Create core values for your publication

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Reminder: Reinforcing Company Core Values Is Key

Creating company core values is no easy feat. It takes hours, days, months or even (for the real overachievers out there) years to develop the perfect combination of words that defines your organisation’s value set.

Once developed, they are typically rolled out with much fanfare. The company core values are uploaded to “About Us” pages of the website, shared with the team at kick-off meetings and screen-printed on the halls that lead to your Human Resources department. These efforts are all worthy, but the action punch list should not end there.

In fact, your rollout initiative of the company core values has only just begun. Continuous reinforcement of your company core values is the secret sauce that locks down their ultimate success.

Why Reinforcing Company Core Values Is Essential To Their Success:

  • Think of it like a sales funnel – Just like marketing your product or service to your customer requires multiple touchpoints to convert the sale, your company core value message needs to be pushed out in multiple formats to gain the buy-in among your workforce.
  • Think of it like a training program – A communication plan that gets new employees up to speed quickly ensures alignment as your team grows.
  • Think of it like a boost to your recruiting plan – The global workforce is more competitive than ever, and finding top talent is a pervasive challenge for businesses worldwide. Add to that a millennial workforce that seeks out positive culture (even over top pay packages) in the places they work, and you’ve got even more reason to do whatever it takes to get your company core values operating on all cylinders.
  • Think of it like a compass – In today’s fast-paced world of business where competitive landscapes morph and customers grow increasingly demanding, your company core value statement is a compass to what your organisation stands for.

A Step By Step Guide To Company Core Value Reinforcement:

  • Start at the top. As the owner or C-suite level executive at your company, you likely have little day-to-day interaction with your customer-facing workforce. Their direct managers are the ones that set the tone, motivate them, train them and create their true work environment. Reinforcing your company core values with the management team is mission-critical to success.

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transcript
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A transcript is not an article.

A transcript is not an article. It is not a chapter. It is an unedited speech, or conversation. If your purpose is to reach readers, then you must consider how the oral material you collected can have its intended impact.

First, decide how much you will edit the transcript. Is your intent to share a sermon or inspirational message? Is it to provide a fascinating glimpse into a leader or celebrity? Is it to inform your readers about a movement or industry? Is it to help your readers make informed decisions about legal or political matters? Your purpose will influence your editing choices.

Next, set the context. Answer the basics: Who is speaking? To whom? Where? When? What is the topic? Why does it matter? Even with an unedited transcript, your reader will benefit from an informative title for the piece, an introductory paragraph or two, photos, and captions that provide this necessary information. In facing the avalanche of news and content available online and in print every single day, we increasingly appreciate data to help us decide whether an article is worth our time.

Then, transform the transcript.

When people speak, they present material in a different way than they do when it is to be read. Pay attention to the following issues that arise in editing oral communication:

