3 Dos so you don’t get lost in communication

3 Dos so you don’t get lost in communication

By Danielle Scheepers

Posted on 24th January 2019

Good, clear communication is a powerful tool when used correctly. Just ask us, we’re a marketing agency where every employee has their fingers in 17 different pies at all times. Seriously, it gets intense and messages are bound to get lost among crossed wires.

Kirsten, our powerhouse project manager and web development guru agrees, ‘There is a lot going on and to keep track of – communication is crucial,’ she says. ‘We are a small agency and each has a role that nobody else plays, i.e. we each have key information to help each other do our jobs – there are no ‘back up’ people to fill in the gaps if someone is slacking in communicating.’ (Incidentally, Kirst is a champion communicator, just take a look at her blog posts on web development basics.)

 

Thankfully, this is not a blind spot, but rather an area which we are constantly refining with processes, templates and straightforward feedback.

 

The lessons we have learnt have been invaluable in helping us build good relationships with clients and one another. So helpful in fact that are too good not share!

Listen and learn

This may be the most important point on communication: listen before you speak. Many times, because of a fast-paced lifestyle and working environment we miss things. It is important to take note of points being made.

 

This not only fosters good relationship with the other person, but they may answer everything and provide extra information you didn’t know you needed if you gave them space to be heard. Do not lose focus: the minute you start building your counter argument, you are taking your attention away from the other person.

 

Make sure that you get all the information and understand clearly what is being asked of you by following these points:

 

– Ask questions if you are unsure of what you are being told
– Paraphrase the statement and repeat back what you have heard
– Try not to interrupt
– Do not assume that you know what is going to be said next

 

Simple, but very effective. This is golden advice for telephone conversations, specifically when it comes to names and details.

The importance of being earnest

Vulnerability is scary, but necessary if you want a tight knit team and an effective business which others trust. Thoughts need to be communicated to make sure everyone adds their unique viewpoint to a situation.

 

As one of our great lady bosses Dominique pointedly says, ‘no one can read your mind.’ 

 

This point is not only relevant for work, but also an important life skill. People really value fresh opinions and ideas – bring your whole self to work.

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Help us help you

As an agency, we have been privileged enough to work with a variety of impressive clientele. You quickly learn that communication is one of the most important factors in delivering quality services.

 

So what is the most important thing to remember when briefing us on what your company needs?

 

Clarity.

 

Make sure to have a strong sense of the objectives to be achieved (more sales, interaction, brand interaction) and the timeline available to get it done. As projects progress, things change – this is normal, remember that you can save a lot of time and money by clearly communicating this to your agency.

 

Draft a quick email with bullet points and ‘cc’ all necessary parties, or call directly with a defined need. We will be on the other line, ready to jump on your clearly defined instructions and make marketing magic happen!

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Taking the time to build your team (and other necessities)

Taking the time to build your team (and other necessities)

By Danielle Scheepers

Posted on 28th November 2018

‘AK, have you managed to finish that report yet?’ ‘Guys, we have a meeting in 5 minutes.’ ‘Kirst, where did you save the file that I need for the flyer? And did the client say anything specific about the tone that they wanted?’

If you have ever wondered what really happens behind the Yellow Door, this is it. Most of the sentences we say to one another during the day revolve around getting work done – obviously. Most of the time it is silent with only the sporadic pattering of keyboards and clicking of mice, we are one productive team. We have to be - we're in marketing.

A quote by Henry Ford comes to mind, ‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.’

 

What you won’t see at first glance is the support we give one another, the teasing, the vulnerable moments. As with any relationships, those in the office need to be worked on and invested into. These may seem of secondary importance in a marketing agency, but are the lifeblood of what we do as we need to be a cohesive unit in order to produce good work. 

 

What’s our secret? Simple – team building activities are woven into the culture of the company. Wait a moment before the inevitable eye roll, allow us to explain.

