Time Is Fleeting

It has been theorized that, as we get older, time speeds up.

Whether it’s because we’re introduced to less new experiences than we did when we were kids, or our biological clocks have slowed down, the jury’s still out on why this is a phenomenon.

But no one can argue the speeding up of time is something all of us experience as we age.

Last week, over a span of five days, I celebrated my oldest daughter’s tenth birthday and attended my 20-year high school reunion.

If there was ever a time where I felt the crushing weight of the passage of time, this was it.

Not only do gray hairs begin to sprout when I watch how mature my daughter has become, but it’s jarring as hell to see a group of people I haven’t seen in 20 years.

I met most of them when I was around my daughter’s age, and now we’re getting together to celebrate being out of high school for two decades.

In short: I’ve never felt older.

Seeing old classmates — some balder, a few grayer — after so long was completely different, while being exactly the same, if that makes any sense.

We fell back into old habits and gravitated toward the same group of people we always did, as if we were sitting in the cafeteria having lunch together.

The only difference is that there was some alcohol involved, and a lot of us knew our kids would wake us up early the next morning, seemingly indifferent to the fact that mom and dad stayed up way past their bedtime.

When I tried to explain to my kids the next morning how fast these past 20 years have flown by, their brains were incapable of comprehending.

To them, a six-hour school day may as well be six days. To them, time drags.

But not to us. This was a time to marvel at how quickly time flies.

This post, however, is not to send you into a depression about your impending demise.

Rather, I want to encourage you to take advantage of your time, and this stands as a good reminder to do exactly that while we are still relatively young.

Spend time with people who matter.

Sneak in an extra round of golf.

Start your own business.

Speak your mind.

For God’s sake do something. If this past weekend taught me anything, it’s that time is going to fly no matter what you do, so get as much enjoyment out of this life as possible.

How To Train Your Writers

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Imagine, for a moment, you are a fresh college graduate at your first PR agency job. You have worked there for a few months and, so far, everything is going well.

You’ve landed a few media placements on behalf of your client, you are killing it at media monitoring, and your weekly call recaps are must-read material for account team members.

One morning, you arrive at the office to find you have been assigned to write an article on the topic of, say, autonomous vehicles on behalf of your client’s chief technology officer. You need to write it in the “voice” of the executive, yet, you’ve never heard the CTO speak.

So you open a blank Word document, start and re-start the piece 27 times, then cry because you are a failure.

Sound familiar?

If you haven’t experienced the crippling agony of struggling to write something in the voice of an executive who has decades of experience on the very topic you are banging your head about, then you’ve never really lived.

The sad part? It happens a lot, usually under pressure to get a final draft in front of the client.

But when that new writer struggles to put together a good first draft, the agency is forced to bring in a more seasoned writer to quickly clean it up and ship an acceptable version off to the client to meet the deadline.

You might be thinking “Hey, what’s wrong with that? The client is happy and that’s all that matters.”

The problem, dear reader, is that we are bound to live in this never-ending cycle of turning over writing projects to the better writers at the last minute. If the only practice junior staffers get is a first draft that gets completely rewritten, what’s the point in having them write that draft in the first place?

Not to mention the fact that those senior writers have deadlines to meet and projects to handle. If we have to bring them in at the last minute on a regular basis, it throws off everyone’s schedule.

It’s pointless.

This type of activity isn’t sustainable.

To be an effective agency, you need the right mix of personnel who are all-star writers, as well as the future stars who are ready to break into the big leagues.

To do this, there are a few steps that can be taken to get started down the path of grooming the next generation.

  1. Practice, Practice Practice – I know everyone is busy, what with billable hours and client demands. But nobody ever got better at something by not practicing. Consider building writing practice into your team’s time, even if you force them to mark it as non-billable. As content creation and marketing becomes a more integral part of PR, we will need more writers who can cut it, not less. If they have put in the practice time, rest assured they’ll produce better content.
  2. Plan, Plan, Plan – There isn’t really a good reason to rush to deliver a piece to the client at the last minute. Putting together a simple editorial calendar for client content is one way to ensure those who need practice have ample time to write the first draft, and those who need to review have ample time to review and provide feedback.