  • Speaking ability. Effective communicators use volume, tone, sound effects, growls, pauses, alliteration, rhythm, rhyme, word play, and much more to make their speeches dynamic. People who have less experience hem and haw, use the same expressions over and over, and have all manner of verbal tics. When the material will be read, rather than heard, ask yourself when it is vital to present your preacher’s voice just as it was, or if it can and should be improved. What serves the message—and your readers—best?
  • Non-verbal cues. Speakers use facial expressions, hand gestures, posture, and props. Body language is not communicated in print. As an editor, you must decide whether and how to convey these missing cues. Will you include insertions in the text in brackets? Will you use italics or all caps for emphasis?
  • Continuity. A speaker is more concerned about establishing a connection with the audience than with being grammatically correct or giving a perfect message. He or she might start a sentence, change mid-stream, address a portion of the audience, switch from “I” to “you” or from “us” to “they” without realizing it, and so on. These changes can make it much harder to follow the speaker’s thoughts in print, so an editor needs to smooth them out.
  • Tone. To win the audience over, speakers may use slang or popular expressions that can confer a sense of familiarity. But phrases that work in a live setting can have a different impact in writing. The end result of the transcript might need to be more formal than the original message—for example, when you are turning sermons into chapters of a book.
  • Pacing. A speech doesn’t include proper punctuation. When you speak, you put in words like “and” or “so” or “then” and just keep going; this means your transcription is chock-full of run-on sentences. You have to fix these and many other errors.
  • Repetition. Speakers repeat themselves for emphasis much more often than is necessary in writing. A good preacher proclaims the truth, repeats it, and repeats it again to make sure that people not only hear an idea, but understand it and accept it. But in writing, we must remember that our readers have our words in their hands, in front of their eyes. They have the choice to read them as carefully and as many times as they like.
  • Asides. Speakers say things that make sense to the audience, but not to the single reader who will study the edited transcript on your blog, in your magazine, or in a book. A speaker might comment on the temperature of the auditorium, or warn a congregation that his message will not keep them from enjoying the football game after the service. Those kinds of asides probably need to be deleted for readers.
  • Feedback and interruptions. Audiences may react to the speaker’s words. Technical issues might arise with the audio equipment. Those moments may be significant and worthy of inclusion in your article. How will you include them? You could interrupt the flow of the speech with a paragraph of narrative: “At that point, the room was so quiet you could almost hear your own heartbeat…” You could insert the reaction in brackets: [Laughter.] Whatever your choice, your aim is to help your reader. What will work best?

A transcript is not an article, but it can certainly become one!

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth,” prayed David, “Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). You are the guard and the watcher the Lord has provided for this particular message to find a broader audience. The conversation you captured can be compelling to read. The sermon can inspire more than just the people who warmed the pews that day. The guest’s responses can enlighten and encourage—but before they do, go through every single word and phrase, fix what needs to be fixed, and make the end result suitable for your readers.

By Kim Pettit, chair of MTI board

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When I started as an editor 20 years ago, the terminology we used for the web was the “World Wide Web.” The communication standard for the organization I worked for had it as a proper noun, capitalized, the name for a very specific thing.

Now that online activity is ubiquitous, the general usage is a common noun, not capitalized. The web is as common as a ham sandwich, and it has been for more than a decade. Referring to the World Wide Web in a current publication would be odd.

Proper nouns morphing into common nouns is just one area of change as language evolves. Hyphenation of compound words is another area of change.

When people first started sending emails rather than paper memos or letters, the communication was referred to as electronic mail. This eventually was shortened to e-mail, which then became email. As the practice became widespread, the descriptor was simplified.

Both of the examples given so far are changes that were incorporated in language through widespread adoption of technological advances.

There are other reasons for change. For example, some descriptors that once were common are now understood to be pejorative. Decades ago, a person might have been described as “crippled.” That term was replaced with the word “handicapped.” Now we might talk about a person with a disability. Along with the change in descriptor, there is a more subtle but positive shift, to focus on someone’s personhood, rather than just a label of a physical or mental condition. Hence – a person with a disability, rather than “disabled” as a shorthand way to refer to someone.

Similar changes have occurred in ethnic and racial terminology over time. If you are unsure about which descriptors are appropriate, best practice is to consult with people in the group for clarification on how they self-identify.

Because language does evolve, publications need to revisit their communications standards periodically, every year or two, to stay relevant. Between revisions, keep a list of terms that you notice changing in common usage, so you can decide about them when you undertake a communication standards revision.

By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

mistakes
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Don’t avoid mistakes, acknowledge them

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” ― George Bernard Shaw

The worst thing we can do with mistakes is to avoid them. Life is trial and error. We cannot make progress without making mistakes.

Archie Cochrane understood this as well as anybody.

The Scottish doctor wanted to test out where was the best place for patients to recover from heart attacks. Should they recover in a specialized cardiac unit in the hospital? Or should they recover at home?

Of course, the doctors in the cardiac unit tried to shut his experiment down. But, Archie continued until he collected some preliminary results.

