Friday, July 8, 2016

We need a VA! Could this be you?

WriteCulture needs a virtual assistant. 

If you know someone who might be interested in this part-time contract position, please kindly pass along this post!

Details below:
Lauren Edwards
WriteCulture Founder

WriteCulture brings innovative writing workshops to public relations agencies and companies nationwide with a focus on Silicon Valley and the tech industry. We offer a range of classes using a hands-on, highly adaptive format designed to get the right business and media results. WriteCulture was founded by Lauren Edwards in 2000. Find out more at

What we’re looking for: A self-motivated problem-solver and social media enthusiast with the creativity and initiative to manage clients and make things happen. If outsmarting challenges, using your own judgment to get results and learning about building a thriving small business appeals to you, keep reading!

What you’ll do: Reporting to the founder and CEO, the Virtual Assistant will play an active role in shaping and executing a wide range of activities, including client management, social media marketing and outreach, special projects research, and shepherding the day-to-day operations of the business. The right candidate will be able to juggle competing priorities, foster close relationships with clients, and have a high attention to detail and follow-through.   

What you’ll do
·       Client management
o   Serve as the primary point of contact for new and ongoing clients
o   Communicate with clients around class scheduling and materials
o   Organize and send materials to class participants
o   Gather feedback from participants following each class
§  Email surveys and quizzes, along with reminder emails
§  Conduct follow-up interviews with class participants to feedback
·       Social media outreach and marketing
o   Schedule blog posts and newsletter e-blasts
o   Post on company Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts
o   Edit/proofread bi-monthly newsletter and weekly blog posts
o   Manage and update email-marketing lists  
o   Research and recommend ways to increase company’s social media engagement
·       Administrative Assistance
o   Maintain calendars and attendance records
o   Perform general clerical duties
·       Special projects, as time and interest permit
o   Write or revise blog posts
o   Conduct new client outreach calls and prospective client research

What you’ll bring:
  • ·       At least 2-4 years of work experience, preferably in communications, sales, marketing or public relations
  • ·       Very strong organizational skills
  • ·       Strong writing and proofreading skills
  • ·       Solid analytical and problem-solving skills
  • ·       Able to work autonomously as well as take direction as needed
  • ·       Proficiency in the use of Google docs, Microsoft Office suite, social media platforms and virtual meeting platforms
  • ·       Energy and enthusiasm for quickly learning Hubspot/Infusionsoft (email-marketing and sales platform for small businesses) and for helping to conceive and modify campaigns
  • ·       Some knowledge of MailChimp, Infusionsoft, WordPress and iMovie preferred

Personal Attributes:
  • ·       Upbeat, positive and professional
  • ·       Goal-oriented with a growth mindset
  • ·       Ability to thrive in an entrepreneurial environment; flexible
  • ·       Compassionate, service-oriented

What we offer:
  • ·       Opportunities to learn about the PR industry and small business development
  • ·       Room to innovate and grow in the position
  • ·       A small agile team

Salary: $20 to $35 per hour, depending on experience

Hours: Part time, hours will vary (8-20 hours per week depending on season and projects)        

Please send resume and cover letter to and please indicate in the subject line “Virtual Assistant Applicant.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

WriteCulture's workshops & recommendations

Some of you know I'm in the process of going from consultancy to company.

The website is still in the works, but here's some of the copy. 


Here's our top recommendation.

Two “Best Bet” foundational workshops

• Two half-day workshops
• Cut across all types of writing

Attendees use their own content as source material: bylined articles, media pitches, speaker abstracts, awards submissions, complex emails, case studies, reports, etc.

