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U. of Miami grad, journalism, NCAA basketball scholarship, advanced studies at MIT and Boston University Graduate School of Mass Communications, right brain creative, love to explore the human condition, 10 years as senior staff writer, hi-tech Fortune 500's, 5 years marketing communications manager, 7 years freelance copywriter, former reporter in Germany, sailing instructor in the British West Indies, professional jazz/classical guitarist, articles/essays published in national magazines, currently specializing in optimized content for Web sites. Email me at woods.lee1@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

How Your Organization's Social and Political Realities Affect What You Write

On the job, your reason for writing letters, memos and proposals can get caught up in a variety of social and political forces, causing your readers to react emotionally. People may try to look at office issues objectively, rationally, but they often make decisions based on fear, jealousy, bias, anger, revenge, envy, ego clashes, power struggles, charter battles, hidden agendas, sacred cows, office romances, and other emotional factors. Think about your purpose and your readers. Are you lighting a fuse?

Office politics and personal relationships can undermine your purpose, no matter how justified or promising it may be. Such forces can rarely be detected ahead of time, but to charge headlong without at least trying to assess your situation is like skipping nonchalantly through a minefield:

A Checklist

Are you sending an appropriate message to an appropriate audience at an appropriate time?

Will your purpose ignite any smoldering issues between you, management, supervision, peers, subordinates?

Will you be aggravating any existing personality or ego clashes among friends, enemies, supporters, neutrals?

Ear to the Ground

Is your purpose consistent with your organization's culture and climate"?

Is anything at stake? Recent or pending promotions? Favors due, debts owed? Pride, image, recognition on the line? Sacred cows in jeopardy? Territorial disputes, charter squabbles, responsibility issues?

Is the air foul on this subject? If something goes sour, could you defend your position?

What is your credibility with this audience? Should you first get preliminary approvals, opinions, advice, support?

Are there any pressures or priorities that could block your purpose? Do any laws, policies, or regulations apply?

What objections or resistances could your purpose create? Are you putting anyone, including your boss, on the spot?

Are you reacting emotionally? Emotions subside, but the printed word remains.

REMEMBER: Once you let go of what you've written, it could end up
anywhere — even on the evening news. And, finally, don't forget the wise words of Net etiquette expert Judith Kallos: "You never put anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't want your mother to read." Or your boss.

Finally, to thine own self be true.

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