It’s not all trust falls and motivational cheese

Most of our activities as a team are spent doing interesting things we enjoy. We have gone hiking, bowling, running (are we too active?) and eaten many meals together. ‘Team building’ doesn’t necessarily mean there have to be awkward moments of building towers with toilet paper rolls or helping each other across a rope bridge – unless that’s what you are into. You would be amazed at what simply splitting a pizza could do for your company.

Team-building-2

One size fits all

In terms of personalities, our team could not be more diverse. We are varying ages, have different cultural backgrounds, vastly different interests and religious viewpoints. Far from hindering our team it adds texture, interesting opinions and of course helps us create content for a varied audience. Unfortunately, it also means that our approaches to work techniques and styles of communication differ, which can lead to frustration and less productivity.

 

Our recent year end function involved a lot of chats around the braai and sharing our views. It was refreshing and provided insight into the motivations and actions of others. The difference in the office is marked, as everyone is now taking into consideration feedback that was given and applying it to the best of their ability.

Happy people work harder

According to the book ‘The 7 Hidden reasons Employees leave’ by Leigh Branham, 89% of employers think that people leave the company for more money. 12% of employees actually leave for more money.

 

So why do people choose to stay at a company? I believe that those in leadership have a lot more influence than they realise. Of course it helps that both my bosses have a top Woo strength, but simply making an effort to gauge what kind of activities your employees would like to be involved in and actively engaging in those is enough to boost morale and increase productivity.

 

In conclusion, I would just like to say that we hope these reasons are enough to convince you to take your team out once in a while, be it for a jog or just a simple dinner. If you are not sure where to begin, check out our Instagram account for inspiration. Happy bonding!

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Lights. Camera. Instagram – a practical guide to improving your feed

I love learning. Seriously, we recently recapped our Gallup Strengths Finder results as a team, and two of my top strengths are related to gathering knowledge. So, when Em and Dom let us research and present a topic of our choice for our monthly challenge I had to suppress very real outbursts of joy.

But what to choose?! I wrestled through the mountain of skills that I wanted to possess and there it was, my ever-elusive unicorn: photography.

In this case, specifically smart phone photography. You may know from my previous blog post that my role is resident wordsmith, so this is more than a little out of my comfort zone. I mean, any person with working fingers and a smart phone can have an Instagram feed. Then again everyone can pick up a pen and write, but what is it that sets average and excellent apart?

Hunger.

I wanted to be great. Not just your average Joe that is scraping by with a sepia filter, but the kind that grabs your attention and keeps it. As a team we encourage one another to continually up our clients’ Instagram feeds, and implement practical ways of doing so. What follows is a summary of many hours of YouTube tutorials and Instagram stalking to glean the basics from the best in the business.

Wax on wax off

The golden lesson we all learnt from The Karate Kid. Sometimes the process of learning something valuable happens way before actually doing it. How can that possibly apply to photography, you ask? Like this: start with your mind. Not in a mystical, ethereal, meditation-but-no-action kind of way, but in practically observing the world.

Notice how you view certain things and what you are naturally interested in, then focus on how best to share that viewpoint with the world. For example, are you big picture focused, positive and ambitious? You will notice things that speak to that in your everyday life, include those in your feed. We apply this to our clients, by getting to know them and what they care about on a personal level and then packaging it in a fresh new way to speak to the right audience.

Tell the story Daniel son. (nods wisely)

Coincidence? I think not.

Great photos make you feel as though you stumbled onto the perfect moment. They’re composed in a way that makes the shot look natural and interesting. What you don’t know is that you are looking at shot number 63 of 95 taken and it was one of seven that ultimately made the cut. There is no perfect formula, but here are a few helpful basics to get you started:

  • Rule of thirds: if you divided your screen into a grid with two horizontal and vertical lines intersecting, the points where they meet are where you would place your subject. Most smart phones have a built-in grid option you can select to help you.
  • Angles/ perspective: don’t make the obvious choice when capturing something, move around. Go above and underneath, get really close up, think out of the box.
  • Framing: frame within a frame, or as I like to call it – frameception. Try to place your subject within a door frame, arch, window, etc.
  • Lighting: try to use natural lighting and shadows.
  • Rule of odds: for whatever reason, people prefer an odd number of things in a shot. So, choose three instead of four, unless you want to make people uncomfortable – you rebel you.

