Writing for leaders and managers – some things that work
BY Mike Klein
As a communications professional working with senior leaders and managers in large organizations, I make no apologies for the fact that I like to write. For me, writing assignments are not simply opportunities for me to put my best foot forward with clients, they are also moments where I can help amplify and accelerate my clients’ intent and aspirations.
Rather than try to guess what my client would say in a given situation, I write from the standpoint of "what I would say if I was in my client’s situation, if I had her status, responsibility, goals and ambitions." Or, put another way: “I write ambitiously, with a willingness to edit comprehensively.”
For me, writing successfully for clients, especially new clients, requires the opportunity to interview them in a wide-ranging way.
Having worked my first job in my teens as a market researcher and then building on that experience to commission political polls for US political candidates, I understand the power of open-ended questioning to produce enough content, insights and original phrases to convey the client’s viewpoint, but also to connect that viewpoint with her authentic voice.
1) Ask for “threes”
Whenever I am interviewing a client and asking about what she feels is important, pressing or challenging, I always as for three options instead of one. Aside from producing more material, “asking in threes” also provides strong insights into a client’s perspective and priorities. Also, while the first two choices tend to be fairly obvious in a given context, the third choice can often be less obvious and more interesting.
2) Ask the same question from multiple angles
If you ask, “what are the biggest challenges facing your organization?” and “what are the most pressing challenges facing your organization?” you may get different answers. If you do, then you open up a conversation about why something is more pressing but less substantial.
3) Be clear on your client’s goals and ambitions
Even if your intent is to find words and phrases for your client to embrace that may be more powerful than what they come up with on their own, it is crucial to understand what your client’s current goals and ambitions are. The more you can connect the language, format and messages you choose to the fulfilment of your client’s goals and ambitions, and the more that she sees you as being an asset in fulfilling those goals, the more license you have to be ambitious.
4) Add small amounts of detail that provide personal color
Corporations often have great difficulty in humanizing their leaders but conveying a small detail about something like a personal interest, a sports loyalty, educational background or geographical origin may help directly connect with an interested subset of the audience. Such detail also makes the message seem less corporate, which could make it more credible and memorable to the people who will read the piece, and, ultimately, act on its intent.
For me, writing forms the basis for my effectiveness as a communications professional. Good, strategic writing can stand on its own. It can also form the basis for initiating and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships that can build confidence for other levels of communication opportunity, ranging from more ambitious writing and editorial projects to communication planning, video scripting and production and even event design and coaching
Mike Klein is a Netherlands-based corporate writer and communication consultant with experience across sectors and geographies in Western Europe and the United States. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Internal communications pro with a bent towards increasing impact while reducing noise and friction. Former US political consultant, London Business School MBA. Tribal loyalties include IABC, EACD, Tottenham Hotspur FC and the Wisconsin Badgers.