by Tony Vidler
The number of times I read material prepared by well educated, articulate and thoughtful professionals that leaves me going “Huh?’ is staggering.
All too often I find myself wondering what the purpose and objective are of the written material. Now if I am left wondering what it is the professional is trying to achieve, and I am unsure what they are expecting me to do with it, then what hope does your average customer have when they don’t even have the advantage of understanding the jargon to begin with?
So here are the two questions that I apply to the written material produced by professional advisers:
1. Why are you telling people this?
2. What do you want them to do with this information?
On the surface the two questions appear closely related, perhaps even leading to the same answer. They shouldn’t be quite the same answer though.
The first question helps you clarify what actually needs to be in the message, which is the first step towards stripping out all the concepts, fluff and jargon that does not need to be there. Any message, whether that is marketing collateral, approach letters or statements of advice, will be created for one of two basic reasons. Either the customer wants the information, or you want the customer to have the information. Either way, there must be a reason behind why you are writing what you are writing; there must be a clear purpose. That purpose should be pervasive and frame everything that follows within the messaging.
The second question creates the difference between merely writing effectively, and getting the message acted upon. Ultimately with all messaging you are hoping to change something….somebody’s perceptions, beliefs, actions, allegiances….but you are hoping to change something within the audience. So be clear in your own mind about what your objective is.
It might be that you want the audience to take a specific action, and therefore you build in a specific call to action with clear next steps. However, it might just be that your objective is simply to create an audience that trusts you as a reliable and relevant information source. You call to action in that case might be as simple as encouraging subscription to further updates.
Creating effective messages for your audience does essentially come down to being able to answer these two questions in your own mind at the outset, and then writing in a way that answers them.
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