A New Year, another chance to do things better. Jim Butcher offers 7 simple tips to improve your productivity through communication. This post is one in a series focusing on improving productivity using better communications, apps and tips and techniques.

1. Concentrate

Multitasking may work for some, but people don’t want your divided attention. If you want to improve your productivity, and too many things are going on, you’re likely to miss important details:

  • Whether you are having a conversation in person or on the phone, give them your attention.
  • Put down all devices and turn away from your screen if someone starts to talk to you.
  • Be honest. If you’re in a hurry or have to be somewhere soon, tell them at the beginning of the conversation. Your stress will only distract you both.

2. Remain focused

  • Important conversations are rarely a surprise. Write down the most significant points you want to clarify before you start.
  • Identify a couple of relevant questions and ask them before you finish. The process will make you think about what is being said and will ensure parties are fully engaged.

3. Stay in control

4. Be responsive

  • Read the whole email and respond to all items.
  • When sending emails, keep them short and to the point.
  • Use lists and bullet points to ensure your ideas are clear and simple to address.
  • If you have lots to discuss, pick up the phone.

5. Know your audience

  • If you know the person you’re emailing only reads the first couple of lines, only write emails with two lines.
  • If they only action the first question or task, email them one at a time.
  • Stagger your questions and tasks into a series of emails.
  • Only send an email with three actionable tasks. Any more than that and you’re guaranteed to have to send a follow-up email.

6. Watch your tone

  • With any short communication, always start with the assumption that the sender’s intentions are good.
  • Before sending an email re-read it – and if it’s not urgent, don’t send it straight away. Come back to it later for a quick review and edit.
  • If in any doubt, pick up the phone.

7. Manage productivity; manage expectations and emotions

  • When phoning someone, let them know in your greeting how much time is needed for your conversation (I want 5 minutes of your time)
  • Outline what it is you need from them first – politely, of course.
  • When giving feedback, work to couch it in positive terms (‘I believe that we aren’t making the most of your talents’ OR ‘That’s a really great exploration of the issues, I’d love to hear from you an equally-detailed summary of the possible solutions’).
  • When giving bad news, tell the person the possible worst-case scenario then tell them the reality: “It could take a month to do, but we should be able to do it in two weeks.” Two weeks now sounds like you’re doing them a favour!

And remember to be patient. Everyone’s in a rush to get their job done, so slow down and you will soon reap the rewards of being a great communicator and improve your productivity.

August, it seems, is the Month of Romance Awareness. The furthest it can get from February and Valentine’s Day, August is now the month of love. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but maybe it isn’t.

Either way should we be letting calendars dictate when we allow romance into our lives?

Jim Butcher – co-author and owner of the blog – writes about travel, food and lifestyle and is all about bringing romance to your everyday.

The site has taken Jim and his wife Christina all over the world, writing with romance along the way.

Here are some insights from Jim into what it takes to blog.

Why do you write

My wife Christina and I started this site initially because we travel quite a lot, and we wanted to have a record of our adventures together.

We also wanted to start a kind of ‘he said, she said’ platform to start discussions. The travel, food and lifestyle areas online are quite saturated, but there aren’t many publications written by couples for couples.

We’ve developed our site to be a resource for people looking for inspiration on ways to fill their stomachs or their passports.

Most of all, we do it because we love it. Creating new stories to share with people that will help or inspire them is a great gig.


What do you focus on?

Our focus is on bringing romance to your every day, so August being the Month of Romance Awareness is right on brand for us.

Romance doesn’t have to be about the big or traditional gestures. It’s more about the small things; giving each other time, doing simple things with one another, living life together and enjoying each other’s company.

Most of all, we try to avoid the cheesiness that’s synonymous with the word romance. We try to evoke an ‘ah!’ and a nod rather than an ‘aw!’ and a shrug.


What goes into writing a blog post?

All articles – wherever they’re published – need to be at least one of three things: entertaining, educational or empowering. If they’re more than one of these, that’s great.

The key to engaging people quickly online is with pictures. As much as we can, we use our own images and edit them to look as good as possible.

We mostly use Snapseed to edit photos and Wordswag for text. Wordswag also has a great selection of free images from Pixabay. These are both phone and tablet apps and are much easier to use than Photoshop.

Images exemplify, but they also break-up text too. With so many people reading from their phones and tablets these days, we try to steer clear of writing blocks of text. A four-sentence chunk of text is too much for people to take in, so we keep our paragraphs to three sentences max.

We only ever write about things we’ve done or seen or tasted. Our readers come back to us because of the relationship we’ve built with them.

We like to occupy the positive part of the internet. If we don’t like something, we just don’t write about it. We give constructive criticism and realistic reviews, but we’re not in the business of slating things or people.

We always finish a post with a question or two, inviting our readers to share their experiences. It’s a great way to make readers feel active in the relationship we’re developing.

Jim also wrote 5 Tips for Creating Content to Make Your Website Win.


Who is your target audience?

Although our content is aimed at couples between the ages of 28-40 with a reasonable income, we have a much wider readership. We don’t give relationship or dating advice, and we don’t write to exclude.

