By Melissa Walsh
What’s nonsense business language good for? Absolutely nothing.
Yet we see it on many websites, especially those of technical and industrial suppliers. True, despite poor webcopy, these companies manage to stay in business. The rationale is, “We’re doing fine. No need to hire a professional to communicate who we are and what services and products we provide.” So the leaders of these companies choose to continue communicating to potential business partners and customer prospects like Mr. Spock instead of humans living on planet Earth.
Certainly, this thinking leads to lost opportunity not calculated in an annual report.
Instead of relying on a professional writer to develop website and other promotional copy, these business thinkers task the intern, low-level sales or operations employee, or maybe even the technical writer to pull something together in the spare time of their 9-to-5 day.
The result is business jargon strong in hyperbole and weak in information. The copy is convoluted, wordy, dry, ineffective business speak that means little to a prospect seeking to understand what the business does and what differentiates it.
Here are examples of nonsense business language:
Businesses who do not understand the value of investing in good writing post this nonsense on their websites, and likely in other communications pieces. A website is a window into a company. Yet too many companies present robotic nerds talking nonsense business jargon in the parlor.
Good communication, formal and informal, breathes and has a human rhythm. Words should be short. Phrases should be succinct. The message should be authentic and stick to the reader’s memory. It should awaken, alert, and inform. A business should feed a message to a reader like a pass in sports — direct, vibrant, and crisp.
In the chapter “Business Writing: Writing in Your Job,” from his book On Writing Well, William Zinnser recommends being “yourself when you write” for business. For company leaders, this means knowing your company and its branding and presenting it sensibly and like a human in your business-to-business and business-to-customer communications. “You will stand out as a real person among the robots,” Zinsser says.
When written communication isn’t a core strength of a business, that business must bring on board a professional writer or writing team who can present the company’s strengths clearly, avoiding nonsense jargon.
© 2015, Powerplay Communications
"A website is a window into a company. Yet too many companies present robotic nerds talking nonsense business jargon in the parlor."
By Melissa Walsh
So you’re responsible for your company’s new business development. After browsing RFPs, you come across a statement of work that directly aligns with your company’s products and services. Confident that your company is positioned to meet the requirements, you’re faced with the challenge of planning your company’s response. And because your company doesn’t maintain a proposals department or retain a proposal writer on staff, you’re on your own.
Should you request company personnel to write the proposal? Write it yourself? Or should you commission a freelance proposal writer?
Though business executives function as the experts that cultivate the ideas of an RFP response, they are not proposal writers. Nor is the new sales guy willing to work late qualified as a proposal writer, or the admin who wears many business operations hats.
Writing is a craft and a trade. Like most other trades, writing is technical and complex. Just as your company invests in engineers, technicians, and sales staff, invest in paying a proposal writer.
A professional writer will use rich, exact language that is not elaborate, and will follow Chicago Manual of Style convention for proper proposal format and style. A quality writer will also perform a key consulting role in assisting you develop the references, appendices, graphs, and exhibits, adding to the robustness of your proposal and the differentiation of your company.
Your role is to feed the writer with subject-matter expertise, numbers, and statements about your company’s mission and value in the marketplace. As simple as ABC, you will team with the writer to build an RFP response that is active, bold, and credible.
Compose your response as you would an oral presentation, with audience focus. You want your listener — your reader — alert and interested during your pitch. Though a formal response to an RFP demands a formal written proposal, do not over-formalize your proposal text and become unnecessarily boring. Present active, not passive, statements about why your company is the right provider to fulfill the requested scope of work.
Active proposal tips:
Bad writing: The service-level agreement (SLA) will be negotiated by the parties.
Good writing: The parties will negotiate a service-level agreement (SLA).
Be precise. The Executive Summary may be the only section that the prospect reads for determining first-round candidate cuts. Therefore, it is critical to get the prospect’s attention with a compelling Executive Summary lead that radiates confidence. Your lead should direct the prospect to what differentiates your company from the others represented in the proposal slushpile.
Lead with your company’s branding statement or rephrasing of your tagline. In the first sentence of your Executive Summary, answer this question for your prospect: “Why is your company the strongest candidate for performing the specific scope of work described in the RFP?”
Bold proposal tips:
Bad writing: “Our business has trained staff to serve our customers well.”
Good writing: “We train our staff in customer support.”
Proposal credibility requires professional presentation and quality content. Using other “c” words to elaborate: create content that clearly communicates your company’s competencies for completing the contract. Proceed with building your proposal with active statements that are simple and concise.
Credible proposal tips:
Good writing: [Company Name] enhanced information technology (IT) and administered changes to networking protocols.
Even if you pay a writer to develop a proposal that is not selected for contract award, your investment is not without return. A professional writer brings you the value of finding the correct words and beneficial content organization and structure for communicating your company’s features, benefits, and strengths. It is content that your company owns and may repurpose for responding to the next RFP that intrigues your new business development interest.
