For many corporate communicators, the job largely entails writing and editing. At least, that’s what we signed up for.
Sometimes, however, it seems like the last thing we get to do during our long, busy days is write.
This week, it seemed like every time I opened a document to start writing, I was distracted by a non-writing task. Here’s what I found to be the most common distractions in my job:
1. Unwanted writing advice.
2. Common-sense moments.
Many times, communicators have to point out the obvious. For example, explaining that the email being sent to all our customers alerting them to a change in payment plans should be signed by a person, and not “the accounting department.”
I once had an extensive email exchange with a co-worker who wanted us to use “includes, but is not limited to” instead of “includes” in an advertisement listing product features. He argued that just using the word “includes” could be viewed as false advertising.
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3. Putting the cart before the horse.
How many times has this happened to you? You’re ready with your communication plan. The dates are set. The content has been written. Then you hear from the project manager, “We haven’t tested to make sure this system change will work. So let’s not send anything out yet.”
4. Moderating disputes.
Because we are communicators, we often get pulled in middle of disputes between colleagues or departments. We are asked to run interference or speak to one person on behalf of another.
Me: “So what does Account Services say about this issue?”
Co-worker: “I don’t know. Can you find out?”
5. Pleas for transparency.
This week, there was a problem with our members-only system. Customers were seeing incomplete information on their accounts. The communications department, wanted to send an email to our customers acknowledging the problem. IT kept insisting the problem “will be fixed by noon” or “will be fixed tomorrow” and that the email was unnecessary. The problem continued for days when we finally sent the email.
6. Necessary rewrites.
7. Technical troubles.
Outlook crashing, a cumbersome content management system, huge email attachments, and reminders from IT to “please send all requests to the help desk” can keep you from working on those writing tasks.
You can often recognize when a piece needs a complete overhaul before you get to the second paragraph. Maybe it’s completely disorganized, is written in the wrong tone, contains outdated information or doesn’t include all the elements. You must either explain to the author how to fix it or fix it yourself. Either one takes time away from your own writing projects.
8. Pushy vendors.
They call, they email and they stop by with samples, even after you’ve politely explained that you are not going to use their services.
9. Style and usage questions.
This distraction is completely my fault. Someone asks a usage questions and I can’t let it go until I find an answer. This week’s issue was which diseases use an apostrophe and s (Alzheimer’s disease, Hodgkin’s disease) and which do not (Down syndrome, Stevens-Johnson syndrome).
The aforementioned pushy vendor that you’re not going to use. The freelancer whose work you’re completely re-writing. The colleague who took it personally when you critiqued her work. They all have to handled very delicately, which takes time.
Corporate communicators, what are your biggest distractions?
Laura Hale Brockway is medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com.