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Posts Tagged ‘copywriter’

I hope all those ITVA/MCAI’ers who I roused yesterday came back for another visit today. I have been meaning to do this for a while.

It was about six months ago that GG told me that Gerry Hagner had passed away from Hodgkin’s disease. Gerry was a video entrepreneur, a philanthropist and, judging by his YEARS of involvement in ITVA/MCAI, something of a masochist as well. He served in every board position at least once and opened his home numerous times for board meetings, chapter meetings and summer socials. Long after the Civil War I mentioned yesterday, when the rest of us had moved on, when the Cincinnati chapter had dissolved and melded into the Dayton chapter, Gerry continued to serve.

Gerry was a lovable nerd with a level head, the superego to our raging ids (and yes, I am referring to all those battles over serving beer at our socials!) He was always the one taking care of the details while the rest of us chilled.  He was so behind the scenes that I am not surprised to find that the only photo I have is from his monthly column in the newsletter. Gerry was never one to leap in front of the camera with a lampshade on his head. He left that to ALL THE REST OF US.

If you have a nice Gerry anecdote to share, spill it here.  Here’s mine: When I quit my cushy but stifling corporate gig and went freelance, times were tough.  It was post-9/11, the economy was crap, and the awesome gigs I was promised if I went freelance did not materialize.  Gerry knew about my situation and gave me a “gig.”  A nothing little writing assignment, helping him put together a promo piece for his business. It was unspoken, but entirely obvious, that he wasn’t going to use this script. I think I invoiced $100 for it, maybe $125. It meant almost nothing to my checkbook, but it was totally a morale-booster.

By the way, Gerry’s wife is selling all of his gear. Some of it is strictly museum pieces, but much of it is modern stuff at good prices.

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Typical ITVA Conference Badge

There once was a communication trade group called ITVA. Long ago, that stood for Industrial TV Association, and then International TV Association, I think. I’m not sure because the name was never really that important. (Are you sensing a branding nightmare? Yeah, we’ll get to that.) It was a trade group for people like me (at the time) who worked in corporate communication departments making training videos and never seeing the sun except in exterior shots. The ITVA did all the trade-groupy things like monthly meetings, electing boards, and having annual blowout drunk-fests in far-off cities. It was a cool hang and, as long as your company was paying the $450 annual membership, everything was groovy.

But things changed, as they always do. I know I aged 10 years in the time I was active, and so did everybody else. Things like vitality and new blood became less important. And our chapter evolved from a networking group of young people trying to make connections into a social club more concerned about the refreshments being served. As the average age continued to skew older, the national office lurched into “action.” In a delicate situation that required lots of tact, they displayed precisely none, and civil war broke out. They said (quite rightly) that to remain vital, we can’t be the “video dude” club anymore. And many people found themselves on the Status Quo side, largely in response to the ham-fisted actions of the national office. We said, if the Teamsters can have a horse and a wagon-wheel as their logo, then we can be the ITVA!

Anyway, it became a race between re-branding and irrelevance that, somehow, achieved both. The ITVA became the MCA-I, the Media Communications Association International. It wisely attempted to incorporate all the elements of communication that weren’t video, like print, web and multimedia, but had no idea (as of 2002, anyway) how to do it.

It’s been years since I attended a meeting, even longer since I was on the local board. So I have to ask…do organizations like this even have a place anymore? Or do forums and chatrooms fulfill the same purpose? What do you think?

Update: Old Cincinnati hands were aghast that the Flying Pig was not on the name badge. So, take your pigs and stick them!

mmm...pork!

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In an exciting twist that we all saw coming, the stirring conclusion to the corporate newsletter dilemma is to turn it over to a professional writer! Preferably, one based in Charleston but who serves clients nationwide!

On both the editorial and publishing sides, the professional copywriter can definitely help smooth out the rough spots. Just as importantly, the writer provides the corporate newsletter with something it rarely has…a singular voice. This may sound like something only a writer would care about but, trust me, it’s a much better read.

So, you get the gig. How do you get started? Your client probably has no idea, and is looking to you to grab the reins. Meet with the Manager and determine:

  • What kinds of stories he or she is after?
  • How will the types of stories be prioritized?
  • Who has final approval?

Then, meet with your internal…I don’t know what you call them…stringers, maybe. These are the marketing assistants who will running things on the inside. Carefully set up the responsibilities, procedures, the deadlines, etc. That’s the “publishing” side. On the “editorial” side of things, help them figure out what IS news, where to find it, and how to feed it to you in a format that is easily understood.

So, I follow all these steps and it’s instant success and universal acclaim, right? Right?

Easy Tiger. This is corporate communications. Here, the opposite of Crap isn’t “Genius!” The opposite of Crap is, “the newsletter? I guess it’s less crappy than it used to be.” In a business where the only Thanks you receive is getting paid in under 120 days, the corporate newsletter experience will seem very familiar. But, if you put on your business hat you’ll see that the newsletter provides something just as rewarding…a reliable four billable hours per week!

Genius!

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