Managing office romances - December 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

"Managing Office Romance: Is There a Policy for Mixing Business With Pleasure?"
Freelance business writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Deborah Tarrant
1900 words

Office romances are often seen by management as off-limits, too hot to handle – better to ignore them and hope they work out rather than implement policies and guidelines around such a private and personal matter. But a badly-managed or unmanaged relationship can negatively affect everybody around the couple through issues such as favouritism, conflicts of interest, pillow talk, lack of trust and even legal and occupational health and safety issues for the organisation. In this story, several experts come together to give their advice on managing this very sensitive subject.


When customer focus is bad for business - Dec 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

"Beyond Specialisation: How Businesses Benefit When Opposites Attract"
Freelance business writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Deborah Tarrant
2200 words

The notion that people within a business cannot excel at everything typically prompts organisations to pursue particular orientations. They may be "customer focused" or put "employees first". Some are "adaptable" while others are "systems driven". However, new research from the Australian School of Business is challenging traditional business logic by revealing that ambidextrous organisations – those that adopt a more flexible approach and embrace the opposites – are more successful in terms of business performance, customer loyalty and staff engagement. Ambidexterity means more than being adaptable, it is about seeing value in the opposites, then striving to achieve them.

Read more:

Good customer service - November 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

"Do You Really Want Fries With That? How to Find a Customer Service Perfect Match"
Freelance business writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Deborah Tarrant
2000 words

The attitudes and styles of customer service reps may present a perfect match for some customers, and just get up others' noses. New research from the Australian School of Business pinpoints three different perceptions of good customer service among frontline employees. Each is right in certain circumstances, but can be damaging when misplaced. With more customer touch points in today's organisations, the trick is in recruiting sales and service personnel to suit and then ensuring a one-size-fits-all approach to training does not impinge their beneficial attributes.

Read more:

Journalism vs PR ... or not

Here's a blog I was asked to write by Louise Convy at Convy Media Relations. The topic was 'What I love and loathe about PR professionals'. Click through at the end for the full piece...


Can I Call A PR Person A Tool?
Blogger: Chris Sheedy


I’m a journalist and I love PR people. There, I said it.

PR people are a part of my team, so much so that I wouldn’t be able to do the work that I do, or make the living that I do as a successful freelance writer, if they didn’t exist. It is so terribly predictable and dull to read about journalists and PR people not getting along, being at odds with each other’s goals, not understanding each other’s roles. But guess what? Journalists like to think they don’t get along with anyone – advertisers, marketers, sub-editors, legals, agents, publicists – you name it, journos hate them.

But the journalists who are not constantly complaining about the shortcomings of those around them are actually busy producing great content. One of the most powerful tools in their tool belt is the PR person.

We all know how it feels to ring a business to set up an interview only to be frozen out of that business once the receptionist hears the word ‘journalist’. The media frightens the uninitiated. When non-media people hear the word ‘journalist’ they think of Today Tonight. They think of A Current Affair. They think of Rupert Murdoch and phone tapping and Wendi Deng’s awesome right hook. And they run a mile.    Read more
 

Dealing with social media risk – November 2011

GRC Professional

"Removing The Risk From Social Media"
Freelance business writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Roslyn Atkinson
1700 words

Social media has fast moved from an outlier to a business essential, but it’s not without risk for corporates. How then, does a business exploit the medium’s massive opportunities and at the same time manage its potential risks?

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GRC Pro3   GRC Pro4

An annual report that matters - October 2011

"Ronald McDonald House Charities: Annual Report"
Professional writer: Chris Sheedy


One of the great joys of running a successful business, large or small, is having the ability to choose clients. Here is a client The Hard Word chose and has proudly worked alongside for several years.

