The Wrong way
But first a story. This morning two mini-buses full of Network Rail contractors were dropped off at my local station to ‘help' build the new waiting room on the Manchester-bound platform. I swear it's no bigger than my garage, which was built by one bricky and his trusty mixer in a couple of weeks. They had nothing to do and they are going to be there for 13 weeks! I even heard the foreman telling one man that he was the ‘deadman' for the day. Now I don't know what that means, but it doesn't sound very productive does it?
As I tutted, shook my head and jumped on board the rattler with the other commuters, it got me thinking that sometimes the corporate world is also guilty of significant, large-scale time wasting too. It seems that the bigger and more complex an organisation, the more difficult it is for any one person to make an outright decision that could push a project on in a forward direction. This can lead to meetings about nothing in particular, mountains of notes and endless email trails to ensure that whilst everyone is ‘in the loop' they also have their behinds well and truly covered and exempt from liability for making decisions? It can all add up to hours and hours of time ebbing away and little real progress being made.
Sometimes it's different. It's a real breath of fresh air on the day when you meet someone who is prepared to make a unilateral decision and personally accept the consequences. An entrepreneurial free spirit who is prepared to go for broke. I like those days the best.
I think this is really what made the difference with truly successful people, like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Yes they had great people around them, but the swift success of their companies was not held back by a culture of ‘decision by committee' - with progress stifled by too many layers of management. I suspect some fast early decisions were made which ensured their companies raced to market ahead of procrastinating competitors. Only this weekend, after I drafted this blog, did I watch The Social Network and there indeed was Mark ‘sod this I'm not hanging about' Zuckerberg legging it around campus making sure he put his ideas into action, the minute he had them to keep ahead of the Winklevoss brothers. Student drinks were even spilt he was in such a dash….
The Write way to do things
In the same vein, improving people's basic writing skills seems to be another area where organisations might be able to claw back precious hours so their staff can spend more time being productive, enterprising and inspiring, like Mr Z.
We have successfully worked with a number of clients to provide copywriting training and key message workshops and it can come as a surprise to some that there's a real need for people to be on-message with what they say, every time they type or write a word. As we post more and more material on-line in and the world grows increasingly content-hungry fast, accurate writing becomes ever more important.
In larger organisations, numerous people might need to submit information into one collective document and it amazes me how consistently half a dozen people can use the wrong grammar or perhaps just haven't agreed as a team how they refer to their own products, customers or services. This then becomes a huge challenge to refine the end product. Are we using upper or lower case? Are we using italics to refer to our services descriptions? Are we a firm or a company? You get the picture.
Every time they need a new document or strategy, the exercise is repeated. Surely it is far better to agree a consistent approach, define a set of key messages and have a clear strategic aim across the board in the first instance? With those ground rules in place, you should then be free to add your own creativity, colour and personality to your writing without worrying that the article or chapter is going too far off the corporate message.
By the time everyone has inputted to the document, it should always be at least 90% of the way towards being the finished article. More importantly, creating a style guide will ensure that a consistent message is being communicated in the individual's day-to-day communication and whatever he or she writes is mirrored accurately by his or her colleagues in every email, document, note or blog.
So here are a few simple tips to ensure speedy, creative writing that needs little editing and which gets to the point fast:
1. Create a style guide. Agree with your colleagues how you are going to refer to your company, products and services and stick to it.
2. I know it sounds patronizing, but if your grammar is a bit iffy just dig out a pocket grammar guide or use Google and remind yourself about the common mistakes like how to use things such as the possessive apostrophe.
3.Write a one-page guide which your colleagues can also follow that sets out how you intend to refer to your company.
4. Use this to delicately put colleagues back on track who might also regularly make mistakes in their writing.
5. If you have had to scratch your head for too long about this or find strong disagreement from your colleagues then invest in a messaging workshop. It's not expensive and you would come away with a consensus agreement and a clear set of corporate messages and key search terms.
Hopefully these quick tips will help you improve your writing – perhaps you've got some more of your own that you'd like to share with us? If so, leave us a comment below - we're always keen to hear what you have to say.
And if you'd like to find out more about corporate communications or simply want to chat about content and copywriting, drop us a line or give us a call today.