How a “mission brief” makes your writing much easier, part 3

Why write yourself a brief for an important writing project? Are you “the client,” all of a sudden? No, but just as you wouldn’t cut out fabric to make a dress or suit without using a pattern, you shouldn’t approach any major writing project without a very clear plan outlining how you’re going to reach your objectives. In this third article, we take a short, sharp reality check … (If you haven’t read the early articles, click on part 1 and part 2.)

Does this really work?

Can I hear you say, “what’s she doing devising motivational schemes when she should be writing words?”  All part of a business writer’s job.  We get involved in the most amazing things, from changing light bulbs to reworking company policy.  Business writing is not just about words, I’m afraid.  No writing is.  It’s about communicating, and all that it entails.  If we’re going to communicate something successfully, then the “something” has to work.  If it doesn’t, the finest writing in the world won’t get it out of trouble.

If it’s not within your power to make the “something” work, go and discuss it with the person in whose power it is.  Assuming you’re tactful, you’re perfectly within your rights to do that.  Explain why you feel it needs to be changed and even if it’s impossible to change everything required, you can at least work out a compromise.  As an external writer I have experienced very few problems when I’ve had to do this – in fact in most cases my input has been welcomed.

If you’re an internal writer, you may be hampered by company politics and hierarchy.  In that case, it may help to go and share your concerns with a mentor or superior who is not connected with the project, but who could exercise some influence in your favour.  If you pick your confessors carefully, sooner or later you will come across at least one powerful person who sees your point and can get things straightened out.

Business writing projects are often complicated by the fact that several people have a say in them, and each person’s idea of what they should achieve and how the message brief is composed is slightly or even dramatically different.  If you are the unfortunate piggy-in-the-middle who is to co-ordinate such a project, you need to make two points clear to everyone before you start.  Yes, even to your superiors, so you’ll need to be brave.

Get the realities right

The first point is that business objectives are not the same as business messages.  If you tell your workforce that the business plan states your productivity figures are targeted to rise exponentially to top the X million mark by Quarter 3 next year, not only will they not understand but also they will not be impressed or motivated.  What it says in the business plan is an intention, not a mission.  Missions have to go somewhere and do something; intentions are very one-sided and don’t normally take everyone’s realities into account.

The second point is that no matter how much your colleagues and superiors may be tempted to put some gloss on a mission brief and bend the truth just a tiny, little bit, it doesn’t work.  Audiences are not stupid.  They consist of people just like you and me.  And now that audiences don’t live in caves any more they just won’t wear messages – or missions, for that matter – that have a phoney ring to them no matter what the CEO says or how much he smiles while he’s saying it.  Messages should always be as positive as possible, of course.  But if there’s a real problem – a plant closure, an industrial accident, a theft, impending bankruptcy, etc – telling anything other than the truth will drop your credibility right in the doo-doo.

 

To read the whole of this series of articles, go:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

More ways to make your writing much easier:

“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

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

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  1. […] How a “mission brief” makes your writing much easier, part 3 […]

  2. […] of your mission brief, but also in ensuring you don’t start giving birth to its brothers, sisters and […]

  3. […] How a “mission brief” makes your writing much easier, part 4 September 1, 2011 By SuzanStMaur 3 Comments Why write yourself a brief for an important writing project? Are you “the client,” all of a sudden? No, but just as you wouldn’t cut out fabric to make a dress or suit without using a pattern, you shouldn’t approach any major writing project without a very clear plan outlining how you’re going to reach your objectives. In this fourth and final article, we look at the importance of honesty, simplicity and focus … (If you haven’t read the earlier articles, click on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.) […]

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