Friday, December 2, 2011

Trashionistas recycled

Packaging and printed material comprise nearly 40 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream.  ~ Product Stewardship Institute

Writing about electronic waste for Environmental Management magazine a few years ago inspired me to start the Concsious Cow blog, as well as to hold a trash fashion party for my daughter and her friends.  We made all sorts of fashion-somewhat-forward outfits from recycled packaging, newspapers, fabric scraps and duct tape.  (see the Trashonistas photo in the sidebar).

I was recently asked to hold a trash fashion workshop at our local craft center.  Initially, I said no, but reading the email from PSI today has me rethinking this.  

Off the Record: my sewing skills are seriously lacking, but I can do a lot with duct tape.  Maybe it's time to get trashy again - and have some fun with my local peeps, making trash into trashion.  More news later.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Disconnects stymie Mass. STEM agenda - Mass High Tech Business News

Off the record: my tech skills are so pathetic, I often describe myself as a "technidiot." (eg. I needed someone to show me how to change my profile pic on Facebook).

Just because I'm not a techie doesn't mean I can't write about it. Is there a disconnect there? Nope. It's called research. It's through copious research that I am able to produce a new issue of the educational webzine, "STEM matters" every trimester. I'm grateful to the Office of School Partnerships at UMass Lowell for giving me the opportunity to do this fulfilling and fun work and grateful to MA legislators for pushing the STEM agenda that necessitates this work (and, more importantly, will benefit our children).

Last month, I attended the MA state STEM summit, a meeting of over 650 people from preK-16 education, legislators and business people involved in science, tech, engineering and math. My response to this all-day event is here, at the Mass High Tech Business News blog.

Disconnects stymie Mass. STEM agenda - Mass High Tech Business News

I'd love your feedback!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jordan Hospital Breast Health Center Video

OFF THE RECORD:  I slipped into journalism, branding and book editing through a side door - screenwriting.

Recently, I got to use the screenwriting skills I honed at Yale and in Hollywood to help other women!   
For this  joint project with RA Vision Productions, I stayed present to the emotional and physical health of women affected by breast abnormalities.

The video will be online soon at Jordan Hospital Breast Health Center's website.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


OFF THE RECORD:  Hiring a writer to handle your business communications isn't always a passive process.  If you've hired a great writer, you should feel comfortable enough to set her free to work her magic on your business communications.  Even still, you'll need to read the copy and provide appropriate feedback.  This can be tricky.

If you are not 100% satisfied with the work, don’t presume the writer didn’t take your project seriously.  The strong writer mulls over every single word she puts on the page. 

When you offer your feedback, forget comments like, “I don’t get it,” or “I don’t like it.”  This type of feedback is not specific enough to help the writer.  Instead provide feedback that steers the writer in the direction you need her to go.  How do you do that?

If you question the use of a word or phrase, ask yourself what you are reacting to.  Consider the following:

  • ·      Do the tone, style, and substance match your other promotional materials?  
  • ·      Is the writer misusing or not using a term specific to your industry?

If the tone, style and substance are off kilter:
  1. ·      Show the writer the Creative Brief generated during your most recent branding session.   (If you don’t have a Creative Brief, click here to read my previous blog post about the Creative Briefing process. When you’re done branding call the writer back to finish your copywriting.)
  2. ·      Show the writer other promotional materials that were the outgrowth of your branding session.

If key industry-specific terms are missing from the copy or misused within the copy, simply elucidate this to the writer.  Every industry has its own terms or way of using common terms that differs from other business sectors.  A strong writer will be able to “translate” industry language so that your materials will be easily understood by your primary audience.  You can help her by providing the information she needs to translate your industry’s lingo into lay terms.  

In my next post, I'll share my thoughts about who gets the final say in editing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

TIPS FOR WORKING WITH A WRITER, Part 1: If You Don’t Have a Creative Brief

OFF THE RECORD:  The best copy is a natural outgrowth of a carefully crafted business or messaging strategy.  Before you begin working with a writer, make sure you clearly understand and can communicate your messaging strategy.  

You'll probably get the best results if you find a branding specialist whose values align with yours, and get busy developing your Creative Brief.  You could also consider the five strategic questions listed in my previous blog post, "How to Hire a Business Writer or Copywriter."

In the non-profit world, the term branding is sometimes considered crass.  NGOs and other 501(c )3s may refer to the same process as “Strategic Planning”.  Whatever you call it, defining the vision, mission, and method for your organization, as well as the primary audience for your communiqu├ęs is essential before you embark on any messaging campaign.

Read "Tips for Working with a Writer, Part 2" tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to Hire a Business Writer or Copy Writer

OFF THE RECORD:  Hiring a writer is not as easy as it seems. 
Maybe you need help with web content, or brochure copy.  Perhaps you need a business proposal written, or a series of blog posts.  Recognizing that writing is not your forte is a great first step to getting clear, concise copy that meets your needs.  What else do you need to know?