We talk about the places we go and the things we eat, and we usually mention what dynamic would best suit the destination or venue. However, we don’t see why romance should be limited to a holding hands moment at sunset with your life partner. I mean we’ve all heard the term ‘bro-mance’, right?

The love you feel for your friends is still love after all.


How do you measure success?

There are a few ways to measure success in online journalism.

Google Analytics, social media reach data, brand interest, receiving awards, being listed and media attention all suggest success to some degree.

Being known as an authority in the field you write about would probably be the ultimate success for a blog. Our friends Caz and Craig Makepeace have been writing Y-Travel Blog for many years now. They were recently invited to the Whitehouse to meet the President, which is just amazing.

Success is a tough one to measure though. I think all the time we’re providing useful, entertaining information to people, we’re winning a bit more every day.


Blogging can be more challenging than you realise – especially if you haven’t set yourself up right first. Mr Romance at The Copy Collective, Jim Butcher, dishes out some useful tips, tricks and trade secrets to guide you through the early stages of running a blog.

 Scrolling through glamorous photos of laptops and macarons on Instagram you could think that blogging was easy. What you don’t see in those perfectly styled images is the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
Blogging can be a lonely profession too as you’re working on your own the majority of the time. Once you reach out and find your tribe online you really start to reap the rewards of blogging. Not only does blogging develop your writing skills, it can be cathartic, a creative outlet and bring new friendships and community.

With that in mind, here are the top 25 things I wish I’d known before I started blogging:

    1. Don’t wait for ‘the perfect moment’ to start blogging. Just write.
    2. Get to know other bloggers online – or in person if you can. Look for local meet-ups.
    3. Write from personal experience, not from press releases or regurgitated news items.
    4. You don’t have to write 1,000 word essays. Short is sweet in ‘the bloggersphere’!
    5. Try to keep paragraphs to three sentences max. The way people read online is different to hard copy.
    6. Start an editorial calendar so you can plan your content.
    7. Write offline then upload into your blog. Internet connections can fail so keep a backup.
    8. Carry a notepad. You never know when blogging ideas will strike.
    9. Write your ‘about’ page first. Make it interesting and include a photo.
    10. Don’t over-complicate the design of your site. Don’t use too much colour, don’t centre-align your text and images, and don’t use light text on dark background.
    11. Use at least two images per post. 
    12. Create your own images as much as possible.
    13. Format your images so they’re all the same width – match the image size to the width of your paragraphs. I use 600pxl across.
    14. Watermark your images, but keep the watermark small, in a corner and transparent.
    15. If you’re using other people’s photos, always check copyright restrictions and credit them.
    16. Picmonkey and Polyvore are your best friends for image editing. Picmonkey is a free online ‘photoshop’ suite, Polyvore lets you create flatlay collages of images.
    17. Embed Instagram videos into your site (go to Instagram, click on the three dots next to your video and select ‘Embed’. Copy and paste the code into your blog!)
    18. If you’re not sure which social media platform to focus on, go where your audience is.
    19. Don’t try and use all social media platforms – there are too many. Choose two or three, and focus on getting your voice out on them. I focus on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Though Twitter and Google+ are also becoming quite useful.
    20. Treat each social media platform like a mini blog that’s part of your main blog.
    21. Own your own domain: buy the .com of your blog name.
  • There are lots of blogging platforms but WordPress offers the most flexibility – especially if you think (or hope) that your site will grow.
  • Comment on other people’s blogs. They’re likely to comment back, and that starts a relationship.
  • Go to blogging conferences and talks. The community is one of the best bits of blogging.
  • Don’t expect oodles of traffic coming to your site on the first day. Or even the second! Just keep going – write it and they will come!

The most important thing to remember is to have fun! Blogging can be incredibly enjoyable, so don’t sweat the small stuff. You’re bound to make mistakes; just treat them as a learning curve and you’ll get so much more out of it.
Good luck and happy blogging!

The Copy Collective’s Jim Butcher lifts the lid on lazy sharing that could cost you ‘Likes’…

Isn’t it annoying when your personal Facebook or Google+ newsfeed gets chock full of mindless junk?I’m not just talking about your cousin rejoicing in their latest Farmville conquest or your mate inviting you into the terrifying world of Candy Crush Saga. I mean the stuff companies whose Facebook pages you’ve liked, start sharing things with you that they think you’ll find “interesting”.
It’s the result of firms sharing content to improve and maintain their social media presencebut not really thinking about the quality of their newsfeed.
One poorly chosen shared article from them and ‘click’ they’ve lost a reader and a potential customer. It’s something you should be very conscious of when sharing content with your readers too.Too often people share content that they think is what their readers want to know about, but they haven’t even read the article.
To prove the point, National Public Radio (NPR) published this brilliant prank post on Facebook about why Americans don’t read anymore. 
After the headline and title image, a quick message asks all people who have read thus far to simply like the post and not comment and see what happens.
The comments that follow are well worth a read and just goes to show people really aren’t paying attention to what they’re interacting with online.
To make sure you’re sharing the right content, here’s a quick checklist of other important criteria to consider each time you share something with your readers online:

