We tend to put creativity in one box, and communication in other. When we’re earning a living from our writing, writing for business, engaging with corporate clients, there’s something about the involvement of transactions, and well, money, that sucks the life out of words and takes away all creativity.
It doesn’t have to be this way. All communication should evoke some kind of reaction, be it educative, informative, entertainment or emotion. This can’t happen unless there’s a bit of passion behind the words. A bit of creativity. Some life. It can be so easy to stick to the same formulas and language, yet this not only doesn’t benefit the client in the long run, it makes your working life a little bit dull.
What can we learn from creative writing for business writing? How can exercises usually reserved for fiction and poetry help our business writing? In more ways than you think.
Write a haiku
How often do you receive some communications from a company, and find that it’s drowning in jargon, technical language, figures and extended sentences – only discovering the thing that you actually want to know right at the end of the letter or information? Great fiction hits you from the off. The first chapter, even the first page, has to be compelling enough to make you keep on reading. When crafting your business copy try distilling down what you need to say in a haiku. With only 17 syllables to play with there’s no room to be vague.
Be active, not passive
‘We are trying…’ ‘You may find that…’ ‘We hope this will be…’ Passive verbs and soft language don’t really instil a customer with confidence. You don’t want to buy a product that the manufacturers have only tried to make work, or attend an event that may or may not be fun. Consumers need active assurance that the company have confidence and authority in what they are doing. When creating content it’s always wise to go through your text and remove all qualifiers (probably, may, expect etc) – don’t say what you might do, say what you will do. Make you or your brand the active subject – e.g. rather than ‘your digital marketing could become easier’ say ‘our software makes your marketing great.’ You want to action to take place as a result of your content, so you have to make it active.
Start with the character
The most crucial element of any story is the character. Who they are, how they act, and what happens to them is how plot develops. It’s also where the emotion is found. People connect with other people. As great as a company might think their product is, or as much as an agency may believe people are passionate about electricity, as loyal as a shop might think people are, the truth is that it’s about the person. So when writing a press release about why the new brand of bleach is a must have addition to the shopping basket, think of the benefits to the customer, the person. The new formula matters because it keeps the kitchen clean and protects their children. The fast acting ingredients free up their time to go out. Novelists say you should know everything about your character, even that which seems irrelevant to the writing at hand. Do the same for your reader. What is their name? What is in their bag? Do they wake up early or late? What do they like to read? Have they ever told a lie? What do they do on a Sunday afternoon? Do they prefer cryptic crosswords or su doku? Only when you know your reader and customer do you know what matters to them, and so how you can connect with them.
That’s the goal of any business. Ultimately relationships in all forms are about connection. When someone likes you or thinks you have something to offer, they will be prepared to invest their time – or money – in you. Customer can’t connect with inanimate objects, so you need to have some personality. What is your brand? What makes you different to everyone else out there? How do you speak and act? Bring this personality to all your writing. Don’t try to be professional at the expense of being emotional. People buy from people, so bring your personality to work.
Francesca Baker is a writer and communications expert passionate about bringing creativity to the world.