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Danny Rubin Conducts Writing Workshop for Southwest Airlines

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For information on all of Danny’s career workshops, go here.

Southwest Airlines had a problem: how does the company make sure its 46,000 employees read important memos and announcements?

So many people at Southwest have fast-moving jobs and little time for long-winded corporate directives. For instance, customer service agents in a hectic terminal, flight attendants up and down the aisle and pilots flying this way and that. What would capture their attention?

In April 2014, I received an email from Melanie Jones, a member of the Southwest communications department, who asked if I could help her team write more concise messages. As you might expect, I said I was up for the job 🙂

Two months later, I found myself at the Southwest HQ in Dallas conducting a two-hour workshop on stronger writing and editing. The entire experience was a thrill – Southwest is such a legendary company, and I was honored to work with its communications team. Here’s how the day went down.

Inside the Southwest headquarters in Dallas, TX
Inside the Southwest headquarters in Dallas, TX
“Last week, I had a team member edit something for me, and he used the techniques we learned in Danny’s workshop.  To me, that’s success!” — Southwest communications team member

My day at Southwest Airlines

Smartly, the Southwest internal communications team, about a 30-person group, set aside an entire day to find ways to improve how it reaches employees with company-wide information. I had a two-hour window in the early afternoon to lead the team through a writing workshop.

My seminar happened right after a heavy lunch. I knew I had to bring the energy.

I began the workshop with what I have dubbed the “5 Principles of Concise, Effective Writing.”

They are:

1)      Remove excess words

2)      Removes excess ideas

3)      Let someone else read your work

4)      Print out your work

5)      When appropriate, tell a story

Each “Principle” is a hands-on activity that kept the Southwest group engaged. After all five lessons, we then worked on a challenge specific to the company: how to restructure internal memos to capture the reader’s attention and interest within 10 seconds.

Here I am leading a writing workshop for Southwest communication employees. The workshop was designed to help the team better engage with the company's 46,000 employees.
Here I am leading a writing workshop for Southwest communication employees. The workshop was designed to help the team better engage with the company’s 46,000 employees.

“I thought there were some quick wins I could immediately begin implementing!”  — Southwest communications team member

The workshop made the communications team members rethink the words and phrases they commonly use in company memos. During Principle #2 (Remove excess ideas), I made everyone cut at least 100 unnecessary words from their own documents. One person, after the exercise, said “I realized so much of my writing is excess that I almost have nothing left!”

That’s the idea.

Throughout the workshop, I observed several “aha!” editing moments among the crowd. Plus, the “5 Principles” packet serves as a great booklet for employees to reference later.

Members of the Southwest editorial team during a portion of Danny's editing workshop. The editorial staff creates, among other marketing pieces, the "Spirit" magazine in the back of your airline seat.
Members of the Southwest editorial team during a portion of Danny’s editing workshop. The editorial staff creates, among other marketing pieces, the “Spirit” magazine in the back of your airline seat.

I enjoy the chance to roll up my sleeves and work with employees on their writing. Few people know how to say a lot with a little yet it’s such an important skill in our Twitter-obsessed, attention-starved culture.

How can I help your company with its communications challenges? 

Read about all of my career workshops here.

If you have questions, contact me, and let’s talk!