First: "Creating Compelling Content" -- 4 hours, limited to eight people at a time

1. Distill main point
2. Discover hidden news value
3. Structure for highest impact
4. Glue readers’ eyes to page
5. Build long-term trust relationships
6. Dramatically reduce word count
7. Think like a veteran professional writer

Second: "Being Your Own Best Editor" -- 4 hrs, limited to eight people at a time

(Unofficial nicknames: How to Have a Calm Supervisor, How to Write Like *David Pogue)

1. Demystify process – what to do when, with whom, how & why
2. Clarify writing standards for digital business era
3. Clean & tighten – tips for improving mechanics
4. Rev up verbs the real way, without a thesaurus
5. Learn when to slow down to speed up overall
6. Invite readers visually
7. Take responsibility

In both workshops, attendees make discoveries about their own writing. Each person brings their own work, and measures it against criteria, standards and examples in a workbook.

Attendees share ah-ha moments, and learn as much from their peers’ reactions as from the workshop leader. The outcome is not just illumination but motivation. Because they see it and feel it for themselves, they find the changes easier to make.

*Apologies to David Pogue  ;-) He didn’t participate in the creation of this workshop, but his writing appears in some of the examples.

David Pogue was the tech columnist for the New York Times for 13 years before moving to Yahoo Tech. He’s a monthly columnist for Scientific American and host of science shows on PBS’s “NOVA.” He’s been a correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning” since 2002. He’s won two Emmy awards, two Webby awards, a Loeb award for journalism, and an honorary doctorate in music.


These two workshops above are the place to start, no matter whether you are:

• rewarding a seasoned team with a refresher
• shoring up a growing team receptive to help

Micro-training by topic

After completing the two “Best Bet” workshops, teams can add micro-training on topics including “SAE Transition,” “Award Submissions” and “Turn Survey Results into News.”

After you’ve taken the foundational courses, you’re ready to add on. Please note there may be additional prerequisites for a few of the courses below.

All classes below are shorter in duration than the two “Best Bet” foundational workshops, so it’s possible to combine multiple workshops within a single day.

1. “Make Your Pitch a Hit” (3 hours) –- AAs to  SAEs, mixed-level
2. “Get Faster Email Replies” (3 hrs) -- interns to  AMs
3. “*→Turn Survey Results into News” (2.5 hours) -- AEs to AS/AMs, mixed
4. “*→Make Press Releases Strategic” (3 hours) -- AEs to AS/AMs, mixed
5. “Grammar for PR Pros” (1.5 hours) -- all levels, mixed-level
7. "Latest & Greatest AP Style for Tech PR" -- AAs to SAEs
8. "Build a Narrative Arc" (2 hours) -- AMs to VPs
9. "SAE Transition: Think Strategically" -- SAEs and experienced AEs nearing promotion
10. “Up-Level Reports for Executive Eyes” (2.5 hours) – interns to SAEs, by level
11. “Speaker Submissions” (2 hours) – interns to SAEs, mixed
12. “Award Submissions” (2 hours) – SAEs to VPs, mixed
13. “Interviews for Case Studies” (2.5 hours) – AAs to AS/AMs
14. “Think Like a Journalist” (times vary) — all levels

*→ The workshops marked with asterisk-and-arrow have prerequisites.

Ask for info about:

1. “Blogging for Business”
2. “Journalism for Bloggers”

Easy-to-add standalone classes

Recommended next-steps after the two “Best Bet” foundational workshops:

• “Brain Pack” – Develop a business mindset  (by job level).
• “AP Style for PR” — It’s the industry standard, and our workshop is efficient.
• “Grammar for PR Pros” — Top mistakes by educated professionals. Entertaining.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

AAs, here's to your speedy success! (new class available)

Calling all AAs!

You could wait five years for the school of hard-knocks to teach you the-Many-Things-Your-Supervisors-Don't-Tell-You-Because-They-Forgot-That-They-Once-Didn't-Know-Them.

Or you can minimize pain and embarrassment, and accelerate your future promotion.

I suggest you ask your employer to sign you up for a May 27 class in San Francisco. You can take BART to Montgomery station and walk three blocks to this half-day class at the office of Paragon Strategies, which is partnering with my new company

Your supervisor will be happy

In the end, your supervisor will be glad because you'll immediately perform better than those who didn't take the class.

