Just write better

As soon as Neil Taylor started talking, I knew it was going to be good. Neil works at The Writer. They help others write better, so that they are understood. Talking at the Westminster Business School for the CIM professional marketer series event on ‘why words and numbers matter,’ Neil had a captive audience.

Marketers understand how important words are. Whether they have a marketing and/or communications role, they are writing to get someone to do something else. The power of our words is simple. The person reading either understands or they don’t. And they either do something, or they don’t.

Let me give you an example. Below is an ‘About Us’ blurb for London Sport who I work, for versus a similar organisation.

About Leicestershire and Rutland Sport
Our focus is to ensure that national sport and physical activity resources have local reach.

About London Sport
We’re here to make physical activity and sport work better in London.

Start to write simple words now

Which one bores you and which one makes you want to find out more? I am of course biased, but at London Sport from the start we’ve tried to write as simple as possible, for whoever the audience is. Now we have a long way to go, but we’ve made a start.

Learn from charity writers

I worked at CAFOD for a while as a direct marketer. I worked with writers, designers and more to make sure the money spent would lead to money raised. By using different words and simple language, you’re more likely to engage with the reader. They then go on to do something — give money. 
Whether you write to get money or not, keep that pack you get in the post next time from a charity and have a good read. I promise you will learn something.

So what tactics will help you write better?

Of course, Neil Taylor had some cracking examples and tactics. My favourite is that he walked up to a client’s desk and the person at the desk asked him “are you a consumer?” His reply was, “no I’m a person.” Just brilliant.

So Neil’s tips are simple.

#1 stop talking nonsense
#2 find your voice
#3 sweat the detail
#4 measure the impact

All of these are simple and can be applied to everything we write. Two tips stuck out to me. The first is finding your voice.

Neil showed us this picture, which represents a client’s voice. This brand has humble roots, yet creative flair.

I’d never thought about finding an image that represents a brand’s voice. But it makes perfect sense and I’m going to give it a go. An image speaks a thousand words and can represent your brand voice much better than pages of words. It can also make you more creative with your words.

The second tip that I just loved was writing a Haiku. A Haiku is a simple Japanese poem. Written in a certain way so that it is understood as a poem on its own, rather than part of a longer poem. To write one, you just need to remember 5 7 5.

5 — five syllables 
7 — seven syllables
5 — five syllables

Haiku poems can describe anything. But when written in this way, they are easy to understand, punchy and have impact. Neil challenged us to write a Haiku for who we work for. The results were great. Public Health England, British Heart Foundation and others read out their Haiku’s. They were very easy to understand and can even replace paragraphs of a mission statement or about us.

So here is my Haiku for London Sport.

London needs to move
To be happy and healthy
We are here to help

So how can you write better?

My challenge to you is to try and find a picture that represents your brands voice. Also try out a Haiku, it’s much harder than you think. What’s the worst that can happen?

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