Decisioning, Wordsmithing, and Other Strange Practices in Corporate Communications

Friends, I have made my first official foray into corporate communications and I have incredibly strong opinions about it.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, let me say that from the (very) little that I’ve done with communications in a corporate setting, I love it. I love being able to utilize my writing skills in a meaningful way in my day job. I love being seen as a competent communicator. I especially love that even though it is a small fraction of my job description, I am getting paid what most of us Indie Fiction writers can only dream of for stringing a few sentences together. Ah, the perks of a Fortune 500 company paycheck.

That being said, Corporate America, what is up with this lexicon you’ve decided to saddle yourself with? I routinely see words like decisioning or wordsmithing or actioning. These impromptu verbs coupled with a few five dollar vocabulary words in the wrong context send my head absolutely spinning.

What’s worse is that these communications that I am contributing to routinely go to the upper echelons of management. This means Sr. Executives, Unit CIO’s, Boards of Directors, and others are enabling and encouraging this sort of communication.

I blame the “high-level overview” requirement for this sort of egging on. Essentially, this means that experts in a particular process or function are asked to describe what they do, but to ignore the details and give a generalized description, typically within a certain amount of words. It’s like asking Neil Degrasse Tyson to sum-up the workings of the universe in two sentences.

While I am sure that the great Neil Degrasse Tyson could accomplish this with finesse and grace, your typical corporate employee will struggle with this task. I think this is where the odd vocabulary comes into play. Words with a tenuous grasp on the concepts at hand infiltrate presentations and e-mails that are passed around to everyone in the company. Because of the high visibility, it stands to reason that more will emulate the verbiage and add in a few more five dollar vocabulary words that sound cool, end them with ing and call them verbs. Viola! We have words like Synergy and Actioning.

The same things happen with the youths of the world. Every generation has their own vocabulary and buzzwords. It was just shocking to me to understand that companies are the same way, except they try to dress up their slang in a suit and tie.

As an Indie Fiction writer, I am at once impressed and appalled by this corporate phenomenon. Impressed by the ingenuity it takes to make up verbs and also the single-minded determination to use these fabrications to “effectively” communicate with superiors. Appalled by the continuous perpetuation of words that make no sense by Sr. Executives and Boards of Directors.

I feel that with my entrance into the communications field that I need to address the pervasiveness of “Corporate Speak”. If we are to actually get our points across, we can do it in plain language instead of making stuff up to sound smarter than we are.

This, I think, is going to be my biggest problem to tackle should I continue this adventure in corporate communications. Well, and getting people to understand that while “wordsmith” is a cool title, I’d really prefer to simply be called what I am; a “writer”.

Writers Helping Writers: Books Are Judged by Their Cover

Growing up, I was always told never to judge a book by its cover, meaning not to judge people by how they look. While that’s a great trait to have and a wonderful practice to do as you go through life, it is sadly not how the world really works, at least not here in contemporary America. How someone or something appears generates a judgement from us humans.

Example, an elderly lady (let’s call her Gloria), in a cardigan and modest flowered dress sits at a bus stop. She has carefully curled gray hair underneath a silk kerchief and spectacles perched on the bridge of her nose. She has a large carpet bag next to her. A typical initial reaction; someone’s grandma with her knitting is waiting for public transportation, right? Gloria is probably on her way to visit her friends at the nursing home.

Wrong. Gloria never had children and in that giant carpet bag she’s toting is her glock and extra rounds because she’s on her way to the indoor shooting range to practice her aim. Underneath her silk handkerchief are small headphones blasting her favorite Slayer album.

How you decide to act on the initial assessment of a person or thing is between you and whatever higher power you believe in, but that immediate assumption based on appearance will always happen.

It’s the same for books. That’s why if you really want to sell your book, you have to not only take great care in what the content is, but also how it looks. That means putting a lot of thought into the cover. The front cover will be the thing that catches your reader’s eye. It has to give an idea of what your story is about in a single glance, which means there are some questions you need to ask yourself when you are getting ready to design your cover.

1.       What do other books in my genre have on their covers? Take a stroll down to your neighborhood library and check out the other books in your genre. Notice the similarities. Notice what is not on those covers. A lot of book genres will have similar looking covers to earmark what kind of story they are telling. Example: Shirtless men on the covers of romance novels. You don’t have to follow the path they are laying out, but it is a good idea to understand the boundaries of your genres cover art so that your sci-fi action adventure is not misinterpreted as a romance murder mystery.

2.       What would grab your attention in a book cover? As you are walking down the aisle of your library, when you see a particularly striking cover, stop and analyze why this one is grabbing your attention. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? What was that initial “Oh!” moment. Consider how you can depict that sort of concept with your own story in mind.  **Important** do not simply copy another person’s book cover concept. Make it your own. Incorporate your own tastes into it and make it relevant to your story.