  • Does the hyperlink work? One of the most frustrating moments is when the lead-in to a piece has done its job but when you go to click through, the link doesn’t work.
  • How old is the article? Even if the content you’re sharing is evergreen, make sure it’s not too old. Anything more than a year old loses traction. If it’s a stats-based piece, it cannot be more than six months old.
  •  Is the article any good? Make sure it’s well written and interesting. Check it’s not full of bad spelling, poor punctuation or grammar.
  • Is the article correct? Don’t share the article if it’s wrong, controversial or – even worse – off-brand.
  • What does it offer your readers? Your readers will want to take something away with them from the article. Make sure what you share provides this.
  • Would you follow you? Think about this as you share more and more to your curated content portfolio. People are likely to look back at what you’ve shared in the past.
  • Remember, people trust your shares. Sharing poor quality content can adversely affect their trust and, therefore, your traffic.

As founder of ProBlogger – a publishing and information resource company – Darren Rouse says: “in the midst of the strategy and tactics, don’t lose sight of the people on the other side of your content.”        

The Copy Collective’s Mr Romance, Jim Butcher, delves into the world of dodgy briefs and hands out some helpful suggestions for navigating your way through.

There’s nothing worse than those cold sweats from fretting over a brief to which you just can’t respond. You’ve spent way too long pondering the job but you still can’t get into the swing of it. Behind the brief
This could be because the brief is inadequate. It happens frequently; so don’t be too surprised. And there are many reasons for it:

  • Perhaps there was more than one person working on the brief. Too many cooks spoiling the broth and all that.
  • For some, creating a watertight brief isn’t important and they just want it off their desks, so what you’ve received could just be a bit of a palm-off.
  • This might be the person’s first brief, you never know.

Whatever the reason, don’t worry. As long as you’ve caught this early enough, there are things you can do. 

Asking the right questions
As you read through your brief, which you should do thoroughly as soon as you can, make sure the following questions are answered. If they’re not, then ask the client:

  • Audience – Whom are you writing for?
  • Tone – does this need a conversational tone? Is it a report or an emotive piece?
  • Purpose – is this going to be a letter asking for donations? A blog post? A promotion or sales pitch?
  • Additional material – is there reference material that hasn’t been provided that may support the information that is attached? Make sure you ask for all relevant material.

If there is a lot of background information, it’s OK to ask for direction on to the specific focus of the piece. Sometimes a client will just give you everything, which is great. But trawling through a 900-page document for a 300-word piece isn’t going to work for you or the client. 

Getting the job done
Ask your questions and plan to ask as many as you need to at once. By planning, you will save your client time on separate phone calls or emails. And if you’re still not clear, ask again.
Your client won’t mind fielding your questions. Deep down, most people know when they’ve written a brief that may be missing the mark. 

Tell us your tricks
So; what do you do if the brief you’ve received isn’t up to scratch? Comment away…


In the world of politics, there is no second place.There’s either winning Government or a long period in limbo. For the rest of us it is pretty much the same: success or oblivion.With the finish line of the 47thAustralian federal election in sight, there’s an opportunity, which organisations such as yours may use to your advantage. It’s time to ask yourself if your organisation is ready to make the most of post-election opportunities for campaigning, mobilising supporters and establishing yourself with new audiences.
In the days and weeks after the election, it’s essential for your organisation to communicate its action plan for the future. You need to align yourself with political agendas or position yourself to be the one that acts on issues that peoplecare about regardless of the government’s or shadow cabinet’s advocacy.
Either way, it’s crucial that you communicate your stance, and fast.
It’s not an easy task. Key to your campaign will be how specific you are with your ask. Saying you just want to approach – for example – environmental issues isn’t enough. Which issue? What needs to happen? Why? How? Who’s involved? And most importantly: What do you want your supporters, clients or customers to do about it?

The Asia Pacific arm of Greenpeace runs targeted campaigns that are very successful. Pic: Courtesy Greenpeace AP.

Greenpeace always does this really well and a recent example is their Great Barrier Reef campaigns. They target a specific politician about a specific issue threatening the Reef. They clarify the solutions the MP needs to implement. And they make it 100% clear how their supporters can take action to achieve these goals.
Here are some of the other possible policies (or changes to policy) that could affect you post-election:


National Disability Insurance Scheme


Education funding (Gonski)




Marriage equality


Conservation and the environment


Welfare, and


Funding for the artsBut it’s all about how you ask for these things. It’s an art form. And if you’re not completely committed to producing perfect, persuasive copy, then your mission may not only fall on deaf ears, it is likely it will fall into silence too.
 It’s all about quick response, and you need an expert at writing and designing online projects in short time frames. You need a campaign that is easy for people to respond to, and which may cover eDMs, social media, targeted ads, website copy, fully-integrated digital campaigns, and more.
So the question is not who will win this election, it’s will you be off the blocks and running when it’s through?

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