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), boiled down to its most basic ingredient, provides near-hospital accommodation for families of seriously ill children. In reality, of course, it does so much more. It provides essential support for families when they need it most. The charity's staff are a shoulder to cry on and a friendly face to consult with. The charity's guests are suffering what is unquestionably the single most emotionally painful experience that life can ever throw at anybody - a threat to their child's wellbeing. If their child pulls through then RMHC provides a Learning Program to help them catch up with schooling, and RMHC even offers Family Retreats to give the mums, dads and kids valuable time together to finally relax.

It was a great honour to be asked, as freelance professional writers, to pen this annual report which contains many stories of families that have come through a terrible experience. We should all have a chosen charity with whom we share our spare time and our talents. For The Hard Word, that organisation is Ronald McDonald House Charities.

To find out how you can help, please visit http://www.rmhc.org.au/help.

Get internal communications right - September 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

"Internal Communications: Choosing the Right Way to Share Inside Info"
Freelance writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Deborah Tarrant
2300 words

Indicators of good internal communication are also the markers of organisational health. Think staff turnover, morale, sick leave, organisational reputation, performance in the market. But companies tend to spend big on outward-facing marketing and PR, while connecting with staff via desultory emails or boring intranets. Finding the right way to strike up in-house conversations can tap collective mind power and reduce the dreaded email overload, claim experts. A strategic plan is required, though. Experts warn about the risks of mixing messages so everything on the inside seems rosy, while outside all looks bleak.

Read more:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleId=1479

How to blog for business - August 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

”The Top Rule for Hot Bloggers: Hold the Hype”
Freelance business writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Deborah Tarrant
1800 words

To blog or not to blog? For professionals and companies intent on high profiles, blogging has become vital in the social media mix. Smart bloggers constantly show thought leadership, share expertise and insights and effectively strike up conversations, and they understand how to roll with punches of public scrutiny. The rewards of open two-way communication with staff and customers far outweigh the risks, they say. Conversely, bad bloggers are fearful, sporadic and hype themselves or their products in a medium keenly sensitised to blog-flog. Newcomers to the blogosphere must know the rules, because the next question is: Can you afford not to blog?

Read more:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleId=1454

Who stole Australia’s bananas? - August 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

”The Price of Trade Protectionism: Yes, We Have No Bananas!”
Freelance journalist: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Deborah Tarrant
1500 words

The overturning of a 90-year ban on the import of New Zealand-grown apples has highlighted Australia's strict trade-protectionist quarantine policies. Researchers at the Australian School of Business say keeping out foreign produce may address competition comfort levels for industry, but often the real losers are consumers. Policymakers must more carefully weigh the benefits of imports against the perceived threats, they insist. Mad cow disease is definitely not worth trifling with, but the cost of an occasional outbreak of fruit-borne disease is far outstripped by the value of benefits that imports bring to consumers. There's food for thought!

Read more:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleId=1446

Ronald McDonald House Charities - August 2011

That's Life

"Life's Champion"
Freelance copywriter: Chris Sheedy
500 words

For four years following a horrific accident a teenage sporting hero demonstrated a champion's spirit and in doing so inspired all around him.

How to make innovation happen - August 2011

Management Today

”Capturing Innovation”
Freelance writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Jason Day
1000 words

With competition greater than ever, standards higher than at any other time and social networks that allow customers to virtually make or break a company, innovation is everything. Clients expect to be constantly impressed by the company’s offerings, whether they be products, systems, technology or even office space. Today, when staff have spent years simply attempting to survive the most challenging economic environment in living history, how do we turn attitudes around and allow them to imagine a brave, new world?

Capture Innovation

Ronald McDonald House Charities - August 2011

That's Life (advertorial)

"Back from the brink"
Freelance writer: Chris Sheedy
500 words

When he landed deep in a depressive pit, coal miner Murray Brendan found his true calling again by becoming a man for others.


Why do volunteers volunteer? - August 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

”Not-For-Profit Volunteers: Selfless Or Selfish?
Freelance writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Deborah Tarrant
1600 words

Not-for-profit organisations often thrive on the strength of volunteers so understanding what drives people to give time and effort free of charge is vital. Typically, volunteering is considered a selfless, empathetic activity, but quite often the "me" factor is at play. A new study from the Australian School of Business shows the motivations of volunteers vary greatly between age groups and indicates the need for not-for-profits (NFPs) to profile their volunteer bases to understand where gaps exist. Self-interested volunteers can work well, as long as the NFP knows how to wrangle them.

