Today I have several meetings and I want to make sure I meet with these people and teams in person. Building relationships is important in this role. I’ve always been told if you can make a meeting in person, do it. One is about an upcoming project: I need to find out what their training and communication needs are by performing a modified, “down and dirty” version of a needs analysis. Another meeting is a project status update with a larger project team.
Issues and stumbling blocks often arise around content and language in the work I do now. My preferred medium is PowerPoint, but I also produce email messages, videos, multi-media elearns, online content, as well as posters, brochures, wallet cards, etc.
Getting to know the people you work with is always key. When you create content for them, written, visual or both, you need to know how they speak, what terms they use, what their concerns are when something is said one way as opposed to another. The subject matter specialists and program owners know the content inside and out. They may also know the legal implications of saying something one way and not the other. Conversations in meetings like these can get very specific around language. Do we want to say “you” or “we?” If we say “we,” there is a sense of shared responsibility. That’s good. But does it then also convey to the audience, that the “you,” doesn’t really have to do anything? Ahh, glimpses of Martin Buber.
Every company has style guides and internal corporate communications groups that establish “approved” usage, from punctuation and capitalization, to the words to avoid, and how to identify their “workers” (“colleagues,” “staff,” “teams,” etc.). And if you’re not in that corporate group, which I have never been, you need to figure those rules out, contact those who do, else you may get a call asking why one word was used as opposed to another. Reader response is immediate and if urgent – bad or good — usually by phone.
While learning that approved language as well as the preferences of the people you work with can be challenging, it’s also been a great source of joy for me — the rustle of language and all. I am by no means a grammarian. And most of what I wrote in graduate school was in French. But I have had several, ongoing debates about grammar, including one earlier on in my career about the use of “and” at the beginning of a sentence. The person I was debating with was more of a traditional, Strunk & White kind of writer. I was trying to adapt to what I had seen in corporate-wide articles and emails. So we quoted different grammatical sources back and forth until one of us gave in. To this day, whenever I see an article about the “delinquent” use of commas or some other such “degradation” of the English language I think fondly of those debates.
I also loved the lesson of “help ensure.” This was during a legal review of content we were putting out in an online training. I had been consistently using “ensure” to express what I thought was a strong active verb that compelled the learner to understand and feel good about protecting this principle or following that policy. When legal reviewed it, the comment was, “You can’t really ensure anything. Change the word.” I followed up and tried to present my case for “ensure.” In the end, we met in the middle with “help ensure.”
When it comes to images, it’s similar. Some people have certain requirements for visuals, others don’t. Some just want “some image, no icons.” Others want an image that conveys a sense of responsibility or individual action. I revel in these moments of reflection or debate. Even if it’s my proposed image that’s not working, because we’re actually talking about literary and visual meaning and it’s something I’m trained in!
One of the longer-term projects I’m working on today is migrating content from one online platform to another. It’s a combination of design, technology, content management, site design, and user interface. I am not a technical person. But this kind of project exhilarates me. I’m also excited because of the people I get to work with and that we’re pretty much building something new and pretty much from scratch. Throughout this project we’ve had open dialogues about how to drive consistency across the diverse groups, how many colors is too many, what certain icons could mean or really look like, and how many clicks tries a user’s patience. Each project lead is smart, experienced, and well-versed in providing well-articulated recommendations. So together we solve problems creatively — I always look forward to these meetings.
Today’s meeting is mostly focused on the upcoming cut-over — when people will no longer access content on the old platform but on the new one. We’re identifying all of the different tasks that need to be done, who can do them, who will need to do them, and when they need to get done. We’ve picked a date based on the reduced number of potential users – a holiday – and will use the few days over the weekend to help ensure nothing goes wrong.
All of the decisions need to be presented to my own leaders tomorrow. They want to understand where the project is and they want to understand, if they disagree with something, the thinking that led to this or that decision. So I’ll basically get to defend my reasoning before an audience who knows more than I do and is more familiar with the culture, environment and topics I’m working on. But what I bring is the experience and analysis of my project team and how we arrived at those decisions. And good ideas and good arguments get moved forward and up.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PwC.