During a live shot on the news this week, a local reporter caught my attention when she used the word “I” three times in a sentence. Sure, it’s conversational and brings the reporter into the story, but at the same time, use of that pronoun takes away from the subject of the story.
Know your audience
Communicators often talk about identifying your audience. If you’re selling fishing flies, you want to target people who fish. Manufacturing a new soda? Aim for kids and teens.
That’s pretty basic stuff, but writing to your target audience is where many messages fall short.
My favorite example is the typical, annual benefits enrollment announcement that you see at many companies: “Benefit enrollment packets will be mailed to eligible employees beginning November 1.”
In this message, you’re talking at employees, not to them. Contrast the above example with, “Look for your benefits enrollment packets, coming in the mail in early November.”
The second version rises above the first because it 1) carries a friendly, more conversational tone; and 2) speaks to the reader, not from the company. It’s a subtle adjustment, but a very effective technique to improve your writing.
What’s the secret? Be humble, and put readers ahead of you and your organization. Think about what they want to read. It’s human nature to be proud of your accomplishments or your company, but remember that you’re writing for your readers, and the message should focus on them.
Company focused: XYZ Company, the nation’s leading developer of pain-relieving medications, announced a new, over-the-counter medication that extensive studies show significantly reduce pain caused by arthritis.”
Audience focused: Relief is on the way for arthritis sufferers, thanks to a new over-the-counter medication that studies show significantly reduces joint pain. The medication, Pain Away, was developed by researchers at XYZ Company, the nation’s leading …”
While the company was bumped from the first sentence to the second, your message is more likely to be read and remembered because it addresses an issues many readers have (arthritis pain). And that’s what matters.
Being humble does pay off.