HOW TO WRITE FOR THE EU BUBBLE (TRS Learning session)
When you don’t write well in English, it’s hard to communicate and advocate in the EU.
Are you getting your message across, in an appropriate tone of voice and without obvious grammar mistakes, every single time you write? Probably not. But don’t worry, you’re not alone!
To write well in English, you don’t need to be a native-speaker or professional writer. You just need to be able to convey your message in a language everyone can understand.
This is why we asked some of the best professionals in the industry to share practical tips with you.
First Things First: Always Know Your Audience Well
Sam Rowe, a communication consultant, was the first speaker in our learning session. She shared her thoughts on how to write so that readers would read. Sam stated that we should know who the audience is before we start writing.
The next step is to learn what the audience already knows about the specific topic. There are different stakeholders in the EU bubble. The style and approach when writing for a knowledgeable audience is not the same as when your message needs to reach every EU citizen. So, Sam’s advice is to write for the reader, not for yourself or a client.
If you are writing for a technical audience, go into detail. If it’s a media audience, Sam’s advice is to “make it easy for them to lift the copy directly.” You should also write snappy sentences so that they can easily use them. Finally, keep things clear for the regulatory audience. That will help them to understand where and why you are suggesting the amends.
Because Brussels is so diverse, you should be careful when shaping your messages. First, you should have one core message and a few specific messages. Next, you’ll have to think about the desired result. Tell the reader what you want them to do. Finally, try to choose the most effective form of written communication. Put your message on different channels and combine various forms.
The Structure and the Language: The Most Important Message Must Go First
Grab the reader’s attention with a strong headline that will make them want to keep reading.. Make sure that the first paragraph clearly outlines the core issue. Place the most important elements first, don’t hide them in the 4th paragraph. Place background details and statistics at the end, so that they don’t distract from the core story..
Sam underlines that we shouldn’t focus on ‘what’ but on ‘so what.’ Try to explain the issue using examples. Don’t expect readers to know why something is important. You should tell them. If you want them to recognise your credibility then include quotes from experts and third parties. When you are seeking change, action, or a decision from the audience, ask for it.
Lastly, always think about how stakeholders will read your message. Whether it’s on a laptop, iPad or mobile phone. That will have an impact on the layout, length, and language. So, the general advice is to keep it simple. Use short sentences and active verbs. Limit the use of superlatives and avoid acronyms and parentheses. And, always check your prepositions twice.
Web and Social Media: How to Stand Out?
The next speaker in our webinar was Maya Tall, a journalist and copywriter. She introduced us to the specifics of communication through social media. She stated that Sam’s principal rules could apply to online communication too.
When writing for social media, you always define the audience first. That step leads us to the next one – choosing a platform. For example, Twitter and LinkedIn are suitable for reaching policymakers. And Instagram is good for reaching youth. Facebook is still good for reaching a general audience, but you should focus on it less.
Each social media platform has its own approach, so be aware of that when setting the tone of a message. In general, it should be more conversational and direct. But, your style should also be knowledgeable when writing to policymakers – just like you use a chatty and relatable tone when writing for a youth audience..
“When you write for SM, you have two goals. One is to get people to do what you want them to, and the other is to engage them in conversation.”, Maya explained. So, SM is the best place to be creative and play around, trying to capture the audience’s attention. So how should you do that? And what shouldn’t you do? Apply these straightforward rules:
- Apply this formula: punchy statement + main point + Call to Action(CTA),
- Emphasise why people should care,
- CTA should always be clear: check the blog, watch the video,
- Grab attention with exciting visuals,
- Don’t overdo the hashtags (1-2 relevant are enough),
- Don’t use buzz words or jargon,
- Use mentions that are relevant and make people look good,
- Experiment with the copy and see what layout works best in catching people’s attention.
How to Be Known, Trusted and Liked
“The purpose of any communication is to be known, trusted, and liked,” explained Peter Russell, copywriter and author, who was our third guest on the webinar. He continued by saying that first, we have to know ourselves before others get to know us. So, you must first look introspectively at your organisation and discover what you stand for and how you are viewed. That is where you’ll find what distinguishes you from others and what you can offer.
Remember one thing – effective communication relies on clear thoughts and consistency. This is precisely what builds trust. Hence, every message must be straight to the point and related to the mission and goals. And no matter how hard it may be tested, it must always be consistent.
Being liked in the communication process isn’t always possible, but it’s helpful. The more our manifestation in public is likeable, the more our communication will be engaging and effective.
Peter shared another great piece of advice with us. “Try not to write words. Instead, try writing music.” When writing, use a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. It’s all about rhythm and harmony. Create a sound that is pleasing to the reader’s ears.
Valuable Tools to Avoid Mistakes
To wrap-up our learning session, we asked Ana Skoric, our Senior Consultant at TRS, to share two valuable tools for copywriters. The first is Grammarly – which will not only correct your spelling and grammar mistakes, but can also be helpful with the tone. However, “when it comes to the style of written content, there’s something even better”, Ana explained to us: Hemingway App will help simplify your sentences. It’s common for non-native speakers to over-explain their ideas. This app will give you a different perspective and ask you to keep things simple. In addition, you’ll learn which sentences are complex to read and get advice on how to change that.