Elizabeth Danziger is a former freelance writer who wrote for magazines such as, Readers Digest, Family Circle and Cosmos etc. She founded the company, Work Talk Communications 27 years ago, to teach businesses how to successfully communicate when writing...
Alan: Welcome back, I’m here today with Elizabeth Dazinger she is the founder of Work Talk communications, Elizabeth welcome to today’s show.
Elizabeth: Hi, nice to be here.
Alan: So Elizabeth, communications in huge in today’s world and how we communicate will often make in difference in relationships, but give me some background of, how did you move into the roll you have today? Did you start immediately from school or what-
Elizabeth: Well I was a senior in college, I went to Pomona college in Claremont and one day when I was a senior I was walking across the quad and I suddenly said to me self “next year, I’m going to be out of here and I’m going to have to earn money…what am I going to do?” And the little voice in my head said; write a book! And I thought, okay I’m going to write a book. So I went to a party where I met a person and I said, well I’m writing a book, and he said, “Oh, my friend is an agent maybe she’d like to represent you.” So that person represented me and I wrote my first book. After that I wrote several more books, but I became a communications consultant in the business world really because the birth of my first child. I have four children and before I was a mother I was a freelance writer. I wrote for Glamor-Self, New Woman, Cosmo, Readers Digest, Family Circle, all those magazines and a hour at work was just a hour at work. But after I had a child I realized a hour at work was a hour away from the baby and suddenly I valued my time very differently and I suddenly thought I have to earn the maximum amount of money in the minimum amount of time because I don’t want to be away from my baby. So that meant good bye Cosmo, good bye Family Circle, and I decided to go into business, I did a lot of research and training, took courses in training and put together a writing training that I’ve been refining for that last, my son’s 27 years old! So I’ve been doing it for a long time.
Alan: In the world of Freelance, I want to step back and talk about this for a little bit. It’s important what you write, sells the magazines. So typically in the world of Freelance writing did you come up with the topics or did the editor come to you and say, Elizabeth here’s what I want you to do for this article. How did that come about?
Elizabeth: I would basically look at each magazine I was targeting and I would read several issues from that magazine. Sometimes I would go to the library and read the whole year, not the whole magazine but the table of contents of the magazines and see what kind of articles they were buying, what kind of articles they were running. Then it’s like what I teach today, about analyzing your reader, your target audience. I would ask myself, given the kinds of articles that they had been publishing what topics would be of interest to them I would put together a list of four or five different ideas and I live in Los Angeles but I would go to New York several times a year I had meetings with editors and I would just go and meet with the editors and say well I got that I got this, what do you have? And they would say, I like that, I don't like that, I don't like that and how about this and we would do that. I also will query letters which is a whole genre in itself of pitching an idea to magazine.
Alan: So typically after you got the editor engaged you’d get paid by the article?
Elizabeth: Paid by the article, they’ll say we’ll pay you so much money for so many words and the problem is that it is a flat rate so what that means is that you spend 25 hours interviewing people for your story and another 20 hours writing it then you can turn it in and they have the right to say, well you know I like it a little more blue a little more green a little more chartreuse just change it a little bit. All the time because into revision doesn't matter you get paid the same whether you do one revision or 10 revisions and then they have what they call a kill fee, after you’ve done all this work, even though they assigned it to you and knew going in what it was they have the right to say, well we decided this is the direction we want to go ahead and pay you 10% of what they had promised to pay so there are certain magazines which were notorious for just having you do all the work and then pay the you the kill fee of 10% and that was that so it's not really reliable.
Alan: So it was an inspiration to set out your own shingle and say I’m going to do work talk communications?
Elizabeth: Well I decided I was much more interested in business because business having the community, the country runs on business, the magazine business is a business but I was just very fascinated by the opportunity to learn about many different businesses and when people send a writing sample I get the inside scoop on their on their businesses are learning some lesson I learned from everyone that I teach so it's a fascinating job.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Elizabeth Danziger she is a consultant in business communications and the founder work talk communications consulting Elizabeth I need to take a quick break and we'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back and visiting here today with Elizabeth Danziger she is the founder of work talk communications consulting and before that were talking about how you got into the career of business consulting out of school you get a lot of freelance writing for different magazines and then ventured out into your business I wanted to talk about in the world of business communication why does writing matter?
