by Greta Menard, Capital
MarCom, Inc & Sydni Williams, Bean,
Kinney & Korman, P.C.
Writing. In today's
age of email, social media, promotional copy and other forms of business
communications, it's something we do every day. But with a wide range of formats and goals to consider, what are the
secrets to great business writing?
We were honored to participate in the Arlington Chamber's
"Back to Basics: The Art of the Written Word" event on October 4,
2013. As panelists, we explored the fundamentals
of writing compelling copy, as well as the nuances that apply to writing blogs,
newsletter articles, social media posts, Web copy and print promotions.
Style, Message and
Greta Menard, copywriter and founder of Capital MarCom, Inc., set the stage by
outlining three elements of great marketing copy: Style, Message and Delivery. She described the importance of knowing the
ground rules for grammar and style, and recommended that organizations develop
a house style guide to infuse consistency into their written communications.
Greta also advised writers to consider the following
question before drafting business communications or promotional copy:
"What do I want the reader to remember,
think, feel and do after reading
this?" Such an exercise is a simple
way to help writers determine the tone and message that they hope to convey.
Write for Your Channel
In a discussion of
effective delivery, Sydni Williams, marketing manager at the law firm Bean,
Kinney & Korman, P.C., explored
best practices for writing for specific forms of media—including newsletters
and blogs. She said writers should focus
on why they are writing and for whom, because the best business writing targets
a specific audience and what they want or need. Focus on their pain points. Know what keeps them up at night and determine
why this topic would be interesting to them.
recommended that writers review their copy once it is complete to add headings,
bullet points, photos or other formatting to make the content easier to read. Although content is the most important aspect
of business writing, how that content is formatted, designed and delivered is
equally as important.
Utilize Online Media
Gina Watkins, regional development director at Constant Contact, expanded on these
tips and explained how online media can help organizations reach new customers,
drive repeat business, nurture leads, engage members and advocates and increase
donations. To enhance engagement, she
recommended that online marketing campaigns have a "push" component—through
which you distribute information—as well as an occasional "pull"
component that solicits input from your target audience.
Gina also explained that it is important to use a multitude
of channels to distribute content. She
recommended posting content to social media three to five times a week and sending
email newsletters monthly. She also
highlighted Marketing Sherpa as
one of many online research tools available to help writers assess their
industry and determine the best time and day to reach their core audience with
The event was moderated by Dawn Fels, director of the writing center at George Mason
University. In addition to sharing
her own insights on business communications and how she helps mold the writing
skills of today’s college students, Dawn synthesized the key takeaways from all
- Write for your audience. What's in it for them?
- Write your headline first,
and carefully consider email subject lines.
- Be brief—shorter is better.
- Use bullets, numbered lists
and subheadings to enhance scan-ability and readability.
- Choose your words carefully
and leverage "power verbs."
- Vary your pace and sentence
- Use your writing to create
relationships with your stakeholders.
- Keep online copy dynamic by including hyperlinks.
- Assign a person or persona to online communications versus
an organization or "info@" address.
- Include videos, photos and photo albums in your social media
posts to increase clicks and engagement.
Now that you have the tools to write effectively, it’s time
to put your skills to practice. Start by
updating your website copy, drafting an e-newsletter article or crafting some compelling
posts for your social media channels.
What's more, you can showcase your own thought leadership by drafting an
article for this very blog hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
to learn how Chamber Members can contribute.)
When all was said and done, the "Art of the Written Word" event made one
thing clear—the only way to transform your writing into a results-driven business
tool is to take the time to start writing.
So what are you waiting for?