Writing Made Easier

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

What to write?

Stop trying to sound smart if you want to sound smart. Here is the reality – a good idea is relatable when it is delivered in clear, concise language. Many people get into trouble when they try to use big words or long, descriptive sentences.

The following are simple tips to help you if you struggle with writing copy.

  • Direction– make sure that before you sit down to write that you have something interesting to say otherwise you are bound to struggle.

 

  • Simple Words– short and simple is the best way to go so write “near” instead of “in close proximity” and write, “ help” instead of “facilitate”. Readers grasp simple words right away and can move on.

 

  • Sentence Length– keep sentences short because they are faster and easier to read.

 

  • Voice – use active voice. Passive can be boring. While it is true that you can’t always use active voice (subject, verb, object), you should use it as much as possible. “Sue read the book in one day” is active, but “The book was read by Sue in one day” is passive.

 

  • Fluff – avoid fluffy words such as “very” and “really”. These types of words do not add any meaning to a sentence and in business, they often scream desperation.

 

  • Repetition– unless you are writing a speech and want to drive a point home, for example, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, then do not repeat yourself over and over again. When you repeat yourself in web copy, in a blog, in a marketing plan, in a proposal and so forth, you risk putting people to sleep

 

  • Edit– rewrite, cut parts out, edit, edit, edit. One of the best ways to be sure your copy is clean is to walk away from it for 24 hours and take a fresh look the next day.

The above list includes common sense approaches that can make writing easier, especially if it isn’t your forte. These tips can also turn non-writers into writers as they start to discover that people are finally reading their copy.

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What is and isn’t news?

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

So you want/need some media attention!

If you own a business, feel passionate about a cause or want to bring an issue out in the open, the media can be a great communication tool, but just because you think you have something important to share with an audience doesn’t mean journalists, assignment editors and news editors will agree that you have a story worth telling.

In order to get media attention, you have to understand what news is. Getting a story published in a newspaper or having it broadcast on a newscast isn’t going to happen just because you want it to or because you hired a PR firm to help you. It simply doesn’t work that way. You have to think like a journalist and the organization they work for.

Every time a story idea comes across a reporter’s desk, the first question that comes to them is – Why would my audience care about this? They then put themselves in the position of the audience or reader and answer that question. Clearly, if there is no answer the story idea dies.

When my clients have a hard time with this I ask them to go through some basic questions:

  • Is it new?
  • Is it unique?
  • Is it timely? (Related to something else in the news right now)
  • Is it shocking?
  • Does it involve conflict?
  • Does it involve emotion?
  • Does it solve a big problem?
  • Is it scandalous?
  • Does it involve Hypocrisy?

You might not like the above questions, but the truth is a “yes” to any of these questions means you stand a chance of getting your story/message heard and if you answer “no” to all of the questions your chances are slim.

All is not lost if you come up with “no”. We live in the social media age where blog posts, tweets, and Instagram, which can include photographs and video, help us share our messages. Content marketing on our websites can also go a long way in telling stories. In these cases, reporters are not required.

It is true that anyone can post, tweet, and send out news releases. This means we are in a very big pool of people all fighting for attention and getting traditional media attention is still important for many companies. While some can afford fancy events, or the release of pricey research studies to attract attention, others may have to use data from phone or e-mail surveys to grab media coverage. With a little thought and planning, questions in a simple survey can result in new and interesting information that sheds light on an issue that is newsworthy to reporters.

It’s all about being thoughtful, creative, and at the same time realistic, about your expectations. It is also important to remember to take baby steps- if it is your first attempt at working with the media, don’t discount local coverage. In other words, you don’t have to make the front page of the New York Times – sometimes coverage in your local newspaper or in a small trade magazine can lead to great things.

 

The Dawn of Facial Recognition

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

Facial recognition used to be a make-believe concept that we only witnessed in the movies but it is quickly becoming reality.

This usable reality is now in a number of technology devices. Many phone companies have or are working on some type of built-in facial recognition. The question is when will it be mainstream? The answer is not a simple one because there are always kinks to be worked out when a new type of technology is emerging. I can tell you what is currently happening with facial recognition.

According to a report in Forbes, facial recognition technology was just three days old at Washington Dulles Airport when it caught an imposter trying to enter the U.S with a fake passport. Without the technology, the passport may have passed through the airport system.

People who visit the National Soccer Hall of Fame in New York are now treated to a custom-tailored tour thanks to facial recognition software. The moment a fan enters the hall they are encouraged to check in to share their hometown, favourite team, favourite soccer position etc. Based on their information, gesture technology will recognize guests using facial recognition software, which will personalize each visit based on their individual preferences. This particular type of facial recognition technology has been used by the LPGA and will be used during the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

As odd as this might sound, there are schools in the UK that have started using facial recognition to take attendance. It is believed that this frees up teachers so they can spend more time teaching and less time figuring out who is and isn’t in class. Technology experts suggest this idea will spread to other countries.

