Written communication--whether it's e-mail, Twitter, text messages or blog posts--has supplanted verbal communication in every facet of our lives. Words have, in essence, become disposable, as we are inundated every day with an unprecedented volume of information on our phones and computer screens. Whether the audience is consumers, investors or clients, the insatiable appetite for continuous streams of content has forced too many companies to abandon quality writing for quantity.
But the art of writing is not dead. Instead, it has taken on an increasingly specialized role in the communications landscape. It's important for companies to take a step back when developing their communications and not forget the emphasis that needs to be placed on compelling and engaging writing, regardless of whether it's for press materials, blog posts or even Web site copy. Visuals may catch the audience's attention, but it's the words that will keep it.
Sadly, the emphasis on specialized writing has yet to become mainstream practice in the communications industry. I've always believed that a dedicated writer is as crucial to a successful campaign as a media relations specialist. Equal weighting must be applied to both the medium and the message for every brand. Just as reporters tailor their stories to the unique audience of their outlet, the same principal must hold true for companies. Quality writing engages audiences, provides a greater depth to a company and has the power to spark meaningful conversations.
Developing impactful written communications starts with developing key messages, which serve as the compass that guides external brand perception. Key messages are concise points that convey what the company does, why it is different from its competitors and the value it brings to clients and customers. Think beyond buzzwords. References to "innovative" or "industry-leading" are often overused and rarely accurate. Well-crafted messages keep a company's spokespeople on point and ensure that a company's expertise is communicated to its target audiences. But it's important to strike the ideal balance when developing these messages between explaining a company's value and speaking in a language that will resonate with target audiences.
Compelling writing provides audiences with opportunities for audience engagement. Look no further than the comments and shares a company receives in social media. When readers leave comments on blog posts or share them through their own social media channels, it means they are engaged and compelled to respond. Even negative comments are actually a positive because they spark something in the reader that elicits a response and plant seeds for a sustained conversation. Content that does not elicit comments or shares quickly evaporates into the ether, indicating that the readers came away from it without any level of engagement.
Writing also comes into play from a business perspective through enhanced search engine optimization (SEO), which drives external audiences to a company's news. Press releases are often so overloaded with jargon that companies forget to consider the keywords and phrases their audiences use to find their services. A knowledgeable writer will bridge the gap between a company's messages and the search terms that will connect them with their audiences, moving their brand to the top of Web searches.
Take the PR industry, for example. We know that the likelihood of people searching for "industry-leading, progressive PR firm" is low. So we tailor and constantly refine the keywords we use in our own press materials and Web site copy to the clients we have, as well as the clients and employees we want to attract.
Regardless of industry, companies need to remember that they are writing for people, not themselves. Compelling writing doesn't happen in a silo, so what sounds good in a conference room may not actually resonate with the people a company is trying to reach. It's people that start conversations and people that drive profits. With quality writing, a company can achieve both of those goals.