3.       Consider who or how you will go about generating your cover. There are several options before you; you can make it yourself, you can get a pre-made one from the internet, you can pay an artist to commission one for you. They all have their ups and downs. Ultimately, you need to do what best fits your story and your budget. If you are collaborating with someone, it’s important to listen to the artist’s input on your cover. They have an amazing eye for design and remember, this cover art is their work too.

4.       Pay attention to the things that are on every book of all genres. I am talking about the title, the author tag, the bar code, the back cover blurb (more about this later), and how the spine is arranged. These elements need to be included in your print cover as well.

5.       Consider the size of your print book. Will it be a large tome or a small trade paperback size? This will also impact how much space you have for your graphics/ art.

These decisions and the research involved are daunting. However, it is vital if you want your book to be presentable. I promise that if you take your time with it and thoroughly think it through, your cover will be amazing.

Smiles,

Kira

Fair to Middling- Behind the Scenes

Hey everyone! Kira here. As promised, I’m giving you the inside scoop on my latest book, Fair to Middling which is coming out later this week (Friday, 10/26). If you’d like to pre-order your copy, you can do so by clicking this link: http://www.fivesmilingfish.com/shop/pre-order-fair-to-middling-print

This book was originally planned by myself and Grandpa with more than a little nudging from Grandma. The idea was to get all of his wonderful, vivid stories recorded and to give him something to focus on other than Grandma’s failing health.

I’d always known Grandpa had been in WWII, but he’d never really spoken about it too much when I was growing up. When we started recording his tales, I wasn’t sure how much he’d actually say.

Turns out a lot.

We spoke every day for five years. At first, I called about the project, but then to just check in on him after Grandma passed. He began all of our conversations with “oh, I’m fair to middling” and ended the with “I love you very much. Thank you for calling.” We shared jokes and we shared sorrow. We had adventures, some of which I’ve recorded in the book.

Grandpa died three years ago this November. 

I wasn’t prepared for the actual writing of this book. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this type of story is not what I usually write. I wasn’t sure where or how to start and, with Grandpa’s passing, I was terrified I started too late, that I missed some vital piece of information that would cause the whole project to go up in flames.

This was, by far, the most difficult piece of writing I’ve done to date simply in terms of how sheerly personal the subject matter is and how emotional the topic is for me. (I still can’t read part 10 without bursting into tears). However, that’s not to say it wasn’t blessed. So many times I was halted in the process by missing whole swathes of information. Within a matter of hours, I’d discover a misfiled video of Grandpa that answered all of my questions. I’d find pages of notes out of nowhere only to realize that it was the exact bits I needed to get unstuck. I like to think Grandpa was there guiding me through the many drafts of the story, making sure I got it right.

Grandpa was an amazing story teller, one that I wish I could be like. This book is my attempt to honor the man he was and pay tribute to his time with us.

This project was a promise. It was a post mortem connection to a man that influenced my entire life on so many levels. Now that the promise has been kept and his stories will be available for everyone, I can picture the twinkle in his eyes and him giving me that lopsided grin. Ever so faintly, I can hear him say, “I love you very much. Thank you for calling.”

5 Lessons from my first reading as an author

I’m interrupting Azra’s parental broadcast to address something I am really proud of.

The other day I did something that I’ve never done before. Something that I’ve seen many others do, but that I’ve been terrified to do myself.  I got up in front of people- some I knew and some I didn’t- and I read part of my book out loud.

That’s right. This author did her very first reading and survived.

Writing isn’t really a spectator sport. It’s very much a solitary activity. Putting your words to paper, transcribing your thoughts is intimate, so reading them out loud to an audience is a terrifying prospect.

Doing the reading at our latest book signing was my idea. I thought it would be good for us, educational, if you will. Well, I certainly learned a lot. Here are the top 5 lessons I learned during my first reading.

1.       Practice what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. People can tell if you haven’t practiced.

2.       Give a short intro to the piece you are reading. Let the audience know a bit about what they are listening to. Don’t just jump in.

3.       Be picky about your selections. The scene should draw attention to the story. It should make the audience feel something. I’ve found that humor is a good choice. If you can make people laugh, it helps to know that you are doing a good job, both with the reading and with your writing.

4.       Make sure you can be heard. Triple check your audio connections. Make sure you project your voice really well.

5.       Keep a good attitude. People are more likely to remember how you reacted to mistakes, criticisms, etc rather than those things themselves. If you focus so much on everything that went wrong (and things will go wrong), then it will cast a negative light on the experience not only for you, but for your audience as well.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to readings. I have a lot more to learn and a lot more experience to gather.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.