Archive for January, 2010

25 It’s ok at home, but not in the office

Posted in Uncategorized on JanuarySat, 30 Jan 2010 17:36:55 +01003630pm10 24 PMpSat, 30 Jan 2010 17:36:55 +010036Saturday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

Some things are hard to explain. The purchase of bathroom towels is one of these things.

I don’t mean to intrude into your personal space here, but for the purpose of what follows you do need to know that in the flat I share with the Canadian blonde in London’s bijou W9, bathroom towels come in only two colours: warm charcoal and cool chocolate (that’s grey and brown if you’re common.)

When her brother came to stay last week, fine man that he is we gave him a towel. It’s the least you can do for these people. Canadians, as you probably know, are the cleanest people on the planet. Public fluoridation results in teeth you can see from Venus, they believe in queues, respect traffic lights and detest Americans. A towel is the least he deserved.

Except I couldn’t remember which colour we gave him. Charcoal or chocolate? And so in the bi-chromatic mist of a temporarily shared bathroom – which towel was mine not his, as I stepped out of the shower?

It’s well documented that in 73% of similar cases, the first morning you use the grey towel, the second morning brown. You’re getting it totally wrong exactly half the time. Why? Because you can’t remember. And also because it probably doesn’t much matter between friends.

And how this relates to business is…?
Because it does matter between you and your clients.

Oh right, doing deals in the sauna now, are we?
If you wish. The image of two greased-up bankers grappling with birch twigs while discussing interim bonds does conjure up the current plight of Reykjavik. But I refer to something more mundane.

I refer to a sentence I found in the verbal morass of a BSF bid that I am currently editing. Don’t know what a BSF bid is? Picture a transit van crammed with two years of lever arch files and you’re pretty much there. All of which paper could, of course, be boiled down to: “Chose us, we’re a bit nicer than the other lot” with a sensible price attached. Goodbye to months of hair-pulling for a hundred people and more. But this is a government-funded initiative, so interminable hoop-jumping is required.

Anyway, here’s the sentence that relates to those colourful towels. “Our Principal Design Advisor will consult with the Principle Education Adviser on the best options for the school.”

Ok, people get confused by principle/principal, and the adviser/advisor thing keeps serious word geeks awake all night. But can you explain how it’s possible for someone to spell the same word two different ways in the same sentence? Dictionaries still exist. What’s a client to make of a document where the writer’s solution to a spelling dilemma is to lump something down they know must be wrong – especially when trying to win work in the education sector?

That’s like using all the towels in the bathroom at the same time – and then leaving them on the floor for someone else to pick up.

That someone is people like me. As editors, we’re here to help. But if you want real value from us, perhaps you could three-line whip your people with Icelandic birch twigs every Tuesday afternoon to proof their own work and so give editors more time to spend on creating concision and persuasive benefit for the bid. This observation applies to all business writing. Spell it out: it’s a matter of principle.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember


24 The Pomegranate Imperative

Posted in Uncategorized on JanuarySun, 17 Jan 2010 01:59:06 +01005917am10 24 AMpSun, 17 Jan 2010 01:59:06 +010059Sunday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

Ok, are we over the snow yet? Had enough of winter wonderland? Over the big freeze that made the UK weather satellite picture look like one of them classy white fireside rugs you can buy at B&Q to pretend you’re cuddling a polar bear while guzzling down the entire Quality Street hamper and having your toes tickled by Lorraine Kelly, so it is?

Welcome back to this blog. Or, possibly, welcome back to work, if you’ve just made it in from Reading for the first time since a week past Tuesday.

For a nation so besotted by Dickensian workhouses blanketed in snow and black-draped in wizened widows (the obvious modern version is ITV’s Dancing on Ice, where celebrity ice hags sob into their tutus between commercials), it’s surprising that Britain just doesn’t have a clue how to do winter with any self-respect.

The Swiss invented skis. The Swedes invented Saabs. We invent excuses for not getting to work.

Come on, take the holiday, mate.
Ah, how lovely to know you’re back again, vox of the populi, not lost forever in a snowdrift. My point, and you may share it, is that for every individual in Yorkshire strapping on a couple of old wooden tennis rackets from the loft as snowshoes, there were a hundred people two doors away looking to file a chilblains suit.

Chilblains, what’s that then?
Sore toes. Previously a natural consequence of seasonally chilly weather. But now, officially, a rare condition of social deprivation brought on by your local council not providing you with free cashmere socks twice a week.

And where were you when others were choking on snow?
Sitting in the whiteout blizzard, car heater dispensing warm anaesthesia, when my reverie drifted back to winters past. To the days when people didn’t shrink and shrivel at a flurry of snow. Need to drive to Penrith via Antarctica in 1963? No problem, ma! Just bang on another reindeer pully, stick a shovel out the back windae and away we go! These days we’re worried that Waitrose might run out of pomegranate juice.

Carbound and foodless, snow plastering the windscreen, my thoughts turned to Delia Smith, stranded in her comeback career. Poor anaemic Delia. Being surgically devoid of personality, she is several TV museum rooms away from those modern pop-up tarts of the kitchen whose fame resides not in their stove skills but in the way they dish their offer up. We don’t watch Jamie or Gordon or Nigella for recipes. We watch them to hear how they talk, see how they behave.

And how this relates to business is…

In any decent business, you’ll find the people at the top have vibrant personalities. They express them as an act of leadership. It’s risk-taking and inventiveness that shows you possess a pulse and captivates the audiences who are your employees and your clients.

We have one life. As Keith Floyd demonstrated lately.

In every marketplace, it’s personality that wins. If the content’s good on every stall, it’s your style that seals the sale.

Pomegranates may seem a bit twanky, but just try scooping those extraordinary little red jewels into the cornflakes of a shivering morning. It could be your first step of the New Year on the ladder of success.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember

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