Four (or really seven) Ways to Write Creatively

By Matthew Neylon, Associate Copywriter 

Steve Jobs said creativity is just connecting two things. So in the sense of writing, let’s dive into the ways to connect point A with point B, the beginning with the end, the ooh with the ahh.

So where do we start?

1. Start writing on paper
When your writing starts on the computer, your ideas jumble together faster than your rate of words per minute. Ideas just seem to flow from the head to the hand to the pen to the pad more cohesively. When you write by hand—especially in the drafting and initial stages—you have a better handle over your ideas.

2. Keep it simple (with a surprise).
Creativity is simplicity. It’s meant to be understood, not figured out. It should have a simple surprise that makes you say “ahh!” not “huh?” Keep it simple, for the sake of your writing and for the sake of the reader’s interest.

Part of simplicity is economy. Creativity shouldn’t be sought after in a long list of long paragraphs full of long sentences full of long clauses full of long words. Like Jobs said, creativity is connecting things. And the reader is the one doing the connecting. So omit the extraneous content so the reader can fill in the blanks and connect the dots for themselves.

3. Be an avid reader
When I was a scrawny young boy, I played a lot of soccer. One of my most influential coaches was a retired pro named Mike. During practice one day, Coach Mike wasn’t happy with my team’s scrappy playing. He told us to watch a professional game of soccer on TV when we get home. What he wanted us to do was learn from the best by watching them.

Part of learning how to do is by learning how the best do. Developing a voice in your writing can be tough. So learn from those that have already done so. Read some Hemingway or James Joyce. It will help you garner some techniques and acumen for the written word.

4. Do it
Mining the gold nugget that creativity is begins with the mining. Ideas don’t just think themselves up. Words don’t just write themselves down.

In a way, writing is a lot like riding a bike. A shiny, red bike that just shed its plastic training wheels. You have to get up and ride in order to go anywhere or get any better. And to keep going—to keep getting better and to keep moving forward—you need to keep pedaling.

Bonus:
Here are some additional rules and guidelines.

5. Break the rules and guidelines.
Don’t always blindly follow grammar and structure. Especially given the context of what you’re writing. If everyone always followed the rules, we wouldn’t have creativity.

6. Develop your own style.
Writing is written word (duh), not spoken word. So you need to create your own coherent voice for your words to be read beyond the two-dimensional page.

7. Have fun.
Writing should be fun. Creativity should always be fun.

Intern Spotlight: Christine Todd

Intern Spotlight: Christine Todd 

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Name: Christine Todd
School: Butler University
Graduation Year: 2014
Major: Strategic Communication
Internship title: Communications Management Assistant
Hobbies: Traveling, cooking, decorating

Duties at Hirons:

At Hirons, I assist the communications management department in whatever they need. This includes research, building media lists, writing internal documents, drafting scopes of work and communications plans, press releases, pitching, creating presentations, etc. I really get to touch on a lot of projects with a lot of different people at Hirons, which is nice because I get a more diverse outlook of how everyone operates. I also dabble in assisting Hirons with its own promotion through social media posts.

Favorite part about interning at Hirons:

It may sound cliché, but I really like the people I work with at Hirons. Everyone is always willing to take time out of their day to train me on a new skill or teach me how to utilize a new platform. They really want to make sure that their interns have the best experience possible. They’re also very cognizant of implementing team building activities in and out of the office. Also, the food. There always seems to be food popping up around the office – whether its donut Thursday, bagel Friday or a coworker randomly bringing in dessert to share! Most recently, we actually did a team breakfast at the office with pumpkin pancakes and are having a chili cook-off later this week. What can I say, we really like food.

What have you learned during your time at Hirons? How does this opportunity relate to your career goals?

I’ve learned a lot about how a full-service agency operates and how the different departments work together to get projects out the door. I’ve been exposed to the basic processes of all our departments at Hirons, which includes media, account management, creative, and production. Having a basic understanding of how to communicate with the different departments is beneficial because I would really like to work at an agency for part of my career. I’ve also been tasked with a lot of important projects and it’s given me a better understanding of project management and responsibility.

