We’re pleased to announce the 2013 APCC Awards. This year we are giving two awards: a Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in consulting and service to APCC over the years and an Excellence in Writing Award, which goes to a relatively new member.
It’s important to know that we do not give these awards lightly, and not everyone who is nominated receives awards. Awards only go to those with work showing special distinction and high standards of excellence.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Martha Nord this year by the Association of Professional Communication Consultants (APCC). Nord has rightfully earned this award over the course of her professional career through her work at Vanderbilt University and her consulting experiences with long-term clients.
Nord originally became involved with the APCC while teaching communications in the engineering school at Vanderbilt. “I was looking for people from whom I could learn and feel I wasn’t alone in the profession,” Nord said. Nord spearheaded the launch of the MBA communication program at Vanderbilt and taught there for 17 years in addition to being a full time consultant. “I always like launching something new and figuring out a way to sustain it.” Most especially, she enjoys building long-term relationships with clients, some of whom she has worked with for almost 25 years.
Upon receiving the award, Nord felt much honored and humbly surprised that her friends and colleagues thought of her. Her advice to young, aspiring professionals: “Build a wide network of relationships. Grow deep roots. If you don’t know what you want to do, dig around and find out. Then single it out and focus on being great at that one element.” Nord has established her legacy at Vanderbilt as well as in the hearts of her clients, contributions that prove her deserving of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
This year’s Excellence in Writing Award is presented to Elizabeth Hartman for developing a streamlined, user-friendly method of disseminating information within the American Red Cross, where she manages internal communications related to fundraising. As a large-scale non-profit, the Red Cross needed a simple, but effective, method for informing fundraisers of organizational goals, business changes, and available resources that help the staff plan their fundraising priorities.
Armed with data and insights directly from the affected staff, Hartman established the Fundraising Brief, a weekly email launched in early October 2013. The new system consolidates fundraising-related news, tools, upcoming dates and deadlines across the country to reduce the volume of email received by fundraisers and ultimately free up more staff time for fundraising. Although a relatively simple design, the weekly email system meets critical communication needs and promotes more effective communication strategies throughout the organization.
With the Fundraising Brief, content is categorized by type (i.e. news, tools, dates), organized according to audience, and presented in bulleted lists that are accessible in Outlook and on mobile devices. Each item is no more than five sentences, contains only the most critical information, and includes hyperlinks to further information online and a contact who can provide guidance. With this approach, staff read only the information they need, decide if they will act on an item, and follow the links for more information when necessary.
As she solicits content from in-house contributors each week, Hartman also advises staff on audience-focused writing practices and communication strategies. She challenges contributors to clarify, focus, and cut down information. This value-added consultation helps improve the quality of submissions from week to week while altering how teams think about and approach internal communications. As a result, the Fundraising Brief serves as a critical first step in a larger change to the business culture.
The Fundraising Brief has proven to be a valuable tool for the Red Cross. The response was so positive that subscription requests multiplied exponentially within two weeks and the organization approved extending distribution to chief executive officers and all fundraising staff (not just fundraising leaders). Hartman has developed a plan to further measure the effectiveness of the Fundraising Brief and refine the strategy accordingly.
Knowing that external communications are only as good as the internal practices that generate them, APCC acknowledges Elizabeth Hartman’s accomplishments in writing clearly to meet the needs of staff members internally, the Red Cross at large, and the many constituents it serves. Kudos to Elizabeth Hartman.
Commissioned by Washington University’s Center for the Application of Information Technology, Betsy Frick of St. Louis, Missouri, developed and taught “sold-out” sessions titled Better Business Writing for a local company headquarters IT staff in 2011.
Betsy Frick’s half-day workshop highlights essential features of document organization, design, and concise writing and techniques that help writers achieve them. The customized workbook provides brief guidelines explained in plain language, followed by clear examples and prompts for personal applications. By limiting enrollment in each session and using a document camera, Frick provides ample individual attention to participants who bring samples of their writing for analysis and improvement. Continue reading →
As president and founder of Plain Language Works (formerly Riffenburgh and Associates) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Audrey Riffenburgh has trained over 1,500 health professionals in plain language and health literacy. Her goal is to help these professionals create easy-to-read, highly-effective print and web-based health information for consumers, patients, and their families. Her consulting services include speaking and training, producing reader-friendly documents, and facilitating organizational change toward a plain language culture.
As a forerunner in health literacy and an advocate for plain language, Audrey Riffenburgh deserves high praise for the contributions she has made to the field. When she began consulting and training in 1994, she was one of the few practitioners addressing health literacy. Her customized workshops and numerous conference presentations have shed light on the crucial need for health literacy and have provided much-needed instruction on effectively communicating health information. Continue reading →