As the not-for-profit marketplace becomes ever noisier, the quality of our writing matters more than ever. Gillian Barker, who runs DSC’s popular Writing for Impact course, offers five top tips to help you get your message across.
Good writing has a lasting positive impact on our supporters and partners. And there are so many ways in which you can promote your message: email, newsletters, web pages, direct mail, blogs, marketing material…
But writing well presents challenges. What makes an impact? How can you grab your reader’s attention and keep them reading? Where do you start? With the pressure of a deadline and the inevitable distractions of a busy day, it’s all too easy to face the screen, or the blank page – and freeze.
Writing for Impact gives you the tools and techniques to liberate you from writer’s block. In an atmosphere that’s relaxed, supportive and enjoyable, we explore creative approaches and new ways of bringing your ideas to life, including narrative, vivid description and human interest. We learn by doing; you’ll be able to apply what you learn directly to writing projects that you can take back to work.
Meanwhile, here are some tips to get you going in the right direction.
1. Capture lots of ideas first
Think creatively around your subject and your project. Give yourself material to play with. Explore, gather, hoard ideas. What are people saying? Where are the interesting stories? Who’s got good advice? What is the competition doing? How could you do better?
2. Focus on your reader
Most writing talks about something: what we do, the latest campaign, a new service. Writing with impact, in contrast, speaks to the reader. It says what the reader wants to hear, because they need to hear it. Focus on your chosen reader: what impact do you want to have on them? And focus on a clear purpose: how do you want to influence your reader? What do you want your writing to do?
3. Find your message sentence
What’s the most important thing you want to say to your reader? Condense your purpose into a single, short message sentence. Imagine speaking that sentence to your target reader. What impact will it have? You’ll find more ideas for capturing your reader’s attention here.
4. Keep going
When you’re drafting, keep the pen moving – or the fingers typing. Don’t be tempted to stop and correct or improve; this is a first draft and you can’t make it perfect. Keep talking to your reader and write down what you’d say.
5. Take a break
If you can, let the draft sit and ‘cook’ for a while. Do something else. Then come back to it, check the structure, and redraft. Finally, edit paragraphs, sentences and words – in that order.