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Photos are crucial for audience engagement. Getting the right shots requires strong collaboration between editorial and photography. I asked my friend and professional photographer Martha Hoelzer to share her advice for working with photographers.

Photo of decorative gourds by Martha Hoelzer and used with permission on The Word Factory blog.
It's decorative gourd season! (c) Martha Hoelzer

Advice for collaborating with photographers

1. Develop a concept. What images do you want to capture? How are the images going to be used? For the web, print, billboard, promotion? Gather images or ideas onto a Pinterest board to share as needed. This helps the photographer think creatively about angles and styles they may want to capture for you. It can also help them focus specifically on what is important.

2. Communicate expectations. Set up a meeting or phone call to discuss vision and requirements. Share your budget so the photographer can determine how to best work with you and help you accomplish your goals. Review your deadlines, if any, in advance to eliminate frustrations.

3. Keep an open mind. Photographers are creatively vision-driven. For instance, when having a headshot taken, you may be positioned in a way that feels completely unnatural or unauthentic to you. Trust the professional -- usually, the final result looks very different and positive! Also be open to shooting with more (or only) natural light. Mother Nature is often at her best earlier in the morning and toward dusk. Think of amazing sunsets you may have enjoyed watching. Those golden glows can warm a face, product or landscape thus transforming an image.

Creating something is exciting and a fun challenge not only for the photographer and the writer.

Martha Hoelzer is a professional photographer based in Chapel Hill, N.C., and working around the world. Check out her commercial photography.

A lovely seaside scene shot by Martha Hoelzer and used with permission in a guest post on The Word Factory blog.
(c) Martha Hoelzer
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October is Emotional Intelligence Awareness Month. In observance of that, here's an easy way to infuse more empathy -- a key component of emotional intelligence -- into your content.

The Feelings Before & After Strategy helps us understand where our audience is emotionally before they engage with our content and where we want them to be afterwards.

The Feelings Before & After Strategy (c) 2019 The Word Factory, LLC

Writing with emotional intelligence

Start by jotting down how your audience feels now in the Feelings Before block. That could be frustrated, anxious, confused, bored, unprepared, etc. Your sales team often has lots of ideas for this section. This block is where your audience lives right now. Understanding this helps you choose the right angle for your topic and the right words to show empathy and understanding.

Then note the emotions you want them feel after engaging with your content in the Feelings After block (duh!). That could be satisfied, calm, interested, curious, validated, etc. This is the road map for your content. The goal is to use the right combination of words and ideas to move your audience to these new (hopefully better) emotions.

Now go back to the Before Block. Think about how you experience those feelings and how you like to be talked to in those moments. What tone of voice do you need to hear? Do you need someone with all the answers or only a next step? Write those traits down in the Writer's Persona block. This helps you create the mindset the writer needs to be in to deliver the ideas in a way that shows empathy and makes the audience feel seen and heard -- and helped.

The Feelings Before & After Strategy is a handy revision tool, too. Go back through each block and tune up copy to make it more relevant and resonant.

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Our most-read posts of the quarter:

Tips for writers and editors: Advice on how to make the revision and editing process kinder and gentler for everyone involved.

How to write an authentic apology: Tips plus an example from Janelle Monáe.

Brand-building strategy: How we use public office hours to boost awareness and support business development.

Thanks, as ever, for reading. Got an idea for a post? Email me!

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Banned Books Week 2019

censorship keeps us all in the dark. keep the light on.
banned books week 2019
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Tribute to Cokie Roberts

Back when I was just starting my career, Cokie Roberts was my icon. I was working in government affairs and media relations and I loved listening to her reporting on the Congress I was working with every day.

Photo by Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

I revered her reporting style -- objective, concise and full of insight. As the editor of several newsletters covering the Congress' activities on healthcare, I tried to mimic her technique. She made me a better Congressional observer and writer.

I watched her faithfully on This Week With David Brinkley. Reveled in her commentary there and on the radio. Read her excellent books Founding Mothers and others.

I also appreciated that she was a trailblazer, one of the few women in her position. I worked at the time for a very patriarchal boss, in a patriarchal company with a male-dominated leadership. Ms. Roberts showed me what was possible. She was a role model for me and lots of other young women in the early 1980s.

Thanks to my local public radio station, WUNC, I got to meet Ms. Roberts once. She made me feel like she'd waited all day to meet me. Her genuine, easy style was infectious and admirable (after a long day of meeting with patrons).

The news of Ms. Roberts' passing hit me harder than I thought it would this morning. I admired her so much, but more than that, she had been with me on every step of my journey as a journalism, writing and campaign professional. I'll miss hearing her inimitable voice on the radio every week and her perspective on the upcoming elections. I like to think she's still here, watching over my writing and my own analysis of politics, gently guiding me to continue to raise the bar for my work and keep educating the electorate.

Thanks for everything, Cokie Roberts. You made a difference.

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