The 5 W’s To Improve Your Writing


The movie Trumbo is a compelling account profiling the McCarthy era blacklisting of Hollywood screenwriters. A paranoid nation clamping down on liberals and intellectuals in order to withhold the crackbrained idea of censorship. An important but fun view for anyone making a living from writing. One striking piece that stood out for me was how Trumbo – actor Bryan Cranston – did most of his writing from the bath tub. At first glance, it seemed weird and out-of-place. Oddly, as the scene continued it became expressly clear. Other than a few wet pages, the bathtub was the perfect place to write. You are relaxed and alone in your own home. What can be more conducive towards a creative process than that?

Leveraging Your Creative Juices

Professionals or amateurs, as writers we all have our sweet spot that provides just the right mix of familiarity, isolation and comfort when partaking in our craft. But location is not the only tenet that we instill when writing. Following the 5 W’s of journalism, who, what, where, when and why, let’s look at not just where we write, but why, when and who we write for. All equally beneficial ingredients for a productive writing session.


1) Why We Should Write

In these days of analytics, there is a heap of data out there that extols the benefits of writing; everything from managing negative experiences to strengthening our immune systems.  The American Psychological Association cites evidence that supports both assertions. This “curative mechanism” of writing down our thoughts, directly links to our ability to effectively manage our stress levels. Clinical evidence shows therapeutic wins within rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and HIV/AIDS patients.

We write because it makes us healthier. Just like quinoa and greens. Sleep and exercise. We now have pen and paper.

In’s “33 Inspiring Reasons Why You Should Write,” Anne Thériault offers a less clinical and more pedantic and introspective look at why we should write. Thériault discloses, whether building posterity or simply voicing clichés, we wouldn’t write unless we had a deep love for the craft. For passion or spite, therapy or recreation, in a thousand words or two, stop thinking about it and just do it!

…and so I continue.

clock on typewriter

2) When We Should Write

For many writers, putting pen to paper can be tremendously laborious and challenging. Do I need to be fresh as the morning air, or mollified by the day’s events before I write? Does my mental and physical state need to be aligned? According to blogger Kevin Lee at, science once again has offered its evidence. Body rhythms produce hormones which in turn make the mind upbeat for mental tasks. This, of course, happens in the morning. Ergo, morning is best. O.K… however, Mr Lee continues to warn, “Willpower is a finite resource.” Translation: laziness abounds even though our prefrontal cortex is teed up and ready to go.

No matter when we decide to write, the mantra must sing routine, routine, routine. The brain thrives on routine. Whether a lark or an owl, keep it consistent and regular. Not necessarily a laptop on the night table, but a pen and pad may be the ticket.


3) What We Should Write About

“But while we writers all share a passion for creation with words, what exactly it is that we like to create—that is, what we like to write about—varies greatly from writer to writer,” says the author Ava Jae. She gets it. The elemental core of what we write is driven by our passions but how we tell our stories are articulated through the genre we select to tell it in.  Diversification at its best. Many would argue that writing genres are the reflection of our hidden pathos and ids. Fair enough. This makes sense. If we yearn for a good scare, we read Steven King’s fictional masterworks, as The Shining. As readers, we are cautiously hoping to find that particular horror we experienced as a child. If it’s historical meanderings we desire, we have the fact-based fiction of Winston Churchill. Heck, he made history! How’s that for authenticity? Even the outlandish science fiction of Arthur C. Clarke or Phillip K. Dick will contain references to each author’s vision of future dystopia or paradise. Living through the cold war and modern technological evolution would have provided immense fodder for paranoid storytelling.

Lastly, erotic novels will contain a typical example of sexual desire the author has either contemplated or fantasized. The reader has merely helped them perform the loving or sordid act.

The fact is, we write about what we love, yearn or desire. Plain and simple.


4) Who We Should Write About

Other than diving into an autobiography or biography, writers tend to hard-wire the “who” directly into the “what.” In TV Tropes’ article “Most Writers Are Writers,” they support the fact that you write what you know. And what do we know best? You got it. Writers. Most of us are nothing more than “author avatars” headlining our “show within a show.” Be it grander or lesser, that’s us on the podium with eyes wide open receiving the award. Or, god forbid, that’s us lurching under the bridge in the pouring rain watching each drop descend from our noses to the ground below. By utilizing “framing devices” to position the story-within-a-story, first-person writing can become much more interesting and intriguing; as the reader will want to dig further into the plot. Just remember to kill off the right antagonist.


5) Where We Should Write

Looking back at our champion writer Dalton Trumbo, a bath tub, although eccentric in nature, seemed the perfect fit for this man of morals. Bubbles to beds, we seek out the perfect spot to park our behinds and gingerly tap away. We are embraced by the world outside and unbothered by its inhabitants. Our minds are free to roam the streets of a faraway city or journey to the deepest realms of our souls.

