Give this lid some coffee!

Simple coffee promotion creates both success and environmental concerns I’ve got a little café that needs to grow It’s in the ‘burbs of Brisbane, and I need to persuade our near neighbours to buy their coffee from me rather than from someone else Letterbox dropping is the cheapest and most obvious promotion: letterboxing costs more in time and effort than in real money, and it can directly target the people I most need to reach But letterbox drops are not neutral: some are more...

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Going public about business difficulties

Small business is tough Keeping the doors open can be a challenge, and it’s one that I’ve been feeling acutely in recent weeks My tendency to frame issues through a communication lens leads me to see business difficulties in terms of the communication challenge presented When it comes to communicating business difficulties, here are some of the options: Present a ‘front’ of success, in the hope that the image of success will generate real success (this seems to be the approach that...

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Competitors and social media: Do you share or block?

I’m increasingly interested in the communication that occurs between competitors We live in an age of mass public communication, with most businesses doing everything they can to be heard loudly and frequently It’s common business practice to monitor competitors’ activities and keep track of their public communication But how does that apply in the context of social media – which could be seen as an odd combination of public communication conducted as intimate conversation between...

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To apostrophise or not to apostrophise?

Most of the time, deciding whether to use a possessive apostrophe is pretty easy If the concept demonstrates some possession (ie, you can turn it around and include ‘of’ or ‘belonging to’), then a possessive apostrophe is needed Boys’ books The books belonging to the boys Easy But I often get asked how to decide whether something is an adjective that doesn’t need the possessive That decision isn’t always as clear And it can be particularly tricky if the word in question is a...

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The dangers of email

The dangers of email are familiar, yet under-appreciated Most of us live with those dangers every day and, for some of us, they’re achingly real: It’s easy to get the tone wrong, and come across as angry, judgemental, condescending or inconsiderate It’s easy to forget social niceties and send an unintended insult It’s easy to misunderstand or be misunderstood (meaning that future communication is based on misunderstanding) It’s easy to miss important points (usually from...

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Using graphs to distort facts

Is this graph deliberately designed to distort the facts It’s part of a direct mail letter I received recently, attempting to persuade me that I’m more likely to be a satisfied borrower if my money comes from a small bank A quick look at the graph suggests that borrowers linked to the Big 4 banks are very unhappy Or are they Perhaps the letter’s message is built around the assumption that most readers glance at the graph, without thinking about it too closely At a first glance, the...

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Softening the blow when you deliver bad news

All business owners need to deliver bad news You may need to give a reprimand, remind a staff member about policies and procedures, say ‘no’ to a prospective client, inform job applicants that they weren’t successful, or any number of potentially bad news messages Bad news is not an absolute: it’s interpreted differently by different people and at different times It’s the individual aspect of interpretation that’s most important: remember that the recipient is not inside your head...

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In sentences: put together ideas that belong together

Sentences with awkward or confusing structure – particularly sentences that separate ideas that should be kept together – create all sorts of problems for readers Sometimes they lead to misunderstandings that can undermine the purpose of their document Sometimes they cause the reader to trip – which slows reading, creates momentary confusion, and draws attention to the writing rather than its content Sometimes, they’re simply good for a giggle Here’s an example of an awkward...

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Long live the singular they

I’m currently enjoying Steven Pinker’s excellent 2014 book ‘The sense of style: The thinking person’s guide to writing in the 21st century’ But there’s something about Pinker’s writing style that’s a great irritation to my Australian sense of style In each chapter, Pinker alternates the gender of his imagined readers and writers Early in the book, Pinker provides this explanation: ‘To avoid the awkwardness of strings of he or she, I have borrowed a convention from...

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