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Communications firm partner strives for perfection in editing

By Caitlin Hassler                                                                                                       University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mary Fastenau‘s life seems perfect. She lives in paradise – Honolulu, Hawaii. She is a partner in a successful advertising agency. And she adores her employees.

Perfection, after all, is what she is after, whether it is in the proposals for new business, presentations for clients or the marketing materials created by her staff. Fastenau is always on the lookout for mistakes and slip-ups.

Fastenau is the principal of Anthology Marketing Group, the largest communications company in Hawaii. Anthology Marketing Group has a large client list, including Microsoft, Marriott and Bank of Hawaii.

Mary Fastenau, the Principal of Anthology Marketing Group

Mary Fastenau, the principal of Anthology Marketing Group

Fastenau didn’t start her career in the advertising business, but began as a reporter. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1980, the Bertrand, Neb., native’s first job was as a reporter for the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier, a Gannett newspaper. She then moved into marketing positions, first at the Lafayette paper and then at the Marin Independent, another Gannett paper in Marin County, Calif.

In 1989, she moved to Hawaii, where she began her career at Anthology.  In 1996, she received a master’s in business administration from the University of Hawaii. Then she launched the interactive division of Anthology and became a partner.

Editing has helped her achieve perfection in her industry.

“One of the reasons that people have told us many times why we actually get new business is because of our proposals,” she said. At first, she was perplexed by the comments, but then she looked at the proposals from the competing agencies.

“They just are edited horribly, and it doesn’t inspire confidence,” she said.

Fastenau hires good editors and writers. “There’s always going to be a need for someone who is awesome with grammar,” she said. But it’s more than just the grammar rules. It’s about the logic. And by logic, she means that the writing has to make sense to everyone.

Writers and editors also need to be conscious about using jargon.

Eliminating jargon helped Anthology land a big client, she said. Anthology was working with another agency to land the account, but when Fastenau saw the proposal, she was shocked.

“It was so filled with jargon that it didn’t make sense. And I understood the jargon,” she said.

She believes that if she had not edited out the tech jargon in the proposal, Anthology and the other firm would not have landed the national client.

Although Fastenau is always reaching for perfection, she has missed the mark. Once or twice.

There was a case where the client went with another agency. Fastenau called the client to ask why.  The client replied that they needed a community college and Anthology gave them Harvard.

“That was an editing lesson for me — to know my audience,” she said.

The Internet has allowed for a vast growth in communications, including advertising to diverse audiences. But the Internet has also changed how reporters and advertisers need to view their audiences.

“If you’re writing for a newspaper today, it’s going to be on the Internet and your audience could be anybody,” she said.

The communications industry has to be conscious of multicultural audiences. For example, Fastenau worked on a campaign for a Japanese firm. The campaign featured a play on words that non-native English speakers did not understand.

“Language is so critical, but it has to be clear,” she said.

With the flashing lure of technology, people are no longer taking the time to pay attention to the intricate details of an ad. The old-style play on words has to be substituted for a more direct and clear approach, she said.

Fastenau also thinks that the Internet is creating a new field for editors.

“I think that the big thing that editing is a component of is something I call information design,” she said. Information design is the combination of content creation and content curation, she explained.

“There are so many sources of content, there has got to be somebody, an editor, to archive it all.” This information designer would archive, organize and edit content on the Internet. For example, if the information designer was archiving content for a business, he or she would archive it in a manner that it matches company policy.

Regardless of changes in the editing field, perfection remains essential in the field of communications, she stressed. If there is a typo in an ad in Vogue or a mistake in The New York Times, the credibility of those publications drops, despite their prestige. The same can be said about the Internet.

“Any time you’re editing anything on the Internet, the minute there is a typo, your credibility diminishes,” she said. “In the agency business, they pay us to be perfect.”

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