What We Learned in 2016 to Take Us into 2017

This past year was surreal in more ways than we can count; yet, our business grew by leaps and bounds, as we collaborated with clients and partners on projects that we’ve enjoyed enormously. We feel honored to have shared this journey with them, and look forward to the road ahead.

Members of our team also had wonderful accomplishments and experiences outside of Wordsmithie in 2016—from publishing books and learning new sports, to volunteering for important causes, and welcoming new family members (children and pets). I couldn’t be prouder of our team, or more grateful that they’ve chosen to share their talents with us and our clients.

As this memorable year draws to a close, we decided to forego our usual “New Year’s Resolutions” blog, and instead ask team-members to share what they learned in 2016 that they’ll carry forward into 2017.

I’ll go first: From a business perspective, I’ve learned to pay attention to seemingly subtle shifts and happenstance encounters—they’re often harbingers of insight and opportunity. Bumping into an old friend can lead to a new project. Stepping back when red flags are flying can avoid a lot of trouble down the line. And listening more closely, instead of simply reacting based on past experience, is a gateway to greater understanding all around.

I’ve also learned (both in business and in the wider world during this crazy, pent-up year), that we can’t control what others do—so we should focus on doing the best we can in our own lives and for those we watch over, and keep the flame of hope lit for everyone else.

And now, take it away, gang…

David Bergheim, Chief Strategy Officer: “The best laid plans of mice and men often went awry in 2016, but I have seen in friends, family, and colleagues a deep pool of resilience that has allowed them to persevere despite the obstacles. There is no such thing as a perfect year—and 2017 will no doubt bring its challenges—but we’ll be fine if we just keep swimming.”

Jennie Cohen, Senior Editor: “If you feel like you don’t have the background materials you need to complete an assignment, then you probably don’t—and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for them. More often than not, the right brief/resource/guide/template is out there. It might just take a little persistence on your part (and some digging on your client’s) to find these hidden gems.”

Eve Connell, eLearning / Instructional Design Enthusiast: “With change a constant element in our work, being flexible is key to making substantive progress. As we strive to implement innovative solutions to online training challenges—enabling our learners and teams to be more engaged, productive, interactive—being nimble allows for creativity to shine. And, we all need more shine and substance in the new year!”

Michael Gaylord, Chief Creative Officer: “The power of words to impact and shape our lives and our future has never been more evident than it was in 2016. The events of the past year challenged our notion of a civil and just society and the well-being of our planet in some pretty profound ways. May we be even more resolved to craft our words and tell our stories with integrity, truth, and responsibility.”

Fritz Holznagel, Senior Editor: “Serve the steak first. As screens get smaller and attention spans get shorter, I have to adjust as a writer. There’s no time for the “olives and pickles” of lead-ins, setups and throat-clearing. Whether it’s a white paper or a text ad, get right to the point, always.”

Khaleelah Jones, Digital Marketing Specialist: “Asking questions and digging for more information is not a sign of weakness or stupidity. Learning and understanding anything, from the processes and workflow of a new client to the in’s and out’s of curling (a game I learned to play this year!), takes time, patience, fortitude and humility. The results, however, are new heights in knowledge and skill. So when in doubt, ask!”

Alex Kenin, Google Studio Director & Senior Editor: “In 2016, I learned all about the process of publishing a book, and my first book came out in November. Knowing what I know now, my 2017 goal is to write an ebook to help other aspiring nonfiction authors get their own book deals and realize their own publishing dreams.

Stephen Kent, Studio Director: “Stop—Look—and Listen. A lesson I learned from my son’s kindergarten teacher’s mantra is that FOCUS is the key to successfully moving on to my next task. It has helped me transition from being an inefficient multitasker to a calmer and more thoughtful Studio Director. By stopping and looking I identify what matters—a core task that must happen—and by listening (to myself figure it all out) I better understand what I need to do to make it happen. This (always ongoing) process results in more directed / productive work and a sense of professional success.”

Heidi LaFleche, Senior Editor: “Listen and watch for the unexpected. Copywriters are often guided by a creative brief or outline. But don’t be limited by that. Fresh ideas, new facts and interesting insights may emerge during client and customer interviews, as well as during review of source materials. Be open to things that can make the final communications piece more powerful—golden nuggets waiting to be discovered.”

Jim Leeke, Editorial Director: “The lesson is one that we learn over and over again: There’s always something you don’t know. About the client. Or the product or service. Or the language you can and cannot use. Or even something that the client doesn’t yet know. Once you learn whatever it is, be ready to incorporate it seamlessly into the draft copy…even at the very last minute.”

Jason Rogers, Editor: “In the end, we’re all just mammals telling each other stories. In any endeavor, but especially ours, the better we keep sight of that, the more effective we are. It’s important to not lose the forest for the key performance indicators, year-over-year revenue figures, and industry awards. So go on, tell me a story, and make it a good one.”

Marlene Tam, Design Director: “My design instructor would often say, ‘It takes two designers to design—one to design and another one to make ’em stop.’ It was his way of coaching students to avoid overly designed, complex and confusing visuals. With simple and well-executed design, there is clarity and timelessness. But, to get to simple, it’s often necessary to go through the process of purging the complex. In life and in design, I let go of the complexities of 2016 and move forward into 2017 with an enhanced focus on simplicity.”

ABOUT Laura Bergheim

The founder and CEO of Wordsmithie, Laura has more than two decades of experience as a journalist, author, content creator, agency owner and creative strategist. She founded Wordsmithie in 2010 after leaving Google, where she was a senior content strategist and senior editor for monetized products such as AdWords.