Manipulation station

Editing isn’t only useful for making us feel embarrassed about our distinctly un-photoshopped features; it is also useful for setting a cohesive theme for your Instagram page. As pointed out by famous photographer Phil McKinney, “Instagram is like your online portfolio.” People want to look at an aesthetically pleasing page overall as much as every individual photo.

Although there are filters available on the Instagram app, most serious photographers use a combination of a few to create the result they want. A few good ones include: Snapseed, Facetune and Viscocam, all available through the app store.

Bang bang

Final piece of advice, have fun making mistakes. It is going to happen with everything you do and is an invaluable part of learning and will help you figure out what your storytelling style is. Ultimately, you want to connect with people through the personality of your business. Whether you do that with slick editing, tons of personality, or maybe a bit of both, stick to your guns to guarantee more hits than misses. Happy shooting!

[Want to see the brilliant, ridiculous things that go down behind the Yellow door? Follow us here.]

You are a creative genius, you just don’t know it yet

I used to hate being called a “creative.”

Like I was a rare breed of human that was somehow more interesting than the rest of humanity.

I guess the term excuses my retro/ pirate cum homeless fairy wardrobe, but surely that is just personal taste? Women who carefully curate their elegant wardrobes are rarely referred to as creative even though these same ladies spend hours literally sculpting the raw material of their cheekbones, eyebrows and lips into something completely new.

Or what about people that take pride in how they plate their food or hang photographs on their walls? Surely sportsmen, business people and stay at home moms have a strategy and tools to help them make it through the day?

I think what I am trying to say is: the term creativity is broader than what we allow.

Truth

Creativity (noun) the process by which one utilizes creative ability. – Dictionary.com

All human beings have the ability to create, and they do, daily. Anything that didn’t exist before and is now in existence because you put it together was created by you! No individual is exactly like another in every single way. This means that no matter what, you will always have something to contribute to every situation that no one else does. Processes can be improved, fresh perspective introduced, in short, we all have the ability to make things better.

Lies

The reason we don’t expand on our creative abilities is very simple actually.

Fear.

I recently watched a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love. The talk was titled, “Your elusive creative genius.” She shared many insights, but one in particular caught my attention: Gilbert shared about the beginning of her career and how those around her had a fear-based reaction every time they discovered she wanted to become an author.

They would ask things like, “Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success?” “Aren’t you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you?” “Aren’t you afraid you’ll work your whole life at this craft and nothing is ever going to come of it and you’re going to die on a scrapheap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with the bitter ash of failure?”

Her short answer to all of the above questions was “yes.” Despite this, she decided that there was no point in fearing the thing you were put on this earth to do, and I completely agree.

Chances are that you have all the tools needed to accomplish the task. Worst case scenario, you try and fail, no biggie, try again. There is one thing that is much worse than fear – regret.

Decisions

Being creative may appear to be unicorn made of rainbow fluff, but in reality, it is more like a wild stallion that needs to be broken. In order to do that, you need to commit to chasing it down and holding on tight.

True creatives are not elusive, waif-like weirdos. They are visionary, hardworking weirdos. Below are a few practical things that will help you tame the bucking bronco within.

Own your stuff

Find something that you care about and commit to it. Sometimes, as in the case of a copy writer in an agency for example, you will be told what you care about at any given moment. Roll with it.

Try different angles

A great tool for creating something is exploring ways that you have never tried before. Take risks, they really offer the greatest rewards. Good rule: try finding out how things are usually done and go completely in the opposite direction. Or whatever direction you want really, just don’t drag yourself down the same path day in and out. This is creative suicide.

Show up and slog

Gilbert describes herself as a mule. She says her creative process involves showing up and churning the work out systematically. I used to think that nothing interesting could possibly come of this – until I started working at a marketing agency.

