Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First impressions - should they count?

It'll all make sense if you can get past the boring intro...

One night, a few years ago, I was in the pub with my girlfriend; it was one of those nights that just gelled. It was perfect, and I was happy to talk to anyone. So, I'm up at the bar ordering a couple more pints of old tongue-loosener, and a geezer strolls up and says hello. He's in his fifties, bearded, with a neckerchief type thing going on - not somebody I'd have naturally struck up a conversation with (my first impression was already made). Initial thoughts were of an art dealer type, out for a glass of wine and a bite to eat.

"How's it going?" says I, and we continued for a few moments with the usual small talk.

Job jobbed. I thought that would be it, collected my beers and walked to our table. The geezer soon strolled across with a bottle of red and asked if he could join us. We were surprised, but said yes. He asked if we wanted to get a couple of glasses so we could share his bottle of wine - I was amazed! A total stranger offering us a drink. We declined, but began to chat.

Was I ever wrong about that fella!

Turns out he was a builder, working on a barn conversion, and came out for nothing more than a drink and pleasant conversation. An incredible character, with endless stories and far superior general knowledge than I'll ever possess. It really was a great night!

The next morning my wallet was gone! No, not really.

The next morning I began to recall certain parts of the night, and I remembered how I'd initially formed my opinion on him. One totally unfounded. Yet he didn't judge me once - if he had, I wouldn't have this example now. It made me think how quickly, and wrongly, we judge people based on that first impression.

  • A first interview that went badly - but the applicant's superb at their job.
  • Poorly-cooked food in a restaurant - maybe a one-off, sloppy mistake.
  • A parcel arriving late in the post - who's to blame? Or don't you care?
It's fact, there is only one chance to make a first impression, but how much are we missing out on because of it?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Criticising Copy - must be able to give and take.

You may as well get used to it, because if you write, you're going to get criticism. Whether it's close family or friends, complete strangers or a client - it will happen and it will hurt!

You may have spent hours carefully crafting the perfect piece, only to have someone let rip about a part of it. So be prepared, and start growing the thicker skin required.

So now it's your turn, but not to criticise others - this is your own work. I touched on the "proofreading a day after you wrote it" a while ago and this reinforces it. You need to read through your work once you've forgotten all about it. Go in completely open-minded and treat it as if it was a competitor's work. If it doesn't flow, fix it. If it sounds like a load of rubbish, be honest and rewrite it.

Do not send it to your client until you're happy with it and then, if they criticise it, be gracious and put it right. This is why you need to allow a certain amount of time when writing, it's not the initial draft, it's the edits!

When to STOP!

Ok, you've checked it day-after-day. But every time you read it, you alter something and feel it's a never ending process. You're not sure if it's good enough, what do you do? Send it. 

It may go against your principles, but editing is there for a reason. Let the client read it and decide for you, it's their work and they will soon let you know. When it's only minor issues, and you're a bit of a perfectionist, you'll keep altering it until it's no longer the original piece. You're wasting time on something that's probably cock-on in the first place!