Promise your supervisor that you'll share what you learn with other AAs and AEs in your office. You can suggest a 30-minute briefing for your peers and then let that group decide whether to meet again to learn more from you.

If your employer can't pay but will give you the time off for a work-related morning investment in yourself, make double-sure to sign up quickly so you can get the early-bird discount.

How the cost compares & what you get

Divide the $497 early-bird price by 10 years, and that's less than $50 a year for 10 years, or 2.5 months worth of Starbucks Frappuccinos per year. The investment probably will pay off in earlier career success ... and probably higher pay earlier in your career, though that part of it is outside my control, of course.

Work is more fun when you're good at it and receiving more praise and opportunities. To make the class even more fun, see if some of your peers want to join you.

Advance your career, not just your skills

If you don't sign yourself up now, you'll have to wait to see if your employer will hire WriteCulture for a group training on-site at your office. That's how I usually work -- on-site classes for a team. But this new partnership with Paragon Strategies gives us a place to offer a public class to individuals.

A description of the class is below, but if your supervisor already knows me, you can tell her/him that this new class is a hybrid of four classes, winnowed to what's most relevant and immediately useful for someone with less than two or three years of work experience.

(The four originals that this is drawn from are: Developing a Business Mindset 1, Getting Faster Email Replies, Creating Compelling Content and Being Your Own Best Editor.)

Business Writing 1: Building on the Basics 
Business professionals who want to build more productive relationships with supervisors, colleagues and clients will enjoy a workshop that improves their written communication skills. Learn how to complete the transition from academic to business writing, edit overly familiar work with fresh eyes, and get faster e-mail replies.
These are among the topics we will cover:
  1. How to quickly distill the main point
  2. When to slow down in order to speed up
  3. The four types of email readers and how to write one email that works for all
  4. How to structure written communications to best respect readers' time
  5. Why proofreading is hard and what to do about it
Length of training program: Half Day 9 am - 1 pm: Bonus: Half Hour Writing Coaching
Date: May 27, 2015 - Wednesday
Register by May 19 and save $100: Pay only $497 which includes Half Hour Writing Coaching; a $200 value. After May 19, investment is $597.
Register today: Class is limited to 10 

Friday, February 27, 2015

PR editors, are you too controlling?

PR team leads, you might in fact be part of the problem. If you do a lot of heavy editing of your team's work, you might be creating a monster. The more rewriting and tracking of changes you do, the more demoralized your direct-reports become -- but you won't know it because they will hide it from you.

And the more demoralized they become, the worse their work becomes. 

The deception isn't intentional. I hear it from them because I'm a third party. 

They aren't complaining when they tell me. They are searching for help or, in some cases, wondering if they should leave the PR field altogether. They respect you and want to please you.

Here are some things you can do to deflate the monster and grow your team's confidence and skill.

Not everyone can do No. 1 here, and that's fine. But you can certainly do numbers 2 and 3, and give the advice in No. 4. (Also, book me for the class called "Be Your Own Best Editor," and I will make many problems go away.) No. 5 is a more advanced technique for the most devoted of mentors.

1. Try side-by-side editing, if you can -- some people can't. This means the writer sits beside you as you review the document. You think out loud, so your team member can hear your thoughts immediately rather than try to guess later what you were trying to get at (when you made the entire page bleed).

It takes no extra time. Don't make an appointment to "walk through the changes." Instead, have your team member just sit there in real time, observing while it happens. Both of you will learn from this exercise, painlessly. 

You might notice that some of your edits are in fact arbitrary. For example, you might like the word "international'" better than "global," or "achieve" better than "accomplish." Or you might be moving commas around because you hear a pause in a different place. 

