Planning: Before you put pen to paper

Before you write your first word, you need to work out what is the purpose of this written communication, and then establish how you are going to achieve it.

Perhaps you could answer these questions as a group brainstorming exercise to help you prepare:

Know yourself

– What are your aims and objectives?

– What is the need for this work?

– How will your organisation meet that need?

– Why are you best placed to meet that need?

– Who and how many people will benefit from the work, and in what ways?

– How much will it cost to do the work?

– What value do you offer?

Know your audience

Write with your reader in mind.

– Who is your priority audience?

– As a result of hearing about you, what do you want them to do / how do you want them to change?

– What information do they need to help them make this change?

– What language do they use?

– What terminology will go over their head?

– How much time do they have to read your work?

– Where will they read it (on the bus, at work, in front of the TV)?

– How will it affect them (will it make them richer or poorer, will it make their life easier or more difficult)?

Know your competitors

What is the usual style of communication within your sector?

– What are they doing well that you could emulate?

– What do they do badly that you want to avoid?

Choose your channel

How will you communicate the information (what methods, channels and products will you use)? Be creative e.g. Quiz, Q&A, 10 top tips, Day in the life, Dear Diary etc.

Beating writer’s block

Getting started is often the toughest part. Don’t be intimidated by the blank page! Write anything, just a scribble, or the top five things everyone should know about your subject. You can always edit it later.

Outlining v Mind-mapping

Some people find it easiest to make a list of what they want to include, and write it from there. Others find they draw inspiration by mind-mapping. First, take a piece of paper and turn it sideways to landscape format (that appeals to the more creative side of your brain). Write your topic in a circle in the centre of the page, and draw lines spiralling out from it. ‘Braindump’ all your thoughts about the subject onto the paper, and add colours, illustrations and connections between each idea as you wish. Finally, number them in order of priority to turn your diagram back into a linear written format.

Edit edit edit

In most communications, you only need an introduction, 3 or 4 key points and a conclusion. So, sort out your key messages. Every time you stray into too much detail, ask whether what you are writing is vital to get those points across. If in doubt, cut it out!

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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