Introducing the MINIATURES model: Produce business communications with zing

Writing for business audiences can be tricky. Even with practice, you may overlook a fundamental aspect of message production.

What I wanted to create was a checklist or model for business communications. This way I would have a structure to support a way of producing higher-quality messages. While I use tools like Grammarly.com, there are many aspects to a message.

You may write in an off the cuff manner, or don’t put yourself in the reader’s shoes. You may have a tendency to write in a passive tense using many filler words. Building towards your main point might seem logical. Yet is your audience expecting you to get to the point immediately? Also, writing may seem like a solo business and your work may benefit from team input.

You may also be impatient to get your word out the door, or you may struggle to begin in the first place. Nerves may also play a factor — in your efforts to get to the point, your message’s tone may come across as terse.

Getting organisational communications right is important. This includes others you can refer to for both review and message approval. Your message may be going out to hundreds or thousands of people. Are you completely clear on what your audience should know think or do? Would others in your team agree with your message’s aim?

A checklist can help you think through many of the ingredients you need to have in place before writing. This checklist has to straddle a balance between being overly prescriptive and too theoretical. Ideally, this checklist should have a memorable acronym. This acronym means you can remember it under a variety of circumstances.

I developed the MINIATURES model for business communication for my own use. This model provides a 10-point checklist for your business communications. Your communications may be a single email, poster or other message. This model also applies to complex and high-risk communications. For example, a complete communication sequence for an organisational change.

Source: Human Factors Advisory (www.humanfactorsadvisory.com.au)

This model was drawn together from my experience in leading organisational change. One of my biggest challenges in the change game is my struggle in drafting change communications. At times my impatience, nerves, educational background or lone wolf mentality operated against me. Yes, I did say educational background. Sometimes our educational system may train us to write in passive tense — at the expense of Plain English.

Clear writing comes from clear thinking. Clear thinking takes time, iterations and perspective. A team around you can provide perspective, leading to fruitful edits. Your team may suggest ways to articulate certain messages. You may also strive to encompass all necessary details in your messages, and lose perspective due to this. Your message may be “correct”, but to a busy executive reader is far too long.

Your audience may even find your communication a pleasure to read. Follow this model and invest effort in quality communication. Your efforts may help you strip out the unnecessary and make it easier for your readers to follow. Clever imagery may convey more than any words in your message.

Some audiences are quite discerning and chafe at aspects of your message. With practice, you may learn about message tone, the power of varied sentences and imagery. Your writing apprenticeship will take time, feedback and effort. Yet this model may shorten your apprenticeship and boost your trajectory towards effective communications.

You can start with the letter M in the MINIATURE model — what is your main point? What do you want your audience to know, feel or do? Most business communications should have a call to action.

You can follow each letter in the model, or choose different letters as long as you touch on each letter in the model before publishing your final draft. This image suggests where you could divide your efforts. I suggest placing a high amount of effort on your main point, headline and introductory sentence.

I have sometimes over-invested in capturing and mentioning detail. With this overinvestment, I am sometimes exhausted by the time we need to distribute our message. With this exhaustion, I tend to overlook my messages main point and upfront headlines and leading sentences.

Source: Human Factors Advisory (www.humanfactorsadvisory.com.au)

By having a structure like the MINIATURE model, I have a coach of sorts to help me focus my attention on the more important aspects of each message. The MINIATURE model also encourages me to enlist the help of others when drafting each message.

I find the use of outlining tools like Workflowy to be effective in helping me think through the main point of my message. You can use tools like Hemingway app and Grammarly.com with your editing. A paid subscription to Grammarly.com helps you pick up message tone and a host of potential errors. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools are now also available to help you construct an impactful headline and leading sentence.

By using a structure like the MINIATURE model, you have a greater chance of eliminating message issues. These issues include spelling and grammar issues, but also issues of perspective. In doing so, you increase the likelihood your audience will enjoy and act upon your message.

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

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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

Allan Owens

Australian Change Lead: 8 years experience. Author of The Change Manager’s Companion. https://www.humanfactorsadvisory.com.au/the-change-managers-companion

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