Whether you’re scribbling a quick note to your team or crafting a feature-length article, you reveal a part of yourself in what you write. The nuances of your writing — word choice, sentence structure, references, and tone — are like interlocking puzzle pieces; they come together in your reader’s mind to create an image of you, the writer. If this sounds too much like an English major defending his choice of degree, consider the importance of image in the business world. Leaders devote a tremendous amount of energy to managing their image — and for good reason. Image shapes perception, and perception is currency. The ability to write well is a critical skill for any leader. When your writing is strong, it garners respect; people listen to what you have to say. Bad writing, on the other hand, saps you of credibility and damages your personal and company brands. It takes time, energy, and humility to improve your skills as a writer. The payoff, however, is immense.
Here’s what happens when you’re at the top of your writing game:
1. You embed your vision and culture across a wide audience.
Without a strong sense of shared vision, growth can derail a company. Building a vibrant organizational culture — one that your entire team understands, accepts, and embodies — will keep your business on track throughout any seismic shift. In calmer times, you can ensure that your team is on the same page through face time with every employee. However, this becomes much more challenging as your business grows. Though it’s not a substitute for individual interaction with your team members, effective writing can achieve much the same impact. Committing your vision to words enables it to reach a wider audience, both internally and externally. When you write well, you humanize your brand, which enables others to make it their own. This, in turn, helps recruit and engage talent, partners, and customers.
2. You open yourself up to valuable feedback.
Leaders who believe themselves to be “above feedback” won’t lead for long. Direct feedback is a gift; it pushes us to explore, improve, and innovate. Because writing is an intensely personal process, every word invites potential criticism. It’s easy to be intimidated; the reward, however, outweighs the risk. Everything you write has the power to spark a discussion. Whether that discussion happens inside your company or amongst your industry peers, it will be a source of feedback — and might trigger your next big idea. When you write well, you don’t have to shy away from the prospect of criticism. Good writing empowers you to embrace feedback with confidence.
3. You lead the conversation in your industry.
Sales conversions rarely happen in a single conversation. In fact, according to Ken Krogue, your average sales prospect will require six points of contact before becoming a customer. By publishing insightful written content, you can achieve several of those points of contact with multiple leads at the same time. Positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry will allow you to scale your influence. In the race to become a thought leader, however, competition is fierce: 90 percent of companies are now employing a content marketing strategy. The conversation may be louder than ever, but there’s still a severe quality deficiency. With great writing skills, you’ll stand out from the crowd and lead the conversation yourself.
4. You engage influencers.
Though the social media world may be obsessed with numbers (of followers, likes, +1’s, etc.), what really matters is engagement. Recently, our company was retweeted by two different people; one had 1,000 followers, and the other had 150,000. Though the first user has only a fraction of the other’s audience, his followers actually listen to him — and it was his retweet that sent a flood of visitors to our website. Few influencers will be willing to lend you their name if your writing isn’t up to par. But if you write well, influential people will align themselves with your brand — not just as a favor to you, but because they’ll see you as an asset for their own brands.
Fear and Writing
In his memoir, “On Writing,” Stephen King argues that fear is at the root of bad writing. And, despite all our hubris, there is plenty of fear in the world of business leadership. We’re afraid of running our companies into the ground. We’re afraid of being beaten out by the competition. And we’re afraid that others won’t perceive us the way we want to be perceived. These fears are what prevent many leaders from becoming great writers. For them, the perceived risk is just too daunting an obstacle.
Yes, it is hard to put your ego on the line. Everyone get nervous when they publish something. But it’s absurd to assume that you should be good at something if you never try. No matter how confident you become in your writing skills, there will always be room for improvement. So seek out the best writers on your team. Swallow your pride, and ask them to critique your work. Are you communicating as effectively as possible? You’ll find that your team has a vested interest in helping you unlock your full potential as a writer.
The number of platforms leaders have to showcase their brands through writing is growing. If you’re not utilizing them, you’re letting fear stand in the way of opportunity.
As Stephen King says, “Good writing is…about letting go of fear and affectation.” So let go. Just write.
Thank you John Hall for the original article. You can read more here.