The need for good writing is only going to increase, especially as the journalism industry continues to shrink.

The ability for a company to tell its own story becomes more attractive, so it’s in your agency’s best interest to retain a stable of solid writers who can grasp the intricacies of a client’s business and put it out there so it’s easy to understand, all while doing it in an efficient manner.

Not only does it save time and energy, but great writing and content creation can be a boon for your agency’s business, so it makes a lot of sense to have people on the team who are great at it.

The Time For Doing Is Here

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Forty four dollars and ninety five cents.

That’s how much it costs me to host this blog for three months.

Since it’s an automatic deduction, I pay this amount with my credit card and never think twice about it until an e-mail reminder lands in my inbox. And when it does, I’m reminded of just how little I blog.

Today is Saturday, March 11.

The last time I published a post was January 24. Before that it was January 14.

Before that? January 8.

Three posts in one month would be considered a slog for most bloggers, but it’s downright prolific for me.

I say that fully aware of how embarrassing it is for someone who considers himself a “writer” to admit. If my calculations are correct, it cost me $15 to write each post. One would think I have so much money to burn that I can afford to let this blog languish without new content, but it’s started to get at me lately.

I make a living writing for clients, but I so rarely sit down and write for myself. And in this day and age, where everyone has something to say, what am I waiting for?

It’s gotten to the point where it’s time to put up or shut up. Either I start blogging in earnest, or it’s time to shut it down.

Forty five dollars would pay for a round of golf at a semi-decent course. It would be better to spend my money chasing around a little white ball than it would chasing the dream of being a writer.

But like golf, practice makes perfect.

Or something like that.

 

We Must Revel In Our Eloquence

For the past six months, Hamilton: An American Musical has been on repeat in my car.

The musical, written by the uber-talented Lin Manuel-Miranda, combines a lot of things that I love: American history, storytelling, and catchy beats. If you have listened to it (or have been lucky to see it) you can understand why tickets for his last performance were going for upwards of $20,000.

Once you get past getting swept away by the songs and the lyrics, the story that lies at the heart of this musical is the story of Alexander Hamilton, a boy born in the Caribbean, who essentially wrote his way out of poverty to end up in New York where he helped to shape a new country.

After a hurricane hit the Caribbean, he wrote a latter to his father to explain the devastation caused by the storm. This letter was published in the Royal Danish-American Gazette. The letter so impressed those who read it that community leaders took up a collection to send him to the mainland to get a proper education.

Think about that: his writing was so eloquent, those who had the means to do so collected money to put him on a path toward a better life.

Through writing and words, alone, he improved his lot in life and became someone, avoiding a fate (read: early death) that many men in his situation would face.

Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came, and the world is gonna know your name

As we enter 2017, I can’t help but think that we are on a downward trajectory, as far as respect for the written word and proper grammar.

I know very successful people who write Facebook posts and e-mail that my would cause my daughter to shake her head in disbelief. I can’t help but wonder how they advanced so far in life without proper communications skills.

It has gotten so bad that even our soon-to-be president sends out tweets that are riddled with punctuation errors and misspellings, and he is the person who represents our country.

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Has grammar become so unimportant that we won’t even hold Donald Trump to a basic standard? Is it too much to ask that he use spellcheck during one of his early morning tweetstorms? He is the leader of the free world. But he comes across, at best, as a high school freshman when he attempts to use words to express a point.

For all of his perceived failings, President Obama, at the very least, was eloquent in his speech and communication. You may have hated him, but you cannot deny that he understood the importance of how language can play a role in an administration. I feel more comfortable about leadership when they can succinctly tell me what I need to know, rather than ramble on until we lose the thread of the message.

As we prepare for a major shift in how this administration will communicate to us what we need to know, it’s imperative that we understand the importance of communication.

For the past 240 years, this country’s direction has been guided by a written document that has stood the test of time.

It would be a disservice to our founding fathers to ignore the power of writing.