As business-people or technical experts we often need to write training for how to use our product or service. Training content is a form of written, video or audio instructions can be a cost-effective and long-lasting business tool.
How you communicate is different depending on your relationship with your audience and the goal of your message. What are the common categories of business writing?
In the article ‘Who loves you, baby? (Who is your audience?)’, we discussed technical writing versus business writing. We may wonder, isn’t writing, pretty much the same no matter whatever business those words pertain to?
The answer is ‘no,’ not all types of writing are equal. How are these variations possible you may ask? Well, like other business needs, writing requirements vary depending on what goal is and who the audience is.
A style of writing that explains functions, standards, products or services in detail
- Policies and procedures
- Network systems functionality
- Training manuals and materials
- Technical and functional specifications (computer and computer systems)
- Online help
- Internet and computer network functions
- User guides and reference materials
The everyday writing used in physical offices and online businesses
- Letters and correspondence
- Communications with audiences both internal and external to the business
Marketing and Public Relations
Marketing and public relations can be intertwined and hard to separate. These types of writing are used to promote the business’ products or services (marketing) or business identity / events / products (public relations).
- Ads (television, internet and print [marketing])
- Brochures (marketing)Announcements (public relations)
- Trade magazine articles and press releases (public relations)
- Promotional events (public relations)
SEO (Search Engine Optmisation) Writing
SEO writing is the use of strings of words that are popular search engines in web pages, blog posts and online. The goal of SEO writing is to attract web traffic to your business or website by matching the language used in a search.
- Embedding keywords into the web address, titles, body and website code
- Content marketing or producing blogs, video scripts and images with SEO keywords
- Analysis reports about which SEO keywords are attracting traffic
- May overlap with online marketing or social media marketing
Using research or interviews, examination, and reporting of events, issues and trends to the public
- Event coverage
- Articles for media publications (not press releases)
- Biographical articles
- Industry news (not just your company news)
So now, you’re confused!?
How do you figure out what type of writing needs to be done?
A good way to start is to create a list of topics, products, services or issues that are important to your business. You’ll notice the most of the topics will tie-in together and your next step is to group these topics. After you have grouped the topics organize the groups by importance or sequence.
When you have the list done, match the writing projects to what the types of writing listed above. Then, hire a writer with the corresponding experience to handle the writing tasks for your business. Many writers can handle multiple types of writing and you may find this type of writer instead specialises in your industry.
An example would be the XYZ Company from our earlier ‘Who Loves You Baby?’ article. The company has decided to create a new website, featuring a blog. Their writing projects would include the following:
- A written business plan describing the way the site will look.
- A breakdown of what parts of each page would be static or unchangeable (headers, footers, etc.) to the site and what pages would be changeable.
- Which topics will be covered, the author and the staff member or Subject Matter Expert (SME) for that article
- A feasibility study of whether or not it would be better to setup and maintain the site internally or have an outside vendor build and maintain the site for your company
- Specifications for the site
- A users guide for those who upload information to the site
- An administration guide (for the internal person responsible for maintaining the site)
- A reference guide for the blogger(s) regarding site features, including the policies and procedures for writing the topics for the blog
- Online help for the site in case of trouble
Marketing & Public Relations Writing
- Announcements to competitors, customers and employees of the new site
- Ads created for local and international (if needed) outlets
- Press releases written and sent to local papers and media outlets
- Articles written for industry online magazines
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) writing
- Identifying words and phrases (typically restricted to 12 or fewer popular words) for each web page within the website
- Working with the web development team to create web addresses (also called URLs, directories or paths) that contain the matching keywords
- Verifying that the formatting of titles and menus match the keywords being targeted on each page
- Embedding keywords into the code sitting behind each web page
Plan Around the Type of Writing
All types of writing are geared at providing information and communication about the business’s products and services. If done well, writing provides a clear understanding and a road map for all employees as well as information and communication to your customers and competitors.
Whether you use internal staff or outside writers, plan your writing projects around the type of writing that addresses your relationship with your audience and the goal of your message.
Your Facebook Page is Not Your Website
Some businesses are confused; a Facebook Page is not a business’s website. What are the differences between a website and a Facebook page?
Even further confusing this topic, Facebook is actually one of several online communities that make up ‘social media’. Each social media service has specialized purposes and attracts different types of audiences.
Let’s compare the purposes of business websites and a few popular social media services including Facebook.
|Your website||Acts like a brochure about your products, your services, your contact information, typically static information|
|A blog||A opinion-editorial, news or diary may include entertaining, teaching or eliciting a discussion from your audience|
|A forum||A system for questions and answers where the audience participates in answering or commenting on the questions|
|A mobile app||Custom software performing a function for your business like creating a shopping list, showing recent investment data or playing a game|
|Tends to be family and personal socializing where people comment, share links and pictures – information posted here is time driven and customers may complain, compliment or refer a business|
|A public "gossip" system similar to mobile phone text messaging where people can send ‘one liners’ announcing their current location, complements, complaints or humor – any person can watch for comments from specific people or topic|
|A community focused around resumes, employment history, co-workers and employers or clients – some people use LinkedIn to find jobs or recruit staff, others use LinkedIn to validate and share their work history|
|Google+||A combination of several Google services from photo albums, gMail, YouTube and a social community – pockets of businesses and associations use Google+ heavily|
|YouTube||A place to distribute videos, videos in this service can be searched within YouTube and embedded in your website|
What Will It Cost?