“I was wrong, and you are right,” Dr. Cochrane surprised his colleagues, “It is dangerous for patients to recover from heart attacks at home. They should be in a hospital.”

His words caused an uproar. The doctors demanded that he shut the experiment at once. And accused Cochrane of killing patients.

Archie waited until everyone calmed down.

And then he revealed a secret. He had swapped the table of results. It turned out that hospitals were killing people. Patients should recover at home.

“Would you like to close down the trial now? Or should we wait until we have robust results?” Cochrane added as everyone looked at him in silence.

The father of evidence-based medicine understood the power of trial and error. But he also knew that most of us are mistake intolerant. We don’t like to admit being wrong.

That’s why Archie challenged his colleague’s fallibility. Learning through trial and error is not just about trying new things. We must first recognize our faults.

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interview
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An article with colorful quotes and interesting information starts with a great interview. Interviews are a crucial part of writing a fascinating article, but trying to get an interviewee’s thoughts, opinions, and feelings can sometimes be a challenge. A well-conducted interview can lead to more than a collection of facts that can be obtained elsewhere. It can provide valuable insight and engaging quotes.

Learn the steps to preparing for an interview and how to get the most out of it through these free resources provided by MTI:

Other excellent resources on interviewing include:

burnout
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By Kandi Wiens and Annie McKee, Harvard Business Review

Stress and burnout are not the same thing. And while we know that stress often leads to burnout, it’s possible to handle the onslaught of long hours, high pressure, and work crises in a way that safeguards you from the emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and a lack of confidence in one’s abilities that characterizes burnout. The key is tapping into your emotional intelligence.

This is what one of us (Kandi) discovered in a recent study (“Leading Through Burnout”) where we assessed 35 chief medical officers (CMOs) at 35 large hospitals for their level of stress and tried to determine what, if anything, they do to deal with burnout. The findings surprised us: despite the fact that an overwhelming 69 percent of the CMOs described their current stress level as severe, very severe, or worst possible, the majority were not burned out according to the Maslach Burnout Inventory. In our interviews with these CMOs, we found a common theme to what kept their stress under control: emotional intelligence.

As one of us (Annie) has written about before, research suggests that emotional intelligence (EI) supports superior coping abilities and helps people deal with chronic stress and prevent burnout.

Emotional self-awareness, one of the components of EI, for example, allows us to understand the sources of our frustration or anxiety and improves our ability to consider different responses. Self-management, another EI competency, allows us to stay calm, control impulses, and act appropriately when faced with stress. Conflict management skills allow us to channel our anxiety and emotions into problem-solving mode rather than allowing the situation to bother us—or keep us up all night. Empathy also helps to fight stress. When we actively try to understand others, we often begin to care about them. Compassion, as with other positive emotions, can counter the physiological effects of stress. And, attuning to other people’s perspectives, attitudes, and beliefs contributes to our ability to gain trust and influence others. This, on a very practical level, often means we get the help we need before stress spirals into burnout.

What You Can Do to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout

People do all kinds of destructive things to deal with stress—they overeat, abuse drugs and alcohol, and push harder rather than slowing down. What we learned from our study of chief medical officers is that people can leverage their emotional intelligence to deal with stress and ward off burnout. You, too, might want to try the following:

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Watch our free on-demand webinar about “Preventing Burnout”

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During a discussion at the Magazine Training International editing course in 2018 in Nairobi, the participants shared their thoughts on whether articles should be edited in classic Swahili (such as would be found in textbooks), or whether slang should be allowed in magazines.

The instructors for the course didn’t weigh in on which version of Swahili to use, rather, we agreed that it all depends on the expectations of the audience. And this discussion applies to any language, not just Swahili.

The key to magazine publication is focusing energy on reaching a particular audience. So, a magazine in Swahili for teens might include language that is accessible to teens and have words and expressions that would sound normal in the school lunchroom. However, a magazine that is focused on Christian leaders will have different word choices and communication standards, acceptable to their audience.

