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The Common Forms of Business Writing chart at the bottom of the Business Writing Academy home page outlines various business communication types and their purpose. Adding to that information, the chart below shows the most common audience type for each communication form.

Planning and Audience Analysis in Business Writing

Business writing, like all other fiction writing, needs the writer to fully understand their audience. Too often a business writer sits behind their computer and asks, “What do I want to write about?” This question places the writer at odds with the audience. The question best asked when beginning any business writing project is, “What will the reader (audience) need to know to understand my message and what type of behavior do I want the reader to exhibit after they read my message?” Thus, the first step in business writing is planning, based on the three-step writing process. Planning requires the author to understand their purpose for writing and requires them to develop an audience profile, especially for lengthy or complex business writing projects.

The Common Forms of Business Writing chart at the bottom of the Business Writing Academy home page outlines various business communication types and their purpose. Adding to that information, the chart below shows the most common audience type for each communication form.

Common Forms of Business Writing and Their Audience Type

Audience Profile Guidelines

Naturally, the purpose of your writing will dictate to what extent you will analyze your audience. As an example, if you are crafting a business email, you may already understand the receiver (audience) expects from the communication. With that example, you may decide to bypass an in-depth analysis of the audience. However, if you are drafting a report for an external audience or memo to a larger group of employees (internal audience) you will need to create an audience profile. The following six areas are guidelines for planning an audience profile.

  • Identify your primary audience and secondary audience (when required).
  • What are your audience size and their geographic locations?
  • Understand the audience’s level of understanding.
  • What are your audiences’ expectations and their preferences?
  • Anticipate audience reaction to your communication.

Detailed Explanation of Audience Profile Guidelines

Primary Audience

The primary audience for a business writer includes the main person or people who will read the writing, initially. This may include your boss, the CEO of the organization, or group of individuals within a department, a customer, or a segment of a target audience which may include hundreds or thousands of potential readers.

A note on Secondary Audience Members: Your message may end up with a secondary audience or reader. That is, the primary audience member way pass along your message, making the new recipient a secondary audience. It is important to not ignore the needs of the potential secondary audience, but keep your message focused on the key audience member, the primary audience. An example of a secondary audience may include an executive team. Imagine that the CEO of the company asked you to prepare a market analysis report on a new product. The CEO instructed you to send her the report directly but noted that they will also share your report with their executive team. The executive team becomes the secondary audience. Having an understanding about their needs is just as important as knowing the needs of the CEO, the primary audience member.

Audience Size and Geographic Location

The size of your audience could determine your communication approach. Audience sizes of 1,000 or even 10,000 need a different writing approach than one used for just a few audience members. Additionally, audiences located around the world also require a different method for communicating. Before you write your message, determine the size of your audience.

Audience Composition

Each person receiving your business message may interpret that message differently from the other audience receivers (see diagram below). When planning your business writing, seek to understand the audience’s cultural differences and similarities. Take into consideration their language preference, age, education, economic and social status, attitudes, experience, motivation, and beliefs. This information can help you understand their biases when writing your message.

Visit the Purdue University Writing Lab to learn more about writing for a global business audience.

Audience Analysis diagram

Audience Level of Understanding

Audiences have various levels of understanding content. If your intended audience shares your background, they will have a higher chance of understanding your message, Conversely, if your audience does not share your background, they may not understand your message. If your audience does not share a similar academic or professional background as you, the writer, consider briefly educating them on your topic in your message.

Audience expectations and preferences

When writing for internal audiences, determine their expectations for the communication. Typically, the C-Suite and executives prefer brief messages with fewer details. Additionally, understand your audiences’ preferences for message length and content. Do they expect a lot of details or just a summary of the main points? As a rule, messages or reports targeting higher levels within the organization require fewer details but do require just the main points.

Possible Audience Reaction

Audience reactions may affect the organization of your message. If you expect a favorable reaction to your message, you can minimize any supporting evidence and quickly get to your conclusion and recommendations. On the other hand, if you expect skepticism from your audience, you will need to supply lots of proof, gradually rolling the proof out in your writing.

Lesson Conclusion

The first step in business writing using the three-step writing process is to analyze the writing situation. This step includes defining your writing purpose and developing an audience profile as we discussed above. In the next lesson, we discuss the second part of the planning step in the writing process, gathering information about the needs of your audience and how to gather information about satisfying those needs.

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Writing Effective Business Mission Statements

What is a Company Mission Statement?

Organizations with a clear strategic focus have written mission and vision statements. A company mission statement communicates — most often in writing — the firm’s reason for existing; it defines the values and governing principles of your organization. The mission statement explains how the organization aims to serve its stakeholders, such as customers, employees, shareholders, and community.