Read on:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleId=1451

Short profile piece - August 2011

National Insurance Brokers Association: Insurance & Risk Professional magazine

”Leap of faith”
Freelance writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Roslyn Atkinson
400 words
Heather Ritchie

Defining innovation for business - August 2011

Management Today

"A Question of Innovation"
Freelance business writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Jason Day
1100 words

Innovation is a big-ticket item that should be embedded permanently in the DNA of an organisation. It’s not just a brainstorm or a single product development, but rather
 a completely unique and constantly changing way of doing business. A leader or manager who is keen to improve their organisation’s innovation track record is likely to face a lot of tough questions, from above and below. Management Today asked innovation experts to help out and answer common questions surrounding innovation.


Age diversity in the office - July 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

"Age Diversity at Work: Talking 'Bout My Generation"
Freelance business writer: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Deborah Tarrant
1900 words

There's no training manual for how to manage multigenerational workforces. Yet a new study from the Australian School of Business covering four generational cohorts in five countries shows significant differences in work values exist between age groups. Members of Generation Y may be technologically adept, but their focus on leisure strongly conflicts with Traditionalists' and Baby Boomers' hard-work ethics. Adaptability is required all round. Some companies are actually leveraging generational differences. And when initiatives are designed to appeal to the "work-is-not-my-life" young ones, often more seasoned colleagues also opt to get with the program.

Read on:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleId=1431

How to pitch to an editor

One of the questions I’m most often asked by freelance journalists and PR people is how to pitch a story idea to an editor. It’s a topic I have come to know intimately over many years and from much experimentation. The good news is there’s no real secret to it – it’s not even difficult. Get it right and you’ll likely have a new client for life. But get it wrong and you’ll possibly never deal with that editor again.

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Here are my top ten tips:

1) Know the publication very well. Don’t pitch to Women’s Health a story about bottled water – their readers are way beyond that. And don’t pitch an idea that was in the latest issue.

2) Think only of the readers. Who are they? How old are they? Are they men or women, boys or girls? How much do they earn? What are they interested in? What will enrich their lives? What information will they actually use?

3) Narrow down your topic as much as possible. Nobody wants to read a story about world peace, but everybody loves to know about the young lady who finally earned a one-on-one meeting with Nelson Mandela. They’re the same topic but on very different scales.

4) A story pitch should contain a catchy headline (to help the editor imagine the story on the page) followed by a one-paragraph summary. That’s all! Don’t over-cook it. Editors are increasingly busy and don’t have time to read your extended thoughts on the topic.

5) The pitch paragraph should include the topic, the types of people to be interviewed, the reason for the story (what will the readers get out of it?) and possibly the desired effects of the story (is it educational, informational etc?).

6) Under-promise and over-deliver. Don’t promise an interview with a film star unless it’s guaranteed.

7) Pitch three story ideas at a time – no more and no less. Editors love to reject ideas, so give them a few to reject.

8) Never pitch on a Friday. Fresh minds are more receptive to fresh ideas.

9) Don’t write a story before being commissioned to do so. Features should be crafted for the specific readers of a specific title, not pre-written and sold to any bidder.

10) Remember that your job is to make the editor’s job easier. That means writing well, in their title’s style, for their title’s audience, utilising well-researched facts and coming up with unique ideas that their audience will appreciate. Do that and the editor will love you forever.

And here are a few of my own examples that met with success:

It’s Never Too Late To Live
(for a retirement magazine)
With the kids gone and the career over, a chasm can appear in the lives of retirees, one that no amount of golf or gardening will fill. But why sit around and wait for the family to visit? Take charge of your retirement and make something happen, such as volunteer work, further education or travel. Including advice from experts and from retirees, this feature is filled with practical strategies to escape the retirement rut.

