The challenge that galvanised us

A few days ago, Amith Prabhu put out a challenge on twitter eclipsing the ‘bottle cap’ challenge, which caught the eyes of actors, politicians and sportspersons. He challenged the corporate communicators community to contribute 52 columns to this very magazine and he dangled a sweet carrot at the end of it all – a discounted entry to Praxis2020!

This bemused me on two counts – the challenge was aimed at communicators for whom writing is a kind of bread and butter and that communicators had to be incentivised to write! I asked myself – will this shake people up?

When I read the responses to Amith’s tweet, it confirmed the above – we communicators did need a challenge and an incentive to go back to our basics! The fact that I am here writing this column tells you that I am equally guilty of the same.

Where has the love of writing disappeared?

Writing plays an integral role in our profession as communicators. It is kind of a prerequisite skill set. I remember the writing skill test that I took in my first job in this field. I am sure the test is still part of the entry-level selections. When we began our careers, writing press releases/notes, preparing briefing documents, etc. played an important role in our jobs. That is how we sharpened our skills and moved up in our professional journey.

Today, how many of us really write more than what we are supposed to do? This article is not about our ‘must-do’ writings. It is about the writings that have the potential to tell a story. It is about writing our experiences. It is about sharing our challenges. It is about acknowledging our failures and demonstrating our grit and determination to win. How many of us do that?

When I left behind my pens, pencils and notebooks and embraced the laptop and keyboard, I lost the personal touch of writing. Writing is now more of a mechanical exercise. I cannot say for others, but to me, it certainly changed the way I used to write. My hand notes are now briefer and I rely more on the ‘notes’ App in my phone to take down points. What I write too has changed. It is more abridged. Most of it is in shorthand. It has less of opinion. Empathy seems to be missing. The writings are more objective. The soul has drifted away.

Common Sense Ideas

Sharing some common sense ideas on how I have tried to overcome my lack of writing and what I do in my personal and professional space:

  • Use both, my personal and professional calendars on a daily basis emphasising on what ‘I’ feel
  • Update my weekly progress/topics covered in an excel format
  • Take pointers from daily meetings and convert them into long stories for use at an appropriate time
  • Build on my passion for a subject and expand my thoughts on the same
  • Explore different channels – Reputation Today. Medium. LinkedIn.
  • Watch out for networking opportunities that give me a chance to learn and share ideas that can be converted into writings

As communicators and more importantly, as storytellers, we need to ensure we retain the art of writing. We need to ensure we share our experiences within our community. We need to continuously learn and at some stage perhaps un-learn old ways of doing things. Writing also gives us the opportunity to expand our network.

Here’s to more of writing then. May be we did need someone to prod and shake us from our complacency and to awaken the writer in us.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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