Louise Landess | Real words for real people

As a professional writer, I’ve been writing about people and organisations for more than 20 years.  I work together with them to gather, sift, sort and share their thoughts as they go about their business and plan for the future.

I help write their CVs, resumes, LinkedIn and business profiles, job descriptions, induction programmes, training manuals and workshops, helping them explore, examine and describe the jobs that they do, the roles they fill, the systems they use, their organisational culture and purpose, and what they bring to the table individually and collectively.

I help them distill and clarify their ideas as they pitch and present themselves to the world; to their prospective and existing clients, colleagues and peers, investors, funders, judging panels, conference delegates and anyone who is interested in what they have to say; writing articles, blogs, web content, proposals, award entries, speeches and presentations.

Essentially wherever and however they are getting it out there – print, digital or spoken word, I help people and organisations define, promote and make the most of their raison d’etre, their reason for being. It’s a rewarding process to be involved with, and one that I find fascinating.


Why do we kid ourselves?

When I first started in this line of work, I noticed very early on in the piece that regardless of the job they were applying for, the vision statement they were writing, or the pitch they were making, almost everybody would describe their skills and approach in a similar fashion. Nearly every individual’s CV would state that they had ‘excellent communication and interpersonal skills’, that they had ‘strong time management’ and could ‘prioritise multiple tasks to meet deadlines’. Nearly every organisation’s website claimed that they were ‘innovative, creative and – heaven forbid – fun!’ (Is it really fun though?!!)

But in talking to people, it quickly became clear that very often, they were simply saying what they thought whoever they were addressing wanted to hear. Or outlining a culture or value they felt was en vogue, flavour of the day and that would appeal to the world and his mate.

Now, when people can substantiate what they’re claiming with some relevant examples, then all well and good in the ‘that’s how they see themselves department’; but from my perspective, it also leaves them sounding just a little bit boring, a lot the same as everyone else, and does anything but differentiate them from all the other people or organisations who are also trying to stand out from the crowd, Ironically, by so doing, they all come across as the same, same, same. And worst of all, by kidding ourselves in this way, the what-we-think-they-want-waffle is taking up space on the page that could better be used promoting who we are, want we want and why we’re a good fit for it.


The power of digging, asking, sifting and sorting

This meant I needed to dig for more information and ask some thought-provoking and occasionally, challenging, questions. I was more interested in what they wanted to do, and why. In finding out what inspired them to want to do certain things, what they were genuinely good at or interested in, and how/where they might be able to achieve what they wanted to. Or in terms of an organisation, digging deeper to discover what they were truly about, and how they realistically went about their everyday business.

And then, based on what they actually said in their own, authentic words, I’d help them rewrite or refine the script. Putting their thoughts into words that made sense to them, in a way that they could recognise and be genuinely proud of. Because it was apparent that as people started talking about their strengths, passions and purpose more intentionally, with a little bit of time and thought, what they had to say about who they are and what they do, became more engaging, compelling and, most importantly, true.

Ultimately I found that being able to more clearly articulate thoughts, missions, strengths, attributes, skills and whatever else qualified them for ‘the job’, (including actual qualifications!) gave people a better sense of what they have to offer, what makes them tick and what they really wanted to do, where they wanted to do it, and with whom; and by doing so, they generally increased and sped up their chances of achieving this. All very cool to witness and be a part of.


The why behind the how

The idea for this blog came from a combination of my observations and fascination with this work, combined with my experience of living through a time of destruction, disruption and subsequent reemergence of a city; the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that hit Christchurch in 2011,  two weeks after which, I found myself working right on the edge of the central city Red Zone cordon.

Contacted by a Project Manager I’d previously worked with on a Christchurch City Council web project, I joined a small team who were working on a refresh of the Christchurch Polytechnic’s website (now Ara), and based initially in the Broadcasting School and then the Rakaia Building, spent the next eight months watching what was happening from a primo spot on the sidelines. The place was quite deserted, and it was quite a few years later before life returned to the city in abundance, but it was fascinating; a once in a lifetime look at a city literally being rebuilt from the ground up, and as a cyclist, I not only got to see this in action, but also feel it too, taking in all the sights and sounds of life in a quaken city. Firstly the demolition and destruction, and then, little by little at first, the reemergence of a shiny, new and pretty cool place.

I was excited to take a closer look at how our city Ōtautahi Christchurch was being rebuilt, and capture the essence of this in my blog; but very soon after I started, I found the proliferation of Disaster-preneurs (people who had not been here at the time of the quake, but who looked upon the event as ‘an exciting opportunity for the city’) took the fun out of the idea and popped my blogging balloon.

While they were right about it being a time of opportunity, as someone who was just doing what many of us quake-citizens were doing, taking each day as it came, I had little interest in putting a spotlight on the disaster-enthusiasts. Hometown heroes such as the Student Volunteer Army, Ministry of Awesome and Gap Filler were [quite rightly] getting a lot of domestic and international exposure, so I decided to park the idea for a while.


It’s time to reignite the passion

Now, (seven years after mothballing it) I feel like Christchurch has really come back into its own. The central city is buzzing again, and everyone now has a real opportunity to participate in what’s on offer. The growth is obvious and there are an increasing number of people and organisations visibly contributing in one way or another to make this place work, and I am now ready and excited to reboot this passion project; building a collective CV for Ōtautahi Christchurch, taking a look at who is working here, and what is that sees neighbourhoods, suburbs, disciplines and eco-systems organically (or intentionally) create their own unique vibe.

And then, once I see how it rolls, if my thinking is sound around the concept, I will spread my collective CV wings further afield going on to look at how other cities I am connected to and love work, including London, Cambridge,  Montreal and Vancouver. And then just because I think they’re cool and groovy, I fancy taking a closer look at Chicago, Seattle and who knows where else. But for now, I’ll start here in the city that for more than 10 years now, I have literally watched come back to life… Ōtautahi, Christchurch, in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Feel free to add to the picture

If you have any suggestions of an organisation, sector, community, neighbourhood or suburb you’d like to see featured, just flick me a message and I’ll take a look to see who and what drives it.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about Christchurch not only from my perspective, but if all goes to plan, also hearing from others who are a part of this place. After all, while buildings and entities are interesting, we all know what really brings a place to life; he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Watch this space to learn more about Ōtautahi Christchurch, and more specifically, how this city works.