Revealing layers of history: Ken Fletcher Park

Copyright: Louise RalphFor our first site visit to the former Tennyson Power Station site on the Brisbane River, we dragonflies were offered a long wooden stick each.

To beat a path through the long grass, we asked. No, to warn off the brown snakes, the site manager said.

It was the beginning of an interpretive journey which, while challenging, didn’t involve slithery encounters.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

river people, river connections…

Touched by floods, shaped by civilisation

It’s hard to believe that a relatively small tract of land not far from Brisbane’s CBD could have such intricate layers of history.

Like the river itself, the connections run deep – from Traditional Custodians and lost explorers, to mills and mansions, and from a power station to centre-stage tennis and an elite residential development.

A project like this requires the successful collaboration between the client, landscape designers, graphic designers, researchers and copywriters, and all the trades that go into its execution. But its success goes beyond that.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Ken Fletcher (1940-2006) was arguably the best tennis player to come out of Brisbane.

It’s the people who share their stories and knowledge that make the difference.

To reveal the layers of history that have shaped this place, we talked with an Aboriginal Elder, community groups and individuals, a former power station employee, demolition contractors, the Queensland Energy Museum curator, historians and more.

Seeing a project like the Ken Fletcher Park come to life and being part of the process is always exciting.

Now, wandering (incognito) through the park, it’s fantastic to see kids at play and so many people enjoying the parklands – and stopping to discover the stories of this place.

Not just glancing at each panel and moving on, but actually reading and pointing things out to each other.

Now that’s what I call success…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

While civilisation shapes the landscape, floods remind us that nature has the ultimate power. Ironically, as I take this photo on 28 January 2013, the river really is rising in the background, and Brisbane prepares for another flood…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Brisbane’s aquatic hotspot: Sharks could often be seen in the river here, basking in the warm exhaust water discharged from the power station.

What does your communication style say about you?

I was working with a new client the other day, and I have to say, it was a delight. This client had a very strong sense of who he was and what his business was about. And he wanted his written communication to reflect that.

He had the vital ingredient when it comes to communication style: authenticity.

So instead of creating a hazy document, muddied with corporate-speak, we were able to put together a clear, simple document that said what he wanted to say and in a way he would say it himself.

He was willing to take a risk, be a little different – be real. I call it a WYSIWYG approach. What You See Is What You Get.

The term is used to describe computing systems that display the text as it will appear in the final output, rather than in code (e.g. HTML).

I use it to describe a piece of writing that clearly conveys the ‘personality’ or ‘voice’ of the person or organisation it is about – no secret codes, no BS. You know what you’re getting.

That’s authentic – and it’s good for business. Your clients and customers can feel comfortable knowing that you mean what you say – and the language and style you use is consistent with who you are. It inspires confidence.

Does the style or ‘voice’ of your content – in websites, reports, and marketing material – reflect who you and your organisation really are? Is your communication authentic?

This is the second in our series of posts about branding. You might also like to read: Is the ‘face’ of your business sending the right message?

All that jazz…outsourcing writing jobs with confidence

buzz-saxSome time ago, I was asked to jazz up an existing short profile for a client’s upcoming television appearance.

Imagine my surprise when a pile of clippings, notes and pages as thick as a best seller arrived in the post. What my client wanted wasn’t editing, it was content creation.

Yes, I delivered the va-voom, but it highlights how important it is that we are all, um, reading from the same page (did I really say that?). So what’s the difference?

Proofreading is really a quality control exercise. We make sure all amendments have been included, the document is complete (lines or words haven’t ‘dropped off’ the page, etc), links work, there are no spelling or punctuation errors, the document conforms with the client’s style guide, the index is correct, and page, line and word breaks are suitable.

Copy editing focuses on style and consistency. We make sure the meaning is clear and correct grammar, punctuation and spelling are used. We check for consistency, such as capitalisation and numbering.

