LET’S KEEP WRITING, A WORD AND A JOURNAL AT A TIME

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Carolyne Gathuru (pictured) is the CEO of Springboard Capital Ltd, a fast growing   microfinance institution. A seasoned marketer and customer experience professional, she is also one of our editorial contributors and partner. She speaks to us about her passion for customer experience and her love for writing. Excerpts

BL: Why are you passionate about writing on customer experience?

Carolyne:  I am passionate about writing on customer experience because of my deep desire to place it at a vantage point in organizations. It is a bit unfortunate that currently, most organizations have not yet unlocked the full value of customer experience excellence. They view it as a very flowery and frivolous add on, yet it is as important as finance and human resource in the boardroom.  It is a very important item in the strategy agenda.   Consequently, the more we write about customer experience, the more we create awareness and advocacy about its importance. Personally, I feel that customer experience should be a key anchor in business and   it should be positioned in the right place. 

In the same vein, I am passionate about writing because it is a form of teaching.  In essence, when we teach, we inform and build capacity. Ultimately, our message reaches   the right people, who are in turn able to make the right and beneficial decisions.  It is important to write about customer experience because such information is   read at all levels of an organization.  Sometimes, the message maybe for decision makers in a certain sector (for instance financial services), customer experience practitioners or professionals in the other   fields. In a nutshell, writing about customer experience demystifies the practice.  It   provides clarity, advisory, awareness, information, education, persuasion and inspiration.

BL: How are you able to come up with pieces that resonate with your readers?

Carolyne: By and large, this comes from understanding my customer. In customer experience, we say that one must understand your customer.  In a manner of speaking, a good writer should generally focus on what his or her audience wants to hear or read.  As a writer, one must take time to understand your target audience because they are the ones interacting with your material.  What do they need to hear? What is important for them at that particular moment?  Often, people need to hear something at a specific time and occasion.  They identify with   the message that meets their expectations. 

Effective writers therefore use PESTEL ( political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal factors) analysis in order to address issues that resonate well  with  their audience.  For instance,  readers  are  keen  on  being  informed  about  what  is  going on nationally, regionally and  globally and how this impacts on the particular subject being written about.

Any piece that does assist your audience practically will not   have yielded the necessary fruits. Unfortunately though, many people love to write for optics (to look good or to   improve themselves and their brands) as opposed to addressing issues that add value to their audience. In my view, that is vanity. In fact, any writer who is not able to assist his or her audience in getting a better viewpoint on the issues affecting their lives should abandon the trade.  

As writers, we need to stir thoughts, emotions, actions and persuasions. We should be champions of behavioural and mindset change. 

BL: How has  your experience as a client and columnist of BL magazine been?

Carolyne: My experience has been good.  I have enjoyed writing the customer experience pieces.  There has been clarity on the topic I am supposed to address, its objective and the timelines for submission. I have therefore been able to shape my article based on the magazine’s main theme and then deliver the same as per the copy deadline.

The communication experience with the BL team has also been great. They have promptly been giving me  the necessary clarifications  on  issues  that  I  have  not  been certain about.  As a customer and editorial   contributor of BL, that experience has made me happy.  This also applies to other products of the media house: videography, photography, coverage of events and online content development. 

I am also glad to note that as a customer, the team (especially the founder CEO, George Gichuki) has been receiving my feedback well. They are adaptive to change and respond to things as and when they happen.  As a customer and a partner all has been well. I have therefore   shifted over the years with the brand – when I was working in corporates, to consulting to my current station as the head of an organizational leadership project – because of its consistency. Our relationship has been over a span of twelve years.

BL: In your view, how come we do not have many good business writers in the country yet the literacy levels are reasonably high?

Carolyne:  To a large extent,   that   is a paradox. It is very complex. I don’t quite understand it.  Kenyans are very enlightened and innovative. We have many academicians who are highly educated.  Kenya is also a nation that values education and places it on a very high altar. In my view then, we have a shortage of good business writers because of our poor reading culture. Once people are through with their studies, many of them  do not appreciate the value of reading. Readers are writers and writers like to read.

In my opinion, there should be great interventions at all levels of education – right from the kindergarten to the university –  aimed at promoting reading for leisure, information and knowledge. Additionally, much as it may consume a lot of time, business writers should be willing and able to research on their topics in order to come up with informed opinions. Unfortunately nowadays, with digitization, we have a crop of writers (popularly known as ‘bloggers’) who are obsessed with churning out entertainment content that is not well researched. 

Thirdly, to come up with a good business article is time consuming. Unfortunately, even after doing a good job, many business writers feel short charged by publishers who pay them lowly. That is a challenge that should be addressed by the publishers themselves.  

Finally, it behoves the experienced business writers to mentor the young and upcoming writers. By so doing, we shall have a consistent supply of good writers. Occasionally, some publications carry very dry articles and by the time the readers have  gone  through the first paragraph, they are already bored and tired. Proper mentorship of writers and promotion of business writing as a great brand can address that gap.

 BL:  What is your message to our readers as we mark our 15th anniversary?

Carolyne: A very big congratulations to all the stakeholders of BL as you celebrate the fifteenth anniversary. It is often said that Kenyans are not able to run great businesses because of being impatient and failing to have long term visions.  It is therefore a plus for BL because of withstanding the turbulent nature of business for the last fifteen years. This must have come at a great cost.   It is a great testament that it can be done.

The magazine business has witnessed a lot of disruptions, the main one being the onset of digital media. I am therefore happy to note that BL has been able to transition from print to online and to hold audiences in the two spaces. The publication has also been able to have bold, fresh and relevant content over the years which is not a mean achievement.   

Magazines (just like other publications) must endeavour to have content that is relevant and useful over a long period of time. Recently, while making a presentation to some young leaders, the facilitator used Steve Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as a baseline for discussing strategy and how the said leaders  can anchor their personal development projects and big picture items on this. My comment in that session was that the book was written in 1989, yet its words are as fresh today as they were then, 33 years later.

   BL: What are your final words as a seasoned writer?

Carolyne: We are often encouraged to write things down.  Write down your dreams, your thoughts, goals, mission and vision.  Anything important should be written down, otherwise it might be forgotten. There is something powerful about writing things down and that is the space within which BL is playing. When things are written down, then they get actualized and cemented.

Writing has remained a powerful tool of communication for ages, much as its medium has evolved. My encouragement to BL and other publishers is that we should keep writing one character at a time, one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time and one journal at a time. This will change the world.

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