Writing in the Workplace: Laurier Nicas Alder, Head of Social at TMW Unlimited

Welcome to “Writing in the Workplace.” This biweekly series will focus on how professionals-in any field of work- use writing. If there are industries you’d like us to spotlight or you’re interested in being featured, we’re only a tweet away!


Alder headshot

Laurier Nicas Alder is the Head of Social at TMW Unlimited, a London-based creative digital marketing agency.  She’s responsible for managing a team of 20 (including 16 social media managers and social content producers) and their work across all social accounts.  Her day-to-day includes team management, maintaining client relations, social content planning, upholding industry best practice, and editing and crisis/risk-managing social and creative output for all social clients.

Laurier received a BA from Stonehill College in 2007, with a double major in Communication and Fine Art (Graphic Design).  She then studied at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2008 where she received an MA in Image and Communication.

 

What mediums do you rely on for your writing?

I wish I had my life more together so that the answer to this would be medium and not media, but I’m afraid that’s just not going to happen.  Writing to me, whether for work or for pleasure, is a wholly messy process.

On the traditional front, my desk is covered in Post-Its and scraps of paper, and I love scribbling on a variety of legal pads.  On the digital side, I have a bad habit of keeping Notepad windows open on my laptop with any number of thought starters (often nonsensical), and don’t get me started on the Notes section of my iPhone.  Basically, when the inspiration strikes, I scribble on paper, keys or touchscreen.  Eventually I cobble the pieces together into linear thoughts.  I find it easier to edit something than start from scratch, so I get it all on a page, and, even if it looks ugly, I’ll eventually craft it into something respectable.TMW value

Describe your writing process. 

Given the industry that I work in, it’s almost entirely brief-driven.  We know that our clients are looking for something in particular, whether that’s a specific content calendar or broad strategic recommendations as part of a major campaign, and we work to the parameters in relation to the task – objectives, KPIs, target audience, media budgets, timings, societal/cultural context, extenuating circumstances, etc.  I aim to approach every task, big or small, with the brief in mind to make sure I’m producing the appropriate work.

It makes it sound really dry and dull, but the boundaries really do help me create the best content possible.  There’s nothing worse than a bad brief: it’s like staring at a blank page – no direction, no insight, and you’re doomed to fail because you don’t know the measures of success.  Knowing who you’re speaking to and what you want to achieve from that communication is a necessary foundation to create great work.

What kind of feedback do you seek out for your writing?

In a professional context it’s important for me to get quite critical feedback – I want someone to try to poke holes or find faults.  It’s about stepping into the shoes of each stakeholder – the client, the consumer, the competitor – and trying to see it from every angle.  The best thing about feedback is that ultimately you can ignore it.  It’s just smart to get everything on the table so you know what you’re up against.

What has been your most challenging writing experience?

You know, there hasn’t been one standalone writing experience that has been more challenging than another.  It’s been my lifelong approach to writing which has been a challenge.  Growing up, I would never have considered myself a writer.  It’s the same way I would never have considered myself an artist.  Sure, I can write… but I’m not a writer.  I am artistic… but I’m not an artist.  The titles were too definitive to me, and I would become too defensive: “I’m not an expert, I’m not a professional.  Don’t look at me for answers.”  Approaching any one discipline as a standalone skill has always been difficult for me because I’m a package deal – Laurier Nicas Alder, Jack of All Trades, at your service!  That’s why I work in social media / digital marketing; it requires a varied skill-set and it’s ever-evolving which allows me to keep learning and adapting.

One thing I wish I realized earlier in my career journey (don’t get me wrong, I love where I am now, but it’s nice to recognize your strengths earlier than 30!) is that MANY jobs include this ability – you don’t have to be a scholar, journalist or author to be a writer.  Don’t think in job titles; just do what makes you happy.

What has been your most meaningful writing experience?

