Inspirational business communications articles: Third edition of Human Factors and Change

What articles and resources on business communications inspired us in 2021?

Image by Wilfried Pohnke from Pixabay

We explore articles and resources with a distinct business communications flavour in this edition of Human Factors and Change.

We have organised these inspirational resources into business communications sub-topics. We will describe why each article or resource is inspirational. We define inspiration in this context as both novel and practical.

Helping you decide how to pitch a particular message

Mapping content to the user journey: a practical example by Andreea Macoveiciuc.

This article is a great reminder that our communications sit upon two broad goals. They are your reader’s goal and what you are trying to achieve. For either Change or Communications professionals, we need to be clear on the behaviours and our calls to action. Where we are in a project life cycle or part of the financial year influences these behaviours/calls to action.

This article is also a reminder that our user/employees “journeying” is a two-way process. Through this reminder, we need to ensure that we are meeting our audience halfway. Do we know their pains and gains, and what they need from us to start adjusting to our change or at least act on our call to action?

How an Ancient Buddhist Principle Can Help You Write Digital Age Copy by Dan Morales.

Like our reference to Haiku in this edition of Human Factors and Change, there is another Japanese definition worth knowing.

Shibumi (shē-boom-ē), a Japanese word that according to Dan Morales has no actual definition. Yet it represents an ideal and draws from the Zen Buddhist principle of “effortless effectiveness” or “understated excellence”.

Your draft communications will evolve out of a process of complexity. But the ideal of Shibumi means that none of this complexity shows in the result. Early in your career, you may feel motivated to show readers how clever you are. This may mean jamming lengthy words and complicated concepts into small spaces. Well, this happened to me.

Shibumi is a guide to know when enough is enough — or more accurately — when to stop working and just let the creative be.

- Dan Morales

Could this ideal result from both painful effort, many iterations and the odd “eureka!” moment? This (third) edition of Human Factors and Change reveals articles and practitioners who embody the ideal of the “smart creative”: persevering, technically capable and confident in producing unconventional ideas.

What Dan does now is use a simple checklist, with Shibumi as his lens for quality:

My simple checklist:

Is it simple to the point of elegance?

Is the human story most salient?

Will it resonate emotionally? Which whom? Why not others? Can that be changed?

Does it have all it needs and nothing more?

Is it sticky? Can it cut through the noise and matter?

If I can answer each question with a yes, the piece is ready for my client’s eyeballs.

- Dan Morales

Perhaps this is a pretty cool lens for anyone working in change or communications?

Writing to influence

This next article is one of the most distinct yet practical articles on business writing that has come across the desk of Human Factors and Change.

Write to Influence: Effective Writing with the Pyramid Principle by Elva Young.

Elva writes for product owners. Yet we see applicability to our audience: changing communication professionals. Yes, project managers and business analysts too!

This article uses the Minto principle, which we touch on in this edition too. What is impressive is how this article helps you frame a strong introduction. This introduction comprises four components: situation, conflict, question and answer.

With this strong introduction out of the way, this article shows a hierarchy diagram of how you organise your argument. Accompanying this diagram is a concise write-up of a three-step approach to doing so. In The Change Manager’s Companion we cover drafting options papers — Elva’s article is an excellent accompaniment.

How To Craft a Compelling Headline Without Being Sleazy by Stephen Esketzis.

Clickfunnels.com is a credible source for learning copywriting. In writing a headline, there is a very fine line between writing a credible headline and one that uses sleazy “grab words”. The literary equal of click bait.

While there is no silver bullet to writing excellent headlines, this article does suggest A/B testing. Create many headlines for your campaign and identify which one(s) work for you. In change or communications, management contexts you might not easily have the luxury of this type of testing. But you can test different headlines with stakeholders and seek their views on which headline stand out to them.

Stephen’s article uses many of the six influence principles by Robert Cialdini. Here is one great quote from Stephen’s article:

…there’s one final important way that pros create compelling headlines.

And that way is through metaphor and connecting the dots.

The reason that this method escapes the salesy or sleazy angle is that it takes time and effort.

Instead of being obvious and writing “BUY, BUY, BUY!” a message like the one here from BMW shows an expert hand.

For customers, this extra time and effort mean that someone took the time to think about their reaction.

Now, you still want to be careful not to get too clever and risk them missing out on the meaning.

But a quick turn of phrase or an interesting connection in your headlines shows that your brand isn’t only about the sale.

- Stephen Esketzis

A writers online toolbox

At Human Factors and Change, we love simple and effective tools. Tools with that above-mentioned “Shibumi”. Or maybe, tools that give us a state of “effortless effectiveness”. Tools like Hemingway app and Canva. Or the useful Dragon Nuance software. My Change Management colleague Sharon Connolly, would probably mention the Microsoft suite. Especially PowerPoint — to provide that sweet spot of effectiveness.

An Online Writer’s Toolbox by Charlotte Grysolle.

Charlotte’s article contains a varied collection of useful online tools. For visuals, we go well beyond the royalty-free Unsplash and Pexels.

No change nor communication professional has any excuse anymore. We can create impactful images for our communications.

To complement these images, tools like Excalidraw help us draw sketch-like images.

This article has excellent resources for written communications. Charlotte also advocates for headline analysers and covers a couple of these. There may be an assumption that change or communications professionals are the team “wordsmiths”. Whether this is the case, there is help at hand. If you get stuck choosing the right word, Charlotte suggests a few other resources to help you improve your copy.

Our book — The Change Manager’s Companion — is available now. You can also check out our online course on Change Management.

P.S. Vale Dr. Linda Ovington. Linda was my fourth-year psychology thesis supervisor, who passed in March 2021. I had the good fortune to choose to conduct research in creative insight. Linda developed scientific research in creative insight (or those “eureka!” moments). Not only was Linda a warm, intelligent and encouraging supervisor (the best a fourth-year psych student could have!), she also contributed to a wonderful arm of psychology: asking “what’s right with you?”, as opposed to “what’s wrong with you?”.

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Organisational change, behavioural design and coaching psychology insights — practical and research informed. Clever ways to put a dent in the world.

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Allan Owens

Senior organisational change manager. Provisional Psychologist. Author of The Change Manager’s Companion. www.humanfactorsadvisory.com.au