Honey Copy

Articles.

Riffs on marketing and writing ––

How to communicate effectively.

the copywriting blog

There’s a horror story out there. Have you heard it? A gentlemen suffering from diabetes visits the doctor because his leg is feeling a bit peculiar.

He’s informed that it’s infected and needs to be removed.

The following day, the gentlemen checks in for surgery. He goes under. He wakes up hours later with an amputated leg. Except, there is a problem. The surgeon removed the wrong leg. 

This story is disturbing. But, instances where doctors make the horrible mistake of removing the wrong limb accurately depict a serious problem currently plaguing organizations across the world. 

How the hell does something like this even happen... you might be wondering? It’s simple.

People aren’t communicating. Or, at least, they’re certainly not communicating effectively. How many times have you misunderstood an email or an instruction or a process? Sure, a leg is vastly more important than an email, but one can see where the mistake could be made in a fast-paced high-stress environment like a hospital.

Communicate effectively or die trying. 

But, let's move onto something less gruesome, shall we? In this article, I plan on sharing a few simple ways startups and business organizations can go about mastering effective communication both in their workplaces and when marketing to their customers. 

As a creative copywriter that works with startups on writing words that both sell and are hopefully interesting enough that their customers want to share them… it's vastly important that I communicate effectively. 

Yes, it’s nice to spice things up with a pretty adjective or two.

Sure, it’s thrilling to show-off some writing prose with a slam-dunk sentence that sticks like honey in the customer's mind. 

Absolutely, it’s addicting to tell a story that leaves the reader free-falling down the page like a squirrel from an electrical line. 

But (and this is a big ass but), none of that matters if my copy isn’t communicating effectively to the reader whatever I am trying to sell them.

While I still have plenty to learn on communicating effectively, I'm confident I have something to share with startups and business organizations struggling with nasty ailments like:

- Poor conversions on websites, email sequences, landing pages and other sales material.

- Wasted time due to tons of back and forth within the workplace via email and Slack. 

- Poor execution because employees never seem to be on the same page. 

All of these problems and many more can be a direct result of poor communication.

Now, before I continue, I must admit. I am biased. I’m a copywriter and obviously believe in writing and communicating effectively.

After all, it’s how I make my living. However, there are business minds out there far smarter than me who stand by this belief.

So much so that they make hiring decisions heavily based on one’s ability to write. Jason Fried, the gent who started Basecamp (whose landing page I adore by the way), looks for great writers when hiring for practically any position. 

In an interview with The New York Times, he shares some of his thoughts on the matter...  

"Our top hiring criteria –– in addition to having the skills to do the job –– is, are you a great writer? You have to be a great writer to work here, in every single position, because the majority of our communication is written, primarily because a lot of us work remotely but also because writing is quieter."

While not every company has great writers beating down their doors like Basecamp, most effective communication stems from thoughtful practice and intention versus god-given talent. In other words, it can be learned. 

Sure-fire ways to communicate effectively.

1. You can always say what you need to say with fewer words. 

In business, we often forget we're not writing love letters. There are no brownie points for stuffing fluffy long-winded novels into people's inboxes.

One way to communicate effectively is limiting yourself on how much you can communicate. When you give yourself only fifty words in an email to say what you need to say... believe me... only the important stuff will make it in. 

The same can be said for meetings –– in your next meeting force yourself to share two brilliant thoughts versus ten mediocre ones.

You will become more thoughtful and focused on what you write and say when you limit yourself

2. If you're getting lost reading what you've written, the reader will get lost too.  

Unless you're a complete dunce, you're reading and rereading your written communication to check for typos. Which speaking of, it's funny how we can never seem to catch all of them (even with Grammarly).

Anyways, when you reread what you have written and find yourself skimming, getting lost or skipping ahead entirely... it's a problem.

If you, the writer, can't keep your own attention when reading what you've written... why do you think you'll be able to keep a reader's attention?

When you find yourself getting lost, retrace your steps and pinpoint where your writing gets boring. From there, either tighten it up, add some spice or slap 'delete' and start from scratch. 