The School Canteen
(for a food/family magazine)
We speak to three generations from one family about what they were/are served at their school canteen. As tastes change and health and allergy issues become more important, we compare today’s offerings to those of the 1970s and the 1950s. We then speak to a nutritionist to tell us how good/bad each offering was and how far we’ve come, if at all.

Modern Masters
(for an upmarket magazine)
A look into the life and careers of three modern masters, such as a composer of symphonies, an artist and a ballet choreographer. They should each be at different stages of their careers but all successful in their fields. What is life like for those who choose to walk the artistic road? How does being a composer today compare to Mozart’s time? How does the life of a modern playwright compare to that of Shakespeare? Does technology make their jobs easier or more difficult? This feature is a walk in the artists’ shoes.

Chris Sheedy

Traits of successful people – July 2011

National Australia Bank: BusinessView magazine

”Success Rate”
By: Chris Sheedy
1900 words

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Interviewing skills for journalists

An editor of a major weekend magazine recently asked me to run her team through a ‘how-to-interview’ course. She had looked around within the market and was amazed to discover that no such course existed. Despite the fact that interviewing is the second-most important tool in a journalist’s kit (after the ability to string words together into a sentence), universities and other education bodies simply ignore the skill of interviewing, as if it cannot be taught. But of course it can.

Question mark
Twenty years ago I worked my way through senior school and university in the phone room of a market research company and within those grey, carpeted booths I was shown the true meaning and value of skilled, measured interviewing. It’s called ‘probing’, and it’s a mix of intense listening and directed, topical questioning. It’s a skill that’s sadly lacking in the repertoire of many journalists today, who instead prefer to turn up with a set of ten pre-written questions. Once those ten questions are answered then the interview is over, but I was taught that the best interview is the one that doesn’t make it beyond the first prepared question.
Take, for instance, a market research interview about toothpaste. Ask somebody what it is that they like about their toothpaste and they will tell you that it has a nice, minty flavour and it makes their mouth feel fresh. The predictability of this answer means it’s completely useless information, and the journalistic equivalent result would be an incredibly dull story. But the interviewer skilled in probing will, within three or four more questions, potentially have the respondent admitting that she is single, lonely, and relies on the confidence given to her by her toothpaste to go out and meet potential partners – the journalistic equivalent result of a brilliant, exclusive piece.
There is a serious problem when a journalist hasn't been taught how to dig for a great story, how or when to probe or how to read the signs in what the respondent is saying. As a result the film star they’re interviewing tells them he did his own stunts. The CEO they’re interviewing tells them she’s made the difficult but necessary decisions and is now looking forward to a bumper year. And the football player they’re interviewing tells them he’s looking forward to his team doing the best they can and hopefully coming away with a win. Yawn. It’s all completely predictable, and therefore completely useless, information.
Of course, there’s a lot more involved in skilled interviewing, including when to use specific types of questions, body language, use of silence, importance of banter etc, but it can all be taught and most often it’s not. That’s sad for everyone, especially the readers. After all, without great interviewing skills there are no great stories. But if you ask the right questions the story will reveal itself, then all you need to do is write.

Chris Sheedy

The problem with employee engagement surveys – June 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

“Employee Engagement Surveys: Is Your Team Ticking Five To Survive?”
By: Chris Sheedy
Editor: Deborah Tarrant
1700 words

High-scoring employment engagement surveys make managers feel good because they suggest staff will apply discretionary effort, ultimately improving productivity and promoting growth. Bosses' bonuses also may depend on those stellar results. But many companies use desultory tick-a-box engagement surveys that are filled out by employees under pressure to "tick five to survive". Measurement of engagement needs a rethink as real value only comes from data that shows an organisation's true climate, suggests Julie Cogin, Head of Organisation and Management at the Australian School of Business. She warns that half-hearted survey efforts may be worse than none at all.

