July 12, 2013
Roger Shirley is a former editor of the Nashville Business Journal and longtime editorial director here at MP&F. He reads just about everything we write. And we write a lot. This is Roger’s column about writing.
From the Department of Redundancies Department
My first MP&F blog post extolled the virtues of concise writing (When you write, keep it tight, February 4, 2010). One of the bullet points was about eliminating redundancies. The other day I stumbled upon an email I sent to the staff on the topic back in ’07, inspired by a list I’d seen. It still holds up, so here is the email:
Many of you have heard me say that an effective way to develop tight writing skills is to go through your copy and eliminate unnecessary words. If you can edit a 25-word sentence down to 18 words and not lose any meaning or effect, the shorter sentence will be better. Words such as “currently” can be eliminated about 95 percent of the time. In some cases, not only are words unnecessary, they create redundancies. I remember an old city editor almost having a stroke when a reporter turned in a story about an “armed gunman.”
Here are a few examples of common redundancies. Eliminate the word or phrase in parentheses:
bouquet (of flowers)
(completely, entirely) eliminate
depreciate (in value)
during (the course of)
each (and every)
evolve (over time)
fly (through the air)
grow (in size)
introduced (a new)
(live) studio audience
look back (in retrospect)
look (ahead) to the future
previously listed (above)
surrounded (on all sides)
(three-way) love triangle
(two equal) halves
vacillating (back and forth)
whether (or not)
July 10, 2013
When I was a kid, my mom had a rule about thank-you notes. Any gift my brother and I received had to be acknowledged with a hand-written note to the giver within a week. If that task went undone, we lost the privilege of
using the gift until the note was written.
This rule has stuck with me, and I now keep a stash of notes handy, both for myself and for my children.
Thank-you notes should always be sent for life-event gifts – graduation, a wedding, a baby, to acknowledge condolences, etc. But they are equally important in the business world. I was reminded of the importance of hand-written correspondence by two excellent blog posts on the subject, one by fellow PRSA Counselors Academy member Eric Morgenstern and the other by MP&F friend Cindy Wall.
Here are some business occasions that I think require a hand-written note:
- After a job interview – This is a must. Don’t get lazy and send an email instead.
- Following a meeting with a prospective client – “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me last week. I look forward to discussing the needs of your company in more detail in the weeks to come.”
- A networking meeting – “Thanks for meeting me for coffee. I enjoyed hearing about your plans for the cupcake/wine bar. Hope to see you again soon.”
- After attending a conference where a meaningful connection was made – “It was a pleasure talking with you at the Counselors Academy meeting. Please call me if I can be of assistance as you transition to your new billing system.”
- To your mentor – “Thanks for meeting with me last week. I value your guidance and advice, and I look forward to our next meeting. Coffee is on me next month.”
Your note doesn’t have to be a novel. Keep it short. Use clean, simple stationery (Target has a great selection that won’t break the bank) or your company’s notecards. Think of this as a good chance to practice your handwriting. While technology and digital communications are a boon for our industry and make it easier than ever to tweet, pin and more, going back to the basics may make more of an impression.
MP&F has received many awards and honors over the past 26 years, and we are proud of all of them. We’re especially proud of our most recent honor – being named one of The Tennessean’s “Top Workplaces” as voted on by our employees – because it means we are succeeding in maintaining one of our core values.
Early on, the firm’s partners committed to creating the kind of workplace for their employees that each of them would want to work in – a place that rewarded creativity and perseverance, that balanced hard work with fun, that treated everyone as family.
We believe strongly that maintaining that kind of work environment translates directly into producing the best work possible for our clients, and that’s what our business is all about. That’s what determines our success.
Here’s a sampling of what MP&F staff members say about working here:
Senior Account Executive
MP&F is a great place to work for hundreds of reasons – the great partners that lead the firm, the incredibly talented staff we have, our long list of diverse and wonderful clients; but my favorite thing about working at MP&F (and what has kept me here for nine years) is the team-oriented culture we have. Our “all-for-one and one-for-all” dedication to the firm, each other and our clients is irreplaceable. We work damn hard, we work together, and we have a lot of fun doing it.
A lot of companies pay lip service to being family-friendly; but here at MP&F, it is ingrained in the company culture. It’s not just that the partners have family-friendly policies – it’s that they truly care about people and understand that giving employees the flexibility to take care of their families is an asset, not a liability, for the company. For me personally, their willingness to allow me to work around family commitments makes me want to work that much harder for them. It makes me extremely dedicated and loyal to this firm, and it makes me feel appreciated as a person, not just as an employee.
I first walked into this office 20 years ago as a summer college intern. Since then I have been involved in amazingly important and meaningful work in Nashville and around the world, while surrounded by the smartest and most creative people in town. Over the years, my bosses became my friends and my friends have become my bosses. I feel very fortunate to have bosses and co-workers who truly care about my family and me, not to mention they are just fun to be around every day.
In short, we work hard and play hard around here. We take our work very seriously, but try not to take ourselves too seriously. We get the job done and have a good time while doing it. Did someone say “beer cart”?
There are so many things that make MP&F a great place to work, but a big one is the formal and informal benefits – they are tremendous. MP&F pays 100 percent of individual employee insurance, 100 percent of parking and offers a generous vacation package. Beyond that, the partners often give additional paid days off around Christmas. And this year, with July 4 on Thursday, they announced we would all get Friday off as well. Some of our younger staff may take those added benefits for granted; but as someone who knows this is not the norm, I sure don’t.
When I interviewed with MP&F three months ago, I constantly heard about its “open-door policy.” I didn’t really know what that meant until I was able to experience it firsthand. From day one I have felt welcome to go to any staff member, from a fellow SA all the way to a partner, with any question I could possibly have. I feel challenged, supported and motivated on a daily basis. I am constantly learning something new or being exposed to a different scope of this crazy industry we call public relations. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that your supervisors want you to do well, not only for the company’s success, but because they genuinely want you to succeed individually as well.
It’s hard to put into words what makes MP&F so special. To me, MP&F is a really great team that’s a lot like a family. I’ve always believed that when the MP&F team works together we can accomplish anything for our clients. That feeling of family and team comes from working with and for people who always are willing to jump in and help, whether it’s with planning a client event or developing a new idea. It’s a special place, and I feel really fortunate to be a small part of it.
Senior Account Executive
MP&F is not the best place to work for everyone. I don’t get to wear jeans every day, I don’t have a business card with a made-up title on it, and there’s only free beer in the break room, like, once a month. But, from the day I was hired I was encouraged to have ideas, share them and put them into action. My colleagues and I work in an environment where staff members at all levels – from interns to partners – are empowered to have a hand on the agency’s steering wheel. We like coming to work every day because we made this office the way it is.
Associate Account Executive
MP&F is one of the best places to work because I work with some of the most talented, smartest and hardworking people I’ve ever met. When I step off the elevator each morning, I know that the day ahead will include a lot of work, but I’m comforted in knowing that I’m a part of a great team. MP&F is my first “real job” since graduating from college, but I wouldn’t want to start my public relations career anywhere else because I’ve grown a lot and I’m learning more and more about the industry each day.