Cafés come to mind for most. Not just the jolt of java, but the heady parade of human beings, rich smells and awe-inspiring art on the walls, feed our hungry minds. The same can be said for parking ourselves under a majestic oak in our favourite parks. Or by getting our Hemingway on by propping up our weary bodies to our local bars. No matter where we plug-in, they’re all useful; filling our minds with themes, plots, structures, characters, settings, styles and tones. Wonderfully wound into words that eventually shape our stories.

So remember, the next time we sit down either in the morning or at night furiously scribbling horror or romance, think about the 5 W’s of writing. Have we aligned each W towards maximizing our creative and practical processes? After all, when do we get to do something that’s all about us? In the first, second or third person that is.

Photographs courtesy of Pixabay




What Ever You Call It, Own it and Share it.

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

The Great Content Mashup. 

There is a lot of discussion lately centred on the difference between a content strategy and an editorial strategy. Wikipedia states, “Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media.”

Seems simple enough – you need to have a plan that develops content appropriately and manages it accordingly.

So what about an editorial strategy? Is this different than a content strategy? Or is it an amalgamation of both?

Back in 2009 when the influx of online marketing was within its infancy, publishing giant Meredith’s digital transformation expert CEO Jack Griffin stated, “We don’t hire editors, we hire content strategist.” Many wondered at the time what he was talking about, but today revere these words as prophetic and intuitive.

Does this mean that creating an editorial strategy is dead, especially now when all you hear is content this and content that?

Let’s go to today’s experts which tend to be a little more pliant when citing a definition.

Content strategist Margot Bloomstein confirms content as, “Planning for the creation, aggregation, delivery, and useful governance of useful, usable, and appropriate content in an experience.”

Yikes! Some big words indeed. And what exactly does an ‘experience’ mean in this context?

If we are to understand Ms. Bloomstein’s definition, let’s break down what editorial content consists of.

What does Content consist of today?

Digital strategists Predicate LLC in New York informs its clients, “editorial content constitutes a publishing asset that is repeatable and repeatedly published (article, blog, etc.) in a recognizable form and packaged (edited) for consumption.”

If we do a mash-up of Ms. Bloomstien’s definition with Predicate’s, we understand an editorial content strategy as:

“The planning for the creation of a publishing asset that is delivered over and over again to varied recipients and all the while its author keeping control of the content’s ability to be useful, usable and appropriate in its application.” Clearly an editorial strategy is crucial to an effective deployment of content.

Integration of disciplines is key.

For most of us working in marketing and communications, we now have the responsibility and accountability to provide our clients with a robust editorial content strategy. No longer can we execute a separate content strategy that is indelibly linked to the marketing side of the business, but in isolation from a solid editorial strategy. We need to preface our content marketing strategy with attention to strategic planning on how and where the content will be viewed and republished.

The argument is no longer whether it’s an editorial strategy or a content marketing strategy, the argument is how best to create, deliver, monitor and measure effective editorial content to all audiences. And forget about the definitions!

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Editorial Note: Welcome back everyone to Communications and Convo. It has been a long 9 months and many things have happened to keep me from happily tapping away. That was then. This is now.

I look forward to reacquainting myself with the mighty faithful by writing more stories on communication practices and thoughts about… well we’ll see so stay tuned!

Top 8 Reasons Why You MUST Use Social Media in Your Media Relations Strategy

Developing and executing strategic media relations, more than often sits at the core of key competencies as public affairs, communications and Public Relations (PR) professionals. We are hired to bring optimal results when using media to leverage particular needs to advantage either profit or not-for-profit ventures.

In the past, most media strategies would encompass a combination of communications tactics designed to speak directly to your targeted audience. Ever since H.S. Adams asked in 1902 the obligatory question, ‘What is publicity?’ many are still asking. Twenty one years after Adams, Edward Bernays continued this line of thinking in his book, ‘Crystallizing Public Relations,’ were he qualified the essence of public relations as, ‘…the freedom to persuade or suggest.’

Today, persuasion continues to drive communications by using particular tactics to gain influence. This is true whether to advance policy or sell shoes. This assertion is a constant but how we build and cultivate this influence is changing everyday – especially in digital and social media.

Social media, as part of a strong digital strategy, has provided communicators an abundance of targeted audiences, all indelibly linked by their preferred communities and affiliations. Richard D. Lewis’ ‘When Cultures Collide,’ mentions this ‘gift of community’ to also include small groups of influencers or advocates ready and willing to take your message forward and forward, and forward. You get the idea.

As media experts, we must be implicit with our intent that all media relations planning will include a social media component. By hard-wiring a digital strategy – including social media – into your media event goals and objectives, you will tap into this relatively new landscape offering many rewards.

No longer is it enough to merely contact print, broadcast or online news media to pitch your events. We owe it to our clients to bring innovation to our results by utilizing the many benefits of social media.

In my experience as a media relations expert, here is a short list to help you get the toes firmly within your digital footprint when developing your media strategy.