Social media is primarily time-sensitive and frequent activity is required. Social media will cost you time and communication skills.
The number of different technologies you use will require some skill and some marketing savvy. The person who is responsible for regular content in social media like posts, tweets or comments, must be able to improvise with quick, smart, productive content. Plan on a minimum of hour per day that your business will be communicating through social media services.
Marketing people sometimes refer to social media technologies as ‘marketing channels’ or ‘channels’. Your business and your customer may benefit from multiple channels, but you should consider the communication skills, time and cost of maintaining each type of technology.
The people placing the posts, comments or tweets are considered ‘community managers’ and this job may be performed by your staff or an outsourced company. If you have another company maintaining your communication, you will need to commit time to keep in touch with that company.
Who Does the Work?
Be ready to spend your own staffs’ time responding to customer service complaints, questions and compliments that your outsourced community manager relays to you. It’s important that you do not expect an outside company to communicate with your customers in these cases. Your community manager’s service should be similar to a specialized receptionist directing your customers to the correct contacts, services or products within your site.
At the same time that you setup your website, consider setting up an easy-to-use help desk. My clients with small support teams use ZenDesk for handling complaints, questions and compliments. An unhappy customer that came to you through a public technology like social media can cause a public relations crisis if they do not get communication from you. You will spend time messaging or talking to that customer, tracking your messages / tasks and ensuring the issue(s) get resolved.
Small Business Websites
Small businesses can build a DIY website. If you are a small business, you will likely do your own website updates and social media. You should consider budgeting your time or your staffs’ time by using only one or two technologies. Websites are usually the most static and provide content with ‘the best shelf life.’ Choose a single social media service that your customers – retail, business, niche industry or community. You can learn to Do-It-Yourself (DIY) from sources like http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/
If you have experience with a DIY or previous website and can do your own strategy and copy, then you might offshore your web coding to Jimmy Huang of Joomla Creator (http://joomlacreator.com/). Jimmy does the coding and technical side of my website.
Mid-size Business Websites
If you are a mid-size business, plan on spending 3 months planning your strategy. Work with a specialist to choose and set up your website and social media systems. A consultant can help you put in place policies, software and procedures. Set a budget for staff time or outsource the community manager for your social media. Work with a reputable local web designer like Beate Ruuck at Mad Hat Media in Fremantle (http://madhatmedia.com.au/).
High-Volume or Complex Websites
If you are a large-size business or have a large volume of online traffic, invest the time and money in an advertising agency. The advertising agency will help develop your brand and strategy from the logos and signage to your online presence to the campaigns you will run. Set aside regular time to meet with your agency to look at results. Modify your activities to improve your sales. Ad agencies are a big investment and vary by business and client. I have done writing and trained clients for Glide Agency (Perth, Australia). They work with high-traffic brands http://www.glideagency.com
Originally posted on May 19, 2012 by Shauna McGee Kinney. Updated July 26, 2015.
- Shauna McGee Kinney’s Facebook Business Page
- Shauna McGee KInney’s Google Plus Business Page
- Social Media Success in Your Business by Kieran McErlean
By Rebecca Feinstein, Technical Writer
This article can be found in the Society for Technical Communication Orange County Chapter’s Techniscribe newsletter. In this article, Rebecca explains how business writing differs from technical writing.
What is the common language that your customers use to find you? Here is why you need to connect words or phrases that your ideal customer uses to your scientific words.
Many of us work on a tight budget. The money that we save on a website or marketing, gives us more money to spend on office equipment or business services. What are we paying for and what are we risking when we budget for our own website?
From my editor – Rebecca Feinstein: You’ve gotten all your thoughts not only down on paper but organized as well. And you hspell-checkedcked the document as well, but before you send off that report or manual, you want to take some time to proof and review your work further.
The Proof is in the Review
Proofing and reviewing your writing work a reiterative process, meaning that you will perform again and again throughout the document life cycle. Yes, you’ve run the spell checker for misspelled words and grammar usage, so why do this when you have spell checked your document for grammar as well as spelling? Simple, spell check programs aren’t programmed to check for all proper word usage. There have been many times when I’ve checked a document and found a ‘too’ when there should have been a ‘to’ or ‘two’ used instead.
Reading Between the Lines
Another item to check your document for is for tone. The tone of a document helps the readability of the document. Using a passive voiced words/sentence structures doesn’t clarify the information contained in your document. You can Google active voice words and or phrases for a list of words to use/not to use.
A good one is http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/543/02/.
Read Out Loud
One last thought, read the document out loud. Believe it or not, you can get more from reading out loud than simple reading in your head. This is important especially when you are editing your own material because your mind automatically adds the information that is missing from your actual document. With a lot of companies downsizing, we are all doing more with less time. Getting people to edit your document can be hard to do, this is where technical writers for a company can come in handy for other people who write their own material, just be sure to ask the writer’s manager first!
Republished by permission from Rebecca Feinstein. Original article published 17 July 2011, is located at http://rebeccafeinstein.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/proofing-and-reviewing-your-work/
“But can you service 2,000,000 contacts?” Don’t get sucked into the fad of hammering keywords into your pages just to get click throughs.