Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tips From the Field by Alissa A.


Interview with Marci Seamples
AA: As editor of Business Currents, can you describe your day to day responsibilities?
MS: Business Currents is a very unique situation. It is very uncommon for a local non-profit organization to produce a full magazine and atypical that production is not spread among several staff. It's a different publication in a sense that we largely rely on pro-bono contributors, yet we are not a newsletter and require content to be non-advertorial in nature and relevant and useful for our membership. The magazine is one component of a larger communication platform. It is critical to gather content for each communication medium - which includes a mix of web, social media, e-communications and print - that is appropriate for that particular medium. For instance, the feature article for this month’s Business Currents edition centers around the issue of ethics and how “shelving” them contributed to the state of our economy today. This is a heavy and heady topic – it’s a good fit for the magazine, but not appropriate for social media. On a social media platform like Facebook, I may share an article regarding a new IRS regulation or information regarding a workshop next week. This information needs to be delivered quickly, therefore print wouldn’t be the right medium. In short, it’s a mix of finding or creating the right content and then knowing which medium is best suited to disseminate it.
AA: What type of writing do you do most often? (articles/stories for the magazine, emails, letters, etc.)
MS: The magazine itself easily compromises less than 50% of my job. Email is the main tool across all my responsibilities, so I would have to say email.

AA: How do you communicate most often? (emails, IMs, texting, formal letters, etc.)
MS: Definitely email.
AA: What specific topics do you prefer/enjoy writing about? Why?
MS: It’s unfortunate, but I rarely write for pleasure any longer – there simply are not enough hours in the day. Several years ago, I would write articles for our local civic organization’s newsletter. I enjoyed writing commentary and opinion on current events and local policy and, where appropriate, philosophy.
AA: What's the most interesting piece you have ever written?
MS: I attended a choral concert where the University of Minnesota’s full and chamber choirs performed a series of pieces based on religious texts. The concert was performed around Christmas time in a Presbyterian church. One of the pieces they performed was Hineh Mah Tov, an adaption of Psalm 133 in Hebrew. I couldn’t help but chuckle that I, a former Roman Catholic, was sitting in a Presbyterian church listening to a state-funded university choir signing a religious piece in Hebrew and how no one would find anything wrong with this picture. While I firmly believe in separation of church and state, I also believe the two can co-exist. In short, the written piece that resulted was a commentary on how sacred and secular systems could compliment one another instead of clash.
AA: What piece have you received the most praise about?
MS: I’m really not sure. My letters to the editor usually garnish more praise for me than venom, which is a good thing.

AA: Do you ever find yourself worrying about grammar and punctuation rules as you write, or do you just write, and then edit later?
MS: Not at all. Grammar is important and there are reasons for rules and punctuation, but that could be an article in itself. I find myself more closely reviewing pieces given to me for publication than those I create myself. I will do my best to try and catch any errors so that a writer will not be embarrassed, that is my commitment to the writer. But I am always more concerned with content over form and rarely laugh or point the finger at obvious published typos unless it changes the meaning of what is trying to be expressed.
That being said, if your grammar is poor – and I see more poor than good on a daily basis even through email – no one will take you seriously and your point will be lost anyway.

AA: Do you prefer to write with paper and pen or straight to the computer?
MS: I use the computer.

AA: How important were your college classes in preparing you for this position, or did you just learn as you went?
MS: At the undergraduate level it’s not really about what you major in unless you are pursuing something like engineering or a very specialized field. It’s more about having the discipline to choose a course of study, do well and complete it. It means you are “teachable” or “trainable”. My undergraduate degree was in psychology with anthropology as my related field and I knew entering my junior year I would not be pursuing this field beyond the undergraduate level. Every course, like all of life’s experiences, has something you can learn and take away that will help you in whatever job you find yourself in. The art is finding how the puzzle pieces fit together.
After a few years working in my chosen industry, I decided to return to school and pursue my masters. My field is management with a non-profit emphasis, and, yes, it has been useful.
AA: In your opinion, what separates a good writer from a great writer, why?
MS: A great writer clearly and concisely delivers the message or idea they are trying to express. They create a “meeting of the minds” between themselves and the reader.

AA: How long have you been in this position and what is your favorite thing about it thus far?
MS: I have been in my current position about two and a half years. My favorite thing is still being able to work within the non-profit sector. That is the key for me. I do not consider myself a communications professional, I consider myself a non-profit professional. The ability to get up every day and produce something for the greater good is critical to me. I would be terrible and miserable in a widget factory.
AA: For my whole class-what are the 3 most valuable tips you could give us from your experience, as it relates to professional writing?
MS:For professional BUSINESS writing (not creative, philosophical, etc.)
· Be short and concise
· Have a clear beginning, middle and end that ties the piece firmly together
· It is better to relate one idea well than several ideas poorly


Marci Seamples, age 32 Vice President for Communications Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce Earlier this year, Marci Seamples was nominated for, and awarded, a place in the American Chamber of Commerce Executives “Top 40 Under 40”. Here is her nomination letter, written by Michael Reagen, President and CEO of The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, outlining Marci’s great efforts. In 2 years, Marci has exceptionally improved our media. She completely designs, produces, feature-writes and edits our monthly, 46-page Business Currents Magazine [10K Circulation]. She is solely responsible for the cover story and 5 best-practices monthly articles on marketing, leadership, strategic planning, govt., community issues, events, new and renewing member listing. Our full magazine is also available in electronic format on our Website [www.napleschamber.org]. Also, she has completely refreshed our Website which receives 67,000+ distinct visits and more 1.3+million hits per month. Members manage their own profiles on our Member Directory searchable by category and business name plus pay dues, and post eCoupons. The Site lists all our events [on-line registration and pay options], She daily posts Member news releases and photos and produced a New Member Handbook distributed to all new members to help them navigate our 200+ page website. In addition to handling all our Southwest Florida five-county media relations and annually editing Naples On The Gulf, our premier, 116-page visitors guide [80,000 circulation], Marci has produced 5 Podcasts to help Members in these difficult times. She crafts and sends our Chamber Connect Weekly eNewsletter [4600 recipients] containing latest news, best practices and Member spotlights. She has also put us on Facebook, and Twitter; and she helps publicize our monthly TV Show on Comcast, Chamber Matters which is reachable by 230,000 households in our five-county region. Bottom-line: Marci Seamples is extraordinary and most deserving of national recognition.

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