Top 8 Reasons Why You MUST Use Social Media in Your Media Relations Strategy

  1. Content: Good news content will often persuade but not necessarily market. News media is very different than simply marketing products to particular customers. Your original pitch to journalists must include the array of online content being provided as part of your planned digital media outreach. Make sure your story is compelling and dynamic by using content to support, not sell, your editorial needs.
  2. Credibility: Recommendations from credible sources is fundamental to your news story gaining ‘legs’ online. A credible reporter quoting a knowledgeable and respected spokesperson offers distribution of trust in your story to both online communities and followers. This will provide you ‘social proof’ your efforts are getting noticed online. Don’t forget, at the same time you are developing community.
  3. Reciprocity: There is no greater realm for human interaction than social media. Interacting and socializing is a primal need for all of us. Part of this need is to share what is good with others. A news story can be shared as a positive gesture by giving back this information to your community so they have the ability, as you did, to support and recommend to others.
  4. Teach: In traditional media we spend long days grooming our media partners to understand our business. This priority should not change with your social media approach. Educating not just your media partner but also your influencers is critical to maintaining a robust social media contact list. Take the time to work with them online and they will be invaluable to you for future endeavours.
  5. Storytelling: You have heard this time and time again how important your ability to tell a fascinating and relevant story is to gaining influence and advocacy in your media approach. If you don’t take the time to develop a narrative, they will bail and you will never see them again – in about 3 seconds online.
  6. Transparency: Whether your media outreach is a photo op, presser, editorial board or launch event, it is all about building trust BEFORE you pitch. Working your social media channels by cultivating relationships will help frame your trust with each of your community managers, followers or advocates. They will extol this forward in 14 characters or less.
  7. Community: Building community that celebrates aligned goals is imperative in any communication or public affairs outreach. This is especially true in large urban cities containing a multitude of different cultures. Each of which will expect a clear understanding of its people and their individual heritage. Online is no different. Categorizing different communities and their cultures will help you establish respect and consideration to advance your media goals. Although these diverse communities are coming online at a slower rate, they will be plentiful shortly and it’s best get a jump on this now.
  8. Access: In the American Press Institute’s research, 42% of online adults use multiple social media networking devices. Out of this, 73% use these devices to get their news and over half will create their own ‘personal news cycle’ by configuring news alerts. It is imperative as professionals we abide this new behaviour with our planning and execution.

I know I said eight reasons, but really one of the more obvious factors around why all media outreach should include an active social media component.

 53% of registered journalists in the U.S. have 500+ followers on Twitter and 55% of their workday is consumed within social media.

Heck, it’s now half their job!


Dear Video. You’re Still Hot!

Awe yes, my good friend video. From Beta to VHS to DVD to iMovie. What a pal you have been, and continue to be for communications and PR. You have helped us mitigate risk by telling a discernible yarn of what happened – and most importantly, when it will be fixed. You have helped leading manufacturers become the best in the world by training their employees on standard operating procedures; all by watching a movie. With a filter or two, you have allowed us to put on some ‘slap’ when the story is dull and ordinary. You have made our storytelling to be compelling so our clients become closer to their customers.

For many years, frame by frame, you have served our industry well, but at what cost?

Every year you say you need more dollars so you can keep up with the latest trends to ‘look good’ for clients. This seems fair, but when probed further you begin to list all your associates that will need to be included in order for you to ‘look good.’

First you say you need a producer to ‘produce’ the story. A director to capture and conceptualize the story. A videographer to shoot the story. A writer, that will put words into the mouths of many… and so on and so on and so on.

My good friend video, I hate to break this to you. In today’s world you are just too darn expensive. Your associates are good and talented people but I cannot support all of you at one time.

Why you say?

It’s actually quite simple, I am operating on one-tenth the budget of two years ago and I just don’t have the money for you to ‘look good’ any more. At lease to the extent you are accustomed to.

So I old chum I put this question to you. Isn’t ‘looking good’ relative to what we are both working towards?

I say it is.

I bought a new Canon T5i DSLR with decent resolution that helps me shoot BOTH video and stills just by slinging a bag across my shoulders. I have a program called iMovie on my computer that helps either me, or my staff, assemble a pretty decent video. To top it all off, 80% of client videos are produced for what is called social media. You may have heard of it. It’s a channel allowing not just one-way communication but embraces two-way communication.

So do not fear my friend. You will continue to ‘look good’ because we will take the time to buy the books and do the research and learn how to shoot and cut a good video. We will promise to do all the things your associates have taught us with one big difference.

Because we can.

Even past the Canon, as iPhones become the arriflex of the back pocket, do not worry, you will always ‘look good’ because you are our friend and we care.

If you still don’t believe me have a look at a grassroots video below. This was produced by myself and Ross Fitzgerald entirely in-house for the Campaign For All Canadians at Canadian Blood Services to promote a worthy and important cause – building a National Public Cord Blood Bank in Canada.

Subject matter aside, you look fantastic!