Writing to Reach You

I started performing on stand-up comedy stages in 1998, moved into writing for TV & Radio in 2004 and this year (2014) I retired from live comedy to focus on working in copywriting and social media. I’ve recently been appointed as Content Account Manager at Caliber Marketing, with responsibilities across social media, copywriting and interactive marketing projects. Moving from comedy writing and performing into these areas may seem like a strange move but to me it’s not really. In both areas, I’ve had to pose and answer the same questions.

Who are the audience that you’re trying to reach?

It’s amazing how difficult this question can sometimes be for individuals and companies or organisations alike. The temptation is always to say “everyone”. However, trying to achieve this will only lead to producing something so impersonal and untailored that it instead connects with nobody. If you have a niche who form your core audience (or market) then don’t be afraid to reach out to them. If anything, be afraid not to.

OK, so this may be stretching dress-down Friday a little bit...

OK, so this may be stretching dress-down Friday a little bit…

How do that audience think and speak?

You wouldn’t write for an English-speaking audience in French, that’s the most obvious and broad-stroked example I can come up with. The more nuanced version would be to take into account that people’s language, tone and frame of reference are shaped by a number of things; age, gender, geographical location, income and so on. Just as not all comedy material will work with all audiences, nor will all web or social content.

You don’t want to take the risk of sounding patronising or inauthentic in your attempts to ‘speak the same language’ (a bank advertising accounts to teenagers would hardly elicit a positive response by starting an advert with “Yo!”) but at the same time there’s no harm in being aware of your audience and taking the time to find a way to reach them that remains authentic to the client (or in the case of comedy, the performer).

What platform is it for?

Again, there’s a big overlap between my past in comedy and my present line of work. There’d be no point in me writing or editing a script that has been commissioned for TV only to cram it full of ideas which can only be exploited to their full potential on radio or vice versa. Equally, if charged with coming up with the correct tone and content to suit Twitter, there’s no point in presenting a campaign that would work on LinkedIn but is doomed to failure on the intended platform.

What are the client’s wishes and requirements?

The one who pays the piper picks the tune. That’s a reasonable sentiment to bear in mind, though not slavishly so. If the client felt able to put everything together themselves then they wouldn’t be turning to you for assistance – whether that client is a comedy production company or self-storage firm. You have a responsibility to factor in the tone, image and intention that suits them and to work within those parameters…but you also have a responsibility to advise them on any tweaks to those parameters that could/should be made to get them the best results.

In comedy terms, if I write a script with a tone that suits Channel 4 at 10pm but I’ve been commissioned to write something for BBC1 Scotland pre-watershed – I haven’t met the client’s requirements, however artistically satisfying or not the piece may be. However, if I put together something that’s more on the borderline of acceptability, I should be prepared to put together a logical argument explaining the relevance/importance of getting so close to the line. It may yet come back to be altered once more but it’s still shown more of an effort on behalf of the client than always taking the path of least resistance.

What’s the most important thing?

To get it done.

I have to ask the questions that I’ve listed above and get as much information to answer them with as possible… but no amount of ‘showing working’ is going to get you off the hook in the real world if you don’t come up with the end result. I’ve worked to deadlines throughout my comedy career, whether for TV or Radio programmes or just to avoid the embarrassment of dying on my a*se in front of a Fringe audience with a show that hasn’t yet been fully put together.

What does all this tell us?

Looking for somebody to handle your company’s web presence? Start hanging around comedy clubs and TV production companies… ;-)

(Jester image from Johnny Automatic used under Creative Commons agreement)

Share Button

An Authored Company Twitter Account? | Ross “Teddy” Craig

You know that company Twitter account that you love? The one with the funny and topical tweets that seem to manage to capture the mood of Twitter and, hence, your customer base? The one that seems in tune with the trending topics without actually trying to ride them in an aggressive and misplaced way? Deep down, you know that the company CEO isn’t sitting with his smartphone knocking out those tweets during breaks between meetings. Even deeper down, you probably realise that it’s not even the in-house PR or Marketing team who are responsible.

