How to say it depends on where you say it
There are lots of ways to get your message out these days in the course of business to business communications: press releases, blogs, podcasts, tweets, Facebook posts, etc.
It’s tempting to copy the words from one format and paste them into another. But don’t give in to that temptation. A style of business to business communications that’s ideal for one format might be disastrous for another.
Small town story
At a very small newspaper in a very small town where I once worked, we had a fairly simple writing test when people applied for reporting jobs. We’d give the candidate a sheet of paper with all the facts about a traffic accident, in random order. We wanted to see how well someone could pick out the most important facts and present them in a clear, straightforward style.
One applicant admitted that she had no training as a reporter. She was just a local resident who thought it might be an interesting job. We were willing to give her a shot at the test, because she probably knew more about the town than those of us who were transplants.
She struggled awhile at the typewriter (yeah, it was that long ago) and finally said she’d have to come back some other time.
After she had gone, curiosity got the better of me and I fished her sheet of copy paper out of the trash. Her first sentence read,
“It all started one day while I was out walking my dog...”
Now, here’s the thing: While that’s a horrible way to start a straight news story, it might have worked in a blog -- if there had been such a thing as a blog back in those days.
Keeping styles straight
Different business to business communications formats demand different styles. A straight news release should set out the facts and let them speak for themselves: “Niftycorp today introduced its new line of color-coded flamdoodles.” Don’t gum it up with how Niftycorp is a leading provider, or how excited the CEO is about the new product. (It’s the CEO’s duty to be excited about his products. No news there.)
Feeding the blog beast
Blogs are a different animal. They are conversational and interactive. You can get personal: “It’s always exciting to launch a new product, but our CEO was patting a lot of backs this week when the new color-coded flamdoodles came out.” You still need to give us some meat, of course. Tell us what’s new and different. Maybe it wasn’t so much the new product, but the way the product was introduced. Maybe you came up with a creative solution to a last-minute hurdle. Maybe a customer found a new way of using flamdoodles that even Niftycorp never thought of.
Blogs give you a lot of freedom to go beyond the plain-vanilla facts.
Tweeting in harmony
Twitter, on the other hand, forces you to say everything in 140-characters or less. You stick to the main point because you have no choice, and you point the reader to details posted elsewhere: “Amalgamated Fuddle found a clever way to use flamdoodles for inventory control. Watch the video at www.fuddle [dot] com/flamdoodles.”
Color-coded flamdoodles – the perfect podcast
The opposite of a Tweet might be a podcast. Here the tone should be even more conversational than your blog: “Welcome to the Niftycorp podcast for Feb. 30. Today we’ll talk about some of the creative ways our customers have been using our new color-coded flamdoodles. It’s always exciting to find out that our favorite product has possibilities we never imagined. With me today is Arthur Flern, head of the shipping department at Amalgamated Fuddle...”
Content’s second life
It may sound like a lot of extra work to tailor your message to each medium. In a sense, though, it gives you more freedom. Are you frustrated that your draft press release isn’t working? Take a second look. You might have some blog material there.
Look over your company’s press releases, blogs, tweets and other forms of communication. If they all sound the same, it’s time for some rewrites.
Robert has been a business journalist for 25 years, both as a reporter and an editor. He joined Business Communications Group in 2005.