Once an executive comes to the realization that to be recognized as a thought leader they must write, the question of writing style will generally arise. They want advice on how they should sound on the page. They want to be entertaining, to be considered a “good” writer that people will enjoy reading.
That’s not exactly how it works, at least not here.
Almost no one in any industry reads the trade press or company brochures for pleasure. You will never find a mortgage industry executive sitting under a tree and enjoying industry content like they were reading a paperback thriller or a cozy mystery on summer vacation.
People read the trade press because they need to be informed. They need to know what’s going on in their industry. And they need to know what those events mean.
That’s why most good trade publications will use the tried and true inverted pyramid style in an effort to get as much information as close to the top of the story as possible. The reporter doesn’t know when you’ll stop reading or when the editor will chop off the bottom of the article to save space.
In a future post, I’ll tell you about a feature article model that I like because it hooks your reader early and pulls them into the story. But even that tool will fail to engage your reader if they don’t believe they are going to get what they need out of the article.
Giving your readers what they need
Remember, the reason our B2B reader gets beyond the headline is because they have a desire to be informed. We must write informative content, first and foremost. That means we should fall back on structure.
I doubt you spent your lazy Saturdays as a youngster flipping through the pages of the Worldbook Encyclopedia, like I did. My goal was to learn all they had to teach me. I didn’t come close. What I did learn was that each major article ended with an outline for use by students writing research papers on the topic.
To me, those outlines were the roadmaps to the information, the blueprints for the ideas they contained, the treasure maps to the…well, you get the idea.
The outline for a good byline feature article is, in most cases, a strong thesis supported by three strong arguments all followed by a conclusion. That’s the map we should follow.
This thesis is what your reader needs, whether they agree with it or not. If they agree, they need to know if you can offer them additional evidence to support it. If they don’t, they want to find out where you made your logical error. In either case, they are likely going to read your work.
We’ve all read a lot of articles that follow this general outline but that just aren’t very good. Usually that’s because the author didn’t start with a strong thesis or position for the piece or if they did, they didn’t do a good job of supporting it. They may have had three supporting points, but those points didn’t actually support their original idea. That’s not good writing.
And if you know what’s not good, it helps you define what is good.
If you read a business article that states clearly a strong thesis, whether you agree with it or not, and then proceeds to present three strong points in favor of that thesis and concludes with the impact this information will have on you, your customers and industry, you have found a writer who has what I would call an excellent executive writing style.
Co-Founder and COO at Content Beacon + President at RGA Public Relations