Writing Effective Messages: 5 Timeless Tips









March 2012

Whether it is “talking” via mobile messaging, email, or some other form of written communication, text is quickly becoming the interaction of choice. But relying on text as opposed to context, whether in business or personal communication, does have its set of challenges – not the least among them being the pace at which information is shared and the limited attention span of readers.

“No matter how fast technology moves or what new devices are offered to the market, the one thing that always remains a constant: the written word. Indeed, with a proliferation of new communications channels, most communicators will find that their corporate writing style is about the only thing that really differentiates them from their competition,” writes Peter Schram, managing partner of Communications Unlimited, on The Communicator blog.

In the race to create and disseminate messages, don’t lose touch with these tried and true communications principles.

5 Timeless Tips for Effective Writing

1. Know who you are trying to reach and why. “What you include in your email message depends on why you’re writing and to whom,” confirms Writing@CSU in this guide to Writing Effective Messages. And this goes equally so for any other communication (whether written, visual, or oral). So, do your research and remember it isn’t always about you and your products, but what you can deliver to your audience.

2. Lead with the hook. Most viewers know within the first 10-15 seconds of a video whether they will view it or move to the next. “However, with the right content people will sit through ads that are much longer,” says AdWeek’s Tim Nudd. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for email. “According to email provider ExactTarget, people take 2.7 seconds to decide if they will read, forward, or delete a message. These busy people sit with their finger on the delete button […]” confirms Jill Konrath in The Ultimate Guide to Email Prospecting.

3. Be authentic. While authentic and transparent seem clichéd and worn-out, don’t lose sight of their overall value. “Expressing yourself can help influence the way others perceive you and your company in today’s social media world. If you can’t get started expressing yourself, you’ll have a hard time making use of social technology,” explains Thomas Scott, CEO and senior writer, Brand Journalists.

4. Avoid the fluff. Don’t add text simply for the sake of adding it. And while you’re at it, avoid the jargon too. “Jargon masks real meaning […] People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction they want to give others,” says Jennifer Chatman, management professor at the University of California – Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, in a Forbes article on The Most Annoying, Pretentious and Useless Business Jargon.

5. Keep it simple. Too much text or too many calls-to-action and your messages get lost. Instead, focus on only the one or two messages you want your audiences to see. “In a room full of shouting people, nobody gets heard at all. The same is true in an email chocked full of ‘important’ messages – they all compete for attention, and they diminish each other,” affirms Jeff Wright, in Four Ways to Squeeze Your Messages Into a Short Attention Span.

BottomLine: Writing to differentiate is not an easy task, but with a little thought and preparation you can formulate a tone and style that is uniquely your own and still remain true to the basics. Remember, whether your messages appear in print, online, social media, or broadcast – BurrellesLuce WorkFlow has all the tools you need to effectively plan, monitor and report on your key initiatives.

About BurrellesLuce

BurrellesLuce is the U.S. leader in media monitoring. Professionals in a wide range of industries rely on our comprehensive curated content from local and national print, online, broadcast, and social media sources. BurrellesLuce has a turnkey copyright compliance program that allows us to provide copyright-compliant, behind-the-paywall content not available to other services. BurrellesLuce combines grade-A content with easy-to-use software, allowing users to evaluate and analyze their media coverage and PR efforts. It's all integrated into our user-friendly interface, BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™.

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