Before writing anything for anyone you must first truly know your business’s message (or, as a freelancer, that which you are representing) and your audience. It sounds painfully obvious, and it is, but before unleashing your hypnotic lyrical genius, have these foundations firmly in place. Only then can you focus on engaging your audience. For this next stage, you should adhere to the following:
- Your tone should be intelligent but not pretentious.
- Be specific and target your niche but don’t alienate newcomers i.e. potential customers/clients who are unfamiliar with your business.
- Be personal but don’t be overfamiliar and assume that you and your audience are suddenly best pals.
- Shepherd your audience through your narrative, deliver them soundly into your sphere but don’t patronise them. In the end, unless you employ some truly Machiavellian techniques, you can’t force someone to like you or your business.
- Be bold and stand out but don’t come off as desperate, no one likes an attention seeker. Have some tact.
- Having said that, don’t be starchy. Be innovative, unorthodox even, to snare your audience’s interest.
- Be concise. Don’t tranquillise your audience with rambling statistics, jargon and equivocation. Time was you had a few seconds to make an audience care about you and your business but with our rapidly diminishing attention spans nowadays it’s more like a few of milliseconds.
If these principles sound unreasonable, unnecessary, too much effort or confusing, you should consider outsourcing a talented writer, a move that will pay for itself ten times over. If you fancy tackling it yourself, below are three frameworks around which you can construct a dialogue with your audience.
1) Opening hooks:
You have a duty to engage your audience and provide them with a much-needed breath of fresh air. We are bombarded at every turn by the latest and greatest SMEs and entrepreneurial trailblazers so why should we stop at you?
A provocative opening statement will have your audience on the edge of their seat, emotionally engaged and curious for what’s to come. As mentioned above, be tactful. It is not always necessary or even appropriate to be wildly unorthodox, the important thing is to come out of the traps with confidence. The type of hook that works best for you will depend on the character of your business, the nature of your message and the audience you are writing for. So again, it comes back to the foundations of knowing your business and knowing your audience.
Humans are storytellers, it’s in our nature, it’s ingrained in the fibre of our being. From campfire rituals and ancient oral traditions to our narcissistic Instagram feeds, storytelling is how we validate our behaviour and experiences. It helps us make sense of our lives, draws the opinions and reactions of others for external validation and establishes identity.
You should spend some time watching the best TED talks and fine tune your ears to their terrific story telling skills.
Sharing an experience is something we do every day, mostly without realising it, so bring it your writing and personalise your business.
Emails, websites, and white papers can be so dry but good content and copy that tells a story engages people on a human level. Things such as testimonials, an insight into your personal history (don’t give us sob story, though), the ethos behind your business and they way in which your business can serve others make you more relatable to your audience, which paves the way for sales, clients etc.
3) Belief Statement:
This ties in nicely with both opening hooks and stories. Who are you and why does your business matter? Or rather, why should your business matter to others? Your audience is your tribe, you share opinions and experiences and if you can establish a committed following they will spread the word for you. For this, good writing is essential. If you have a controversial or unique opinion or you stand for something, which you should, stand proudly on your soapbox (but don’t preach). As mentioned above, there will always be critics and opposition but this is business, you can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t try to.
My most revered university lecturer, a gruff Kiwi bloke whose staggering vocabulary and ability to cut your ideas down with the razor sharp wit that only a lifelong standup comedian possesses, told me that poetry is literature on its best behaviour. Every single word has to count, punctuation and literary devices must be deliberate because unlike a novel, you have nowhere to hide. This notion is relevant to business writing because although it shouldn’t be a work of literature, it should still be a collection of skillfully crafted words founded on integrity and longevity. It’s not about bagging quick sales but engaging in a conversation and developing a relationship.
From potential investors to existing customers, the audience is in the end judge, jury and if you’re not on the ball, executioner, so don’t overlook how they will react to your writing. In the world of competitive SMEs especially, everything is in flux so unless your writing is unfaltering in its success, you must evolve your methods or fall into obscurity.