November 29, 2021

Blog All Dog-eared Pages: The agile comms handbook by Giles Turnbull

Giles Turnbull is one of my go-to people when I want to explain how to write blog posts, or the comms style for MCQN Ltd. Recently he's written The agile comms handbook (on Open Library), which collects together a load of his thoughts, ideas and advice for how to communicate with other people.

It's a very readable book. I got plenty from it—despite having read Giles' blog for years—and it's great to have it pulled together into one document, it'll save me digging out assorted blog posts for new hires. (That's one of the good things about books, I reckon; writing a book forces you to set down "this is what I think about topic X, at this time", whereas blogs evolve over time with each post. I felt that with my book).

Here are the sections I highlighted during my reading, to give you a flavour of the book...

Page 16

It's communication that relates to humans, to busy people with many demands on their time and attention. It's communication that aims to tell the truth, share mistakes and successes alike, and do so in creative, accessible, human language. It's communication that aims to build relationships and trust over time.

Page 26

Good creative communication describes the work as it happens: the best way to do that is to let people doing the work, and people who do communication, sit alongside each other (literally and metaphorically) so that between them, they can come up with engaging, accurate ways of describing it.

Page 37

That's what agile comms means. It gives you storytelling superpowers, and helps build trust and relationships.

Page 53

The Internet-era approach is more open. We don't know who might be interested in this, so it's written for everyone. It makes a contribution to a wider conversation, because it links to other articles about other aspects of similar government [in this example] work. It's part of a longer story.

Page 58

It doesn't matter how many things you collect, and it doesn't matter if you don't use them all. In my experience you will probably end up using a small number of them many many times. But having the archive is what matters. It's good to know that it's there, and that it's a repository of memories that future versions of you—or future versions of your team, regardless of whether or not you're still in it—can use if and when they need to.

Page 85

Links are very important. As a general rule of thumb, I encourage teams to link outwards to everything on the Internet that they can link to. If you mention another organisation, link to it. If you mention a rival company, link to it. If you write about a place, link to its Wikipedia entry. If you write about events in the news, link to well-written reports about them. If it's possible to link to something, do so. This is simple, old-fashioned good web behaviour and it still matters.

Page 127

Maybe your first effort is so rough, it's just a list of bullet points. Or a few lines of text and a picture. It might be a sketch on a whiteboard, or some sticky notes on a wall. All of these things count as bad first drafts.

All of them give you something to start with. Something you can share with colleagues for their input and feedback.

Page 128

The very best blog posts are lively and creative and interesting to read, because they've been through this process within a team. They were written and edited by the team, not by distant comms function writing on the team's behalf.

Page 144

For years now, I've been telling the teams and organisations I work with to "use the words that humans use".

That means ditching the corpspeak and instead writing in plain everyday language. Writing the same way that people speak. If you do that, you will find your written communication is suddenly much more effective. People won't have to work hard to grasp your point, because your point will be crystal clear.

Page 147

The human voice is written as if spoken. It uses the words normal people would use. It's written for simplicity and clarity. It's what one person would say to another person, if the two of them were looking at one another, face to face.

Page 157

How would you explain it using just 10 slides? Or in a single page of prose? Once you've created something like this, share it with someone you trust. Does it make sense to them?

Page 165

Good comms describes how you did what you've done. Bad comms just says that you've done it.

Page 181

The [creative] team combines production, writing, editing, filmmaking, support, coaching and creative direction. It's a unit of creative production that you can delegate to.

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November 08, 2021

Interesting Things on the Internet: November 8th 2021 Edition

  • What Facebook Knew All Along. "But this much is clear: Facebook knew all along. Their own employees were desperately trying to get anyone inside the company to listen as their products radicalized their own friends and family members." Get an RSS reader and start building a newsfeed you control; come and hang-out with me and others on Mastodon—or Pixelfed if you're leaving Instagram and prefer the photo-friendly approach. That interoperates with Mastodon too. And leave Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp...
  • Managerial blah.
  • Does someone deserve to die for this?. "As Genevieve Gunther says, climate change isn't something we're doing, it's something we're being prevented from undoing. [...] In the UK, politicians held off on announcing a lockdown because they assumed that people wouldn't be willing to make that sacrifice. But it turns out we're willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect our community and each other. [...] I'm not an activist in any way, and I've never considered myself to be someone who'd risk my own comfort in order to save the world. But I have. All of us have. Now we know how far we're willing to go, and it's further than many of us imagined."
  • A Beginner's Guide to Social Media Verification. Good primer (and links to more) on detecting fake images online. As Laurie Anderson says, "get a good bullshit detector and learn how to use it."
  • COP26: Taking on the takes. COP26 won't solve all the problems but it will move us in the right direction.
  • High Streets for All? We need communities to own more of their buildings.
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