A leading building supplier recently said DIY was declining in the UK because people now prefer to trust professionals to do the work. Are you taking the same care with your corporate communications?
Business is increasingly multinational but English remains the international language of business. So how do you cope if English is not your first language? Even if you speak English like a native (not always a good thing), are you confident enough in your ability to write clearly and concisely to do it yourself?
Your reputation as a senior manager may depend, in part, on your ability to write reports, articles and blogs for internal and external audiences. If you work in a global company, your writing will also need to transcend national and cultural barriers. As well as avoiding stereotypes, clichés and colloquialisms, your message has to be compelling enough to drive the change you desire.
Are they laughing with you or at you?
As military historians will tell you, confusing messages cause strategies to go astray and battles to be lost. Make an occasional slip in your writing and your audience may just smile at your expense (they may even find it endearing). However, if you fail consistently to communicate effectively you risk damaging your professional brand, alienating employees and losing customers.
Many international business people are confident English speakers (which can be a bit humbling for us Brits) and don’t need a translator. However, it is harder to write English that flows as naturally. Employing a professional business writer to polish a rough draft will ensure your copy is clear, engaging and convincing.
For instance, one of our clients asked for our help with an article from a colleague in China. The message was a good one: about how employees were working with the community to clean up a local river and protect the environment. However, a poor translation had created tangled phrases that left the reader confused about who was doing what and why.
By taking the time to understand what they really wanted to say, we turned it into an uplifting story that was both interesting and relevant to the group’s international workforce. We were also able to link this local story with the company’s global social engagement and environmental protection policies. Rather than just making employees feel good, we showed them that their individual actions could make a world of difference.
You can’t always excel at everything
It’s not just foreign nationals who have difficulty writing clear English. Plenty of talented leaders struggle with writing because of dyslexia, lack of experience or simply lack of time. Others feel intimidated by the term ‘writing’ because they believe, wrongly, that it demands flowery language, erudite phrasing and rhetorical flourishes.
If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate.
— Richard Branson.
Senior business people often find it more efficient to simply jot down their key thoughts as short bullet points. They then ask us to turn these ideas into readable, engaging articles that resonate with their specific audience. This gets over the mental block about writing style and allows them to focus on the substance and the logic of the case they want to make. It might not be fancy but it is effective.
Going beyond good writing
A professional business writer will not only enhance the readability of your writing by correcting grammar and clarifying ambiguous sentences (which, of course, they should do). They will also take time to understand your business, your marketing strategy and your corporate communication needs. They will then use this knowledge to improve the clarity and flow of your ideas, and stimulate the audience response you desire.
DIY writing can be fun – you might even occasionally relish the challenge – but is it really the best use of your time and expertise? Using a professional writer will free you to focus on your strengths, such as developing corporate strategy, building teams, improving health & safety or driving change. It might even leave you free at the weekends to paint the spare room – but you might want to ask a decorator to do that.
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Thank you for reading
This post is part of an occasional series on business, social media and communications. If you found it interesting or useful, please share it with others.
Huw and Wendy