While it isn’t available just yet, MasterCard is believed to be working on a way to allow customers to pay with a selfie. They hope that it will prevent fraud.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that law enforcement has been using this kind of technology for a while now. The FBI and Homeland Security use facial recognition all the time to identify threats.

There are several other examples but the point is, facial recognition is not something that is going away; it is revving up. The real issue becomes regulation. Many people are understandably concerned about invasion of privacy as there aren’t any regulations on facial recognition. When used for authentication, it seems to represent a security improvement, but when used in a broader sense, opinions vary among industries. Many believe that there is no stopping facial recognition but no matter what the application, the public should be thinking about pushing for transparency and ethical guidelines now before this new tech becomes common.

Tribal Voices – Flaunting it

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

A number of years ago when I was still a television reporter and producer, I had the pleasure of visiting Tribal Voices, a shop Northeast of Toronto. A colleague and I featured Tribal Voices in a lifestyle segment. Fast forward a decade and I am still drawn to this unique shop. Well, actually Tribal Voices has three locations that are filled with global art and other unique items.

The art and culture of India, as well as African influences dominant most of the space at the Tribal Voices’ shops. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, thus making it a relaxing experience. The three locations are – Port Perry, which is northeast of Toronto in the township of Scugog; Lakefield, on the outskirts of Peterborough and Fowlers corners, also not far from Peterborough.

Tribal Voices is just one of those places that you can get lost in for hours. They carry jewelry, art, lamps, essential oils, animal prints, teak furniture, Buddha statues, chakra, and energy healing books, amethyst pieces, Zen den pillows, clothing and so much more. In fact, the inventory at Tribal Voices is huge.

If you are looking for a special gift for someone, you just might find it at Tribal Voices.  One of my favorite purchases from the shop is a warm and durable coat that I wear a lot. I have also purchased scarves and jewelry at Tribal Voices.

To learn more, check them out on facebook…

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tribal-Voices/196142223780010

Bullying and Myrtle the Purple Turtle

 

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

To anyone who has been bullied, you know it can feel awful. Bullying isn’t confined to a schoolyard or the playground; it can happen in the boardrooms of small, medium, and large companies. It can also happen in personal relationships with people who are supposed to be on your side or who proclaim to love you. Being bullied can have serious consequences – it can impact a person’s self-esteem, social interaction, the choices people make in life and a person’s overall well-being. While it is not the first time for suicide to be linked to bullying, I was heartbroken to hear of the 9-year-old Colorado boy who took his life this summer after being bullied.

As someone who was a victim of bullying at a young age, I would like to see more education around the subject. I think talking about bullies and the issues that instigate bullying should happen as soon as little ones start to learn the skill of reading. They need to learn that they are allowed to be themselves without being ridiculed.

Recently, I bought a copy of Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes. I  wanted to include it in the book section of this blog because it is a beautiful tale that teaches youngsters the importance of being themselves. Myrtle discovers very quickly that it is okay to be different.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle is the story of a young turtle who never really thought about the fact that she was a different color than other turtles. One day she bumped into another turtle who refused to believe that Myrtle was a turtle because she’s purple. This led to self-doubt until Myrtle learned she looked exactly how she was supposed to look. I plan on giving this book to my niece’s children (Eleni and Donato) who are currently two and four. My wish for them is health and happiness, as well as a life that is devoid of bullies. However, if they should come across people who try to intimidate them, I hope no matter what age they are, they remember that just like Myrtle the Purple Turtle, they are perfect just the way they are.

You can get a copy of Myrtle the Purple Turtle through amazon.ca

 

 

 

 

Grounding – The impact on the human body

 

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

A few years ago I wrote an article for a health industry client on the subject of “Grounding.” The research I conducted at that time was my first foray into examining the process of removing excessive charge from an object by releasing it into the ground. Walking barefoot is an example of grounding. Since that article, I have learned a lot more about electrons playing a significant role in the cellular process that takes place in our bodies.

As reported in the U.S National Library of Medicine, multi-disciplinary research has indicated that electrical contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth produces interesting effects on our health. Studies show the effects relate to inflammation, immune responses and wound healing. Some research even suggests that grounding can prevent and treat chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. While this is still a relatively new area of research, what experts at the University of California and the University of Oregon have discovered is that grounding an organism can produce noticeable differences in concentrations of white blood cells and other molecules involved in inflammatory response. Physiology professors say grounding reduces pain and alters the number of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes. Neutrophils are white blood cells important in the defense against infections. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. There are two main types of lymphocytes: B cells and T cells. The B cells produce antibodies that are used to attack invading viruses, bacteria, and toxins. Lymphocytes are high if you have an infection.