(Commas are not pauses, by the way. Our teachers told us that in elementary school when we were first learning to read and write. But it's not true. Every comma has an objective rationale. For more on that, look for a book called "The AP Guide to Punctuation," or look at the punctuation section of your AP Stylebook.)

If you notice that some of your changes are to make the writing "sound better," you might be an arbitrary editor. If this is you, remember that everyone's syntax is slightly different. Even if you are striving for a "consistent voice," you still need to allow for some variation. Let people be themselves; don't make them try to be you.

2. Step back and look for patterns. Rather than fixing every little thing and reacting one by one to each micro-episode of mental discomfort, you should distance yourself from the document. 

Use a highlighter (either digital or hard copy) to mark places where you find yourself reacting.

Then look only at the highlighted sections. Look for repetitive choices or a missing perspective.

Send a note with two or at most three questions or overarching directives that get your team member to think differently. Tell this person you want it back right away (within five minutes, or 10 or 20, if there's a lot to do -- but not "later" or the next day). 

Sit back and wait, and then be pleasantly surprised when you get back something great. The quality often ratchets up about 200 percent. The people on your team are smart, or you wouldn't have hired them.

3. Decide what really matters and let the rest go. Sometimes the problem is that you are very gifted. It may be that your team member will never be as good as you are.

You need to accept this reality. It's like the law of gravity or the sun rising in the East. You are very talented, and others won't ever quite catch up to you. 

If this is you, make a list of criteria that you can share with your team member. What are the two to five things this person must deliver? It might be something like this: business foresight, contrast and comparison for the purpose of pulling out insight, more white space (short sentences and paragraphs with subheads and bullets), the information needed for decision or action in the first or second sentence, precise verbs, ...

Once your team member can do everything on your list, you can add other items one at a time over time. You need let your team member evolve over time. This person can't be you. He or she will never be you.

Editors with this problem always say to me, "Yes, but I need to uphold quality standards for the client's sake." Yes, but some quality standards matter more than others. Choose. If you don't, everyone's life worsens.

If you are struggling with this one, ask yourself: "Will this edit alter our business outcome?"

If yes, honor it. If no, let it go or try the steps above.

4. Separate out proofreading as a final step, unrelated to content or wordsmithing. It's something to be done at the very end, and done surgically. That is, only remove what's objectively incorrect -- no finessing.

Senior people shouldn't be doing this particular task (proofreading). Try to reserve your comments and edits to meaty issues. Hold your team member accountable for client-readiness. 

If your team isn't up to speed on grammar, style, punctuation and proofreading, which need to be impeccable for credibility's sake, come up with a plan. 

This plan should be separate from routine editing incidents. Let your team member know that their improvement in this area is non-negotiable, and give them tools. 

Almost no one (0.5 percent?) leaves college knowing all they need to know to be good writers and editors. Most of us learn through work experience. Make it clear that this learning is to continue.

(I offer an AP style workshop specifically for tech PR and a class on the most common grammar mistakes among PR pros. The grammar class focuses on what people didn't know they didn't know. it's eye-opening.)

5. Sneak a rewrite but don't show it to anyone. This is the most difficult one, and it is time-consuming. It's a last resort for when you are overwhelmed by the awfulness of the document you're editing. 

When I don't know how to give guidance that honors the writer's autonomy and intelligence, I secretly do a rewrite of at least part of it. But I don't show it to anyone. Instead, I do a comparison and contrast to see what's different between the two. At that point, I can usually create a recipe for the writer to try to follow. By recipe, I mean the advice in No. 2, with a bit more. Usually, it's a perspective shift, not just the words on the page.

This last one is time-consuming but an investment in your having to edit less in the future.

Change is hard, I know. 

If you are the writer in this scenario, I hope this post will help you take the feedback you've been getting less personally and realize that some of the problem is in fact your supervisor's fault. 

If you are the editor, I hope this post helps you realize that your joy will rise as your team's competence rises, and that a red sea of tracked changes won't get you the results that you and everyone else need.