Elizabeth: Writing matters because it is how we document our agreement with other people how we present ourselves to other people and it's the essence of business, is that people don't usually do business us on a handshake they need to have something in writing particularly, sometimes I laugh because I tell people I teach business writing they say do business writing all I do is email and that makes me laugh because today email is business writing. People make agreements based on email they do everything they do in their email so in a sense even though supposedly we were supposed to have the paperless office in many paperless but it's full of writing so writing it is really the conduct of business today.
Alan: You now in the world of communication and in my lifespan I've seen this, the newspapers were a core in our communication comes in them with the email and the Internet communication has changed over the years hasn’t it?
Elizabeth: Communication media have changed but people have not changed. People are still tuned into their own favorite radio station WIIFM, stand for What's In It For Me people are interested when they read something they wanted know, how does this relate to me? Why should I care about why should I trust the person who wrote it and what am I supposed to do about it. So email makes it all go faster but the basic principle the communication are constantly have the constant for thousands of years.
Alan: You know it's that is a look at these millennial's I have kids in this age span I call them by phone they don't pick the phone up.
Elizabeth: Frustrating isn’t it.
Alan: it is it
Elizabeth, Text me! Text me!
Alan: So how do you deal with the texting aspect of it when that you know that we can put nice long emails that don't belong with me only want to this shorten the acronyms stuff is there…
Elizabeth: I have a 20-year-old daughter and she asked me to text her and I call her.
Alan: well I think some things never change, I feel the same way as a parent. So if we go into communication today you not how does when improved making a business communication effective
Elizabeth: Well one thing that you could do is use a tool that I teach in my business writing training call the 3 P's. The 3 P’s are purpose, person and point; identify what is the purpose of this communication and what results am I supposed to get from it, that’s purpose. What person in my writing to and what if that person asking him or herself and what are that person's hot button person and third is point very often people start to write and they are praying that in the process of writing people figure out what their point is because they don't know their point before they start so that's one thing is to use the 3P's purpose person and point secondly right shorter sentences. Even a badly written short sentence is better than a badly written long sentence so writing shorter sentences is an excellent way to improve your business communication.
Alan: How do you get a reader engaged?
Elizabeth: By reaching out and touching on their hot buttons and asking yourself not once important to me what's important to my reader what makes my reader care so for example if an accountant wants that their client to turn in their tax documentation on time, they could send them an email with the subject line source information requested or they could send an email that said avoid late payment penalties source information requested or reduce accounting fees source information requested so by touching on what matters to the reader it will make it a much more persuasive document
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Elizabeth Danziger she is a communications consultant in the founder of Word Talk communications, Elizabeth I need to take a quick break and we'll be right back after these messages. After they break I want get more into the persuasive writing how we go about that.
Alan: We’ll be right back after these messages.
Alan: welcome back in here today with Elizabeth Danziger she is the founder of work talk communication and a business communications consultant and Elizabeth I we were discussing before the break the 3P's purpose person and point. I always like to put the fourth for me prayer you know trying to say the right things.
Elizabeth: That’s a good one too, it adds to purpose person and point.
Alan: Why don’t we go back to persuasive writing. In other words, I want to feel that when I put out there is really going to influence a person to change or whatever my point is that the they understand this is why they need to do that. How does a person write persuasively?