Most difficult aspect of the job:

Having to account for how I use my time in 15-minute increments…

Fun facts about Christine:

  • I’ve technically been around the world 9 times.
  • I was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there until I was 6 because my parents were doctors there.
  • I would probably eat sushi everyday if I could.

Employee Ownership: How to Attract the Very Best People

By Jim Parham, Chief Operating Officer

This month we celebrate employee ownership month at Hirons. An ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) is an employee benefit program that often goes unnoticed. Basically, the definition sounds much like the name—employees working hard to attain profits that, in turn, are distributed back to them in shares of stock.

I worked for an ESOP for 10 years prior to joining the ranks at Hirons & Company and the approach was very new to me. But employee ownership is on the rise in the United States and by all accounts, it’s working very well. There are currently 14.7 million participants with 8,926 ESOP or ESOP-like plans.

Hirons & Company is now four years into the transformation from a traditionally established company to an ESOP. We’ve worked with some of the best people in the U.S. to establish and manage this innovative and exciting way to run a company.

Unlike many privately-held firms, where profits and control are handled by one person, a board, or Wall Street, an ESOP uses specific government-regulated methodologies to provide employees with an opportunity to vest in the company.

The benefits are obvious. Each year, stock shares are distributed to qualified employee owners, usually at no cost to the employees, and are vested over a period of time. The stock values are determined by the performance of the firm, not by a far-away board sitting in a high rise on Madison Avenue, New York.

Work hard, reap benefits. Work hard, gain equity in the company. Not a bad deal, is it?

Today, with Millennials accumulating in the workplace, companies are trying to find a way to build loyalty and longevity among their employees. The stereotype is that the average young professional is changing jobs more often than their jeans, and it’s a very expensive process to be constantly hiring and losing employees.

An ESOP operates much like a 401K retirement plan. So, while the stock benefit may be substantial, it’s not readily available to the employees like a cash bonus. This may be why some employee owned companies are not seeing the ESOP as “golden handcuffs” to keep valued employees around. But for those willing to invest and stick with the company, things can be pretty rosy in the future. Again, this is a positive outlook based upon company performance.

“I’m a young professional with a degree, energy and stick-to-itiveness and the Hirons ESOP works for me,” states Courtney Smallwood, the new business manager at Hirons. “Today, it’s often short attention span theatre with my peers when it comes to settling into a job. I prefer to be steady and stable in a position with growth opportunity, which is exactly what Hirons provides with its ESOP.”

ESOP’s have increased in popularity to the point that how-to seminars are popping up like daffodils in the spring. It seems that many firms, struggling to justify traditional organizational frameworks, are turning to this progressive and employee-centric model. The U.S. government is involved in ESOP’s too (well, what is the government not involved in?). The Department of Labor has a large number of employees dedicated to regulating ESOP’s and ensuring correct valuations and prohibited transactions.

Business in America is constantly evolving to meet customer demands. An ESOP is an important tool in the box when it comes to being malleable in the marketplace and attracting and keeping the best-in-class employees.

Intern Spotlight: Emma Miller

Intern Spotlight: Emma Miller

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Name: Emma Miller
School: Indiana University, Fairbanks School of Public Health
Major: MS in Biostatistics, MPH in Epidemiology
Internship title: Communications Management Assistant
Hobbies: Hanging out with friends, traveling, watching mindless television shows and playing soccer

Duties at Hirons:

  • Facilitate communications for public relations and advertising initiatives to ensure timely response to clients, task coverage, data management, quality control, and intra-company cooperation
  • Draft scopes of work, project timelines, meeting agendas, communications plans, press releases, messaging, and collateral copy for client accounts
  • Track media coverage and follow up with media contacts to ensure placement of client pieces
  • Worked as a member of the branding team for Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management to develop a presentation, talking points, social media strategy, and messaging for the new STEM focus

Favorite part about interning at Hirons:

A small company like Hirons facilitates teamwork and nurtures friendships among co-workers. I have had the pleasure of working with a number of talented individuals, all of whom bring a unique perspective to Hirons and the creative process. This has enabled me to see how the same task can be approached from a variety of different ways. The people here seem to really care about identifying your talents and integrating them into the work that you do. At the end of the day, we support each other at work and in our personal lives. You never feel alone here!

Also, we are a dog friendly office (and this girl loves dogs). There are usually two to three dogs roaming the office at any given time, which really helps the office mood during high-stress times of trying to get a project out the door. Our furry friends remind us to take a break every now and again.

What have you learned during your time at Hirons? How does this opportunity relate to your career goals?

The skills I have cultivated at Hirons are highly transferable to the public health field. Being able to effectively convey your thoughts through written and verbal communication means that you will be successful in the business world regardless of your role. Most importantly, I have learned that you should treat yourself as your number one client to ensure that your actions are conducive to your end goals.

Most difficult aspect of the job:

Omitting the Oxford comma.

A Diverse City

By Matthew Neylon, Associate Copywriter

My great-grandfather was a tannery union organizer back in the early twentieth century here in Indianapolis.

Unfortunately, if you told someone who wasn’t from Indianapolis that leathering and tanneries were still a thriving business in this city, they would probably believe you.

To those outside of Indianapolis and Indiana at large, they don’t fully understand that our city is reinventing itself.

Let’s take a look at Indianapolis’ changing landscape.

Craft breweries are booming in this town – our consumer has an evolving change in taste, and that’s what’s causing a 50% increase in these breweries in the last year.

Indianapolis has always been a top sports city, but we also boast about being a top city for emerging industries in the life sciences, information technology, advanced manufacturing, logistics, motor-sports and clean technology.

So Indy has some pretty forward-thinking and savvy industries coming onto the scene. But what about the more creative industries? How’s our beloved advertising industry faring?

Looking at the big picture, advertising agencies have floated in a pretty stable industry. Economically speaking, advertising remains stagnant relative to the rest of the economy’s growth. The landscape hasn’t changed much for ad agencies, especially concerning diversity.

Eight years ago last week, the New York City Commission on Human Rights held hearings on how the advertising industry hires, retains and promotes minority employees.

I’m not going to get into the politics of the hearings, the outcomes or the status of the retention of minority employees (because honestly, if you need to turn in report cards to the government on how you’re hiring a brown person, there’s something systemically wrong). Instead, I’m going to comment on why diversity is important and why it’s exciting to be working in advertising in Indianapolis at a time like this.

White males have traditionally dominated the advertising workplace. It’s the old boys’ club. We usually liken it to Mad Men.

Let’s look at the numbers:

In 2013, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that of the 51,000 advertising and promotions managers in the US, 93.3% were white employees, 0.1% were black, 3.5% were Asian, 16.1% were Hispanic or Latino and 67.8% were women.

Of the 907,000 marketing and sales managers, 88.5% were white, 5% were black, 4.7% were Asian, 6.6% were Hispanic or Latino and 43.1% were women.

There’s not a lot of racial diversity going on here. But what is diversity beyond race and gender?

To me diversity is an inclusion and collaboration of different minds and walks of life.

Now what’s a minority? I believe this definition is malleable and subjective. When we see a lack of this so-called diversity, we can then easily identify a minority as the person that is missing from the picture. And when the so-called minority is in the picture, they’re the response for “which does not belong?”

In Indianapolis, if you look at me, I would be considered a minority. Don’t call me a professional on the matter; just consider me more cognizant than my Indy peers.

But why is diversity important?

Evolution is not possible without a little moving and shaking, a little change. We only see forward progress when someone asks “why?”

When someone asks the right questions, it leads to more creative ideas, perspectives, insights and experiences. In advertising, we are the creators of thought. We are the change agents. But we can only influence change when we’re familiar with it.

Plus, doing the same thing gets old. If I only had the option of eating vanilla ice cream, I’d get bored. I would want some variety to maintain my sanity. Albert Einstein famously said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Regardless of the numbers, we need more diversity in advertising. After all, if we’re trying to speak to and influence the public, we should represent and know to whom we’re talking. That’s just common sense.

Our demographic makeup in this city isn’t the same as when my great-grandfather was organizing unions in the early 1900s. Yet for some reason, the advertising industry still looks as if it hasn’t changed since then.

Despite the lack of what I’ve been commenting, I’m just excited to be working in the job I love. I wouldn’t want to be working in any other industry right now. And although it isn’t reinventing itself as much the rest of the city, I’m glad to be at the forefront of the change. The only direction to move from here is forward. I’m also glad I work at an agency that embraces diversity.

I can’t wait for the day when we view diversity in advertising as an antiquated topic, like how my grandmother tells me stories of my great-grandfather tanning leather with immigrant workers. Imagine the day when we can say, “Back in my day, diversity was this new-fangled notion sweeping the industry.”

A Way with Words

By Madeline Morgan, Senior Editor/Writer

First, a caveat:

I’m a bit of a throwback. I cook dinner just about every night, bought my first smartphone earlier this year and have no clue when women stopped wearing pantyhose.

But as lead editor here at Hirons, I see a lot. And one thing I see is a bright future for good writers.

Granted, I want to see a bright future, not only for me but also for my youngest son, who is majoring in journalism at IU. Nevertheless, I see in him and in several of the young people I work with an appreciation for this very old form of expression —  the drive to find the right word, to say what you mean,  to say it in a way that is not only true but fresh.

It’s a love of language, and it is as much an art form as painting and music. Writers, like other artists, want to explore the unexplored, to show their audiences a new way of looking at the world. And, despite what you may hear, it is not a lost art.

Naysayers point to the dwindling ranks of newspapers and magazines as evidence that writing isn’t prized anymore. And they charge that email and texting are making nouns, verbs and entire sentences obsolete.

Well, businesses, governments and social institutions expect you to use all of those fine words and more when it comes to pleading their cases and telling their stories. They want words that are descriptive, persuasive and riveting. They want punctuation that is correct, unobtrusive and helpful.

So writers: Take heart. If your goal is to work for a newspaper, you might need to be open to other media. But most companies and nonprofits employ writers in communications, marketing and development departments, and ad agencies employ them to fulfill the communications needs of their clients. The subject matter may not be of your choosing, but the process is the same: innovation, clarity and precision in language.

I’ve written all my life, and I believe some of my best stuff – the most fun stuff – has been on subjects not of my choosing – the Baby Boom generation, parade floats, septic systems. But therein lies the challenge: How can I make this interesting to the reader, and to myself? How can I make the words sing?

It never gets old.

Blue, White and Dog Collars

By Matthew Neylon, Associate Copywriter

Bring Your Best Friend To Work Day would never fly. First you’re posed with the decision of assigning your best friend and possibly burning a few bridges along the way. Then you have to decide who’s the friend and who’s bringing the friend to work. Then once you get to work, you probably wouldn’t get much work done. Depending on the person, you would get distracted, probably crack some NSFW (not safe for work) jokes and even entertain the idea of skipping work early so the two of you can hit the town.

That’s why there isn’t such a thing as Bring Your Best Friend To Work Day. Unless, your best friend happens to be man’s best friend.

Take Your Dog To Work Day happened this year on June 20th. Offices all over the world opened their doors to our furry friends. Before, workspaces only saw the likes of blue collars and white collars. Now offices are seeing more dog collars.

Companies that allow dogs in their offices year-round include Google, Amazon, Etsy, Ben & Jerry’s and Salesforce. Add Hirons to that happy list.

Now let’s take a look at companies that don’t allow dogs in their offices: Dunder Mifflin (The Office), Initech (Office Space) and Springfield Nuclear Power Plant (The Simpsons). Michael Scott, Bill Lumbergh and Mr. Burns would notice the difference in happiness and productivity levels if they allowed dogs alongside their miserable employees.

Studies show that employees who bring their dogs to work report higher levels of work satisfaction and lower levels of stress. However, the facts aren’t just a comparison between TV and real-life companies.

Research from Virginia Commonwealth University shows that simply having a dog nearby can lower a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. That’s a byproduct of that calming, happy feeling you get from oxytocin. Oxytocin—the “trust hormone”—is the same hormone released when mother’s breastfeed. It’s the hormone that allows us to love, trust and form relationships.

So in a way, dogs allow us to simply be human. That’s a good thing too, since research gathered from common sense shows that humans generally make good employees.

As I write this, one of our associate art directors, Luke, just brought his dog into the office. One year-old Rosie, a German Shepherd-Hound mix, has a lot to learn from Hank, our veteran Golden Retriever. Like how to take long naps and comfort the creatives when they get a little stressed.

As the two pups play together, you can just feel the tangible happiness in the air. Dogs just make everything better.

Those who own dogs appreciate knowing that they help us stay cool and collected. They remind us not to take things too seriously. They remind us that everything, in fact, will be OK.

Even those who don’t own dogs can appreciate the benefits of dogs in the office. In addition to lowering our stress levels and raising work satisfaction, dogs provide what some office resources sometimes just can’t. Dogs provide unconditional love and social support. They provide affection and contact that would otherwise go unseen in office spaces.

Dogs also hold us accountable. They make us take breaks every now and then; whether its stretching our legs and relieving some stress, or stretching our legs and relieving their bladder.

Dogs are good for the office. They remind us to care, something that is usually forgotten between the hours of 9am to 5pm.

And so, until we can find a way to make Bring Your Best Friend To Work Day happen, man’s best friend will be top dog in the office friend category.

Ad Agency Success: What Being Creative Really Means

By Jim Parham, Chief Operating Officer

At Hirons, a successful Midwestern advertising and public relations shop, we have a department officially designated as the Creative Department. This has been a standard practice in the ad biz long before “Mad Men” made us famous, or infamous.

I contend that just about everyone in the communications business, whether media buying types, public relations teams or advertising experts, are, by their very nature, creative.

Carolyn Gregoire, a features editor at the Huffington Post, recently wrote an article on what makes people, well, creative. In her article, 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/04/creativity-habits_n_4859769.html), she suggests that creative people fail up. Meaning, of course, they are not fearful of failing and are not detoured by roadblocks.

Here’s an excerpt from her article:

“Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives — at least the successful ones — learn not to take failure so personally.”

She cites Forbes contributor Steven Kotler, writing about Albert Einstein: “Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often.”

While for most businesses, failure is not an option, creative people in the communications business spend a lot of time thinking, rethinking, then testing and redoing a lot of work. Why?  Re-examination and retooling make a better final product.  And, creative communications people are not at all adverse to critical input and smart suggestions to make the work better. Just ask any reporter about how important an editor was to the final product.

While exceptional creative work may not take a village, it requires at least several pairs of eyes to think about the work as the client and final recipient will view it.  Hence, many agencies test the creative work (display ads, television spots or key messaging) on targeted publics before it goes final.

We’ve all heard the statements about right brain versus left brain and who is truly a creative type. Overall, while brain science is important and cannot be discounted, almost anyone can be successful developing a creative solution to a pressing problem. Just ask Rube Goldberg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, inventor, engineer and sculptor.

Dropping Knowledge: 5 Steps for Transforming Your Boring Workspace

By Luke Woody, Associate Art Director 

I am now three weeks into my internship here at Hirons, and it’s safe to say this place is the bees’ knees. (You know, if bees had knees.) And since I am new, this is my first blog for Hirons. Most novice bloggers would write about how they feel at their internship or tell some story about something somewhat interesting, but not this guy. I’m going to provide you with a step-by-step break down of how to get comfortable at your desk.

I live in the creative department here, so I like to make my workstation feel more like a break room when I need to take a mental break. It probably ramps up productivity to take a break at your desk, but I’m no scientist. However, I do feel like I have mastered the science of being comfortable. So listen up!

