3 things to ask before you begin typing

You’re sitting at your computer (or on the couch with your iPad), ready to start work on a long overdue memo, upcoming speech, or new Facebook post. You’ve got a pretty good idea of what you want to say, and start to type the first letter …

Like the song says, Stop right there

Before you begin, ask yourself the following questions. Your end product will be better for the extra 2 – 3 minute you take to ponder:

Who is your audience?
What do they already know — and need to know? Is the topic important to them? Are they friendly, hostile, or neutral?  In an earlier blog I stressed the importance of speaking to your audience, not at them. While you may be passionate about the topic, it’s wise to consider potential disinterest, perhaps resistance. Let’s say, for example, you have an update of a new, unpopular policy. Remember to show empathy for staff, acknowledging that the change may be difficult.

What is the best vehicle to reach your audience?
Too often we put the cart before the horse and choose a vehicle before deciding on the message or defining the audience. Before settling on a vehicle, look at your options — email, video, team meetings, posters, face-to-face conversations, etc. — and then decide which will be the most effective, given your audience and the message. Remember, the best option is often a combination of vehicles.

What are your key messages?
Your message should be clear, concise, and obvious. Too often, important messages are buried in the fourth paragraph (or closing remarks), and skimmed past by busy or distracted readers. I generally advise people to make their most important points upfront, then support or build on them. Think back to the terrible bombings at the Boston Marathon. Nearly every communication started the same way: Two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Simple, direct, and clear. Details and background followed.

Your turn. What do you think about before beginining a communication?

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  1. #1 by jhosack87 on April 28, 2013 - 8:06 pm

    This is SO important for people of my generation and the one right after me to know. So many times have I been guilty of simply posting something without thinking.

    I’m DEFINITELY going to reblog this. Great post!

  2. #2 by jhosack87 on April 28, 2013 - 8:08 pm

    Reblogged this on theconsciouswriter and commented:
    johnlamb1 has an immensely in-depth feel for what people need to think about before they post things. This goes for Facebook, Twitter, etc. Either way, and to whichever social media outlet you subscribe to, you should CERTAINLY read this.

    • #3 by johnlamb1 on April 28, 2013 - 8:14 pm

      Thanks for your kind words and the reblog, jhosack87. Glad you enjoyed the post and found it helpful.

  3. #4 by amandamschuster on April 28, 2013 - 10:57 pm

    I always ask myself: what’s true for me, right here, right now? When I write from that place, it feels solid.

  4. #5 by Gabriela on July 28, 2013 - 3:25 pm

    Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely
    long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions for beginner blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

    • #6 by johnlamb1 on July 28, 2013 - 3:54 pm

      Hello Gabriela,
      Thank you for your kind words.
      Some thoughts:
      – The article you just read addresses the importance of writing for the reader, both in terms of content and style. Keep the piece simple, and think about what information readers would find interesting, helpful, funny, etc.
      – Break up content with subheads and bullets. People will start skimming if they see lots of text.
      – The research I’m reading stresses the importance of blogging regularly.
      – The more you write, the better and more comfortable you’ll be.
      – Most importantly, write about something you enjoy. If you love what you do, it will come across in your work.
      Good luck, and please let me know how it’s going.

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