For online work, we check links, pop-ups, and metadata, and make sure files download or open properly, with ‘user-friendly’ speed.

Full editing, referred to as substantative editing, involves all of the above, with the added task of reviewing structure, language, style and clarity or usability. A full edit focuses on making a document easy to read and consistent.

Content creation is a term our Dragonfly team uses to describe developing content from information we’ve gathered or our client has supplied.

Content creation can involve all or a mixture of writing styles including storytelling (narrative), information or explanation (expository), and influencing behaviour or opinion (persuasive).

Content creation involves, in varying degrees, the following process:

  • Briefing, including establishing audience, message, and method of delivery
  • Gathering and reviewing information, often including conducting interviews
  • Brainstorming ideas and developing concepts or themes
  • Developing text through various draft/approval phases
  • Delivering final edited content, often including design suggestions

So next time you’re thinking about outsourcing your writing or editing work, you can relax because you’ll know what you’re asking for – and what to expect. I could say something here about us all singing from the same… but, no. I think it’s home-time.


the dragonfly

Demystifying SEO-speak

The language of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is enough to make your head spin. But it’s not rocket science. Here are some quick definitions to get you started:

  • SEO: the process of improving your website/blog ranking in search engine results
  • Keyword density – No, it’s not repeating yourself, repeating yourself, ad nauseum. It’s the number of times your keywords appear on your page (without sounding ridiculous!)
  • Title text – Look at the very top blue line of your browser page. It should be different for every page, used like a magazine article title, and include keywords…
  • Meta-description – This appears in search results. It’s those approx 160 characters that can make people click through to your site – or not
  • Header text – This is HTML coding that indicates the relative importance of that block of text, like main heading and sub headings. Tip: Use keywords in header text (as long as it doesn’t sound stupid) 
  • Link titles – This is the text that appears when you scroll over a link. Check your site. Are you linking from ‘click here’ or ‘more’? Make that text meaningful
  • Image titles – Ditto. Make these meaningful. ‘Spiders’ love pictures and video, so don’t waste your opportunity to get ‘picked up’
  • On-page factors – These are the things mentioned above, the things you can do on your own site
  • Off-page factors – Google and other search engines like quality inbound links from other sites to yours.

No more spinning heads? Excellent!


Lou (aka The Dragonfly)  

KISS and tell…

42-15977462Okay, I’m finally admitting it. I’m a stripper by trade. I make no apologies and I’m not about to give it up.

 But wait…before you run screaming from the room, let me explain. I take a big, overdressed concept and start to strip it back bit by bit. I play with it, readjust it and take a bit more off.

Finally, I strip out the adverbs, fling off the adjectives – and now I’ve got something my audience will pay attention to. 

If you want to be read, you’re going to have to do a bit of stripping yourself. Most people won’t bother wading through convoluted prose to get your point, so here are some ways to make your writing sizzle:

Short is sweet: Use short sentences with one thought to a sentence. Cut long, rambling sentences into two or three short, punchy sentences.

Looking good: Keep paragraphs short to avoid big slabs of text on the page, especially if your work will appear in columns.

Stay active: Lose the passive voice. Look for ‘by’ in your sentences and rework them, and have people doing things, rather than things being done by people.

Liven it up: Turn nouns into verbs, e.g. ‘provision of’ (noun) can become ‘will provide’ (verb), and ‘give consideration to’ becomes ‘consider’.

Keep it simple: Use fewer words to get your message across, e.g. ‘close proximity’ becomes ‘near’, ‘are in agreement’ becomes ‘agree’, ‘despite the fact that’ becomes ‘although’.

What the…? Avoid tautology or stating the obvious – new innovation, future potential, mutual cooperation. And clichés – cutting edge, world beating, revolutionary.

At school, we all knew how to impress the teachers…use big words and expand one or two ideas into 800 words. In the business world, we lose marks for being complicated and long winded.

The key is to Keep It Simple for Success.

Now, where’s that feather boa…?