Norfolk Network stories

Are you reading me? The highlights

Lucy Marks
Norfolk Network

How do we draw attention to our business, make sure that people understand us and improve our business writing across all platforms? We asked a panel of professional writers four leading questions and here’s a summary of their thoughts. 

What does writing creatively mean?

Lee: What do you mean by creatively? You don’t have to be creative, or think of yourself as being a writer to write well. You can write something that allows the audience to understand what you wrote, get your point and leave them feeling or thinking something without needing to label yourself as a creative or writer. Living up to that label can prevent you from writing.

Charlie: Many people, when asked this question, will lean towards fancy or sensational or shouty or off-the-wall or wordy or funny, but (with a few exceptions) it won’t usually mean any of those things. What business writing should be is clear and effective, written in the context of the business’s brand characteristics and with a solid understanding of the target audience and the project goals.

Diana: Emotion! Any writing that aims to do more than be a set of instructions and sets out to elicit an emotional response. Words are powerful. Even a simple instruction can be creatively approached. News headline writers are masters of this art. “Riot police tackle bonfire night disorder” can become “Bonfire chaos yobs bombard cops with fireworks”

How do we engage people and make sure people understand us?

Lee: By tapping into the metaphors, figures of speech, narratives, framing and value-based concepts that your audience identify with and want to hear. No one listens to something they don’t want to hear, or if they do, they will find a reason to disagree and reject it. Be succinct: if removing a word doesn’t change the meaning of the message, delete the word: it’s unnecessary.

Charlie: First by understanding where we’re writing from (the business, the brand characteristics) and who we’re aiming at. Then it’s about being clear and effective again, but also attractive, in the sense that the copy holds the reader’s attention and moves them towards the writing (and the brand behind it) rather than away from it. Like ‘creative’, ‘attractive’ will differ in meaning according to context.

Diana: Tell them a good story. A story that will engage, hold and satisfy. My golden rules are; keep it simple, hook me in with the first words and give me a reason to keep reading. Know your audience and your purpose – what do you want from whom? When it comes to facts less is more. Emotion trumps fact – it’s what we are programmed to respond to and it’s what we remember. In an ever more noisy digital space this is becoming ever more so.

Rachel: Make sure you know what it is you want to say before starting to write. Understand your audience and be clear about what the outcome needs to be – what action you want them to take.

How can we be effective on all platforms?

Lee: Understand how the platform affects the message and check if your audience are using the platform. If you can only write 240 characters in a tweet, that will inform what you write.

Diana: Generally consumers have less time and more competition for their attention. But each platform has its own advantages and limitations. So think about context. Where is your reader? On a train? On a phone? In an office? How long have they got? What do they want? And remember – words don’t have to stand alone. Pictures and sound can convey information quickly and powerfully.

Rachel: In addition to understanding the objectives of the business and the needs of your audience, write for the platform. To be effective on different platforms you need to understand the form content in that channel takes.

One final piece of advice / thought

Lee: Write a shitty first draft, kill your adverbs and get a good editor.

Charlie: If you’re assigning a piece of work to a professional writer, give them a properly thought through and detailed brief that tells them about the project goals, the audience, the brand etc etc. If you’ve never written a writing/creative brief, sit down with the writer and write it together.

Diana: How do I want the reader to feel ?

Rachel: To become a better writer study the work of others. Draw inspiration from writers that you like and don’t be afraid to experiment where you can. Find someone to look at your work or a coach to help you improve your writing.

“Emotion trumps fact – it’s what we are programmed to respond to and it’s what we remember.” Diana Hare

At the end we touched on the area of AI and can intelligent writing be artificial? A great subject for a follow-up event – watch this space!