Social Media is a relatively new phenomenon. Companies still aren’t sure who the responsibility for dealing with it should lie with. Is it the IT dept? Is it the PR dept? Is it whatever kind of front-of-house staff they may have? This confusion means that more and more companies are turning to 3rd-parties to manage or at least advise upon their social media presence.

So who is qualified to deal with your company’s Twitter account?

The same as with every role. The person qualified to do it isn’t the one with the fancy title or diploma…it’s the person who can demonstrate that they already do it and do it well. That’s why so many companies are turning to people who just ‘get’ Twitter. People who have been able to build a following, tap in to the consciousness of the moment and gain a level of social media authority.

Seize the social media initiative with an openly authored Twitter account

Finding those people and employing them to work on your Twitter account is a great idea! But what do companies do once they’ve engaged the right people though? They hide them. They pay those contributors but don’t credit them. Consider the whole ethos of social media. It’s about building relationships and showing a spirit of sharing and reciprocity. Why haven’t more (any?) companies taken the bold step of not only admitting that their tweets are authored but actually openly crediting the writer on their account. Why on earth would they do that you ask? Well, let me explain my thinking on it.

Patronage. Companies frequently act as patrons of the arts and are keen to highlight this. If a company commissions a popular or critically acclaimed artist to create an installation for their offices… they clearly credit, and in many cases overtly publicise, the name of the artist.

Reputation is currency. Look at the way in which Google Authorship works, Google has put more emphasis than ever before on the authority of individuals within their own field. The people who your company employs, directly or indirectly, reflect the standing of the company itself. If you’re using the services of somebody skilled in social media – why would you hide that?

Social spirit. As I’ve mentioned, the spirit of social media is one of sharing, acknowledgement, and mutually beneficial relationships. This is entirely in-tune with that ethos.

Buying into an existing audience. People who already have a sizeable following on social media can talk to that audience whichever account they’re doing it from. They’ll also be able to reach and connect with an audience that your company company may not be able to without their services. Even using their services in an uncredited capacity will lose some of their reach, due to many people being turned off by the feeling that they’re interacting with a faceless corporate identity.

You’ll save money. It makes sense, doesn’t it? You’re on social media to increase the awareness of your company or organisation… and anybody working with you on your social media will be keen to do the same. It’s hard for social media professionals to fully capitalise on the clients they work with when their efforts are clouded in secrecy. Their fees have to be higher to reflect the fact that the work may not be helping them to build towards the future. On the other hand, by openly crediting them…you’re advertising them and amplifying their visibility. That reciprocal benefit gives room for financial negotiation.

Have I captured your attention?

My own personal Twitter account has 2700+ followers, while the Scottish football-based account @ScotComFC that I set up has 6100+ followers (as a comparison, that’s more than the sports Twitter account of The Daily Record, Scotland’s 2nd biggest selling newspaper). I do around 95% of the tweets for this account (the other tweeters being @Owen_McGuire & @Michael Park).

At present, I manage a number of social media accounts for companies or organisations, three of which involve me generating comedic/entertaining content. In the past, I have also written material tweeted by high profile comedians. Did I mention that I was named Best Comedian at the 2010 Scottish Variety Awards and have twice been runner-up in Scottish Comedian of the Year Finals? As well as writing for or script-editing numerous television and radio shows across the BBC and Channel 4? I didn’t? Well, now I have.

Would authored tweeting be right for your company or organisation’s Twitter account?

Openly authored tweeting won’t suit every presence, it will depend on your company or organisation’s audience, message, and aims. Whichever type of social media presence is most appropriate though, it will still be crucial to ensure that it’s properly managed. I can help to ensure that your social media accounts utilise the right engagement strategies to maximise their impact.

To find out more about how I can help your company or organization revitalise their social media presence, please contact Webwise Creative in the first instance.

