Kelly Irving (pictured below) is a business book editor and writing coach. She helps leaders, experts, coaches and speakers to communicate with impact. In this guest post, Irving offers her tips on how anyone can improve their business communications and writing…
Do you suck at communicating in writing? Be honest now. Far too many marketers, executives, advertisers and consultants do.
Too many of us fall into the trap of pseudo head-writer. This person lives in the brain’s left hemisphere and writes to logic and reason, product not passion. It’s not pseudo head-writer’s fault. It’s because they’ve been taught this is ‘the thing you do’ in any kind of corporate, business or non-fiction communication.
Yet all of us rely on communicating effectively – persuasively – with our team mates, employees, customers and future clients. So if you really want to engage these people, to rally them around your cause, then you’ve got to be able to write in a way that turns them on, not off.
Here are four tips to help you do just that.
- Talk to their problem, not your solution
You’ve got to spend time at that start of any piece of communication, creating common ground with your audience, the very people you’re trying to create a relationship with. Your readers, your potential customers, want to feel heard, understood and valued. They want to feel like you really ‘get them’. They don’t care about your process, product or fancy all-in-one solution, until they know that you care about them.
Write about scenarios they are familiar with – running late to meetings, spilling coffee on their pants, getting a hole in their shoe… Ask rhetorical questions like, ‘can you relate?’ Make it easy for them to put themselves in the picture you create.
This is how you stop force feeding your solution (‘you need this’) and start walking (‘I get you’) in their worn-out shoes.
- Focus on then, not now
Where are your customers and clients at now? Where could they be? What would their future look like with your help?
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, explains that as individuals we are driven by identity-based goals, not outcome ones. That is, we are motivated by the image of the person we want to become – i.e. an author – not what we’ll get in the end – i.e. a book. In marketing, this is like selling the benefits of your product or service, not the features.
So help your audience see their transformation by describing it for them – turn them from Clark Kent into Superman or Diana Prince into Wonder Woman.
- Write to one person, not to many
One of the biggest mistakes people make when communicating is to focus on a general group of people as their reader. A classic target is ‘all CEOs and leaders’. Really?
There are CEOs of all ages, genders and cultural backgrounds, in charge of different sized companies, across thousands of industries. Their problems are many and varied, as are their personal likes and dislikes. Hence, it is impossible to help them all with one idea, product or service.
The trick is to write to just one real person that you want to help. One real customer. Visualise this person, stick an image of them above your desk if it helps. Write to that one person as if you are talking to them about their specific problem face to face. It’s only when you write to one person that you attract many.
- Use ‘you’, not ‘they’
Writing in third person (‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’) is formal, passive and implies you’re not responsible for your words, and therefore, your actions. You’re not seeing the story, thoughts or feelings directly through the other person’s eyes or experience.
Of course, this objective style of writing is appropriate in certain contexts, but if you really want to engage the hearts and minds of your audience then you need to be fully present in the moment with them (‘you’, ‘we’, ‘us’).