Updated: Jun 29
About eighty percent of what I do as a brand communication consultant and strategist is write. Even visual communication materials begin with a creative brief, a written document to help the designers or videographers I work with create visuals that meet specific objectives.
It's safe to say that the written word is something I think about a lot. I’m by no means a professional creative writer nor am I a super rigid “grammar girl”. There are, however, writing skills that I have to keep sharpening if I want to see the best results.
When I’m writing from my personal perspective, like in this post, I want to share my thoughts in a simple, expressive and sincere way. When I’m writing for clients’ brands there may be other goals I have to keep in mind. Either way, these 8 tips for writing simple, effective content for brands help me “keep it moving” in the right direction.
1 - Understand “who” the brand is
Any well-defined brand has a specific set of values and personality traits even when it covers inanimate products or services. Those values and traits have to shine through in all interactions with the brand, including through the written word. So it’s my job to write in the spirit of the brand, using suitable vocabulary and style.
Whether it’s helping an otherwise “technical” brand promote it’s uncomplicated and approachable vibe, or ensuring that a sophisticated retail brand sounds elegant, yet inviting, knowing the essence of the brand is… essential.
2 - Know who the audience is
Ok so I’m not breaking new ground with this one but it can be really easy to make your writing enjoyable for yourself and forget that you want others to read it. It so happens that those others may not be like you or have your preferences. This is a fact that you have to keep in mind as you plan what to write and to help you determine how to write it.
This point goes hand in hand with writing in the voice of the brand because again, a well-defined brand knows who it wants to attract.
3 - Set a goal for the written piece
We’re talking business after all so there’s got to be some kind of end game. Why write the piece anyway? What should it achieve? Should it educate on some topic? Should it help the reader get to know the brand? Should it announce some major happening? Should it persuade the reader to take some kind of action? Should it simply provide a bit of escape?
Why should the reader care?
Setting a clear goal creates the context that is vital to get started and to stay relevant to the reader.
4 - Be Clear
I want to ensure that what I write doesn't confuse but gives a crystal clear picture in the reader's mind. Each of the guidelines that follow help a lot with the clarity factor.
5 - Be Concise
I’m always aiming to use the least number of words I can to convey an intended meaning. For instance, the more long-winded a sentence, the higher the probability that I’ll lose the reader. It’s far better to break up long sentences into shorter ones or use punctuation to ease the burden.
I have to admit, there are times when this isn’t easy at all. Plus there are instances when the moment calls for more colour and flair in the language - where more words may be called for. Overall though, keeping things fuss-free is always a focus for me.
6 - Link similar ideas
When it comes to blog posts, articles and even emails it’s essential to help your reader follow your train of thought. You want to avoid confusion or misunderstanding especially when you're conveying several ideas.
One way I try to do this is by identifying similar concepts then grouping these together. By finding the dominant common thread between them I can establish an overall main point. Then I can use each of the “sub ideas” as support for, or to build up to that main point. Organising your writing like this is a great way to limit fragmentation and keep things cohesive.
Which brings me to my next guideline which expands on this one but takes a lot more writing savvy.
7 - Establish a flow
I’m working really hard on this one because I think it’s one of the things that separates good writers from great writers. Flow not only helps your reader to follow along in a logical way but it totally engages them in the highs and lows, the main points and minor points. It’s a rhythm to your writing that allows the reader to have an experience rather than getting bogged down in the words. I think it’s developed when as a writer you read the work of writers who are able to do this well.
8 - Edit, edit, edit
If 80% of what I do is write then 75% of what I do is edit. Fine tuning a written piece to pay attention to all of the guidelines above and get grammar on point is a big part of the effort.
I never try to get it perfect the first time. I leave room for fun with the edit. In any case, it’s never perfect but it needs to work.
So there you have it. My 8 tips for writing simple, effective content for brands. If you wonder how I spend most of my days, it’s no longer a secret.
But seriously, I love the medium of words. All the beautiful things that you can do with just these simple little characters excite me and I feel lucky that I get to work with words everyday.
These tips are by no means exhaustive. If there are others you would include let me know what they are.