Tips from the Trenches in Strategic Communications Writing
As a lifelong corporate communicator now embedded within the uber-competitive higher-ed landscape, I’ve had the rare opportunity to see across multiple industries, corporate personas and contrasting executive suites in a myriad of organizations.
From this unique vantage point, there is absolutely one constant that remains crystal clear no matter the chair you sit in or where you reside on the planet — words matter.
The challenges may seem daunting and, ever-changing industry dynamics aside, the ability to fundamentally communicate effectively to various publics across the spectrum resides in the intrinsic value of clear, concise and engaging writing, no matter if the narrative is posted on a website, sent via a tweet, delivered in a Zoom-cast, e-news or other virtual sphere.
To ensure your writing is up to snuff, the following tips provide a useful road map to remember throughout your communications writing journey.
Write to strategically engage and inform.
Using the strategic message planner approach, do your due diligence prior to putting pen to paper. Just as you would use the strategic message planner for overall campaigns and initiatives, the same research and analysis should be applied to your writing deliverables.
Steer clear of corporate-speak.
Removing industry jargon, as well as the alphabet soup of acronyms, will only add to the readability of your text. Being mindful that the ability to write in a way that is understandable is one of the most challenging scenarios I’ve seen time and time again.
You’ll often receive highly technical material or input from subject matter experts who are knowledgeable in their fields, but will need your craftsmanship to bring it to life in a way that is clearly understood.
Remember that less is more.
While storytelling and crafting an engaging narrative are central to strategic content management, realize that you’re not writing a thesis. Should you have more to tell than can be easily digested, consider options for a phased approach of sequencing, including links to FAQs or opportunities to learn more detail in partnership with other channels and platforms.
Review, refine and repeat.
Like water over a stone, an effective writer is fundamentally an excellent editor who understands the intrinsic value of reviewing text iteratively. Realize there is no pride in ownership here as the end goal is always the best possible written product, regardless of how many edits may need to occur so that there is a streamlined, effective flow ensuring your final content is the best it can be.
Measurement matters most.
Incorporating the option for feedback and usability scores from analytics depending on the channels utilized helps inform how the message was received, and is just one more tool in the toolkit to determine not only how the message resonated, but also what opportunities exist to clarify, address any questions, provide follow-up communications as needed, and more important — engage and keep the dialogue going.
You’ll find that doing the essential pre-work planning ensures that all words do indeed matter and as your collegial cohort in communications, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or send any questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strategic Message Planner 101
The following components inform a successful planning outline:
- Define the overall scenario opportunity or challenge.
- What is the overall goal and supporting objective(s)?
- Develop an outline of the key facts for the narrative.
- Who is/are the target public(s): demographics and psychographics?
- Provide an outline of the strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats (SWOT) analysis.
- Define the image/perception of the issue: current, desired and challenge.
- Define the strategic message narrative: What is the promise statement, unique value proposition or benefit?
- What is the actionable intent (awareness, information or engagement) or key takeaway that readers should know or do?