I recently took a road trip to Montmorency Falls, one of the most notable places in Canada you have to visit before you die. The Falls are actually 100 feet higher than the famous Niagara Falls. As always, I started my planning by looking at a road map to get an idea of my destination. My GPS is great for getting from point A to Point B, but it’s not the most effective tool for looking at the big picture. Having found my destination I made some calculations about driving time, and I researched events and accommodations along the way. It’s not that I need to know every detail of a trip before I go, but past experience tells me that the more pre-planning I do, the more likely the trip will be a success. And this one was! A few days of bad weather aside (a variable no one can control!) the trip was great.

Of course, I could have just headed out without knowing my destination. Similar to creating business communications, the “winging it” approach doesn’t work too well. And if it does, it takes a whole lot longer to get where you want to go, without a clear idea of what you really want to say. You generally waste so much time writing and rewriting.

The funny thing is people often tend to just dive in and write. I think it’s due in part to much of the online advice about business writing that ignores that crucial step– the planning. Instead, it instructs you to focus more on the mechanics, e.g. grammar, syntax, and word choice. Sometimes, it takes me awhile to convince clients that it really won’t matter if the grammar, etc. is correct, if the overall logic of the piece is flawed. In other words: You have to think before you write.

Clients I’ve worked with who’ve embraced the road-trip planning approach tell me that it’s made a significant and positive difference to their business outcomes. So, if you’re someone who knows that your business communications aren’t always ending up in a good place, I suggest you take the following steps to ensure your “road trip” will be a success.

How To Plan a Successful Business Communications “Road Trip”

1. Start At the End
Know where you’re going. Your destination in any written business communication is the outcome of outcomes you hope to achieve. If you don’t know where you’re going, you waste your own time writing. You also risk creating a document that will frustrate the reader because its intent will be unclear.

2. Pinpoint Your Departure
When you head out on a road trip you may decide to leave before rush hour or fly to a location closer to your destination and drive from there. The same kind of thinking has to go into how you begin your written business communications. What is the logical starting point that will lead your reader to your goals and objectives? The starting point has to be linked to your destination.

3. Don’t Get Lost Along the Way
Once you’re on the road all the research you did in advance starts to pay off. You have a pretty good idea of the stops you want to make and places you may want to share with your reader. You establish those key points in the planning process by doing research on who your audience is. Their needs determine where you go in between point A and point B.

Of course, the way that you use language in any business communication is also directly linked to a successful outcome. Your words need to be persuasive, powerful, and precise. (See another one of my blog posts, Words Matter for more on that.)

But don’t head out on your journey hoping that inspiration will strike and it will all just magically work out. It may — if you don’t care whether you end up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, or Vancouver, British Columbia. But it also may not. Why risk it? After all, as a business person, you really don’t have time and money to burn!

If you’re looking for help planning successful business communications, contact me at The Language Lab

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