Elizabeth: They first secret is to analyze the reader the better you can analyze a reader…I’ll tell you a story. My daughter Sarah came home from the first day in high school and she said mom I need a shirt Abercrombie and Fitch and I said well I need to not than $60 on a shirt she said no no no I need a shirt from Abercrombie we were going back and forth that we were kind of an better older sister Lily came home and overheard our discussion and she said to her since her younger sister wanted to get a shirt from American apparel and Sarah said ‘Oh is that cool?’ and Lily said. ‘yes it's cool’ so Sarah replied okay lets go to American apparel that she got the less expensive shirt I didn't spend $60 and Sarah got what she wanted once we figured out that what she really wanted was not a shirt from Abercrombie and Fitch she wanted to be cool. Once we understood what her true need was we were able to find alternate ways to supply her knee so the first thing is to really analyze and figure out what, hoe is your reader feel emotionally what makes that person tick how can you align yourself with that person's needs and desires there another few things you can do. When you write to the person identify similarities between you and that person focus on how you and they are similar because then they feel more like you're on the same team and you are working in the same direction another thing you can do is use similar linguistic patterns to the ones that the other person uses so that they use a lot of metaphors and images you can use metaphors and images if they speak very fancy highfalutin complex words then you write in fancy highfalutin complex words they use very simple straightforward words then you use simple straightforward words so using the other person's language finding similarities and another thing that's very persuasive is to create visual images if you look, I understand you mentioned prayer if you look in the Bible the Bible is full of visual images things that happened that you can visualize and imagine them really happening and it's not an accident there are many reasons why people read the Bible but it gone on for thousands of years and what the whole it has on people is that if the whole emotional imagery visual imagery. So the visual images are very powerful and but the first thing of course is to analyze what the reader needs.
Alan: I think it's somewhat of a gift that will be held analyze and the person to say what this is what I ,I feel that they looking for would you say that's true?
Elizabeth: I think it is a gift but it’s also something that you can practice you can really think about it and ask yourself what does that person need it is a gift but it's also a skill.
Alan: What’s a popular way to write a requested you out there trying to get somebody to do something for you is there a trick of the trade you can put what's in it for them so for example going back to be going back to the accountant if you want in order to avoid late payment penalties we need to receive your documentation by March 1 in order to file your return on time we need to receive your documentation by March 1 we request that you send in your whatever it is, because of this will help us get you what you want
Alan: I jump back to grammar writing English classes in college, let’s talk about verbs, how are they important?
Elizabeth: Verbs are very important verbs are the motors of language by definition nouns just sit there until they encounter verbs, verbs are the motors of language they make the words take life so the more verbs you can use more powerful vivid don't just use is our and but real vivid powerful verbs there are so many verbs that create pictures these are the verbs to use and use plenty of them.
Alan: In writing an intensive active versus passive with the better approach?
Elizabeth: In general it’s better to use the active voice and just remind people say the manager wrote the report that's active the report was written by the manager that passive so the passive voice create distance it makes the person at arm’s length it blurs accountability and it's not the most potent form of writing so the active voice is much more connected much more authentic more sincere now having said that there are a few times when you can use the passive voice which I go into in the writing training so it's not always want to use the passive voice but you generally if you looking for connection you want to use the active voice.
Alan: How do you delivered bad news, is there a technique in writing?
Elizabeth: First of all people are most impacted by the first thing that they read so if you leave if you have bad news and you put your bad news at the beginning of the document the person is not likely to read the rest of your document ever read that bad news feel upset throw the document down or deleted or close it or something and they're not going to get the reasons behind your bad news because if you have bad news there is probably a rationale that explain why that bad news had to happen so it's important to in general you want to leave with your main point but if your main point is likely to upset your reader that don't lead with the main point start with the reason that it goes back to an old torch song break it to me gently let people know gradually what's coming so that they can come to that conclusion themselves now it still goes back to the 3P's there are people who want their bad news up front straightaway want to get it absorb it and move on with your dealing with one of those people that you can just leave the bad news but most people prefer to break it to me gently approach.
I’m visiting here today with Elizabeth Danziger, she is the founder of Work Talk communications
Elizabeth: That’s Work Talk communications consulting
Alan: Elizabeth if someone wants to get ahold of you how would they go about doing that?
Elizabeth: They would go to firstname.lastname@example.org or just go to www.worktalk.com send an email and I’ll be glad to talk to them.
Alan: Elizabeth thanks for being on today’s show.
Elizabeth: Thank you so much.