Grounding is really any system that allows for frequent contact with the Earth. This includes while sleeping, sitting at a desk, or walking outside. There are conductive systems such as sheets, mats, wristbands, ankle bands, and even adhesive patches. These applications are connected to the Earth through a cord inserted into a grounded wall outlet or attached to a ground rod placed in the soil outside.

A couple years ago a group of researchers, including some from the University of California and University of Oregon, looked at the physiological impacts of grounding from various perspectives. Their work has led to over a dozen studies being published in peer-reviewed journals. A peer review is a process that subjects an author’s work or research to examination and scrutiny of other top experts in the same field, before a description of the work can be published in a journal. The fact that the grounding research has been peer-reviewed and the actual studies show grounding could be an effective healing method has opened up new and promising avenues for research, particularly in the area of inflammation. Some suggest that it could have broad implications for health prevention and public health.

Despite the current research, all of this may still sound odd to some people, but think about it this way: We are all living on an electrical planet and our bodies transmit many frequencies that help run our muscles, our heart, our nervous system, and our immune system. Many years ago it was perfectly natural to sleep right on the ground, and it was common to walk the Earth in bare feet. In our industrialized world, we rarely walk around without leather shoes and we do not sleep on the ground unless we are camping. In reality, we are all disconnected or ungrounded. Considering that this disconnection may contribute in some way to illness may not be as far-fetched as many of us think.

 

Short Stories to Consider Reading

When I talk to people about reading they often say, “I would love to read more but I just don’t have the time”.  While I can certainly relate to the fact that we live in a fast-paced world,  I try to remind people that they don’t have to commit to a 500-page novel; they can read short stories. Some of the world’s most successful authors have published books of short stories. These little gems are what I call “no pressure reading”. You can easily read one or two short stories and then put the book down for a few weeks without losing track of a storyline. When you have time, you can then go back and read another story. Many short story lovers find that they get through one story so quickly that it inspires them to read the next. Before they know it, they’ve read the whole book.

Here are some books of short stories you might want to consider:

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  • You Think It, I’ll Say It– this collection of short fiction by Curtis Sittenfeld focuses on gender, as well as Trump-era politics. It features a host of vivid female characters – many relatable. Sittenfeld is the author of five novels, including Eligible and American Wife.
  • Good Trouble– a book of eleven stories that includes vulnerable characters and raw emotion. The author is Joseph O’Neill who is known for his Award-winning novel, Netherland.
  • The Largesse of the Sea Maiden– this collection contains a series of stories about an older man reflecting on life. It marries sadness with unexpected humor. Acclaimed fiction author, Denis Johnson who died in the spring of 2017, is the author.
  • This is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz takes a tender and funny approach in the stories that make up this book. The stories teach us about the weakness of the human heart.
  • Anything is Possible – this collection of short stories focuses on people trying to figure out themselves and others. Author Elizabeth Strout explores a wide range of human emotions in this book.
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris crafted this collection of stories that are hilarious. You Can’t Kill the Rooster is a story about his brother who talks constantly in a hip-hop slang that is confusing to his father.

Of course, there are so many other short story books to choose from. Give them a chance – you might be surprised at how quickly you read through them.

Storytelling in Business

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

 

Storytelling is a very important part of running a business today. Whether you are standing on a stage, writing a blog, or putting together a case study, you need to get your point across with good storytelling. So what is good storytelling in business?

There are really three elements you have to keep in mind when you are trying to get attention for your brand through storytelling. First you have to be clear in illustrating your point. State up front what your message or idea is. Most people feel like the world needs a lot of background information in order to understand yet in business the truth is that we need to get to the point right away. If we don’t get to the point quickly, we lose the audience.

Another important element is proof.  The best way to help a consumer, investor, or potential business partner understand your vision, concept, product, or service is to provide proof of its value. One way to do this is through case studies. Case studies are really just examples. Yes, they can be boring so some people present examples in the form of video or testimonials – and these can be effective too.

Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to give people simple, easy to follow instructions. This can demonstrate how easy it is for the audience to implement or use whatever it is you are selling.

Standing in front of an audience singing your company’s praises or writing a blog that touts how unique your product is will do little to impress people, but telling a story about how your product or service worked for someone else carries a lot more weight. Storytelling can be creative, entertaining, and even humorous depending on the product or service you provide and the audience you are catering to so before you formulate your story, make sure you know your audience well.

