When NASA – you know, the US aeronautics and space agency – conducted a survey on workplace communication, they discovered more than one-third of their time was spent conveying information. A further third was spent absorbing technical information sent to them by others.
Your business may not be sending anyone to the moon, but it’s just as critical that clarity is the number one feature of all your B2B written communication. Emails, reports, manuals, advertising campaigns, tenders, proposals, capability statements, tweets, brochures: every communication tool you use to let your clients know about your product or service needs a message that is as clear as crystal.
Sometimes, though, it takes a look through a different pair of eyes to spot where improvements can be made.
An approach favoured by many experts is to ‘think like a reporter’ when you draft business communications.
A reporter’s job is to craft compelling, truthful and relevant stories. They achieve this by relying on established writing techniques and processes.
In our experience, applying these same methods to B2B communications improves clarity, action-taking and business outcomes.
To think like a reporter, incorporate these four steps into your writing to make it targeted and effective:
1. Use the Five W’s and an H Framework
Reporters build stories using the Five W’s and an H. This framework captures the six basic questions to ask when gathering information: who, what, where, when, why and how.
When you’re writing a business communication, you should consider questions like:
Who are we talking to? Who else will benefit?
What is important to the reader? What do they need to know? What do they need to do? What happens if they don’t act? What’s the call to action?
Where does the reader go for more information?
When does the reader need to take action?
Why are you talking to the reader? Why should they care?
How will the reader benefit from what you’ve got to say?
2. Use a strong lede
This isn’t a typo! Lede is the term reporters use for their story’s first sentence or paragraph. The lede delivers the story’s essential information (the Five W’s and H) to set the tone and spark the reader’s curiosity.
Your business communications should always start with a strong lede that hooks the reader from the start.
3. Write simply and in an active voice
Reporters use short sentences, simple words and avoid jargon.
They never assume the reader knows everything they do, so they provide background and contextual information and spell everything out. They use an active voice to keep their writing direct and faster-paced.
Check out our copywriting tips that anyone can use.
Applying these principles to your business writing ensures your messages cut through and are understood.
4. Edit your work
The beauty of written communication is the author has time to edit and review their words. Like a reporter, take an extra minute or two to critique your work.
Better still, just as a reporter relies on an editor to review a story, ask a colleague for their input and see if you’ve hit the mark. It’s easy to overlook the obvious when you’re close to a topic. Make sure your reviewer also uses the Five W’s and an H to keep you on track.
And don’t forget a final proofread, too. Better still, ask a colleague to do this for you.
Better business communication really can improve performance. As reports become clearer and emails more concise, we can all become more productive. Sales improve as marketing information becomes easier to understand and act on. And that’s got to be good for business.
With our decades of experience and trained eye, Proof Communications can help make sense of your written communications.