By @SimonCocking

An interesting interview with Margaret Ward @MargaretEWard from Clear Ink brand communications agency @clearinkltd

Your back ground, what led you to move from financial journalism to what you do now?

I started working as a journalist when I was 18 in New York and still in university. After working in a variety of positions over 20 years or so, reporter, personal finance correspondent, investigative journalist, money editor, business columnist, I felt there was nowhere else to go. I’d just had my second child and he was quite ill, so, after two years of very little sleep, I decided to call it a day and start my own corporate writing business. That gave me the flexibility to work and home and organise things around hospital visits. Thankfully, he thrived and so did my business.

How was 2014? Wins?

It was a super year and we definitely saw clients thinking more strategically. We won a four year content with the European Central Bank and we continue to work on a regular basis, throughout Europe, with all the big American multinationals based in Ireland.

Anything you’d do differently?

Get more sleep. Take time off. Since September I’ve worked six or seven days a week. The number of clients we work with tripled from September until March.

Plans, goals for 2015?

Train in all the new writers and project managers. Expand our corporate newsroom business, videos, film packages, podcasts, interviews, animation, infographics.

How confident are the clients you deal with about finding the right voice for their communications?

Usually, they’re uncomfortable writing in a warmer, less formal way. However, the results – better customer relationships – always convince them they’ve made the right choice.

Is it hard to master that line between professionally on-message, and not being too casual, flippant or unprofessional?

Clear English does not mean dumbing down. It means expressing key messages and thoughts as clearly as possible. Most people over complicate their writing and rely on jargon to make them look impressive or important. Writing is about one simple thing: communicating a message. Anything that’s written to please the writer is useless. You need to write to attract, please and persuade the reader. Often a warm, conversational yet professional tone of voice is the best way to  get your message across. Clear writing takes time and thought.

Overall the trend seems to be towards creating more interesting content to attract and maintain customer loyalty for your clients. How enthusiastic are you clients about this potential move towards almost becoming a publishing house – for useful / engaging content?

It takes some persuading but usually they come to us because they’ve heard about our results. Most companies do not employ professional writers so they come to us to fill that gap. All our writers are former daily newspaper journalists from quality broadsheets or wire services such as the Wall Street Journal/ Dow Jones, Financial Times, Guardian, Irish Times, SundayTimes, Irish Independent or Sunday Business Post. Professional journalists know how to find relevant content and rewrite for every channel, reports, websites, brochures, social media, speeches, video, film, podcasts, infographics or animation. Content is king but if you don’t know how to use it then all your hard work and research is lost.

Which analytic tools do you use for your audits and to gain awareness of how you clients are currently performing & to measure the impact of your work?

We examine whatever they are using plus a software package called Clarity Grader. It gives us a nice before and after to show them.

How are things going for ClearInk? What areas are you excited about, and which aspects would you like to do more work on?

We’re the busiest we’ve ever been and we have writers in Dublin, Berlin, Barcelona and Paris. Our corporate newsroom concept is really catching on and I’m delighted to be working with more broadcast journalists. New approaches and technologies such as iPhones, Mojo, Periscope, VoiceRecord, FilmicPro have made this all so portable and accessible. Journalists and technology are really the magic mix for corporate content.

Our recent interview with Jono Alderson from Linkdex highlighted the need to move beyond just looking at keywords, to achieve more sophisticated and effective strategies. Do you do in house R&D and / or by attending industry events?

We’ve never written for computer algorithms. We write for people. Professional writers understand psychology and the power of the written word. The team and I read a massive amount and follow changes in all sectors, marketing, advertising, comms and tech, and figure out how to apply it to what we do for clients. I speak at, or host / MC 30 to 40 conferences or events around the world every year. These connections ensure I’m always at the cutting edge and in the right place to ask questions when new trends emerge.

The Irish Tech Startup scene is going well, but sometimes can be over product focused, to the detriment of effectively communicating their message to the wider world? Is this an area where you work, and if so how do you deal with this challenge?

We tend not to work with startups because they don’t understand the value of what we do and they’re not willing to pay for it. Companies that are fully developed tend to see the benefit of strong branding and content to ensure they’re connecting with new and existing customers.

However, we were once a start-up and I know how important it is to get the messages right from the very beginning. So, when I have time I offer half-day brand workshops to start-ups. They’re great fun because you’re watching new brands come into focus and helping to “birth” them.