Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar communication professionals and their best practices at work.
On April 16, IABC Phoenix is proud to present writer, trainer, speaker and communication expert Jeff Herrington of Jeff Herrington Communications as he leads two renowned writing workshops and “talks pop” over lunch. Jeff’s techniques and tools are designed to help you re-energize your writing and become more effective at conveying powerful messages through different channels.
For this special event, there are several options from which to choose:
– A morning or afternoon session with lunch
– Lunch only (this is IABC Phoenix’s regular monthly luncheon program)
– All day with lunch included (the best value)
For more information, visit www.iabcphoenix.com.
In the meantime, learn more about Jeff and his best practices to help make your writing more powerful.
Peggy Bieniek: What is most important for people to know about you?
Jeff Herrington: That I have no tolerance for corporate writing that insults the intelligence of those who encounter it or has as its goal ‘impressing’ readers rather than helping them. At the same time I have infinite confidence in the ability of corporate writers to produce content that is interesting and informative once they encounter the simple guidelines that can help them get there.
PB: What are you most interested in and speak most enthusiastically about?
JH: Writing for the Web. The Internet showed up midway in my career and massively altered how we access information and absorb it. Yet so many organizations write content (web copy, blog copy, emails, etc.) as if it is still 1987. I love seeing the ‘aha’ my workshop participants get when they encounter web content that is simple and clear. They understand the web is more about navigation than narration and immediately alter how they write.
PB: What communication projects are you most proud of?
JH: That is tough. There are so many, but here are two projects in particular:
1) When I first went self-employed in the 1980s, I focused my business on producing articles about the overseas operations of American companies, which they published in their internal and external publications. That business became so successful for me that I once had 27 assignments on one trip to the Far East, including five assignments for IBM and six for AT&T. I continued that work for nine years, from 1982 to 1991, when I basically collapsed on the floor of my apartment from sheer exhaustion.
2) Five years ago, Dallas sought to build a downtown convention center hotel. A competing hotel magnate launched a campaign to stop the hotel from being built. A group of civic-minded 20somethings in Dallas hired me to guide their efforts to produce an unorthodox social-media-based campaign designed to get young professionals in the city to vote FOR the building of the hotel. Three months before the election, the hotel’s passage was 30% behind in the polls. But because of our controversial and innovative campaign, it passed on Election Day by 2%. Even better, Dallas’ mayor at the time cited our campaign as the margin of difference.
PB: What makes you stand out in a crowd of professional communicators?
JH: The fact I can turn my feet 180-degrees backwards. Oh, you mean PROFESSIONALLY? Likely my international experience – I had the good fortune to work in more than 40 countries on five continents – before the age of 30. That AND my commitment to simple, clear writing regardless of the topic or audience. You’ll never see me use such a phrase as ‘facilitate operational outcomes’ in my writing or in my workshops. That’s not intelligent, that’s boorish.
PB: What are some communication best practices you’ve developed and/or helped to implement?
JH: They are very simple, technical practices so many organizations forget about. Things like keeping all of my online sentences to 25 words or less; keeping online paragraphs to three short sentences or less; leading off with the most important point rather than writing my way up to it; avoiding trite words and phrases like ‘This product enables’ or ‘Thanks for reaching out.’
It’s stunning to me how much work I see that isn’t observing those very important concepts of effective authentic writing. Yet many communicators do observe them, and the difference between how effective Sample A is compared to Sample B can be startling.
PB: How do you incorporate strategic storytelling into your work?
JH: If it is a print piece, I do it a fair amount, using classic feature story techniques. But if the reader will likely encounter the work online, I do it sparingly. People don’t have as much time and patience for storytelling when they are on the web, and I try to respect that.
PB: What are your current projects as you continue to develop your professional skills and knowledge?
JH: Right now I’m managing all of the communication and media for a festival that will celebrate in June the opening of FOUR major civic projects connected to the Trinity River adjacent to downtown Dallas. One of those is a former car bridge over the river that has been completely re-designed as a pedestrian and cyclist park, complete with misting machines, a bocce court, a labyrinth and more.
Also, I have writing workshops coming up for the communication teams of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Phillips 66 and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, all of whom have me conduct a couple of writing programs for them each year.
PB: What are some of your favorite resources that inspire your work?
JH: Television series like Mike and Molly, Scandal, The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife – great writing there! Also, sports sections of city newspapers and Sports Illustrated magazine.
Finally (and it will come as no surprise to those who know me), great songs. With a song, you have three minutes max to convey a compelling story. That’s tough, and people like Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, John Mayer and James Blake know how to do that expertly.
PB: What is your contact information for questions, comments and ideas?
JH: You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What best practices in communication would you like to share in future Brilliance@Work profiles? What are your ideas for topics or people to be featured in upcoming profiles?