I’ve been ghostwriting messages for leaders for as long as I can remember. One thing I can tell you for certain is this: Regardless of their background, credentials or status, they all freeze when it comes to nailing the perfect message.
And the higher the stakes, the more chocked up they get. That’s because they feel ill-equipped. For some reason, everybody thinks there’s a secret writing recipe that they’re not privy too and will never master—kind of like those double-chocolate brownies your grandma used to make that you still can’t replicate.
But writing well is actually possible—and even fun—when you follow my tried-and-true techniques:
- Realize there’s no such thing as writer’s block. You just need to set realistic goals. Why? Because it’s hard to write, but easy to edit. Don’t try to make your first draft the final draft. In fact, begin by writing the worst possible message you could ever concoct. Then sit back, relax and start editing.
- Don’t take criticism personally. There are countless words in the English language, and, luckily, you weren’t responsible for authoring even one of them. When somebody critiques your writing, just say to yourself, “Okay, I’ll pick another word and see if they like that one better.”
- Write what your reader wants to hear, not what you want to say. You will save time and effort if you put your agenda aside and focus on the aspects of your message that are most beneficial to the reader.
- Say as little as possible to make your point. Sometimes the more you say, the muddier your message gets. Be clear, concise and avoid burying your point under endless paragraphs of background information.
- Prescreen your messages. Send a copy to yourself and pretend it’s coming from your archenemy. If you still like it after that, then you’re ready to hit send for real.
These techniques have served me well. I’m sure they’ll work for you, too.
Before you act …
Give yourself time to do a thorough proofreading of your document. And, if at all possible, have a trusted source review the message before you do a final polish.