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 Delivery
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 of Delivery
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.
Sydni also 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 online media.
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 three presentations:
- 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 structure.
- 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. (Contactcommunications@arlingtonchamber.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?
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