With the focus on magazine audience, there isn’t a right or wrong answer on word choice and phrases, but rather an ear for what the reader expects and considers correct and meaningful.

Also, it is helpful for the magazine team to define the language standards that they will use, and even give examples in a communication standards document. This documentation is important for both the writers and the editors, so there is consistency in language use. Otherwise, the team might go through unnecessary revisions, as one editor “corrects” phrases away from slang, and another accepts some slang as appropriate for the audience.

Beyond formality of language, magazines will often define the educational level that they are writing for in their target audience. For example, does the average reader have a high school diploma? Or is a reading level of 8thgrade more appropriate for the audience? Or college level? Again, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this – but the complexity of sentence structure and word choice will vary depending on the target audience.

Microsoft Word software has a feature that gives the reading level for text. [Under Review, Proofing – select “Show readability statistics” – then once you review a document (and correct or ignore all errors) the readability statistics will display.] This blog shows an 11.6 grade level, close to a high school graduate.

The reason to consider language formality and structure is that you want your average magazine reader to easily connect with the articles in your magazine. Writing specifically for your reader will engage the reader and make them want to read your magazine.

By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

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Big mistake: I started writing without the reader in mind.

I was responding to the scandalous analogy a reviewer had made ridiculing my profession. I was incensed. Also, chagrined. I could see there was some truth to the caricatures he used, but I labored for a couple of hours, writing a rebuttal. Pride got the better of me.

Each paragraph was dedicated to showing how what the author classified as a sin was, in fact, a virtue. For example, he characterized freelance writers and editors as “a nightmare,” dismissing us as a bunch of “critics.” I wrote that I am someone who is proud to call herself a freelance writer and editor. I number plenty of freelance writers and editors among my friends. I hardly think that, either individually or together, we are nightmares. And the complaint that we are critics? Look in your own mirror. Every writer, editor, and publisher is a critic. If we did not believe that criticism has value, there would be no point to our work. Why try to persuade? Why cajole? Why encourage? Why not simply accept reality as it is, rather than write or publish anything at all? Even affirmations point to their opposite—the possibility that what was affirmed could be overlooked, denied, or rejected.

I ran out of time and had to attend to other obligations. I put the piece aside.

When I returned to what I had imagined to be an eloquent and elegant essay, I found a screed. Whom did I think I was going to reach with this piece? It wasn’t aimed at the author. It wouldn’t work as a letter to the editor. It wasn’t suitable as a stand-alone article or editorial. It was merely a rant, and a sorry one at that. Because, as I said, I wrote it in response to a provocation—but instead of taking criticism seriously, and responding with the humility a Christian should have, I dodged. I ridiculed. I exaggerated. I minimized. In short, my rejoinder was the perfect example of the sins for which I and my fellow freelancers were put on trial. It was a nightmare. I was a mere critic, carrying on with caricature and complaints, rather than offering constructive comments, counsel, and correction.

As I thought about what I had written, the Lord reminded me of a number of basics I had forgotten. Indignation is not the same thing as inspiration. Before responding to a fool, check the facts. Before showing yourself to be a fool, check your heart. Temper your tantrum and tame your tongue. Remember the reader. Remember your reputation. Remember you can revise, redraft, and rethink.

So here I am, chastened, contrite, with a cautionary word. Think carefully about your communications, and the effect you want them to have. Think about the character of your words, and their context. God has given you the ability and gifts you use to write, edit, and publish—use them well. Use them with care. And may God keep you from making the same mistake I did; may he grant us both grace when we fail, and give us passion to persevere in his service.

Kim Pettit, MTI Board of Directors chair

encouragement
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Do you ever feel discouraged and overwhelmed by everything you have to do to keep your magazine going? Whether you are the only staff member or part of a large staff, encouragement to keep going and tips on how to be more efficient and productive with what time you do have are a great help.
Check out these on-demand workshops for ideas: