In the Face of Fear

Intruder breaking into a home.

Image from: Wtop News


By: Rehann Rheel

Frozen in Fear:

I paused where I stood and stared at the form lying on my living room couch. My brain, still slow to process information this early in the morning, slowly ticked off the things it knew I wasn’t seeing. I wasn’t seeing my mom or my aunt, because I could hear them a few yards away, in different rooms. I wasn’t seeing my sister, because she does not have man feet or such holey socks. And I wasn’t seeing some employee of my mother’s that she’d asked to house sit for the night because that didn’t even make any sense. So that meant…what I was seeing was…

An intruder.

In my house.

Sleeping on my couch. 

I had to warn somebody. My sister, my mom, my aunt—and myself, of course—were all in danger. But when I tried to call out, nothing happened. Like whatever neurons connected my brain to my vocal cords didn’t exist. 

Stupid, stupid. 

Plan B, then. Getaway, go to the adults and warn them via the most intense game of charades I’ve ever played. 

I had better success with Plan B. Slowly backing away (because I was afraid that the intruder wasn’t sleeping and that he’d leap up like a ninja the second my back was turned and stab me), I left the living room, then the breakfast nook, and finally reached the kitchen where my aunt was pondering wooden pieces on the ground; wooden pieces I knew must be from the door the intruder came through. 

When there was finally a wall between me and the intruder, I got some control of my vocal cords back. Enough to rasp, “Look! Look!” as I gesticulated at the living room.

The concept of “fight or flight” is thrown around a lot—in TV, books, anything. But what I did that day—at least at first—was neither fight nor flight: it was freeze. 


The Science of Fear:

Fear is a not-so-dear friend of mine. You see, I am an easily startled person, and can hardly make it a day without being scared by some unexpected sound or presence. But despite my frenemy status with fear, I don’t actually know how it works. Turns out, fear is an extremely complicated, multi-step process that happens in less than a second.

First, comes the object of fear. Maybe it’s a speeding car or a murder hornet or just a strand of hair you thought was a spider because you forgot that you dyed your hair a darker color. When faced with this object, the eyes and/or ears send the sights or sounds directly to the amygdala, the part of the brain involved in processing emotions. The amygdala looks at the information it’s been given and sounds the alarm, sending a distress signal to the hypothalamus. (Harvard Health, 2020).

So, next, the hypothalamus takes charge. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that talks to all the rest of the body via the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system has two very important parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The former is what lights a fire under our feet, so to speak, and triggers the fight or flight response (Harvard Health, 2020).


 

 

Labeled view of brain.

Image from: The University of Queensland


Fight or Flight:

The term “fight or flight” has been in use since the 1920s (fight or fight or flapper, anyone?). It describes the reactions we exhibit when faced with a threat—perceived or real (Schmidt et al., 2008).

“Accurately or not, if you assess the immediately menacing force as something you potentially have the power to defeat, you go into fight mode. In such instances, the hormones released by your sympathetic nervous system—especially adrenaline—prime you to do battle and, hopefully, triumph over the hostile entity,” said Leon F Seltzer, Ph.D. (Seltzer, 2015).

However, if you take a look at the threat you’re facing and realize that there’s no way you’d ever make it out of that particular battle scratch-free, the body wants to flee (Seltzer, 2015).


Fear response model.

Image from: The Royal Society


…Or Freeze:

Okay, so both fight and flight make biological sense. But what about freeze? How can a (seemingly) total loss of bodily control when faced with some foe be beneficial? Turns out, it is. Because sometimes, a person can find themselves in a situation where they know they can’t overpower the object of their fear, but neither can they outrun it. That’s when the freeze response kicks in (Schmidt et al., 2008).

Let’s say that—heaven forbid—you’re being attacked. It’s too late to run, and your assailant is stronger than you. In this situation, the freeze response can help you to escape the physical, mental, and emotional pain you’d be otherwise experiencing. And this disassociation can actually preserve your sanity. In such a situation, some of the chemicals our bodies secrete, like endorphins, can act as a kind of painkiller. Also, it’s possible that if an attacker—be it human or animal—feels that their victim isn’t playing along, they might just get bored and stop the attack altogether (Seltzer, 2015).

It’s important to note that the freeze response is a little different from the concept of “tonic immobility,” which is something demonstrated by animals in the wild when they play dead. Playing dead often means “motor and vocal inhibition,” but these two characteristics aren’t necessarily tied to the freeze response (Schmidt et al., 2008).

It’s also important to note that the freeze response isn’t a passive state, or the failure to act. Instead, it’s more like the information gathering stage of fear. The senses take in the situation, the brain develops a plan, and the body prepares to act on that plan in various ways like increasing muscle tone and suppressing pain (Roelofs, 2017).

In addition, studies have shown that people might be predisposed to the freeze response. A study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found that, “The majority of items that were more highly associated with freeze included those focused on cognitive symptoms of anxiety (e.g., confusion, unreality, detached, concentration, inner shakiness) as well as fear of losing control” (Schmidt et al., 2008). This is supported by numerous fear studies involving rats; those with a genetic predisposition to anxiety were significantly more prone to freezing than non-anxious rats (Roelofs, 2017).


In the Face of Rheel Fear:

Thankfully, that day with the guy on the couch ended without anybody being harmed. All four of us escaped the house while the intruder continued to slumber, and he only stirred when the cops woke him up (Talk about a rude awakening). But the “what ifs” still sneak up on me, even 12 years later. What if my hesitation put my life at risk? What if my hesitation put my family’s lives at risk? 

Betsy Huggett, director of the Diane Peppler Resource Center, went through a similar dilemma. A trained soldier, Betsy was confident that she knew what to do when the base’s sirens went off. However, instead of going to the station as she’d trained to do, she ran. “My training failed me,” she thought at first. “But what I really felt was that I failed. I didn’t feel like my training failed; I failed” (Huggett, 2019). 

But we didn’t fail. I didn’t fail. Freezing is part of the natural human reaction, just like fight and flight. It serves a purpose, just like fight and flight. And it has its pros and cons, just like fight and flight. If the intruder had been a light sleeper, too much sound or movement could have awakened him, and then the story I tell as an ice breaker might have had a much more sobering ending. 

Still, I have to admit that, if I ever find myself in a similar situation again, I hope I draw the Flight card, so I can get me and mine the heck out of Dodge.

My Path Through Anorexia Nervosa Recovery

Image of butterfly on window sill.

Photo by Jian Xhin on Unsplash


By: Keara Hozella

The content of this blog may be sensitive to some readers. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, visit the National Eating Disorder Association’s website or call the hotline at 1-800-931-2237. 

My definition of recovery started when I returned home from the fall semester during my sophomore year, noticeably thinner than when I had left in August. Terrified of any food with carbs, protein, fat, and most of all, any significant number of calories, I truly was a shell of myself. I wasn’t prone to cracking a smile and preferred to sit off to the side with my carbonated, artificially flavored water in at least three layers of clothing (the former my choice, the latter a necessity as my weight loss had made me intolerant to cold).  

A week later, I sat in a doctor’s office—one that specialized in the treatment of eating disorders—as she told me I couldn’t return to campus. She listed all the reasons it wasn’t medically safe for me to go back to school, including the typical mental and physical symptoms of anorexia nervosa, such as extreme weight loss, fatigue, thinning hair, intolerance of cold, exercising excessively, preoccupation with food, irritability, and insomnia. She also mentioned she would be arranging a spot for me to begin inpatient treatment within four days. 

Return to School or Recover 

My world as I had known it was rocked. I wanted to go back to school, where I could continue to soak up as much as possible from my English classes, reading, and writing (and continuing to feed my eating disorder while starving myself – a secret I came to realize I wasn’t keeping that well). As I sat in the office, I focused on all the things I would be losing: my apartment’s closet with the scale where I weighed myself four times a day, the ability to closely monitor what food I ate and when, my hour-long sessions at the gym, the strict timeline I had set for myself on when I would graduate, apply to grad schools, and hopefully get accepted into my dream program of choice – one that was a niche program on Shakespeare that required nearly perfect GRE scores. I also ruminated on what I wouldn’t gain (namely, weight). I do remember feeling relief that someone saw how hard the charade was to keep up, and how many numbers and calculations ran through my head daily.  

Missing Pieces  

While I can remember some of my thoughts and feelings during my sophomore year of college, there are huge chunks of time missing from my fall semester. I don’t remember most of what I read or wrote for classes and retained only about a quarter of signs from my American Sign Language course. According to Carrie Hunnicutt of Monde Nido Treatment Centers, trouble concentrating is a common occurrence in people with anorexia nervosa, because food restriction means the brain doesn’t receive an adequate amount of nutrients. I would learn more about the less commonly talked about symptoms as I continued along my recovery journey.  

For example, the disconnect between my still-disordered mental state and my no longer thin body as I gained much-needed weight in recovery was a hard one. I still had the anorexic mindset, but no longer with a body that reflected it. In the hospital, my treatment team had set a goal weight for me to achieve to be considered weight restored, far lower than my original healthy weight I had had for the majority of my life. As I continued to gain weight, I shot up above the target weight set for me, another anxiety-producing aspect of recovery, where I didn’t feel I was succeeding or “doing it right.” Yes, even in recovery, my anxiety, depression, and perfectionism were rearing their ugly heads, a Cerberus that threatened to take down my progress in recovery so far. 

Clarity Restored 

As I ate more and became more accustomed to eating a range of foods, it was easier to see just how disordered my relationship with myself, others, and food had been. The thick fog that had surrounded everything throughout this year-long period was beginning to lift. I call this the second phase of recovery. I was gaining weight, eating foods that scared the hell out of me, and learning to confront the issues that had led to me developing anorexia nervosa in the first place. Along with “fear-food Fridays,” where we all chose a food that we never would’ve previously eaten in days with anorexia nervosa (my choice often being a peanut butter doughnut), my recovery became even more complicated. 


Image of donut.

Photo by Kenny Timmer on Unsplash


Here was where the harder work began. I started to address my anxiety through the lens of generalized anxiety disorder, finally a name for something that had been with me for as long as I could remember. It affected me during regular, day-to-day things like going to the grocery store and driving, along with more intense affairs such as public speaking and job interviews. The research on co-occurring disorders in people with anorexia nervosa is a well-researched one. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, conditions such as anxiety, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder go hand-in-hand in those with eating disorders.


Chart describing eating and co-occurring disorders.

Photo from: nationaleatingdisorders.org/eating-disorders-co-occurring-conditions-0


Recovery Now  

Even now, nine years into my recovery, the underlying issues that so strongly permeated my life during my eating disorder and recovery, including anxiety, are still there. Sometimes it shows up in ways I don’t think would happen had I not struggled in the past. There are times where I give myself a pep talk to not skip breakfast and count a cup of coffee as a “meal.” The understanding that a snack in between lunch and dinner is something I’m allowed to have from now until forever is still one I’m working on. Glimpses of nutrition labels don’t throw me as much as they used to when I had every food’s calories memorized. But when they’re in size 100-point font on a restaurant’s menu, it is hard to pick one that I really want as opposed to one with the less caloric one. I’m able to do it, but not without stress and a shake of my head to get rid of the pesky thought.  

I’ve thankfully added some tricks up my sleeve to help me when things get rough, including therapy and anti-anxiety medications. Even these are hard to admit as things I need to keep my strong stance in recovery, and I don’t keep up with either as much as I would like. My path to recovery has been a rocky one…one that is constantly changing and evolving as I do. It’s taught me recovery is possible, especially with proper care, help, and support from others and medical professionals. 


Image of hiker along a path.

Photo by Arina Wong on Unsplash


While the definition recovery can be easily found online, what recovery from anorexia nervosa looks like in practice, and the paths taken to get there are not as easily discovered. 

Just as each person who has an eating disorder is a unique combination of stories, history, and experiences they’ve had, each person’s recovery is a winding odyssey into the unknown, with an ending that hopefully includes healing and an understanding of their own definition of recovery. 

Faculty Spotlight: Kip Soteres

Faculty Photo of Kip Soteres

 


For this week’s post, I chose to conduct a faculty spotlight interview on Kip Soteres. With 20 years of experience in change communication, he has not only made a valuable impact on the field of communication but also on the students he teaches. In this interview, I chose to ask questions regarding both communication as well as his personal interests and how they intertwine:


Q.) One of the first things that struck me was that you are initially from a business background and merged that with a passion for communication. Would you be able to talk about how this combination of business and communication came to be within your professional career and highlight the path that those two disciplines have taken you up to this point in your career?

A.) I actually started my college career as a Creative Writing major and pursued that for about fifteen years. I studied with some very talented poets, received an MFA in poetry, and went to live and write in Athens, Greece. Even then, I was interested in philosophy, especially ethics, and my reading and thinking in those areas have served me well in both business and academic roles. I also had to make a living. So I started teaching English as a Foreign Language. After a short time, I realized that I didn’t like my textbooks, so I asked one of the owners at the language school if I could write my own. My point is that over time I pursued my passions and fed my curiosity. I didn’t have a master plan, or rather – I had several that never came fully to fruition – but the skills I kept learning prepared me for the next opportunity and adventure when the time came.

One way that I think I distinguish myself is a consultant is that I have a deeper appreciation for the strength and beauty of language. Your communication classes don’t always pause to have you listen to FDR’s first fireside chats, for example. Academia is your opportunity to find those prose stylists who write with simplicity and clarity, and who do it with considerable sensitivity to the channels they are writing for and the audiences they are addressing.

Communication theory also gives me a broader-than-average range of lenses that I can use to analyze problems. It’s not like I go to clients and say, “Let’s see how a Kotter change management approach might apply,” or “Let’s see what a Positive Deviance approach will shake loose.” But I have these different tools at my disposal, and that perhaps helps me present a broader and more creative array of options to clients facing tough problems. The reverse is true as well in that I bring my consulting experience to bear on than teaching and advising that I do. I think students value the ways we collaborate to connect the theory and research to life and work.

At its core, language is how humans build our worlds – both the private worlds that we inhabit as individuals and the shared worlds we create in our various social interactions. Through language and because of language, we have the potential to create that world anew every single day, though perhaps too often we choose to live in the same one for extended periods of time. Both in academia and through my consulting practice, I spend the bulk of my time engaging with others to tap into the massive potential that unfolds each day when we open our eyes in the morning.


Q.) How do you see the field of communication expanding in the future? I know that communication is an ever-evolving subject but how do you see it going further in today’s age?

A.) I think it’s going to take a long time for every social science to work through the foundation-shattering evolution of social media. It can take the form of remote work, gamification, learning tools, news feeds, office chat, and file-sharing apps and platforms like Teams, or just straight up evaluations of the dominant channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, etc.

Whatever facet you choose to explore, these tools/apps/platforms amount to an unprecedented power to amplify the best and worst of human networks. Information and disinformation have never been easier to create and disseminate. Our ability to wall ourselves off from disparate perspectives has never been easier. The people working in these spaces and addressing the challenges and opportunities that come with it – that’s going to be very important work with implications that will shape what our society looks like for decades to come.


Q.) You are also involved with creative writing as a personal interest. Being an English major in my undergraduate studies I am always impressed with how writers can convey engaging stories from a variety of platforms. Would you be able to touch on where this love of writing came from and some of the inspiration your published works came from?

A.) My writing is a compulsion. I think it’s important to read and appreciate good writing because that’s how it gets into your bones. That’s a different activity than just reading to lose yourself in the story. It’s learning to take as much conscious pleasure in the evocation of a moment or a feeling, or in the structure of a dramatic twist, as you do in the unfolding narrative. I’d recommend going back to the writing that you most enjoy and ask yourself specifically what it is that you like about it.

So one main source of inspiration for me has always been the writing of others. I notice an effect that moves me or just strikes me as beautiful, and I ask myself what I could write that would let me practice achieving the same effect. That applies to all genres, by the way, including non-fiction. I’ve been very omnivorous in my reading and that reflects the many genres of writing that I’ve attempted – poetry, literary fiction, young adult fiction, fantasy fiction, opera and musical theater librettos, plays, film scripts, etc. For heaven’s sake, I emcee a monthly Opera and art music theory on YouTube each month – Aria412. Check us out on YouTube! Lots of variances and so many great relationships across all of it.

I guess it’s worth mentioning that I don’t think I’m particularly good at it. But in the end, I hope people will largely agree that I brought my best self forward in the effort. In any case, that’s why I started off by saying it’s a compulsion. And I think my lifelong aspiration to be a great creative writer has made me a better person in other respects. It invites me to be empathetic. It encourages a world view that goes beyond mere utility. It helps me to remember that we are here in this life to inspire one another and to promote well being and happiness so far as we are capable.


Q.) Has being an instructor in communication and teaching the subject inversely taught you anything? Of course, there is the old saying that you never stop learning but is there anything that teaching has brought about that you wouldn’t have been exposed to without this experience?

A.) I learn at least as much as my students do every time that I teach. The perspectives of students coming through the graduate programs give me a real sense of where communication is going, where your interests are, what you care about. But with every class, as I do the reading along with you, I also refresh on theories that I’d forgotten about – new approaches to problem-solving. It’s always incredibly energizing. Of course, I’m fortunate to have such a varied life. I get to do my creative writing and participate in communities of the performing arts – my consultancy is thriving – and I get to teach topics that I’m passionate about. I don’t know that I’d be happy doing any one of those activities all of the time. But I’m delighted to be doing them together.


Q.) Finally, what kind of advice would you give to an incoming graduate student or someone who is thinking of continuing their education within the field of communication? Is there anything they should expect or should be prepared to be exposed to?

A.) Be tirelessly curiously throughout your life, but especially now. Use this time as a graduate student to explore ideas and pursue your passions unabashedly. Don’t worry about connecting the dots at first – read as much as you can and engage with each other (even if it’s only through Zoom) to have those intense graduate school conversations that are part of your degree – not just what you do in the classroom or as a part of taking classes.

I also think it’s never been more important to have broad and varied skillsets. In addition to the theory and academic topics that come pretty automatically as part of the curriculum, learn a little about as much as you can about graphic design, HTML, social media metrics, press releases, how to build a good survey, how to write a speech, how to develop a lesson plan or give a presentation. Or get outside the box entirely and interact a little with the other Social Sciences. Whatever you’re learning, challenge yourself to cross-relate it to other topics and to think of ways to put it into practice.

The more disparate items that you pull together, the more flexible you can be in your career choices, and the more likely that you will be able to spot opportunities that take you down fulfilling career paths. I’ve been a learning omnivore all of my life and taking joy in learning for its own sake. I’ve coupled that with a knack for being able to take theories and ideas and apply them for practical impact. Putting those things together has led to a career that I have found to be rich and varied, and it has also expanded my social network in ways that I think go beyond what a lot of people get to experience.

Finally, about a year or two ago I helped Chatham University organize a forum of Internal Communication leaders from major employers in the region. When I asked them what they were looking for in a new hire, they all said the same thing: “We’re looking for people who can write with clarity and sensitivity. In particular, we need communicators who can adapt their writing style and approach depending on the situation, the channel, and the audience.” So don’t neglect your writing and communication skills across all media. It will serve you very well, no matter what you end up deciding to do.


I would like to thank Kip for being able to conduct this interview and be able to share with others his thoughts and experiences. It is always a pleasure being able to work with him, especially this time being out of a class setting. Being able to pick the brain of an academic like like Kip is such a rewarding experience and I hope others get to see the value in an interview such as this. More importantly and to what Kip says, “It will serve you well, no matter what you end up deciding to do.”

10,000 Hours, or One Golden Hour?

10,000 Hours

Outlier: A person, situation, or thing that is different from others (Gladwell, M). In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells us that with the perfect combination of time and opportunity people can be successful. The magic number is 10,000 hours. If someone can put in 10,000 hours worth of practice at a given task, then he can become a master. Bill Gates and the Beatles are both outliers; they put in 10,000 hours, and they are considered masters in their field. Better than the rest and known for their success. In a time of crisis PR professionals don’t have 10,000 hours to work with, they have mere minutes.

The Golden Hour

PR Professionals have a mere sixty minutes to handle a crisis. This one hour can make or break a company if handled incorrectly. In this time PR should notify news media, social media, internal publics, external publics, and lawyers. With technology at our fingertips, we demand information immediately following a crisis.

Court of Law vs. Court of Public Opinion

A PR professional must make an important decision when crisis arises, will the organization be scrutinized under the court of law or under the court of public opinion? We all know that under the court of law we are ‘innocent until proven guilty;’ however, in the court of public opinion, we are ‘guilty until proven innocent.’

PR Outliers

Johnson and Johnson

Most of you are probably familiar with the Johnson and Johnson crisis of 1982. Someone (still unknown) laced tylenol with cyanide and killed seven people in the Chicago area. Johnson and Johnson is still studied in books now because of the way they masterfully handled the situation.

Jetblue

In 2007, Jetblue left passengers stranded on a runway due to snow. Even though the crisis was due to weather, Jetblue took full responsibility for the incident and promised to take future steps to prevent future problems.

The NBA

After the owner of the Clippers, Donald Sterling, was recorded making racist comments the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, took quick action against him.

After the incident the NBA went on to create a “We Are One” ad.

Future Recommendations

  • Assess your risks before they happen.
  • Create a crisis plan (framework, teams and responsibilities, key messaging, procedures, internal and external contact lists, checklists).
  • Designate a spokesperson.
  • Create a sense of “we-ness” among internal publics (employees, management, interns, retirees, stakeholders).
  • Get information out fast, but always be accurate.
  • Never reveal assumptions to the media.
  • A crisis is interesting. Make it uninteresting by continuously providing information to the public.
  • Know your key message, and keep reiterating it to your audience.
  • Never turn a problem into a crisis. Fix the problem, but don’t make it bigger than it needs to be.

Writing for Global Audiences

With the rise of the Internet, the world is smaller than ever before. Whether you’re designing websites for a global marketplace or managing translation of user manuals, you need to make sure your content can reach a global audience.

Don’t worry; you won’t have to dust off your high school French. Translation is part of a broader process called localization. Localization adapts a document for a different target market. This goes beyond translation to include changing number and date/time formats, currencies, symbols, graphics and more.

Although localization is a task best left to specialists, writers can make this process easier by keeping global audiences in mind when they’re writing. This is called internationalization – i18n for short.

Tips for Internationalizing Text

Following some standard guidance can help make your document easier to localize.

  • Avoid Idioms and Metaphors – Because idioms are not taken literally, it can be difficult to translate them into other languages. Sports metaphors and cultural references are also problematic. “We’re batting a thousand” will be readily understood in America. In Russia? Not so much.

 

  • Avoid Synonyms – Synonyms can confuse readers whose vocabularies are limited. They can also cause translators to wonder if you’re referring to the same thing in both cases.
  • Beware of Embarrassing Words – You can’t know all of the words that might have embarrassing meanings in other languages, but avoid those you do know.
  • Write Out Dates – 01/05/15: Is that January 5th or May 1st? It depends on where you are. You can avoid ambiguity by always writing out month names.
  • Avoid Holiday-Specific References – References to holidays are culture- specific, and often include religious overtones. Saying that someone was “as excited as a child on Christmas morning” will mean little in a culture where they know as much about Christmas as you do about Diwali.
  • Avoid Discriminatory Language – Use multicultural names and examples, and avoid stereotypes.
  • Be Clear and Concise – If something is hard to understand in English, it’s going to be harder to translate. Complex syntax can confuse non-native speakers.
  • Leave Space – Translated text will take up more or less space than its English counterpart. Web pages and software applications are particularly vulnerable to layout issues when the text is suddenly too big to fit in the size allotted.Tips for Internationalizing Images

    When your document contains images, internationalization takes on a whole new dimension. Following these tips can save you lots of headaches when you need to localize your images.

  • Avoid Words – An image that contains text can be a nightmare to localize. You can keep text and images separate using captions or HTML overlays. Even better: use images that need no description.
  • Avoid Offensive Symbols – Even common symbols can be offensive in some cultures. Facebook famously changed its “Like” button from a thumb to a stylized “f” because the thumbs-up sign has different meanings in different parts of the world.

  • Use Layers – Most image software allows you to separate text from the underlying image using layers. Provide the original files to your localization team so they can easily change the text.
  • Leave Space – Words often expand in length when translated, which can mess up your carefully composed diagram. Make sure your image has enough room to accommodate longer translations.
  • Save the Data – If your document contains charts or graphs, be sure to save the original data or spreadsheet. That way you can simply re-generate the chart with the translated text instead of having to perform costly and complex image editing.Bottom LineNow, more than ever, professional writers need to be aware of their global audiences. By taking the time to consider internationalization up front, writers can save their organizations (and themselves!) a great deal of time, money and effort in the localization process. You can be the one to help your company go global.Further ReadingThe Top 10 Ways to Cut Website Translation Costs

    Think Globally, Write Locally

    Guidelines on the Use of Non-Discriminatory Language

    Text Size in TranslationW3C Internationalization

    Common Idioms and Metaphors

Be Prepared: Communicating During a Crisis

Crisis Mode

Crisis. This is something of a taboo in businesses. Something no one wants to believe will happen, and therefore, when it does, there’s a good chance that there is no concrete communication plan. If you don’t have a plan, it won’t only be the crisis that puts your company under, but the fact that your employees and publics will be left in the dust and deem your company untrustworthy. So, it’s important to know how to communicate correctly to your publics during a crisis so that you can get yourself out of the media’s eye. To get yourself out of the media, you must cooperate with them first. Good communication will help you maintain people’s trust and confidence in you.

The Information Gap

When in a crisis it’s important to close what is called, “the information gap.” An information gap is when the audience doesn’t have all the necessary information on your crisis, so they are seeking out answers. If you don’t close the gap in a timely manner, false information and damaging rumors can get out about your company, making it harder and harder to close the gap. In order to close this gap effectively and efficiently, you must communicate with the media to give correct information on crisis details that your company is willing to share. Once the gap is closed and the public is pleased with the amount of information you have given, then you will be out of the media and out of the public’s minds, thus ending your crisis…with the public at least.

Some Tips on How to Communicate During a Crisis

Pick a spokesperson. This does not have to be the CEO. It should be someone who can speak expertly and confidently on camera. You could also bring in other spokespeople like specialists on the topic (doctors, lawyers, etc.). Bringing in a specialist provides more credibility on the issue and makes your claims more believable. However, make sure you limit the number of spokespeople you have to maybe one or two so that your key message and facts can remain the same across all statements. Having too many spokespeople can cause fact mix-ups and too many opinions circulating through the news.

Make a message triangle. A message triangle is a tool that you can create in order to structure three important key messages in a concise manner to your intended audience. It helps you keep in line exactly what you have to say before you have to say it so that you’re not caught off guard by any questions or statements. It helps you create key statements with supporting facts. What is it that you want your audience to know? What do you want to ring through every message you give to the media? Figure that out and come up with supporting statements, this way both the media and your publics won’t have to question what it is your trying to get across. The messages will remain the same throughout everything you do.

Don’t forget about your internal publics.

Internal publics should be told what’s happening first and foremost. Leaving them out of the loop will cause them to become untrustworthy and disloyal toward your company… hurting you more during a crisis. You can easily let them know what’s happening via the company intranet and easily keep them updated via the intranet as well. Make sure they know they are valued; if employees are angry they will go to the media (with false/damaging information) and could even quit their jobs.

Set Up Interviews and Beware of Trick Questions.

Disrespecting a journalist will do the same kind of damage as disrespecting your staff. A journalist can twist the story in your favor or not. You want journalists on your side so they can be utilized to help you get out of your crisis faster, not sink you further. Some journalists however, will be unrelenting no matter how pleasant you are. Don’t get trapped by their tricks. A reporter’s job is to dig a little so they can tell a good story. Listen to their questions, answer truthfully (use your key message triangle), be pleasant, and respect their deadlines. Practice before the interviews. Don’t speculate on what could have been or what could be; don’t get trapped into using jargon (this cuts you off from your audience); don’t force blame on to anyone; and remember…nothing is off the record.  Here’s what the media wants to know from you:

  • What happened
  • If there was death or injury
  • How much damage there is
  • If future damage is expected
  • Why it happened
  • Where responsibility lies
  • What you’re doing about it
  • When it will end
  • If anything like this has happened in the past
  • If there were warning signs

Social Media During a Crisis

With the technological age we’re in now, people demand updates, and fast, so it’s important to keep up on social media. It is a good idea to have someone running social media during a crisis as this is a great way to provide updates effectively and efficiently. However, you should be sure to line up your social media posts with the key message your trying to get across in other forms of media so all of the information lines up. On your social media, it is never a good idea to delete negative comments from your pages. People will see this and think you are trying to keep something from them. It will cause a lack of trust and create an even bigger crisis. Respond to negative comments, if necessary, with truthful responses. Do not place blame on the commenter, just leave a neutral response that satisfies the commenter and everyone else reading it. Make sure your employees know your social media policies, and make sure your employees are not posting any opinions or false information about the crisis at hand. Just be sure to monitor your social media, stay in the conversation, give the correct facts, and keep in touch with your audience. The publics will appreciate the fact that you are being transparent with them.

Your Crisis is Over, Now What?

Always be prepared for the next crisis. Every crisis you have is a good learning experience to see what you did wrong and what you did right. From that you can come up with a crisis communication plan and assess the potential risks that haunt your company. Lastly, don’t forget that even though your crisis might have ended, you might be troubled by the media on anniversaries of it. So, be aware and know how to handle the future conversation about the crisis. Don’t be thrown off guard if every one, five, or ten years your company comes back into the public’s eye for a crisis that happened years ago.

Addressing the Digital Divide in Healthcare

All humans face a degree of vulnerability, but some experience the burden of more numerous or severe vulnerabilities than others. We can explain the extra burden that some face as special vulnerability. Special vulnerability can be temporary or permanent and can occur at any point in a person’s lifetime. It can arise from one or a combination of physical, psychological or social factors. It can happen to anyone at any time due to the mortal human condition.

There are a countless number of reasons why people can experience special vulnerability, but those related to healthcare access can be some of the most grievous. Access to healthcare has an inextricable impact on health including quality and quantity of life. Quality and quantity of life are basic needs that must be met before any other opportunities can be achieved or vulnerabilities overcome. This means that promoting healthcare access is essential for a well-functioning society and satisfies our moral obligations to protect those who, like us, are or may become especially vulnerable.

Promoting health care access involves studying and removing barriers to access. Barriers to healthcare access include, but are not limited to, transportation issues, access to specialty providers, access to ancillary services, language barriers, cultural barriers, and access to technology. While there are many factors that contribute to access, barriers to accessing technology are becoming increasingly prevalent and pressing for modern healthcare delivery in the United States. US health policy and innovation are moving toward a more technologically advanced healthcare delivery system, and many vulnerable patients have not been able to keep up. This means that technology-dependent communication messages can miss vulnerable populations that need them the most.

Health communication leaders can and should make sure that vulnerable populations get the health messages that they need. When vulnerable individuals face barriers to technology access, health communication leaders should develop integrated, multi-level approaches to communicate key health messages. This can include engaging the community by talking to community members, tapping into community resources, and using multiple media platforms. It can also include developing better tools for communicating with patients including shared decision-making and cultural competency.

Engaging the Community

1. Ask the vulnerable community. Talk to community leaders about effective ways to reach your vulnerable audience. Focus groups and one-on-one interviews with members of the vulnerable community can also elucidate community-specific needs.

2. Tap into community resources. There may be existing community resources that can be used to deliver your message. Find out if there are ways that you can synergize with community organizations to deliver your message.

3. Use multiple media platforms. If you are using technology to deliver your message, consider adding additional media platforms to your campaign. This could include the use of communication platforms like radio, television or community forums.

Tools for Communicating with Patients

1. Implement shared decision-making techniques. Train providers and staff on shared decision-making techniques. Through shared decision-making, staff and providers can learn about specific challenges that their vulnerable patients face and determine ways to address these challenges individually.

2. Engage in cultural competency. Incorporate cultural competency into your organization’s culture. Make sure that the organization’s executive and upper-level leadership are committed to cultural competency. In addition, providers and staff should be trained on cultural competency and incentivized to engage in culturally competent interactions.

Ultimately a collaborate, integrated and multi-level approach will get key messages to those who need them the most. Communication leaders should make a concerted effort to use these approaches and reach all who need essential health messages. The lives of the vulnerable depend on it.

Natalie Dick, MHA

How My Creative Writing Helped My Professional Writing

Alison Albitz

I began my undergrad with only one major: a BFA in creative writing. After one semester, I knew that pursuing only one major would mean taking a lot of extraneous courses that wouldn’t necessarily add up to much, so I decided to simultaneously pursue a BA in communication with a focus on print journalism.

This addition initially seemed like a very logical one: I liked writing and felt that I was good at it, so why wouldn’t I try a different style? How different could it be? As it turned out, switching between AP style and MLA, fact and fiction, and no-nonsense and poetry ended up being much more difficult than I had anticipated. Once I began working professional writing seemed like a whole new beast to tackle.

It wasn’t until my senior year of undergrad that I understood that switching between these styles of writing was difficult because I saw them as completely different entities, when I needed to view them as supplemental to each other. As I’ve mulled over the similarities between the three, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

They all have the same end goal

At the end of the day, writing is all about communicating effectively. In journalism, the goal is telling a story or sharing information. In creative writing, the author attempts to get a reader to feel something, understand a character, and see the world from a different perspective. Professional communication is all about conveying information succinctly and efficiently. When I realized that the ultimate goal of these different writing styles is so similar, I began to see that I could use skills I’ve learned in one area to better improve the others.

None of them are allowed to be boring

Whether you’re writing a press release, a newspaper article, or a novel, it has to keep the reader engaged. The art of storytelling is not easily learned, but is integral for maintaining the reader’s interest. Click here and here to learn about the role of storytelling in grant proposals and nonprofit campaigns.

Never assume that one skill cannot translate to other areas

In a newswriting course, my professor constantly reminded us that we weren’t writing creatively when we wrote news stories. In other words, this wasn’t creative writing; this was journalism. However, my creative storytelling skills added to both my newswriting and professional writing skills, and the succinct style of journalistic writing has aided my creative writing, too. Any skill learned in one area of writing is transferrable to others, and trying to limit certain skills to specific mediums only limits the potential for great writing.

Seeing Red? Tips for Working with Editors

by Amanda Bernhardt

“Why did you change this?!” said a researcher who had just stormed into my office. He was holding an issue brief I recently edited and sent back to him.

“Because it’s jargon. This brief is for laypeople. They’re not going know what ‘substantial gainful activity’ is,” I said.

“But our client—the guy paying our bills—likes that language. Shouldn’t we do what he likes?”

As editorial disagreements go, this one was minor, mostly because we have a corporate rule about it. But writers and editors always seem to but heads over something. And if you’re a writer, eventually you’ll be dealing with this, too.

I can hear you groaning already. Writers don’t love the idea of having their work napalmed by an editor, but editors aren’t the enemy. In fact, their goal is to make you and your writing look great. A good editor sees your work as your readers will see it. She can tell you what to cut, add, and correct to get the attention and response you want.

But what if you disagree with the edits? What if the editor doesn’t catch everything or changes your intended meaning? Here are some tips for minimizing the amount of red ink spilled:

Before the Edit

  1. Revise your work. Just because you’re working with an editor doesn’t mean you can skip your own revision. Get your draft into a good shape before an editor sees it. Have someone else read it, if needed.
  2. Get your facts straight. A good editor will catch things like simple math errors or that Austin (not Dallas) is the capital of Texas. But if your standard deviation is off by 2 points or you cited the wrong source, that may be on you. Find out how much, if any, fact checking your editor does.
  3. Know your style guide. Save yourself and your editor time by learning your style. It’s easier to put in the serial comma yourself than to have your editor do it and have to accept a ton of commas in Track Changes.
  4. Have a pre-edit chat. Tell your editor the purpose of your document, your audience, the style guide you’re using, and your deadline. Be sure to ask any questions you have about the editing process. Chat with your editor in person, if possible, to establish a rapport.

After the Edit

  1. Don’t take it personally. Getting a red-inked document back can make you feel like a fifth-grader getting an F on a paper. Don’t worry, you’re not grounded. Many writers, including great ones, get heavily edited; it’s a normal part of the process. Your editor’s goal is not to punish you but to make you and your writing shine.
  2. Have a post-edit chat. Review the edits and note any you disagree with or have questions about. Go over those with your editor. There’s a lot of give and take in editing, and not every edit is set in stone.
  3. Take another look. If you revise your work post-editing, you may introduce new errors. Feel free to ask for a follow-up edit or a proofread to catch any typos. (Remember to budget time for this.)

Further reading:

Basic Interview Advice for Writers

by India Johnson

After you’ve submitted your writing sample and/or portfolio, it’s time to prepare for the in-person interview. Take a deep breath, relax, and follow these interview tips:

Learn about the company and position. Do research. Learn about upper management (LinkedIn is a great tool). Read about the projects the company has worked on. Carefully read the job description to familiarize yourself with the required responsibilities.

Prepare brief answers to typical interview questions. Your answers should be clear and concise. Typical interview questions include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Tell me about a recent project.
  • What do you love most about writing?
  • Tell me about your writing process.
  • What do you do in your free time?

Prepare questions for the interviewer. This shows your industry knowledge, and also it reminds them that they are being interviewed as well. You must decide if you want the position if it is offered. Typical questions to ask include:

  • What will a successful year look like for this position?
  • Why is the position open?
  • How do you train new writers?
  • When are you looking to make a hiring decision?

Arrive early. If you are not early than you are late. Don’t make a bad first impression.

Dress Professionally. Here are some tips for what to wear for the job interview.

Take Notes. You may not remember everything that was discussed during the interview. Take brief notes for reminders once you get home.

Send a ‘Thank You’ note. After the interview send an email or mail a note to thank the interviewer for their time.