 

 

 

 

Storytelling Tips for Your Business

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Weaving a compelling story that demonstrates your unique value is important to your company. Without a good story, no one will notice or really care about your product or service. So why aren’t more businesses working on better storytelling?

Good storytelling takes time. Whether you are trying to attract early adopters for your startup or attempting to win over investors, it is important that you use the right words and phrasing to convey your message. The problem is that getting those right words down in print is not easy, especially if writing isn’t your forte. Those who struggle usually rely on their strong product descriptions; however, an audience doesn’t want to hear about that; they want to hear a story that stands out.

Here are a few storytelling tips that can help you better connect with your audience:

  • Incite Curiosity – we are all wired to be curious so tapping into that part of the human brain opens the door for you to further explain yourself. Starting with something like ‘What if I told you, we could save you time and money?’ may sound cheesy but it can trigger the kind of curiosity that encourages people to keep reading to learn more.
  • Evoke Feeling – psychologists say that when our minds begin to imagine and think based on emotional or sensory triggers, the brain lights up so using language that tickles the senses can be extremely effective. A good example of this would be Coca-Cola showing a bunch of smiling people drinking their beverage and flashing words on a screen that read, “Taste the feeling”. Using testimonials, photos, and videos are a great way to evoke feeling and relay your story at the same time.
  • Try Shock – you know when you hear or read a shocking news story how it can stop you in your tracks. In fact, often the most shocking stories are the ones that stay with us for days or even weeks. This can also be the case with the copy you are writing for your company.
  • Provide Problem/Solution – it doesn’t matter whether its copy for your website; a proposal you are putting together, or a product demo video if you are selling a product or service you shouldn’t leave out the conflict or problem and be sure to follow that up very quickly by describing the solution. One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is that they present their story from a developer’s point of view instead of a consumer’s perspective. One way to approach this is to tell your company’s story from a satisfied customer’s point of view.
  • Get personal – while this idea does scare some people, it shouldn’t. What it really means is, just be honest and open when telling your story. Perhaps there is some way to relate your product or service to your own family life or maybe you can tell your audience how you started with nothing but an idea and a dream. Often times getting personal makes you seem more human and trustworthy.

There are many other approaches you can consider to develop an enticing story but these examples are a good start for anyone who is serious about making a real connection with customers, investors, and potential partners.

Flaunting: Baking Up Treble & Ginger’s Cupcakes and Desserts

 

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Cake by: Baking Up Treble

When I have the time, I love to bake but let’s face it, life can be hectic and time is something that is limited. Thankfully, there are young, energetic, talented people out there who are dedicated to providing high-quality baked goods.

It just so happens that I know of two such individuals. Alexandra, who is the epitome of creative, owns and operates Baking Up Treble in Newmarket, Ontario. Her delicious custom cakes and designer cookies have been featured in wedding and lifestyle magazines. Yes, all of her picture-perfect baked goods do taste as good as they look. Alexandra treats every order and every customer with special care. If you go to the preferred vendor’s section of the Baking Up Treble website, right under the heading Maranda Elysse Photography, you’ll see Alexandra and her supportive husband Randal on their wedding day. I have to say that Alexandra’s cakes are to die for.

Bakinguptreble.ca

In Aurora, another young woman has made her mark as a master baker. Amanda runs Ginger’s Cupcakes and Desserts. There is another Ginger’s location in nearby Richmond Hill. This young entrepreneur provides everything from small desserts to 4 tier wedding cakes. Amanda follows a small batch policy because she values quality over quantity. Amanda and her staff are very accommodating. They offer nut free desserts, as well as gluten-free products. If you have a chance, you must check out Ginger’s hand pies. I have never had anything like the spinach/artichoke/cream cheese.

Gingersdesserts.com

PR-How do I start?

ktml-logo

KTML solutions

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

I enjoy working with small businesses. I think it has something to do with my tendency to cheer for the underdog. Current data suggests that about 50 to 55 percent of small businesses die by year four or five. The top reason they fail – inexperience.

Some of that inexperience has to do with promoting their company, message, product, services etc. When a small business owner comes to my company (KTML Communications) all excited and eager to “get noticed”, here is what I ask them.

  • Are you ready?
  • Have you established your identity?

Often times, the response is a blank stare. This is when I know the potential client needs to take a step back and assess. They may not be ready for PR, at least not yet.

Being ready means that your product or service is the best version of itself. Being ready means you are confident it can and will get good reviews. No reporter or blogger will be interested in you or your company if you are not ready. If you are not ready, you could experience negative press. Make certain you are ready before starting PR.

