7 Tips for More Engaging Writing

7 Tips for More Engaging Writing

Posted on 7 June 2017 by Anne Bruner, Communications Practice, CEB is now Gartner

Engagement is much more than picking an interesting subject and hoping the reader cares enough to stick it out for more than the first couple of lines. This applies doubly if the “interesting subject” is really just a thinly-veiled plug for your company.

Keep in mind that people like to read about themselves and need to be able to see the subject through their personal me-me-me lens.

Consider the following tips to include when writing your next piece of content and watch as your words pop off the page:

  1. Relevant: What role do stakeholders play in the subject matter? Ensure that you make them the “stars” of the communication—not just fodder for the intro and closing. Reframe snooze-inducing messages into ones that prompt dialogue around issues stakeholders care about.
  2. Unique: How can you demonstrate the unique value of the subject matter? Is there an angle that would make people say, “Hmm, I haven’t thought of it in that way before?” Research shows that people are more likely to share content that is awe-inspiring and surprising.
  3. Memorable: How can you weave humor, surprising facts, and stories into the message? Of course, storytelling certainly isn’t new to the role of Communications, but you can use the technique more effectively—for example, by sourcing stories from the same stakeholders you want to engage, as Ford has done.
  4. Emotional: What emotions does (or could) the audience experience about the subject matter? People are more likely to engage with information that has triggered an emotion in them—for example, hope, fear, anger, and positivity.
  5. Naturally worded: What words do stakeholders use when talking about the topic? It’s not enough to be simple and clear in your language—you want to give them something to attach to. For example, Intuit includes bumper stickers in corporate speeches based on the natural language of employees and continually refines its language based on employee tweets related to the speech. Other useful examples of tailoring language for greater message impact can be found in our research on building stakeholder preference through the corporate brand, and Toyota’s message alignment review.
  6. Motivational: What value could stakeholders add by conversing and sharing content with others? Your writing plants the seed that this will make them look smart, cool, or helpful, or belong to something bigger than themselves.
  7. Open: How can you signal your genuine interest in their reaction? Remember, the #1 way to drive active support from stakeholders is to show you’re open to active engagement. But you’ve got to go beyond the typical “contact us” link at the end of a message to demonstrate real sincerity. Ask yourself, how can I convey a real sense of humility and approachability?