3. Always read out loud before hitting send.

Writers and non-writers do a great job of sounding like jackasses in their writing (myself included). If you're sending something to a co-worker or a customer, read it out loud first.

Monitor your tone and flow.

Do you sound excited or cheesy? Do you sound confident or arrogant? Are you writing in circles or actually writing something worth reading?

I have personally found reading out loud is the best way to quickly gauge the effectiveness of my own communication. If I find myself cringing at certain points or feeling confused, I know it's not send-ready. 

4. Always have a goal or an objective you're writing towards.

I love Medium but one problem I see a lot of writers run into on the platform is writing to make noise versus writing to reach an objective.

When you write without an objective you're wasting your reader's time. If you want to write in circles –– that's fine –– just keep a diary instead.

In business, anytime you write you should be writing to reach an objective. Otherwise, don't waste you or anyone else's time. 

5. Cut the buzzwords and the cliches out (both in written and verbal communication.

The business world is plagued by a never-ending barrage of business buzzwords and phrases. This widely-accepted norm annoys me so much that I wrote an entire article on it.

Core competency, move the needle, open the kimono and put out some feelers are all big fat blaring red warning signals that poor communication is running rampant and somebody better call pest control before the buzzwords start breeding like roaches.

If you want to communicate effectively, make an effort to remove all buzzwords and phrases from your vocabulary. Find a better way to say, "Janice, how do you foresee this big spend on paid Facebook ads moving the needle?" 

I am constantly in a bloody battle with business buzzwords in my own writing. But, I can assure you, by monitoring them you will instantly become a stronger communicator. 

6. If you wouldn't say it over coffee with a friend don't write it or say it in the workplace. 

Some of the best business leaders are those that communicate like humans versus robots.

Somewhere along the way we've forgotten the fact that our co-workers and customers are living breathing humans that talk like living breathing humans.

We don't respond well to ridiculous buttoned up verbiage like... verbiage, empower, consensus, enterprise, outsourcing and synergies. 

You don't own an enterprise... you own a damn business. Nobody gives a flying shit about a consensus... they might, however, agree or disagree.

In the words of Oscar Wilde, "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."

If I were having coffee with a friend I would slip in a curse word or two. I'd throw in a joke to the mix. I might say one thing prolific but probably not. And, I certainly wouldn't use words like "consensus". 

If you're wanting to communicate effectively, write and talk in the workplace how you talk outside of it. 

7. When in doubt, don't say anything at all. 

Sometimes, communicating effectively is about not saying anything at all. In a world where "content is king", we've developed the misconception that we must constantly be spewing out bullshit to stay relevant.

As a result, we're currently drowning under endless loads of horrendous content. 

Ali Mese is a great example of a thought leader in the world of business that is creating a crazy amount of incredibly valuable noise by saying less. In this blog post, he shares how he has accumulated millions and millions of monthly readers while building a thriving business by writing only 15-ish blog posts. Yes, you read that correctly.

In his words, "I will publish an article only when I have something important to say."

Write that down. In a world where quantity is what everyone is chasing, it pays (and pays well) to delivery quality. 

So, whether you're communicating in the workplace or to your customers, talk and write when you have something valuable to say. Otherwise, shut your mouth –– which speaking of shutting your mouth... 

8. Be the best listener in the room. 

There is an interesting game being played in the workplace. People are talking but not communicating.

One person talks while the other person in the conversation thinks about what they want to say next. This turns into a toxic cycle where everyone is talking but nobody is listening. It's not communication, it's spewing noise out of the hole in your head. 

To instantly become a better communicator, listen more and talk less. People respect great listeners. And, often times, it's the listener that finds the solution to the problem you are trying to solve. 

Okay, let's go ahead and end here.

I'm currently in a Starbucks and am having some difficulty concentrating... a young couple is in a heated debate regarding a mattress purchase. They're debating between a king size and queen size and what makes the most sense in regards to value.

At least their communicating. 

By Cole Schafer


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Cole Schafer