So, you’re writing an executive communication; congratulations! Someone trusts you enough to get in contact with important people. Let’s go through some do’s and don’ts of writing these kinds of high visibility or largescale communications.
First things first, what is the communication about? Are you announcing something new? Talking about a problem (and including the solution)? Is it a sore subject or something that people will be excited about? These are important considerations as you start your writing process. They obviously set the tone of the communication, but they also help you frame up the message and get a first draft going (getting those first words on the page is something a lot of writers struggle with, including me).
Once you know exactly what the message and tone will be, you can move onto the next part of writing a largescale comm.
More important considerations for large scale communications
You thought we were going to start writing the comm at this point? Whoops, I guess that was a little misleading! There are still a few more things to consider before you move forward.
• Who is the audience?
• Is there a personal connection?
• Will it get forwarded? (the answer is always yes)
○ Does this change my message
The answers to these questions will continue to help you determine tone. For example, if I was sending an executive comm to Christian O’Meara (our Logic20/20 CEO), I would want to keep the tone of the communication professional, brief, to the point, with a little bit of personalization (especially if it is only going to him). But if I am sending a comm to my client’s team to announce a product launch, I will stay very professional, only give the details, call out a few highlights (maybe a few lowlights depending on the project and audience), and why this launch is so important to the organization as a whole. On a basic level those two emails don’t seem like they would actually be that different but let’s break it down.
Email to Christian (one person)
• You know this person or can research a little bit about them
• Do they like images to sell the point or keep things clean?
• Keep it very brief
○ Chance are, we have been communicating about this topic in the past and he knows the general background. If not, include a brief summary.
• Make it a bit more personal, maybe his favorite Rugby team played this weekend and I can slip in the score
○ Keeps the comm professional while still allowing you to slip in something memorable.
Email to a client or stakeholder’s team (group of people)
• There should be no personal information in the email
• Stick to the facts; unless useful to the email
• Pertinent details, especially if it is a launch email or details on a new program
As you can see, both are to the point with very little fluff. HOWEVER, the differences between them are as important as the differences between rugby and soccer. An email to update one person or provide valuable information to an executive is a key way of promoting your brand and allowing just a bit of your personality through (a very small amount, tiny), while an email to larger groups for product launches or information sharing should stick to the point and not deviate.
Key points to consider when writing an executive communication:
Here are some important considerations when writing your comm:
• Get to the point
• Keep it simple
• Do not use abbreviations or acronyms
• Have a copyeditor or proofreader read your comm before sending it
• If you are talking about anything that could have an image, use an image
• All images should be clean, crisp, and have a solid reason for being there
• Always use your signature unless instructed by a manager to do
• Follow the guidelines your organization has for writing executive or large-scale communications; styles can vary widely.
○ Make sure that you work with the communications team within your organization the first time your write one of these.
And remember, if you’re having a hard time getting started… write something. Writers block happens to everyone and sometimes the only way to keep moving is to just keep typing. Personally, sometimes I find it useful to talk it out or spend time writing nonsense before the important content starts coming out.
Finally, there is a decent chance that you know way more about the subject you’re are writing a comm about than you actually need to communicate (and certainly more than your audience does). In that case, remember to include the important backstory, without including everything. Don’t be too smart and don’t worry about sounding too simplistic in your first couple drafts, that’s what copyeditors and friends are for.
Now start writing!
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