On average I write about 3 blogs a week. That’s roughly 12 a month. These average 450 – 700 words, excluding the title and various social media posts to promote said masterpieces. All in all, it can be tedious work and I frequently hit walls, but am slowly learning that they are not houses, and I don’t have to live there forever.

Live

“Creativity about life, in all aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” – Leo Burnett

All circumstances, experiences and those you come into contact with – shape who you are. Especially, for whatever strange reason, the negative experiences. Use these as opportunities to grow and learn. Be present and enjoy the good things. You never know when you will need to draw on them for inspiration.

Words that work – write better copy

“So, what is it that you do?”

“I’m a copywriter.”

“Oh…. (pause) so does that mean people come to you when they have a really good idea?”

“Umm… no. You are thinking of copy right. I copy WRITE, I mean write copy. Basically, it is a fancy name for words.”

That, friends, is the conversation I have with possibly three out of four people that I meet. What most don’t realise is that copywriting permeates every aspect of modern society. Every word on a billboard, radio advert, magazine cover, and all online content is created by phantom culture shapers known as copywriters.

Our business is to subtly show you the benefits of, well, whatever company we are employed by, so, everything! But – and this is a BIG but.

Not all copy is good.

Sometimes it feels forced and salesy, or just over done. Good copy is like the smell of coffee. It wafts into your routine, subtly beckoning, reminding you of something you already enjoy without being invasive or demanding. But how to create it?

Get in their heads

People essentially envision themselves a certain way and then align with the brands that speak to the identity that they have decided on for themselves. In terms of creating copy, this is golden, as you can push heavily into the idealised values, thoughts and outlooks of your client.

What is your audience already thinking about? What are they worried about? Or in the case of Nightire, dreaming about? The aforementioned brand is aimed at women that value quality. These women want elegance above all else and will spare no expense when it comes to comfort and image, even importing nighties made of bamboo fabric “inspired by the big-city-life.”

Here is an example of copy from their home page:

“Not many people care what they wear to bed, which is a shame as you spend about a third of the day in your PJs. We’re happy to shell out for fancy suits and pencil skirts, but when it comes to our home-wear; a grubby pair of last year’s shorts and a freebie t-shirt from that 5km run we did once upon a time, will do.

But no more. Because you’ve just discovered Nightire. Good on you.”

Simple and elegant, with relevant points and a set apart air aimed at the elite. Voila.

Humour the reader

Never underestimate sharp wit and the careful placement of a good punny to get a point across. Humour is not only disarming, it also shows off the human element of a brand, which makes it more relatable.

Humour turns words into gold. No, seriously. People connect to the story of a brand almost as readily as they do to the product, which makes it possible to sell almost anything. A great example of this is the Urban Daddy newsletter which playfully advertised rubber band guns in such a way that you end up believing that no self-respecting adult should ever be without one.

Phrase so it pays

See if you can name the brands attached to these slogans. Ready?

  • Give that man a Bells
  • Just do it
  • Guess who got it all this morning?
  •  I’m loving it
  • Finger lickin’ good

Chances are that if you have been alive for more than two minutes, these slogans are deeply embedded in your psyche. Why is that? They are catchy, “clean” (not wordy) and summarise the objective and outlook of each brand brilliantly.

A good slogan can make your brand a household name. Try to give some thought to making it relatable and relevant, you want it to catch people’s eyes and make it stick in their minds.

Be authentic and become amplified

There are many ways to say something. The individual voice of the company needs to be the focus. Do the words you use portray the brand in the way you want? Does it sound as though the people writing the phrases are actual people and not just robots programmed to spit out key phrases and SEO propaganda?

Also, as human beings we are drawn to authenticity, originality and sincerity. Good copy is written from a pool of life experience, almost aimed directly at the single person reading the ad. Like a friend to another friend. Your copy should say: “Hey friend, even if no-one else does, I get you.”

People are not that complicated, make sure they feel seen, heard and appreciated. Do not try to manipulate them. Stay true to your brand and come up with phrases that grab their attention and keep it. Forever.

Or just contact us and we will do it all for you.