Step 1: Evaluate your surroundings. Look at other co-workers’ desks to see how they decorate their areas. Sometimes they have some pretty cool stuff, but nobody wants to be a copycat, except for a copycat I guess. Also, be sure to look at your own desk and get an idea of how much room you have to work with. Obviously.

Step 2: Make a list of awesome things you enjoy. Here’s my list:

  • Toy monster truck (for paperweight purposes)
  • (Knock-off) Nerf guns
  • Mustache coffee mug
  • Small foam basketball with hoop
  • Juice boxes (because I’m still a 5-year-old)
  • Remote-control helicopter

Step 3: Bring all that cool stuff to work. Make sure the “feng shui” is just right. Also, be sure not to do this during billable hours. There are people that get paid to do that, like movers and interior designers, but not interns who live in the creative department.

Step 4: Personalization is key. I wrote general notes on the darts of the (knock-off) Nerf guns like, “Look @ me” “Question?” and “Message 4 U.” When you personalize your stuff, it not only lets people know that it’s yours, but it lets them know what you’re about. For example, my coffee mug has a mustache on it. That means I like mustaches, right? Correct. Another way to personalize your desk is to change your desktop and screen saver to a picture(s) that describes you or your interests. I like antique cars, therefore my desktop is a photo of a 1936 Cord 812.

Step 5: Go to work. There’s no point in going through all of this trouble if you don’t get any work done. Why? Because if you don’t work, then you get fired and you no longer have a desk during which to take a break. The point of a creative workstation is to be comfortable and keep a jovial attitude while getting more work done in the process. Like I said, I’m no scientist, but I’m sure there’s some correlation there.

So there you have it, step-by-step instructions on how to make your work area more enjoyable; it might even encourage your co-workers to do the same!

Intern Spotlight: Kayla Pointer

Intern Spotlight: Kayla Pointer 

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Name: Kayla Pointer
School: Indiana University, Bloomington
Graduation Year: 2012
Major: Gen. Studies
Minor(s): Sociology, Public Health & Human Development and Family Studies
Internship title: New Business Intern / Office Coordinator’s Assistant
Hobbies: Traveling, Reading, Yoga, Photography, Volunteering & Loving on animals

Duties at Hirons:

As a New Business Intern, I’m in charge of providing account support for prospective clients and the New Business Department in the day-to-day management of potential accounts. Responsibilities include: attending internal meetings, managing prospective client history, research and meeting reports, and knowing and understanding established communications objectives and producing materials consistent with those objectives.

Favorite part about interning at Hirons:

My favorite part about interning at Hirons is the atmosphere. I’ll never forget walking through the doors on the first day and feeling like I had just stepped into a building located on the West Coast. It not only has a modern and funky feel to it, but there’s also this easy-going vibe that permeates the building. It’s not that we don’t work hard (because trust me, we do), it’s just a very welcoming place to be. Maybe it’s the high-spirited people I work with, or maybe it’s all the kisses from our two lovable work dogs that hang out in the Creative Department.

What have you learned during your time at Hirons? How does this opportunity relate to your career goals?

I’ve learned that it’s not so much what you know, but who you know. Of course, being knowledgeable about what you do is very important, but in using your contacts and extending your network, you begin to find more opportunities for success. This opportunity absolutely relates to my career goals and in all sectors of work. Whether you’re in PR or Epidemiology, networking is an important skill to obtain.

Most difficult aspect of the job:

I’d say the most challenging aspect of this job was coming into it with little experience in PR. Fortunately, I was trained by some great staff members and have had the opportunity to meet some very important individuals in the industry. This internship has largely contributed to my ongoing pursuit of knowledge in these fields. I’m so glad I took the leap of faith when applying at Hirons, and I’m so glad they jumped with me!

Fun facts about Kayla:

  • She’s participated in two cross-country bike trips with deCycles Bloomington.
  • She knows WAY too many strange animal facts.
  • She lived abroad in Mexico for two months.
  • She has a serious obsession with ethnic foods.