Posts Tagged ‘professionalism’

This is the second or third blog I’ve started. As you can see, instead of starting a new one, I went back to the most recent one and I’m going to try to pick up from there.

My absence is excusable, somewhat. I’ve been busy working all this time. Actually, I’ve been writing. Short, snappy pieces, 250 – 400 words each. The big PR outfit I was working for said “Anyone can write 800, 900 words or more. The trick is to write about half that much and still include all the same information, and keep it interesting.”

They were paying a decent rate for the work, too, which is somewhat surprising. The Internet is a huge place, and apparently it needs a lot of content. When you visit sites maintained by real companies, you see generally professionally written content. Big companies aren’t the only outfits maintaining websites, though, and there are scores of sites whose content is, shall we say, less than professional.

The fact that they can’t cobble together a simple sentence doesn’t dissuade many of these people from trying, however, and when they’re finally convinced to hire someone else to do their writing for them, they seem to have the attitude that good writing doesn’t justify even minimum wage. Who knows? Maybe it’s frustration over not being able to do it themselves. Most of these people are content to let someone else design the actual website – why do they seem to think that it takes no skill to write the content?

So it was gratifying to find an outfit that needed plenty of content, was willing to pay for it, and has plenty of work to do! Not only did it help pay the bills, it helped me develop my own skills. Every piece I wrote was professionally edited, and the editors gave me valuable feedback when they let me know my final wordcount. I came to grips with my penchants for overly long sentences and for semicolons as well.

So why am I back today? Has this great outfit gone bellyup? No – in fact, from all I can see, it’s doing great. It also just cut our writing rates dramatically. It’s actually the second time they cut rates on us, or third, if you want to be nitpicky about it. But this time really hurts.

Here’s what happened: This big PR firm spun off its creative arm into another company, which right away ended the practice of paying per word in favor of a flatrate of $20 per piece. This was a bit disappointing, but honestly speaking, I think we were all beginning to take advantage of the per-word rate. Instead of staying within the range of 250 – 400 words, it was obvious we were all beginning to turn in larger and larger pieces. I turned in a couple of nearly 600 words, for instance, and I saw others in the 800-word neighborhood.

The next thing that happened came pretty much on the heels of ending the per-word rate: they identified two different kinds of pieces we did, and cut one in half – said they’d only pay $10 apiece for them. They seemed really surprised when we protested, and said “Okay, the minimum wordcount for the $10 piece will be 150 words instead of 250 words.” Remember, these are pieces we write to spec, researched and everything. Whoever’s done this kind of work knows it’s not the wordcount that takes the time and effort, it’s the research and planning.

Anyway, we went maybe 15, 16 months or so at the flat rate, and last week they dropped another bombshell – all pieces are cut to $7.50, wordcount in the range of 150 – 350 words. So for those of us who were doing mostly the $20 jobs, that was a cut of more than 50% (62.5%, for the detail oriented).

Which is why I’m back at it. Blogging away to perfect a broader range of skills and let you know not only what I’m capable of, but also that I’m available.

Here I sit, listening to Sean Hannity. I know the phrase “broken-hearted” fits in there somewhere . . .

So anyway, Hannity has spent his entire show so far (forty-one minutes so far) bloviating on two topics (and, of course, promoting his television show).

The first? When she gave her speech at the Tea Party Convention Saturday evening, Mrs. Palin apparently used neither teleprompter nor notes – what’s called, in the trade, “impromptu.”  Except, that is, for a half-dozen words she wrote herself on her hand. Some reporters and commentators reported unfavorably on that, and that’s what has Hannity’s knickers all knotted up.

The other thing that Hannity’s hollering about is that President Obama, giving a speech recently about American rescue efforts in Haiti and using the teleprompter, as is his habit, mispronounced the word “corpsman.”

Here’s the problem. At Carson Long, I learned in Major Holman’s Bible and Public Speaking class that professional speakers use clearly written notes – perhaps on regular paper, perhaps on note cards. He made it specifically clear, in fact, that notes weren’t to be written on the hand, for a few reasons – ink runs, for example, and smears and blurs. And complex ideas sometimes don’t always lend themselves to that sort of compaction.

It’s good for Mrs. Palin that she didn’t have to ask for help deciphering her hand – but she would appear far more professional if she’d just placed a single sheet of paper on the lectern with those six words, and just glanced at it from time to time.  At the Tea Party convention, she was pretty much preaching to the choir and would have gotten away with anything, but she’s got to remember that if she wants to build her credibility to enhance her standing as a potential candidate for President some time in the future, she ought to avoid projecting an image of herself as some teenager writing a friend’s telephone number on her palm.

As for Obama, I think he’s suffering from some terrible staff work. Many of the gaffes that have embarrassed him could have been prevented by better staff work. Nevertheless, a President has to be able to pronounce words like “corpsman,” it’s just one of those unwritten rules.