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Heather Beresford is a freelance writer and editor in corporate communications and for the consumer press. She was named Writer of the Year in IoIC’s Icon Awards 2014. Find out about her work and how she ended up on stage with Blondie in the latest in our IoIC People series.


Did you always want to be a writer?


I’ve loved writing ever since school, but I didn’t realise you could be lucky enough to do it for a job. I hope kids now realise how many fantastic writing careers are on offer.


What was the most important thing you learned on your first job?


I had to learn how to persuade scientists with planet-sized brains that simplifying complex ideas doesn’t mean ‘dumbing down’. It was the early 90s and I was working in a male-dominated, engineering organisation. I doubt my bubble perm gave me much gravitas, but I was on a mission to make complicated concepts relevant to all employees. The experts were pretty resistant to the idea initially, but their attitudes completely changed when they saw their work coming to life.

What differences do you see, if any, between writing for external media, such as national newspapers and writing for internal comms channels?


Because the line between internal and external communications is increasingly blurred, I really focus on making sure messaging is consistent. But in terms of differences, internal communications people often have to work harder to be heard – you’re competing with heaving inboxes, back-to-back meetings and a riot of external communications. And you still sometimes have to push harder for best practice comms – whether that’s sticking to the brand’s tone of voice, or keeping things simple (my obsession).

What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about editing a publication?


I LOVE thinking of compelling story ideas, honing a consistent tone of voice and making sure the design of every page is working hard to hook people in. But then there’s the challenge of getting it all done on time, while still creating space for creativity and innovation. I like finding new ways of keeping fresh ideas pouring in - like reviewing other magazines, getting magazine teams out to exhibitions and booking guest speakers.

Tell us about something you really enjoyed working on.


I really enjoyed launching an internal news service at Oxfam – it’s a treat bringing phenomenal stories to life. We cover everything from tackling Ebola and securing education for girls, to celebrity fundraising and campaigning for change. Even though it’s a passion-driven organisation full of inspiring activists tackling global poverty, celebrity stories still get the most hits!

Tell us about your work for Oxfam


I work closely with the leadership team, providing a mixture of strategic advice and hands-on delivery. It’s a fascinating place to work. We’re engaging 5000 staff in more than 50 countries, working in different time zones, languages and cultures. So we just launched a series of ‘online conversations’ - breaking down silos and getting people talking. It was a hugely exciting step forward.

What was it like to win the IoIC ICon award?


I’ve been part of the IoIC for 20 years, and having just gone freelance I’ve been getting more involved again - so I was delighted!

What would be your ideal holiday?


I’d love to bundle my family on a plane to Australia, visit my sister in the Macedon mountain range, near Melbourne, and show my kids some crazy Australian animals.

Have you met anyone famous in the course of your work?


I got to ask a few celebrities their health secrets when I edited Healthy - my grandma nearly burst with excitement when I interviewed Carol Vorderman. I also interviewed Blondie before a gig, then danced way too exuberantly during the show and was dragged up on stage to sing the ‘oooh..aahh’ bits in Heart of Glass. I boast about it at any opportunity. (Thank you for this one.)

Who would you really like to interview?


I’d love to ask the early suffragettes what made them stand up and argue for women’s rights at a time when so few people agreed with them. How did they overcome the fear of social exclusion and imprisonment? What would their advice be for girls growing up now?

www.heatherberesford.com
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