Posted By Cynthia Hartwig on August 5, 2014“Pre-writing” or “free writing” is a tradition in creative writing. But it’s not a tool that’s used much in business writing. That’s odd, considering that using a timer to write for five or ten minutes without stopping in order to discover what you think about a topic is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to quick-start everything from a blog post to a trade article. (more…)
Posted By Emily Warn on July 29, 2014
We stopped to fill up in Marblemount, the last town with gas before we headed up and over the Cascade Mountains. Inside the minimart, the cashier was losing her mind. Every person who walked in wanted information about the Washington State’s largest ever wildfire raging out of control on the other side of the mountains.
“Is Twisp under Evacuation level 2?” “Have the gas stations run out of fuel?” “Has the fire reached Pearrygin Lake?”
A woman pulled into the parking lot and exchanged two kids for two five-gallon gas cans delivered by grandparents who were going to babysit until the flames died down. She said no one except local residents were allowed into Twisp.
Twisp was where my partner and I were headed to move heirlooms from our cabin out of harm’s way. We planned to turn back if we ran into danger or before we became part of any problem. Two hours later when we were about eight miles from Twisp, we could see that the high sagebrush hills across the river from town were on fire. They looked like orange glowing goals with purple-red flames shooting up whenever another house or unburned gully became fully engulfed. (more…)
Posted By Cynthia Hartwig on July 23, 2014
Before I get to the old-broad-rowers, let’s see if you can relate to this scenario. You get the urge to blog and you go out like a rabbit, blogging once a day for—whoopee!—two whole weeks! Then, life interrupts: doctor appointment, root canal, kid’s science project, client “opportunities”, out-of-town-guests, or a flood in the basement forces you to drop your blogging schedule to once a week. Pretty soon, a business emergency calls all-hands-on-deck and before you know it, your blogging average over six months has dropped to once a MONTH and that’s counting your initial flurry of posts.
Do not hang your head in shame and hang up the Blogger after your name! Let’s reflect about race strategy. (more…)
Posted By Emily Warn on July 16, 2014
How many company pages do you regularly check on LinkedIn? I’m betting not many. Businesses aren’t people, despite the Supreme Court’s recent decision, so we spend less time checking out companies than we do checking out people. If that’s the case, how do you grow LinkedIn followers for your company page? Through your employees. That means the Supreme Court justices — at least on LinkedIn — are right.
Posted By Cynthia Hartwig on July 8, 2014
Last week, Emily Warn and I sailed high above Puget Sound on the Seattle Wheel for a 360-panorama portrait of us for our new website. We wanted an interesting business photo of the pens who make up Two Pens in our local environment (Seattle) while conveying our passion for online technology. Digital wizard Bradford Bohonus of Bohonus Photography does the best work in this exacting art (IMHO). I figured the VR photographer who shoots amazing panoramas for Microsoft and Google would make us proud.
In conceiving our business photo, I did a lot of thinking a lot about what makes a commercial portrait pass or fail. So let me dissect a few of the business photo fails before I ask you to weigh in on whether we passed the test at the end of this post.
The Obvious Selfie
Posted By Emily Warn on July 2, 2014Warning: There is no call-to-action in this post. By reading it, you will not learn how to write better social media content or how to use Facebook or Twitter. You will hear me rant with a purpose—to talk about how Facebook’s experiment in manipulating emotional content threatens the cultural value of social networks. I also write in hope that Facebook will return to fulfilling its promise to us in its mission statement:
To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them
What Networks Are
Facebook’s revelation this week that they conducted research using the emotional content of people’s posts without their permission lays bare why Facebook is smothering social media. It has forgotten what fuels it—-the roles that affinity and chance play in organizing and sustaining social networks.
Posted By Cynthia Hartwig on June 24, 2014
Consider the sign I walked by in my neighborhood park on Lake Washington Boulevard while walking my dog: “Good Dog, Green Dog” it said. Who wouldn’t lean in to learn why my dog has been given a pat on its black head for not stepping (or pooping) on the newly replanted flower bed? The sign caught my attention (always the first order of business), then taught me about the ongoing reseeding of a neighborhood park. It also spoke in the voice of a real person–not some faceless bureaucrats.
Voice isn’t just a speaking tool. It’s a powerful business writing tool.
A business writing voice reveals the warm, personable human being behind your words and subtly persuades the reader to believe and trust what you say.
Posted By Emily Warn on June 17, 2014
Out walking in Seattle yesterday, I bumped into Cynthia photographing a rain-soaked clump of blue bells at a park overlooking Lake Washington. Her camera was about 1 mm from the flowers as if it were an octogenarian’s reading glasses. Now what is she seeing, I wondered. I ask the same question every time she pulls her camera out of her purse and points it at just about anything, which is frequently. (Read her post on A Camera is an Unsung Creative Writing Tool.)
I also felt lucky. I knew she was stocking her already bursting collection of digital photography, and that every time I would need an image to help a headline tell a story–voila!–she would have the perfect fit.
Cynthia is a master at putting photos and other visual images to work. In the process, she has developed a visual brand for Two Pens that is unpredictable, quirky, fearless, colorful, unusual, and definitely as opposed to stock photography as we are to being marketing hack writers. Here are a few of my favorite examples of how she uses images to tell stories, and in telling the stories, how she is building Two Pens’ brand.
Posted By Cynthia Hartwig on June 10, 2014
Stock photography has become the new wallpaper. Bloggers, people who post on social media, designers, email and e-newsletter creators plus a host of other “communicators” are all using the same images. The net result? Visual content (one of the most powerful assets on the web) gives away its social power because none of it is new or surprising. That’s why I’ve become obsessed with the Dubble App, a clever and quick way to create branded visual content. (more…)
Posted By Emily Warn on May 28, 2014
I went on way too long about my pet peeve when someone asked me about the negative impacts of social media on poetry. I was at the Skagit Poetry Festival on a panel about technology and the future of poetry. Many poets believe that social media will catapult them into the limelight if they learn to work its levers. We become dutiful, mini-marketing machines, shilling our books, reviews, workshops and readings.
This is very bad for poetry. Self-promotion has the opposite of its intended effect; almost all of us completely ignore promo-posts. You can learn effective ways to promote your poetry on social media if you get curious about what’s out there. The social media network in the poetry world is really just an insane librarian circulating poems on the Internet. Here are some random tips on whirling in the vortex.