To be completely honest, probably my college essay.  (NO PRESSURE, KIDS!)  It’s not really about what I wrote but rather what that then unlocked.  I was all ready to go to a different university, but that essay got me noticed at Stonehill, and I went there instead.  I loved Stonehill, and, besides the brilliant education and lifelong friendships, I had an invaluable opportunity to study abroad in London.  International study is something that is at the core of Stonehill’s offering and that experience then led me to return to pursue a Master’s degree in the UK after graduation… where I started my career, met my husband, and am currently living happily ever after.

Looking back on how important that essay was now, it makes me cringe (the way something you wrote 12 years ago would).  My submission was a satirical look on the hoops we jump through and the efforts we go to please admissions staff on the arbitrary choice of who is worthy to attend their college.  The title was something like “How to Write a College Essay.”  A very big thank you to Stonehill College admissions staff for having a sense of humour and also for determining my path in life. (NO PRESSURE, ADMISSIONS STAFF THE WORLD OVER!)

Lo & AndrewWhat’s your favorite way to procrastinate?

The internet is a goddamn playground.  I’m happy to justify the distraction and say that procrastination is crucial to my process.  Before I sit down to complete a big writing task, I have to make the rounds.  I check my email, hit up the social platforms (mainly Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), browse reddit, and scan the news.  It’s almost as if I can’t feasibly get work off my desk if I don’t know the internet state of play.  I mean, what would someone think of me at the water cooler if I said I didn’t see that #ReplaceAMovieTitleWithGoat was trending?

Helpfully, my favorite ways to procrastinate are also the ways that I get most inspired.  After falling down the internet rabbit hole, you start to really envy the work you’re consuming* and realize that if you just put the proverbial pen to paper that you’d be able to create great stuff too.  So whether it is a clever piece of brand content or a silly Buzzfeed video, it gets the creative juices flowing.

*perhaps not the goat movie hashtag, but maybe… depending on the day

Do you listen to music while writing? What kind?

It’s so hard for me to not get distracted with music while writing.  First off, let me put something on the table… I have a truly awful taste in music.  I like some great stuff, but I’m also the first to admit that I like some utter shit too.  The problem I have is consistency; I’ll pretty much listen to anything.  I’ll flit between musical soundtracks to gangsta rap and everything in between.  I mean, my top three bands are Nirvana, the Bloodhound Gang and the Grateful Dead and my favourite night of the year is Eurovision (if you’re not familiar, that’s definitely an internet rabbit hole that you want to fall down, Alice); I challenge you to find a common thread there.  Questionable taste aside, it’s just a mess up here in my head when I mix all those different styles onto a playlist and try to make it work.  It becomes full-on sensory overload and that’s not conducive to coherent thought and storytelling.

Taking this into consideration, I recently discovered that I do my best writing when I remove the distractions completely.  I try to limit myself to familiar classical music (The Best of Bach), ambient sounds (Rainy Mood), albums with limited or repetitive words (Deadringer by RJD2), or just plain ol’ silence.

Most important book you’ve read? 

That really depends on the way you define importance, because at different stages in life it has meant different things.  Importance in a moment, to me, is more telling than importance overall. Basically, this is an elaborate cop-out wherein I will give you several answers:

  • 1989: Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein – When I realised that words could be fun and funny, a key distinction.
  • 1994: The Baby-Sitters Club series, Ann M. Martin – When I became completely invested in characters in a series. (Shout out to the Scholastic Book Club!)
  • 1999: A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens – When I acknowledged that it’s acceptable to have a dissenting opinion and not like something that is widely considered a success. (Sorry, Dickens, taking practically two pages on the detail of lace nearly killed 14-year-old me.)
  • 2003: The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger – When I was encouraged to embrace adulthood and leave behind the teenage angst.
  • 2005: Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf – When I recognised that disagreeing with authority (in this case, a professor) was not only possible, but sometimes completely necessary
  • 2011: Bossypants, Tina Fey – When I felt most inspired to do take risks and do something with passion.
  • 2013: Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar, Kelly Oxford – When I realised that I could have a story to tell that’s worth hearing…
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