© 2014, Powerplay Communications
By Melissa Walsh
Effective blogging requires consistency and endurance. It is not for the impatient nor for those with no marketing communications plan. "Good blogging is strategic," they say. "It leads to business partnerships and customers," they say … And so it does, eventually over time.
Good blogging requires labor hours and a commitment to spinning interesting enough blog content to attract a target audience as repeat consumers of your valuable content freebies. Ideally, these consumers will become your customers.
Is it worth it? What is blogging's ROI?
In their book, ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, Darren Rouse and Chris Garrett point out that a blog has value if the blogger has these five traits:
A blogger's role demands making the blog content and blog readership top priority. This is why it is important to commission a quality blogger to maintain a company's blog — someone who knows how to write, knows the topic and knows the audience. Don't task the work of blogging to just anyone in the office with the time to do it, like the intern, office assistant or sales guy.
A professional blogger develops a strategic blog plan that fits into a company's content marketing plan and marketing communications vision. Blog content can be modular and repurposed for ebook content, training or other reference collateral, social media post, or other online or print materials. It can also add personality to a company's branding.
A professional blogger also has the good sense not to treat a blog as display advertising or in-your-face e-commerce, cluttering a web page with flashy ads and frustrating pop-ups. The professional blogger instead cultivates a relationship with the target audience by offering free information that the audience desires, like tips, reviews or stories.
So back to the ROI of blogging … if you want a return on the investment of paying a person to blog for you, commission one who knows how to write, knows your topic and knows your market. Over time, your professional blogger will convert readers into customers for your business.
© 2013, Powerplay Communications
By Melissa Walsh
It was Woodrow Wilson who said, “The seed of revolution is repression.” Have writers been repressed by big publishing?
For most writers, getting a book published by an established publishing house is like winning the lottery. Even if an acquisitions editor pulls your manuscript from the slushpile and likes it, your manuscript must impress several more layers of big-publishing management to win a book deal.
The good news for good writers is that self-publishing makes these management layers obsolete. True, earning income via ebook self-publishing may be a pipe dream for a writer trying to turn a poorly written manuscript into a commodity. But for a good writer, ebook self-publishing is a sound option for gaining ground in the market as an author, that is if she treats book development as a business and commissions the services of a good editor, a good artist, a good publicist, and a good distributer.
Done right, self-publishing meets content needs for a target market. A winning ebook would generate revenue that a writer could invest as capital for printing and distributing a print edition of the successful title. If an author has a knack for managing operation costs and a savvy for promoting books, self-publishing could replace the writer’s mundane day job and become a lucrative career. Authors whose products enjoy a niche market could even bring in additional revenue through merchandising title- or series-themed swag.
In a blog entry, Smashwords founder Mark Coker compared the downfall of traditional publishing houses to political revolution. Is his point valid? According to an article by Futurebook.net blogger Felicity Wood, only a quarter of consumers preferring e-reading would discontinue buying print books. Many ebook consumers purchase both the ebook and print editions of the same title. Though this is great news for the publishing industry at large, only authors and publishers who learn to adapt to the e-reading trend will benefit from its momentum.
Besides the obvious ― e-publishing technology, what other factors are contributing to Coker’s alleged downfall of big publishing? I would argue that little economic opportunity for emerging, and even established writers, is the most critical contributor. Writers have to write; they need to write, so much so that many accept little monetary reward. A big publisher knows how to take advantage of a writer’s addiction to writing, sucking the writer into a mediocre contract of a 5 to 10% royalty by promising him an increased royalty percentage in the hypothetical “next deal,” once he’s “more established.” With ebook self-publishing, writers may enjoy 70 to 80 percent of sales. The bottom line speaks for itself. Why would an author sign up for a low royalty percentage only to risk the publisher’s right to remove the title from its catalogue and from print before the book had enough time to reach its full readership potential?
With the ebook revolution, authors are empowered to respond to the coercive acts of big publishing. So are book publishing elites today’s publishing red coats? Is ebook self-publishing akin to Tom Paine’s patriot movement? Like Paine’s revolutionary pamphlets, ebook publishing APIs (Application Programming Interface) are connecting writers directly to readers. What’s more, the movement is purely democratic ― anyone can publish. And those reaping the economic rewards of ebook publishing are beneficiaries of a truly free hand of capitalism. If the book is any good, the market will find value in purchasing it.
For more on this topic, click here for a link to “The Uprising in Book Publishing,” a presentation by Smashwords founder Mark Coker. Also check out Felicity Wood’s blog article “Trendspotting,” which shares statistics on readers’ attitudes toward ebooks.
Powerplay Communications as an Ebook Publisher
If you’re a writer with a promising finished manuscript, I suggest investigating your options for ebook self-publishing. If you’re looking for help in editing and formatting your manuscript, Powerplay Communications can help.
Raised in the Motor City, Melissa Walsh is a content solutions guru with a background in reference publishing, journalism, teaching, and applied engineering. Her identity is shared as a writer, mom, history nerd, and hockey player. She also knows how to turn a wrench and use a scantool.