Organizations that have clearly communicated mission and value statements that align with their strategy, goals, and objectives outperform companies that do not have them. Not all organizations have a mission statement. Some have informal mission statements, that is, they are not written for all to see. Even with a casual mission statement, these organizations still follow and behave in a manner consistent with their purpose providing a competitive edge over organizations without mission and value statements.

Four key points of a mission statement include:

    1. They describe the organization’s purpose for existence
  1. Focuses on the present
  2. Part of and critical to the strategic and marketing plan
  3. Corporate decisions must be in harmony with the mission statement

Why Should A Company Have A Mission Statement?

Companies that have a formal written mission statement achieve at minimum three main purposes:

  1. Inform stakeholders of the reason for the company’s existence.
  2. Dispute resolution for the company’s future direction.
  3. To serve as inspiration for employees and management within the company.

Informing Stakeholders

The written mission statement provides transparency to a firm’s stakeholders, customers, investors, employees, and business partners about their goals and objectives and the reason the company exists as well as what it is trying to achieve. If all stakeholders have an understanding of why a company exists and their specific goals, they can work together to help the organization meet their mission.

Dispute Resolution

Imagine a firm without a mission, all sorts of issues may arise that could lead the company in a direction that it did not want to venture toward. As an example, take a look at Google’s mission statement:

“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

In 2012, Google purchased the mobile phone handset giant Motorola but later sold the company in 2014 to Lenovo. The acquisition did not necessarily fit their mission but served a strategic purpose, and they were expected to sell the company, which they did in 2014. Assuming that a manager within Google wanted to continue pursuing the handset market, Google could say that the products do not fit with our core mission and that they should focus on what’s close to their purpose, thus avoiding any potential dispute with internal teams, shareholders, and customers.

Employee Inspiration

Good corporate missions provide employees with a purpose to feel good about what they are doing for their organization as well as for the world. Most employees like to feel that they are part of something more significant, something that has a positive impact on the planet. A good mission statement provides this type of motivation and inspiration for employees and managers of the organization. As an example, Twitter’s mission statement is short, simple, and inspirational:

“To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”

Characteristics That Make for a Good Mission Statement

Not all mission statements are reasonable statements. That is, they do not inspire, nor do they focus on the customer or some social value. Four characteristics that make for a good mission statement:

  1. Unique and emphasize the creation of a customer or social value.
  2. Stay focused on solving customer needs or problems.
  3. Employees, know, understand, and practice the mission statement.
  4. Inspiring, brief, and memorable.

Customer or Social Value and Unique

Effective missions are unique to the business and emphasize the creation of some customer or social value. Examples include improving the lives of people’s health or improving the quality of their lives. Mission statements should stay clear of communicating “being the best” at something or just making money. Focus on the positive impacts the business makes.

Solving Customer Needs or Problems

Poor mission statements often fail to address customer needs or problems. They become myopic and focus on their product or service resulting in product-focused rather than people focused missions. A compelling mission focuses on “selling” the problem they solve and not the product they sell. Organizations that fail to address or focus on customer needs and problems may find themselves becoming obsolete as new technologies and trends emerge in their industry.

Effective Missions are Lived and Practiced

A mission is only useful if it is lived and practiced by the company. Regardless of employee size, a good test in determining if the mission statement is meaningful is if regular employees can explain the company mission statement and use it to guide their daily work and decisions. A great way to incorporate the mission statement and get employees to learn it is to have it posted throughout the organization as well as provide employees with a mission statement card that they can carry around as a reminder of their overall mission and goals.

Inspiring, Brief, and Memorable

Good mission statements should be brief, inspiring, and memorable. Being succinct allows employees and managers to remember and use them all the time quickly. Some examples of inspiring, memorable, and brief mission statements include:

Uber:

“Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.”

PayPal:

To build the Web’s most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution.

Whole Foods:

Our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing of both people – customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general – and the planet.

Caterpillar:

To enable economic growth through infrastructure and energy development, and to provide solutions that support communities and protect the planet.

 

Final thoughts: Without a clearly communicated mission statement a business does not have a goal or objective. Mission and vision statements are like the road maps for a journey, you may or may not reach your destination without them. Planning and preparing ensure that you have a clear path to your final destination. The mission statement is a firm’s roadmap.

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The Three-Step Writing Process in Business Communication

Effective business writing is essential to a company because it helps create efficient communication that leads to increased productivity, faster problem solving, stronger decision-making, and increased profits. It also helps boost the organization’s credibility.

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