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?


4 comments:

Jeanette Andersen said...

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Anne :)

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Miko Tan said...

If I am not mistaken a business writer must be open minded, has a lot of things in mind and has a very wide imagination.

Business Writer Dubai