and the document that results can help to identify problems with site structure, inconsistencies in menus, titles, headings and URLs, and outdated or difficult-to-find content.

The word audit might suggest some kind of scary inspection Read more

I’ll be brief…

It’s highly likely that the people you are trying to reach with your message — whatever it may be — lead busy working lives and have to deal with constant interruptions and distractions. Your gift to them should therefore be brevity. Try to tell your story, or at least deliver the essential (for your audience) information, in as few words as possible*. Read more

Communicate sustainably

With a title like that you could be forgiven for thinking this post is about using recycled paper for your flyers and offsetting the emissions generated by your events. In fact, I’m encouraging you to think about sustainability in communications from an entirely different angle. Read more