Why “professionals” need to learn business writing skills

“Professionals” working in healthcare, education and other non-commercial arenas increasingly are called upon to write information leaflets, web content and other text aimed at their “Joe Public” audiences. But can these people rework their own expertise and often antiseptic style and approach to create text that ordinary mortals can appreciate and understand? There’s a lot they can learn – and use – from the skills we use to communicate business messages.

Audiences of written material delivered by doctors, nurses, teachers and others usually are not up to speed on the latest information and jargon related to the subject matter concerned, but – they need and/or want to learn about it.

Yet all too often, the creation of information leaflets, letters, newsletters and other material to meet such needs is left up to “professionals” who are too close to the subject matter and aren’t trained in writing skills. Often this leads to text that’s inappropriate in style and/or content.

One of the other things I do apart from writing in here …!! is to help out at our district hospital as a volunteer member of a group of users of cancer services. Not surprisingly I often get asked to comment on and edit information output aimed at patients facing cancer treatments and other serious issues.

Prior to our current phase of chop-chop cuts in the NHS I was talking to a senior healthcare professional about doing some workshops on how to write better patient information … and we had many folks, particularly in the advanced nursing area, very interested in learning from what I can offer. Whether those workshops will go ahead now I’m not sure, but certainly the need was there – and was perceived to be there.

How can my business writing techniques possibly help in a non-commercial setting?

Simple, really. My business writing techniques that I teach apply, in all honesty, to anyone wanting to get a message across to an audience effectively, no matter who they are or what you want to convey. (More on that in “The MAMBA Way To Make Your Words Sell,” an eBook soon to be available on here.)

Here, in as small a nutshell as I can manage, are the basics of that – and how they work for anyone wanting to communicate messages even if they are not commercially related.

1. The First ‘M’—Mission

You start that process by creating a brief for yourself based on sorting out your objective—what you want to achieve. It’s no good thinking about what you want to say, because that often isn’t what you need to achieve. If you start by thinking of what you want to achieve, you’ll keep yourself focused on outcomes, not subjective desires.

2. The First ‘A’—Audience

If your message is going to work you don’t just need to know who your audience is, but also how they feel, what they need, how they think. You need to know what makes them tick so that your message will be on their wavelength. You need to get out there and find out, too—not necessarily rely on demographics data or other impersonal research. For worthwhile results, touch and feel.

3. The Second ‘M’—Media

Or “medium,” as usually there’s just the one. Before you can make the best of it, you need to understand its restrictions and its benefits. And you need to understand in what way that medium delivers your message to the audience—can they read it at their leisure on well-printed paper, or will they be rushing through messages on a computer screen? Can they understand it in English or should you have it translated into other appropriate languages?

4. The ‘B’—Benefits

We need to go back to that old sales issue of features versus benefits. Features are what something is, benefits are what it does for me. And here’s the key to it: “what’s in it for me?” Cruel though it may seem, that’s the only thing that really interests your audience. That’s a commercial notion, but it should be applied to non-commercial text too. Everyone needs to know how they’ll benefit from what you’re telling them.

5. The Final ‘A’—Articulation

Choosing the right tone of voice and the right angle of language to make the audience feel comfortable with what you’ve written and get the best from it. Ensuring that the text remains focused on “you,” the reader or viewer or listener. Avoiding pomposity and getting the right balance between professionalism and informality.

As I said above, there’s a lot more to come in my MAMBA eBook. But for those of you who are “professionals” and particularly those working in the public sector, take note.

More useful writing help for professionals:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

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