Share Button

Ukraine – Attempting a Summary | Ross “Teddy” Craig

Hello and welcome to my first blog on my new website. I’m sorry that it’s taken so long but it’s been as a result of a positive – I’ve been very busy. Recently, like many people, I’ve been following the worrying developments in Ukraine. Over the years, I’ve taken a bit more interest than most people in the UK, due to a combination of a fascination with the country stemming from my appreciation of the skills of the former Rangers player, Alexei Mikhailitchenko (apologies if that version of the English transliteration of his name offends any readers – more on that later), writing my dissertation (MA History hons from Edinburgh Uni) on Britain’s role in the development of the Cold War, and having visited Kyiv (Ukrainian transliteration of the name this time) in 2009. From following things on Twitter, I can see that the context of the situation is very confusing for people, so I thought that it may be helpful to put together an explanatory guide.

I’ve tried to make this fairly neutral, but I’m sure it will still manage to offend people who are among the affected parties in the situation, for that I apologise in advance.

Ukraine and Russia – the Early Historical Context

The origins of Russian (and Ukrainian and Belarusian) culture actually lie within Ukraine, stemming from the creation of the Kyivan Rus, in the late 9th century. Kyiv (Note: Kyiv is transliterated from the Ukrainian language version of the name – the official one. Kiev is more common to us, but comes from the Russian version of the name, which would have been more commonly seen in the West during Soviet times.) was the centre of this coalition of tribes which grew in power, until power and influence gradually transferred to Novgorod and then eventually to Moscow.

The Modern Context of Russian and Ukrainian Relations

We are all aware in the West of the horrors of the Holocaust conducted against the Jewish people by the Nazis, and many of us also have some awareness of the Armenian Holocaust, suffered by the Armenian people at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Less well known in the West is the Ukrainian Holodomor, in which millions of Ukrainians starved to death at the hands of Stalin’s programme of collectivisation. At the start of the 20th century, Ukraine’s huge swathes of agricultural land meant that it was known as ‘the bread basket of Europe’. Stalin was determined that agricultural production should be taken out of the hands of individual kulak producers and all produce should be going to the state to be redistributed as the state saw fit.

Production fell, local producers weren’t allowed to keep their own produce and those trying to do so were under orders to be shot by Soviet troops to serve as an example to others. The result was the death of millions. An insight into how grim this period of the early 1930s was is that it was the only aspect of Sovietisation that Stalin ever conceded to Churchill had been difficult. From a man used to portraying a glorious image to the Western capitalists he had such distaste for, this is significant.

This memory of ‘Russian’ rule remains within the consciousness of the Ukrainian people and has to be taken into account when assessing the reaction of many Ukrainians towards Russia. On the other hand, much of the Ukrainian population are either ethnically Russian or Russian-leaning in their world outlook.

Crimea – Why is it a Special Case?

Crimea represents a complex part of the current tensions between Russia and the Ukraine. Historically, Crimea has been Russian or within the Russian sphere of influence. It’s strategically hugely important to Russia because it provides a Black Sea port for their navy. Geographically, it is cut off from the main land mass of Russia by Ukraine. During the Soviet era, the administration of Crimea was given over to the Ukrainian section of the USSR. When Ukraine became independent, Crimea remained part of it, angering some Russians.

Russia has remained eager to retain its access to Crimea as a naval base and has negotiated agreements to this effect since Ukraine’s independence. However, the Western-leaning Viktor Yuschenko, who emerged as Ukrainian President following the Orange Revolution, was keen to see Ukraine taken out of Russia’s sphere of influence and moved into the EU’s sphere of influence – with a view to eventually becoming a member state. He announced that he would not be renewing Russia’s naval access to Crimea when the agreement ran out.

Having mentioned Yuschenko, I should go back and mention The Orange Revolution. In late 2004, Viktor Yanukovych (the recently deposed President) was announced as the winner of the 2004 elections. There was a perception of electoral fraud, resulting in Ukrainians taking to the streets to protest against the result. The Ukrainian Supreme Court ordered the election to be run again and this time Yuschenko took 52% of the vote to Yanukovych’s 44% and was elected President. It’s also worth noting that during the initial election campaign, Yuschenko was confirmed as having suffered poisoning with the substance Dioxin, which caused him disfigurement.

