In last week’s Financial Times, Michael Skapinker bemoans the fact that standards have fallen in business communications (‘Corporate writing stinks and the CEO is to blame’). Skapinker worries that today too many people — from legal to comms — get involved in crafting corporate statements, resulting in a car-crash of style and a loss of clarity:
“It is time for chief executives to write for themselves, or hire one decent writer, and tell it straight. It might not hurt as much as they think.”
Today every business leader has the opportunity to share their opinion and expertise online. That’s the good news. But knowing where the ‘publish’ button is doesn't automatically make you a good writer. The challenge is not only in having something valuable to say, but to make sure it’s said clearly and simply.
- Keep it short. Brevity rules, so be ruthless in your edit. Short pieces have more impact.
- Edit by reading out loud. If you’re struggling with the editing process, reading aloud is a sure fire way of making every word count.
- Have an opinion. No-one’s interested in a fence-sitter, let’s hear what you think. Champion an idea, bust a myth, show your passion.
- Put ‘you’ in it. Don’t let bland corporate-speak creep in, write in your own voice.
- You only need one extra pair of eyes. Don’t write or edit by committee.Sending your draft to six colleagues will get you six different views. Instead just get one person to look over it before going live.
- Focus on your audience. Don’t include industry jargon and confusing acronyms if your audience won’t understand them. Make it gettable.
- One subject per post. Thought pieces should be single-minded — on one theme or one opinion.
- Done is better than perfect. If you‘re responding to something that’s time critical, make sure your post is good enough and then get it out there. If you wait a week to make it perfect, you’ll have missed the boat.
- If in doubt, hire a writer. A writer such as myself can help business leaders shape, capture and express their ideas, transforming abstract thinking into something concrete. (Click here to find out more and get in touch).