“I have no words,” the old expression goes. “I’m at a loss for words,” states another. Sometimes the hardest words to come up with are about yourself or your business. That is a major reason why businesses and business people (organization and individuals) should consider a good writer to tell their stories, open a sales conversation, close a sale, engage audiences via blog, prepare their presentations and so on. (Yes, that is a plug for my services.)
How can you write about yourself or your business? You are talking about something that is very personal, but you have to keep in mind a few (dozen) things: SEO, buzzwords (to use or not to use, that is the question), keywords (to use but not overuse), clarity, cultural differences, attitude and tone (real or perceived), context, active voice, readability and so on and so on and so on. Here are a few tips to help you out.
Keep An Eye on the Ball Without Getting Tunnel Vision
Have a clear focus to whatever you write. Why are you writing it in the first place? Think about that. I have told my teams for decades, “Why before how. Why you want to do something will determine how best to do it.” Period.
If the letter, blog, web page, email, proposal or whatever is being written for clarification … be clear and don’t use euphemisms, acronyms and this little thing called BS. One upon a time a wonderful woman said to me (she was my boss’ admin), “Are you trying to say something without saying something?” Ruby’s wisdom works for everyone.
Be clear about the reason for the writing (and don’t expect a document to do all things. It can’t and shouldn’t.) and write appropriately. Trying to engage others? Write with energy and words that involve the senses of the readers. If you are trying to state “just the facts,” then, just state the facts. Know your audience and know the reason you are writing to them.
Sometimes focus can become so tight that we gain tunnel vision instead of focus. It is not hard to become so zeroed in on the focus/intention of the document, that you forget to look to the sides. Consider the context of the document, the likely mood or environment of the reader/audience, the possible distractions to the reader/audience, the baggage that comes with connotation of words and the clarity that should come with definitions of words (there are a lot of words that are mis-defined by your readers).
Lose the Mirror
It’s not about you. It never is. If you look in the mirror and think, “Well, you nailed it that time,” then you probably didn’t. You are not the reader. You write for the reader to understand, connect, connect and understand…as much as is possible.
Use the Mirror
The artist resides in every piece of his or her work; likewise, you should “appear” in the things that you write for yourself and your business’ culture/identity should appear in its writings, so to speak. Forget sterile, academic, evaluate it by the pound, passive voice, safe writing. Look in the mirror; hold it up to yourself or your business.
Does the writing convey something about that person or business’ values, purpose, passion, strengths, vulnerabilities, uniqueness, familiarity? No matter what business you are in, your written words will touch more people than your spoken words or artwork ever will. Do the words convey in ways that connect readers to the humanity of you or your business. People do business with people. Start with the one in the mirror.
Think, But Don’t Overthink
Think about what you want to say, whether it is a sales pitch or a response to an angry customer (or even to a delighted customer!). Think. Think about the message and how it might be received and/or perceived. Think.
I had a graduate-level communications professor decades ago that said that no one ever thinks about how their messages will be perceived before they communicate. I disagreed and told him that I chose words and tone after I thought about how they may be perceived. He said I didn’t. I said I did. He then basically called me a liar. Maybe people don’t do it often enough, but I know that I am not the only human being on earth, then or now, who thinks before they speak. Don’t you wish more did, though? Aha, the power of thinking first!
But don’t overthink. Almost every single word, phrase or topic you choose, despite all the best intentions, will confuse, irritate or befuddle someone. Don’t get so caught up in analyzing every word and its multitude of meanings, or edit so much that you messages have no personality, to the point that you have the writing equivalent of “analysis paralysis.” Think. Write. Edit. Think. Re-write. Send/publish. Move on.
Enter Stage Left (or right)
A potential client and I were talking about writing and sharing stories to engage customers. He said, “I want them to feel like they are in the scene.” I smiled, pointed at him and repeated the words, “they are in the scene.”
People are visual communicators. No matter the purpose of the words, the words will invoke images in the minds of readers/audiences. Whether it is a fund-raising proposal or an owner’s manual, the reader must be drawn into the “scene.”
Words matter. They are powerful. Use them well.
When I teach young adults about communications and public speaking, I ask them to give me the names of great speakers in history. After about a dozen names — ranging from Jesus to Hitler, Reagan to Pope John Paul II, and Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. — I pause to mark some other names. Invariably, at least half of the names they have provided earn a mark.
“What do these names have in common?” I ask. Their responses always miss the mark.
“Everyone with a mark was either killed or attempts were made on their lives because of things they said. Never forget the power of your words.”
Utilize the power of words at every opportunity.