The protests leading to the 2nd election became known as ‘The Orange Revolution’ and the key figures in it were Yuschenko and his then ally, Yulia Tymoshenko. The linguistic/ethnic/political tensions within Ukraine can be seen in some of the rivalries. Yanukovych is from the generally Russian-speaking and leaning East of Ukraine, a powerbase that sometimes hears him being referred to as part of the ‘Donetsk Mafia’. This isn’t intended to be taken literally, it’s a reference to the business and political interests from that area that back him.

Anyway, back to Crimea. Though Crimea probably has around 50% – 60% of the population speaking Russian and politically aligning themselves with Russia, the rest of the population is mainly made up of either people considering themselves ethnically Ukrainian…or people considering themselves to be Tatars. The Tatars were another group of people persecuted by Stalin, seeing their populations moved en masse to the furthest reaches of the USSR. As such, the thought of once more coming under Russian rule, or even influence, is alarming for the Tatar population of Crimea.

There is a current precedent for Russia having a sea port that is geographically cut off from the rest of the Russian land mass. Kaliningrad is located between the EU states of Poland and Lithuania and was historically the Prussian state of Koenigsberg (Immanuel Kant is buried in the Cathedral there), it’s now a Baltic port for the Russian navy.

What’s Happening Now?

The current situation (VERY roughly) is that the Ukrainian nationalist / Ukrainian speaking / Western leaning people of the West of Ukraine have forced Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country and an interim government has been declared. This came about because they were unhappy at Yanukovych appearing to ditch plans for closer EU ties in favour of being part of a customs union with Russia.

The aim of Kyiv’s interim government will likely be to form closer ties with the EU. In the Russian speaking / Russian leaning East of the country (eg Kharkiv and Donetsk), people have taken to the streets to protest at the toppling of Yanukovych and to take over local political offices. The complication is in assessing the identity that they have chosen for themselves. Many are waving Russian flags…but this may not be an expression of Russian nationality, so much as an expression that they believe that Russia is more aligned with their interests than the EU-leaning Ukrainians taking power in Kyiv. Industrial areas like Donetsk have strong trade links with Russia, so fear losing them if Ukraine focuses on the EU at the expense of Russia.

In Crimea, Russian forces (officially or unofficially) are on the ground and securing local political offices and transport links (such as Simferopol airport). The precedent for this kind of action comes from Russia’s intervention in Georgia a few years ago. VERY roughly, what happened was that Georgian troops clashed with separatist South Ossetian troops. South Ossetia is/was within the borders of the modern territory of Georgia and the rebel troops tended to be Russian speaking / Russian leaning. The Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili mounted an attack on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali…which led to the intervention of Russian troops. Russian forces drove back the Georgian Army and proceeded through South Ossetia in the direction of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

The Russians used the justification that they had a right to intervene as the people they were protecting had strong Russian connections. Russian forces eventually withdrew from their proximity to Tbilisi, but not from South Ossetia, which is now a Russian-recognised separate territory. This status is not recognised by many other countries. The presence of Russian forces in Crimea – and President Putin having secured the Russian Parliament’s approval to deploy troops anywhere in Ukraine – has raised fears that Ukraine will end up being split, with Russian military influence being used to secure a separation of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine from the rest of the country.

The deposed President Viktor Yanukovych is now in Russia, but continues to enjoy support in his home city of Donetsk, as well as in Kharkiv. The capital, Kyiv, is under the control of Western-leaning Ukrainians. However, to say ‘under the control of’ is an over-simplification, due to the diverse groups involved in the overthrow of Yanukovych. Some extreme right-wing elements have been identified as being involved and how much control they are actually under is open to question.

Basically, the situation is volatile internally – with different ethnic, linguistic, and political interests in conflict – but also externally, now that a foreign power (Russia) has deployed troops to a sovereign state.

I hope that gives people a rough overview of what’s currently happening and at least gives a platform from which to further research and understand the nuances I haven’t been able to properly expand upon here.

Share Button
RaftingTeddy

Welcome to A Scottish Writer’s new website and blog

This is where I will be bringing you news about what I’ve been up to and what you can expect next. Keep checking back!

Share Button