Sunday, 25 November 2012

Basic Business Writing to Capture an Audience

photographer, Graur Razvan Ionut

With the explosion of online content development driven by the evolution of social media, I thought it was time to talk about back to basics business writing to capture and engage an audience.   I wrote this article a while back for Suite101 and thought it was timely to resurrect it...

With the rapid fire communications coming at consumers, information is being weeded through and tossed out at a great rate.   What makes them stop and read?

 Brilliant Business Writing

In the book Brilliant Business Writing-How to Inspire, Engage and Persuade through Words, author Neil Taylor says that good business writing should be clear and concise but can be livened up by adding stories, rhythm and the odd metaphor.  These are the elements that bring business writing from good to brilliant, says Taylor and will increase the likelihood that the purpose of the communication (to help, inform or influence) will be met.

The challenge in the information age is to cut through the noise and actually reach and engage an audience.  “Although there is an abundance of information available, it is often difficult to obtain useful, relevant information when it is needed,” according to an article published in the International Journal of Information Management, “The Problem of Information Overload in Business Organizations,” by Angela Edmunds and Anne Morris, 2000.  It goes on to say that “Professional and personal survival in modern society clearly depends on our ability to take on board vast amounts of new information.  Yet that information is growing at an exponential rate.”

Information Fatique
The article refers to the challenge of managing “information fatigue” in the workplace to alleviate potential “analysis paralysis” a phrase coined by Stanley and Clipsham in 1997.  Since that study was conducted the information overload syndrome of the office has obviously seeped into home and family life as well and trying to reach an information saturated audience is a challenge.

Methods of information sharing continue to grow exponentially and regardless of the way messages are being delivered, through Twitter, Facebook, websites, billboards, ezines, newspapers or magazines, it’s critical that the message is crafted in a way that it is received and understood in order for it to be acted upon.

Taylor’s book walks readers through the basics of style and grammar but in an enjoyable and engaging way (using his own advice to draw readers in).  It’s a great read with a twist of humour laced with the occasional bit of sarcasm.  

Training a Writer's Brain

At the beginning of the book Taylor suggests that getting good at business writing takes time.  He recommends that business writers “think of it like circuit training: you’ll be gradually building up your linguistic muscles” as you read the book.

He compares being a writer to being an actor and suggests that writers be “present” in their writing like an actor in a play.  An actor could show up, say his or her lines on cue, walk through the right doors at the right time but if there’s no life to the performance they won’t be getting any Tony Awards.  According to Taylor, “writing is a presentation you’re not in the room to deliver.” 

The Inverted Pyramid

Skimming and scanning is typical with today’s online readers so it’s best to take a journalistic approach to writing anything.  In one of Taylor’s Brilliant Tips he says to “put the most important points at the beginning of what you’re writing.”  It’s what is known as the “inverted pyramid.”  If readers aren’t captured with the first line, they’ve moved on and there’s rarely a second chance to engage them. 

What clever methods do you use to capture and engage your audience, whatever type of writing you do?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Relevant Socializing in Your Social Media

 I spent a long time yesterday writing a comment in a LinkedIn discussion on a social media marketing group that I thought I would share here.  The group facilitator had invited members to post all their links but included a long list of guidelines on what to do and what not to do...  to make it a more useful discussion rather than a dumping ground.  I thought I would share it here because I think, in their desperation to 'connect' and be 'liked' so many people are totally missing the point...

Here's the comment I wrote:

I'm sad to say that even though you (the facilitator) painstakingly outlined the guidelines for this discussion I have already been bombarded in my LinkedIn inbox.

I will simply delete those messages and continue merrily on my way.

I would like to thank everyone who has begun following all my social media but would like to plead with those who are blindly following, liking and connecting with everyone on this string, to please use a little strategic thinking before you do so. I'm disappointed to see irrelevant posts on my timeline that have absolutely nothing to do with my areas of interest or expertise and certainly will not be welcomed by my friends/followers/connections.

I will not respond to each piece of SPAM individually but will quietly delete it and will not be visiting or following anyone back simply because they have 'liked' my page (but are not likely to grace it with their presence anytime in the near or distant future... but have only clicked the button in the hopes of highjacking a few followers)!

I will go through this discussion and will visit, read with interest, comment, like, share and follow those who pique my interest, have information I want or need or who I would like to engage in a conversation. If I don't follow back, it's not because I'm not 'playing fair'. It's because there aren't enough hours in the day to follow and read all the relevant content that is available let alone the reams and reams of 'stuff' that isn't.

I hope I haven't offended anyone but I felt the need to share my feelings so those of you I'm not 'following back' understand why that might be. Also, it may take some time for me to get to everyone so just because I'm not following today doesn't mean I won't jump on tomorrow. If what I write about is of interest to you, don't unfollow me just because I haven't followed you back right away. Feel free to leave relevant comments on Facebook, DM or @message me on Twitter and I'll see the honest engagement and happily engage back!

Happy (relevant) Socializing,
Anne :) 

Would anyone else like to join my rant?  Please feel free to let it all out on the comment section below.  I know I feel much better :)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Eating My Way Through Singapore

I thought I would do something a little different since I've been a little derelict in my blogging duties lately.  It's still in keeping with my mission to write about writing in that, I find that the pure act of exploring a strange (to me) Asian city on the hunt for the best street vendor, flogging the most compelling local dish, gives me so much experiential fodder to draw from when describing any sense in my writing - sight, sound, smell, taste (and even touch when attempting to successfully wield the series of utensils presented to us).  I attentively watch the locals who surround us and try to mimic their motions as they make it look so effortless and never end up with the spicey juices flowing down their chins, which is fortunate for them as there often seems to be a serious lack of materials with which to mop the drips from one's face!

So, here is a pictorial meander through the flavors of Singapore from a recent trip I took with my husband.  I threw in a few visual beauties at the end just for variety!

On our first day we stopped in a cavernous food court on Bugis Street and immediately followed our noses to this amazing bowl of chicken curry.  Two large Tiger beers were almost not enough to quench the thirst that followed after the sweat broke out on both our foreheads!  But, it sure was tastey!

We just stood here for a while and inhaled the blended aromas and beautiful presentation of this cornucopia of delicacies before we ordered.  We took advantage of all the gorgeous green and topped up our vegetables for the day.

The sight of this sign was enough to make us hold our breath and keep walking.  Not sure I'll ever need to write about the sensation of eating this!  My characters will just have to forgo the experience.

Fish Ball Soup!  Who knew how delicious fish balls could be?  That is, as long as you can get beyond the rubbery texture.  It is quite a skill to pick one of the slippery suckers up with chopsticks but we've got the maneuver down pat!

And... I'll leave you with just a few visual treats...

A very colorful refurbished building in the middle of Little India

Splashes of vibrancy abound amongst the vendors in the midst of Chinatown.

The Singapore Flyer lit up at night.

The Singapore skyline taken from Sky Park on top of the new Marina Bay Sands Hotel. 

So much eye-candy around every turn it literally took our breath away!  I can't believe the incredible pics my iPhone takes!  I even discovered how to zoom in on a shot with it and crop a photo once it's taken.  Learn something new every day!