Sometimes writing flows like a river findings its natural path. We are clear about who we’re communicating with and the effect we hope it will have on the reader. This feels good to us as communicators, and feels right to the reader.
Unfortunately, the river doesn’t always flow so easily. We draft and delete, write and rewrite, sketch and erase. Why? Because we haven’t thought through our intentions well enough. If we take time to outline our intentions, we can create more fluidly and more effectively.
Recently, I’ve been working with a team of national experts to craft resources for managers and frontline workers. The team will divvy up responsibility to create the different written resources and then compile them into a package to be tested and adapted by staff. Before we started the work, we outlined our intentions for each resource.
Here are the questions we considered:
- What’s our working title? A short synthesized statement is a great way of clarifying for ourselves what this piece is (and is not).
- Who will use this and how? A look at the intended audience helps us to keep their interests in mind.
- What actions we are encouraged through this resource? What would be a sign that we were successful in our communication?
- What format will this communication take and what’s the key content?
- What style/ tone will we use?
- How will people access this communication and what’s the best timing for them to access it? What preparation will they need, if any, to use this resource well?
You might be tempted to jump over these kinds of questions, or to think them through on the fly. If you are collaborating, others may have very different assumptions about any one of these questions and the creative process will stagnate.
Writing down your intentions need not take a lot of time. Create a template for yourself using some version of the questions above and fill in the blanks before you start to create. If you are working with others to create a set of materials, consider using a matrix, like the one below. Once it is complete, use it as a guide and the creative process will flow smoothly!
Which of the questions above have you found to be especially important to clarify?
Which is often overlooked or not clarified enough?
Valerie Uccellani (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of its consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.