Read on:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleid=1416

Locals Ain't Locals – June 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

“Multinational Managers: Spotting the Difference Between Locals and Global Citizens”
By: Chris Sheedy
1600 words

The new breed of "global citizen" is puzzling for multinational managers. When posted to new territories, managers who are trained to accommodate cultural differences often find co-workers do not fit the stereotype. New research uncovers a more nuanced landscape where many – but not all – employees eagerly "acculturate" to working for a foreign company. Risks are both in imposing an organisation's home culture or going too far with localising by adapting to the host country's ways. And, from learning to expect the unexpected, benefits may extend across the whole company.

Read on:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleid=1417

A mum's nightmare – June 2011

New Idea magazine

“Struggle For Life Made Bearable” (advertorial)
By: Chris Sheedy
500 words
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Call in the commandos – May 2011

Lexus Magazine

“Getting ‘Em Out Alive”
By: Chris Sheedy
1500 words

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When CRM turns bad – May 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

“Customer Relationship Management: A Dangerous Walk on the Dark Side”
By: Chris Sheedy
1700 words

Oddly enough, these days customer relationship management (CRM) may be more about serving the organisation than keeping paying customers satisfied. Short-term thinking has prompted some mobile phone companies, banks, credit card companies and health clubs, among others, to design CRM strategies to fill their coffers. It's a dangerous approach that's not only likely to stop 'em coming back for more, but may have much more widespread consequences. Adrian Payne, a marketing professor at the Australian School of Business, warns that 21st century customers have ways of getting their own back.

Follow this link:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleId=1380

Alcohol and health – May 2011

Men’s Fitness magazine

“Do You Drink Too Much?”
By: Chris Sheedy
2300 words

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Leadership and narcissism – April 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

“Effective Leadership: What’s Wrong With Narcissism?
By: Chris Sheedy
2100 words

Many of the world's great leaders are narcissists. Self-belief, ambition and energy drive their pioneering creative spirits and often this has a positive effect on business. Why is narcissism such a dirty word, then? Because its flipside can be collateral damage as it impacts on staff, and promotes risky, illegal or immoral behaviour and greed. An egotistical leader may suffer as well, as he or she loses a sense of self. Psychologists say the root cause of the disorder is found in childhood. Coincidentally, even Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was a case in point. How can the advantages of narcissism be harnessed and the destructive consequences avoided?

Follow this link:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleid=1383

The story of sake – March 2011

Lexus Magazine

“Sake Awakening”
By: Chris Sheedy
1600 words

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Leadership and stress – March 2011

Knowledge @ Australian School of Business

"High Anxiety: What’s Driving Executive Stress?"
By: Chris Sheedy
1400 words

Calling the boss crazy – while unlikely to be a career-enhancing move – may be disturbingly close to the truth. New research into the emotional state of executives reveals they suffer far higher levels of mental instability than the general population. Largely to blame are the demands of high-stress roles that preclude corporate high fliers and professionals from being themselves. The upshot may be over-aggressive and other types of dysfunctional behaviour. News of the incidence of "toxic" bosses is now prompting questions about the abilities of executive coaches and leadership interventions for supporting senior staff when their behaviour has gone awry.

Follow this link:
http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleid=1351

Willpower for fitness – March 2011

Men‘s Fitness magazine

“Master Your Willpower”
By: Chris Sheedy
1600 words

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We have lift-off


That's right ladies and gentlemen, Chris and Jenny at THE HARD WORD have finally found a moment to suit up and enter the blogosphere, launching themselves into Web 2.0 just as it's probably all about to change to Web 3.0...
The reason? The way information is exchanged has moved beyond the capabilities of our previous, and somewhat olde worlde, mild-mannered static website.
Looking back at the masses of content that we have produced in almost 20 years of writing, we realise that our new content will require a renovated home and a different format. Perhaps that might also mean we'll find an entirely new audience.
So thanks for visiting. We look forward to sharing informative and entertaining stories with you, and to reading more than a few of your own.