There are many different types of written communication that you might produce. These include:
- Reports to a board or senior management meeting.
- A business plan.
- A briefing to a group or groups of stakeholders.
- A press release.
- A meeting note.
- Website content……
……The possibilities are endless. No matter what you are writing, there are some common things that you need to pay attention to.
Being clear about the purpose
It might seem like the most obvious question in the world but why are you writing something? Every piece of written communication, no matter how formal or informal, has a purpose.
Yet it is surprising how few people take the time to get clear on the purpose of the communication. Without a clear purpose, it is kind of difficult to create a really good written communication.
A good question to ask yourself is, “What do I want to happen as a result of this communication?
The clearer you can be about your answer to this question, the more likely you are to produce an effective communication.
Know your audience
Who are the recipients of the written communication?
What levels of expertise do they have?
What questions are they wanting answered, when they are reading your communication?
Again, the more clarity you have about your audience and their needs, the more likely you are to be able to meet their needs and get the result you want.
Keep it simple
If you are someone who is from a professional background, there is often a whole lot of jargon or language related to the profession. The trick with any written communication is to make it as simple and straightforward as possible. That means keeping it jargon free (or at least explaining the jargon if you have to use it), avoiding long sentences and stepping into the shoes of the reader.
Plan the structure
A bit of time spent planning the structure can make the production of the communication a relatively straightforward process. Personally I find mind maps a really good way of structuring a communication.
A mind map is a visual representation of the key themes and ideas that you want to get across. You can mind map with pen and paper and there are even online tools, like MindMeister or XMIND that you can use.
Make the complex simple
As professionals, we have the challenge of having to get our message across in a way that is understood. If, for example, you are a health professional, you know that each profession has its own terminology. A technique that I have found works well is to find something everyday that people can relate to. Metaphors are also extremely helpful. Essentially, it is a comparison.
Make it compelling
A lot of the time as professionals, we are seeking to influence when writing something. So if, for example, you are trying to change practice in a particular area, you need to make the case compelling enough in your written communication.
Some of the tactics that make something compelling include:
- A clear opening message.
- Clear description of the consequence of doing nothing.
- Potentially showing how the problem could be addressed with some outline ideas.
- Letting the recipient of the communication know what the benefits or upside are of acting now.
The foundation of any good written communication is making the time to plan it.
When you take the time to plan it, you are 80% of the way to achieving the outcome that you want.
Goals and Achievements help NHS organisations improve their leadership and management capabilities. Learn more here