  1. What tone of voice the writer should adopt
  2. What style of writing your piece needs
  3. Who will participate in the editing process
  4. Who gets final edit

If the writer was in on your branding process, you’re off to a great start.  The process will be easier, because the writer will already know what tone of voice and style to adopt.  She’s familiar with your business and the terms that are specific to it.
In this case, you’ll have minimal editing to do, and you can probably trust the writer to represent you and your concerns accurately and well, with minimal input from you.

If the writer was not in on your branding process, you need to bring her up to speed.  A savvy copywriter will know to ask the following questions, but if she doesn’t, then make sure to inform her:
  1. Who is your target audience
  2.    What you want them to know
  3.  Why they should care
  4.  What you want them to do
  5.  What misperceptions about your product, service or business you need to overcome with the material the writer will provide.

After that, simply present the assignment in clear terms.  

Communicating clearly with the writer from the outset will help each of you to give and get what you need from your collaboration. 

Later, I’ll share my tips for working with a writer.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day

Off the Record: My kid's had so many snow days this year, I'm beginning to wonder if we should just start homeschooling!

While there's nothing like sharing a cozy day at home with loved ones, there's also something to be said for a writer having her space and quiet time.  A lot of work happens between the ears, and that's more challenging with more people in the house.

My solution: put the wee ones to work!  (Okay, my "wee one" is a teenager who's chomping at the bit to earn money.) Today, she has updated my paper files, and is now transcribing an interview for me.  Both tasks are essential to keeping the writer productive. Yet I have shoved both tasks onto the back burner for far too long.
Keeping my files updated helps me keep my life in order.
The interview transcript will be the primary component in a chapter of the non-fiction book proposal I'm developing.  

The subject of the book?  That's a secret, but I will divulge that the interviewee was the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger.  He is one of many generous individuals who support my book idea.  We had a great phone conversation several months ago, and I'm excited to read the transcript and then put it to good use!

Back to writing!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Government Nutrition Policy as Illustrated by Banksy

OFF THE RECORD:  I'm a foodie, a health-obsessed foodie.  Few things frustrate me more than hearing news reports of the national health crisis, while information about proper nutrition is silenced by huge ad campaigns promoting "food" products that degrade human health.

I was delighted to discover this fantastic illustration by Banksy today.  Check it out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Trust-Based Relationships in Business

It's not personal; it's business.
Wasn't that the mantra of the last era in business? Surely, folks are still holding fast to the ideal that the ends justify the means.
Take off the gloves and throw yourself into the fight. At any cost, make sure your company comes out on top.

And how did that paradigm work out for us? Looking at the state of the economy these past few years, I would say not very well. Looking at the reports of increasing stress-related health problems, such as depression, obesity, and heart disease, plaguing the United States, I would say not very well.

My mentor and friend, Mitch Anthony, an ad guy with a conscience, agrees. In his post "Uncovering the Logic of Deep Change, " he writes:
The time has come to look beyond the four walls of existing enterprises and instead focus on connecting people across large numbers of institutions, shaping much broader ecosystems of participants and helping them to build long‐term trust‐based relationships that encourage and enable a new kind of human synergy.

Off the record: It IS personal and it IS business, and trust-based relationships are the foundation of the new world. Like it or not, we've got to start tearing down the walls that separate us from our colleagues, clients and competitors. "Competition" is old-school. Collaboration is the way of the future.

I, for one, am forging connections with professionals who, in the old paradigm, I would have considered competitors/threats. The experience is enriching, enlivening, and increasing my career satisfaction. These mini-"think tanks" bring me a wealth of camaraderie and knowledge, and stimulate my creative juices, leading to a higher quality product for my clients.

I invite you to join the new paradigm, and share your experience with collaboration here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Good Bye to Conscious Cow

Off the Record:  I have a hard time letting go.

This is why I have held on to my alter-ego, Conscious Cow, for almost a year without posting any new blogs on "her" site.

I had the best of intentions to get something new out there.  But...
I haven't posted anything new for two reasons:

1. re-purposing, recycling, re-using, and composting are more mainstream today than when I launched Conscious Cow in 2008.  You can find books, websites, and magazine articles (a few written by yours truly) covering these topics.

(Other resources on the web include:,, and

2. I had been doing it as a public service.  Keeping a blog like Conscious Cow fresh and relevant requires a ton of time and effort in the form of research. Business ramped up in 2010 (yay!), and I suddenly found myself super busy with paying projects, family obligations, and activities in my local community.

Hence, I bid my alter-ego a fond adieu, and thank all those who visited her and took her message to heart.

(Surprise to me:  it feels good to let go!)