Do you know how to “make your case” in business communications?

How to make your case in a piece of business communication is about the same length as that proverbial piece of string, because the variation from a 6-word mobile text advertisement at one end of the scale to a 60-page business plan at the other doesn’t involve too many similarities, as you know.  So it’s not something that easily fits into a formula.

However for the formula-lovers among us, I’ve done my best, and here it is…

Most of the time you can look at making your case through this trio of “tions…”

Notion

Information

Action

You begin with a notion (statement of fact and/or proposition plus key benefit to audience, why you are reading/watching/listening to this and why you should continue to the end, what this is and what’s in it for you)…

…which you need to support immediately with information (why your notion is important, how the benefit has been made possible, why the notion is more important than/more beneficial than what other organizations do) …

… and eventually, whether after each notion or after a group of notions, you introduce action (what the anticipated outcome is, what will happen next, what you need to do next, and a brief reprise of why.)

The three “tions” pretty much cover all

As I said, there are huge variations depending on the subject matter, the message and the media, but as a rough guide I believe the three “tions” should be treated as equally important.  Obviously that doesn’t mean measuring it out in equal numbers of words – only equal importance in the “weight” you allocate to them.

Many examples of corporate communication don’t work because one of the “tions” has assumed a far greater role than the other two.  This is especially true of the classic “corporate” brochure where there are pages and pages about the organization and what it does and how it does it (information) but nothing is said about what it’s doing in the reader’s hands in the first place (no notion).

Ask yourself these questions

Another helpful tool in making your case is to ask yourself this list of key questions, having first cast yourself in the role of the audience.  Then, ensure that what you write answers those questions, in the same order.  This is the basis of any reasoned argument, really. You can also see how it works in a completely different context by reading copy in press advertisements or direct mail, and in a miniaturized version in many TV commercials or online ads.  In a more restrained way you’ll see it working in editorial pieces and even medical or academic papers and theses.

Why am receiving this communication from you? (The message in a nutshell, the main notion, a little information to support it, and a strong hint of required action)

So what’s the problem? (Information about why the notion is valid, what has led up to it, the issues your notion addresses)

What else should I know about? (Related sub-notions that add relevance, information to support them)

And you have the solution? (Main notion again in more detail, supported by information on how it will work in practice)

What happens next? (Action – try to state why they should do what you say, or why the next steps will make an improvement, etc., so the action offers some kind of reward – something “in it for them.”  Otherwise it will just read/sound like instructions or unsubstantiated predictions.)

Make sure you get your case across in all your business communication:

“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

Comments

comments

Thoughts

  1. Love it!

    I’m not a great one for formulae myself, either, but I recognise that they have their uses. In my context they’re particularly useful for when clients need help learning how to make presentations without much practice time – such as when they’re answering questions. Having formula helps a great deal then, as it frees them up to concentrate on the content, not the structure… almost halving their brain’s workload! 🙂

    Thanks Suze – can I nick this one?

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