Before you can tell the world who you are and what you are all about, make sure you know exactly who you are and what you are all about. You need to know your values, your company culture, who your competitors are and what makes you different from them, and if you are doing anything that is unique.

In a nutshell, you have to fix you/your company before you can tell your story. Now don’t panic. While it is true that KTML can’t fix you, my communications company can guide you to people who can teach you how to get ready and establish your identity. 

Once you are ready and are comfortable with your identity you can start PR . We would  be happy to tell you how.

So you can be a survivor. It just takes thought and careful planning and of course, some long hours.

Books You Might Want to Consider Reading

 

We are well into a new year (2018) so I have had a chance to review some books and the line-up of what I would classify as winners, is long. Here are a few that you might want to consider adding to your reading list.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones came out in early February and you will love it if the theme of the wrongfully accused appeals to you. It is the story of newly married Celestial and Roy who are very content until Roy is accused of rape and sentenced to 12 years in prison. What will happen when he gets out? Will Celestial be waiting for him?

Force of Nature is full of co-worker drama. Essentially, it is the story of co-workers heading out on a corporate retreat but one disappears. The crime novel by Jane Harper is the kind of novel that can appeal to a wide audience.

The lessons of a dying man are the focus of Flight Season, a novel by Marie Marquardt. It is a lesson in what to hold on to and what to let go of. It also demonstrates how sometimes love can get in the way of our plans.

Heart Spring Mountain is about the aftermath of a tropical storm. When Val joins the search effort for her mother who is missing following major flooding, she finds a family secret. Author Robin MacArthur shows us how families can both break and come together, as well as how you can find hope in the darkness.

There are too many other great books to mention is one short blog, but these can certainly get you started if you are looking for some good reading material.

My Ancestral Home: Castropignano – Campobasso, Molise-Italy

 

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Rome, the capital of Italy, is a popular tourist attraction with its inspiring art, architecture and culture on full display. The ancient ruins, including the Roman Forum and the Colosseum help visitors imagine a time long ago when the Roman Empire ruled. Rome gets about 30 million tourists per year, but there are so many parts of Italy that are beautiful and worth seeing.

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Take a 3-hour drive southeast of Rome towards the Matise mountains and you will be entering Campobasso, the region of my ancestral home. To the northeast it is bordered by the Adriatic Sea, on the North by Abruzzo, to the southeast, Apulia, and Campania in the south. Here there is a mixed landscape with towns, cities and villages that run through hills and cliffs. Situated at an elevation of 2-thousand feet above sea level is a quaint little town called “Castropignano”. Due to its elevation it is often called the “Balcony Over The Biferno River Valley”. From the town you can see a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding towns and hillsides. This is where the Madaleno family home is located.

Quaint street in Castropignano

Quaint street in Castropignano

Castropignano is a very small town with three interesting historical monuments: Evoli Castle, Church of San Salvatore, and Ruins of the Church of San Nicola.

Evoli Castle

Evoli Castle

Evoli Castle was built in 1362 by nobleman Giovanni d’Evoli. He was the founder of a large herding practice called “transhumance”. Transhumance is the practice of moving livestock from one grazing area to another in a seasonal cycle – normally to lowlands in winter and highlands in the summer. In 1636 Giambattista d’Evoli transformed the castle into a residential palace with elaborate works of art and furniture. Over the centuries transhumance and the society/culture associated with it declined. In the early 19th century the castle was stripped of everything and abandoned. Within a few decades it was in ruins; however, it’s charm and mystery remains a draw to this day.

For many centuries Castropignano has been known as an agricultural community, producing high quality wine, cheese and olive oil. When it comes to food, tradition is important here. Residents try to stay true to their roots when it comes to mealtime; using fresh ingredients and focusing on a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Antonio Madaleno Teresa's Nonno

Antonio Madaleno
Teresa’s Nonno

 

Family solidarity is everything in Castropignano. This is very different from our Canadian “nuclear family” mentality. In Castropignano extended family is extremely important so everyone is included, not just mom, dad, and the kids. This is one of the reasons any kind of celebration can become big. My late Nonno (grandfather), brought this tradition of family solidarity with him when he moved  to Canada. Our gatherings at his house always included the whole family, as well as many friends, especially at mealtime.

 

Events are always big in Castropignano even though the town is small. Last year (2014), an old tradition was carried out in the streets of Castropignano to honour the institution of marriage. You can see in the link below how big the event became.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCupu4eMhnc

There are many small towns and villages across Italy that are worth noting, Castropignano is just one of them. If you are travelling this great country and find yourself in the Molise Region, visit this little town and take a step back in time.