If I were to ask you about your communication goals for your next writing project or speaking gig, many of you would probably say that you just want to get it done. Not a bad goal, but you can do better. Each time you communicate, you have a goal – consciously or unconsciously. Think about it. Whenever you open your mouth or tap away at your keyboard, there is an end result you wish to achieve.
Now take it one step further. In most cases, you have a specific, immediate goal as well as a broader, more long-range goal. Becoming conscious of this reality will greatly improve your writing and speaking. Let me show you how:
Captivating Cover Letters
You’re writing a cover letter, something many people are doing these days. The immediate goal, obviously, is to get an interview and eventually a new job. So what’s the broader goal? I would say that it’s to make a professional, memorable impression so that even if you didn’t get this job, the reader would remember your letter and keep you in mind for future opportunities.
Marketing Materials That Sell
If you work in marketing, have your own business, serve in a political capacity or help promote a nonprofit organization, there’s no question your writing plays a pivotal role in your overall performance.
When writing marketing materials – everything from website copy, blog articles and social media posts to brochures and direct mail pieces – the most pressing of communication goals is to describe what you do and generate a positive response from readers. Your broader, long-range goal is to create a desirable identity and consistently communicate it to your target audience. You want readers to immediately recognize that something is from you because of its style, look and feel.
To perform this goal exercise with speaking, consider some general conversations you may have throughout the day. When speaking to your children, coworkers and clients, there are two things happening. The specific objective may be to get them to make their beds so their bedrooms are neater – I hope you know I’m talking about children here… – but the long-range goal may be to instill a sense of responsibility in them.
When speaking to a client, your immediate objective may be to explain how a project will proceed. Your broader goal? In most cases, you clearly want to nurture a positive, profitable, long-term relationship with the client.
When delivering keynote addresses and seminars or running a meeting, your specific purpose should be spelled out in 25 words or less. For example, ‘‘The goal of this talk is to inform my employees about our new policy and get their buy-in.’’
If you consider the long-range goal, it may be to hold onto your good employees while weeding out others. It may be to position yourself as a caring boss, a strong leader or both. In the past, for me a speaking engagement created the specific opportunity to improve my audience’s writing and speaking skills. It also offered the chance to grow my business through increased visibility. One project, two goals.
Why Does Any of This Matter?
After going through this exercise with your next writing or speaking assignment, will the final product change? It should.
Clarifying your specific and broad goals forces you to do more work. It also leads to better writing and speaking in several ways:
- It may prompt you to do more audience analysis so you can communicate more powerfully.
- It may encourage you to share relevant personal stories or experience in your letters, marketing materials and speaking engagements.
- It may change the tone of your writing or speaking.
- It may cause you to add or delete things based on your broader goals.
Using the cover letter example, if you keep only specific communication goals in mind, you may write a good letter explaining how your particular experience matches this particular job opening. But with an understanding of the broad goal, you may add a relevant personal story or include some professional experience that may make a powerful impact on the prospective employer. Knowing your broad goal may also prompt you to do some extra research into the company and the letter recipient – audience analysis is just as important in writing as it is in speaking.
The content from this post was originally published in the MetroWest Daily News and has been updated to reflect current best practices.