Writing persuasively is a challenge for all of us, even native speakers of English. Why? Because all we have are words on a page in a business report. There’s no voice or body language to support our underlying messages and give meaning to the words. So it’s important that you provide clear context and argumentation for your readers. And it starts BEFORE you begin writing. With a lot of practice you have a formula for successful, persuasive business reports.
Training is one way to improve
Last week I trained a dynamic group of international internal auditors in Bratislava, Slovakia in my International Audit Report Writing workshop. What an amazing three days we spent together: we set a baseline with a writing task before the workshop, then the participants learned all of my proven strategies and techniques to write persuasive, value-added audit reports. Now that the workshop is over, we’re going to support the learning with writing coaching and individual feedback to ensure participants transfer the learning to the reports they write every day.
It’s not just auditors that need to persuade in writing. Purchasers, scientists, financial analysts… most professionals need to write persuasive reports at some point in their careers.
My top 5 strategies to persuade and influence in your business reports will work for you too, no matter what type of business report you write.
1. Know your audience.
Your reader drives the tone, formality and content of your business report.
- What functional roles do your readers have in the organization?
- What is your relationship with your readers?
- Do they need detailed information or high-level information?
- What do they have to DO with the information?
- What level of English ability do your readers have?
2. Know your purpose.
Before you can begin to write your business report, you have to understand WHY you are writing, what your objective is, and what you would like to achieve.
If you can complete this sentence in a ‘tweetable’ length (140 characters), then you are on your way:
“The purpose of my report is to __________________________________________ .”
3. Add structure for logic and clarity.
There are two structures at the top of my list that you will help you persuade in writing.
a. SPIN: Situation – Problem – Impact – Need¹
The reason I love this model for writing, or for any persuasive argument, is the inclusion of impact. I believe your reader can make a more informed decision if they know the impact of what you are asking them to do or not do.
b. CCCE: Criteria – Condition – Cause – Effect
This structure is used in audit reports, and is an excellent way to persuade audit clients of the validity of your audit findings and recommendations. With this structure, you can be sure you include facts and figures supported by root cause analysis and risk to the business.
4. Add a call to action.
If you’re like me, you get frustrated when you read a long-winded report and the first thing that comes to mind is, ‘So what???’. When it comes time for you to write a report, don’t make the same mistake.
Make a clear statement(s) about what needs to happen, by whom, and when. If you need budget, ask for it. If you need a decision from the Board, tell them.
For more on writing recommendations, check out my article: How to Write Recommendations That Get Results on LinkedIn Pulse.
5. Include a tight executive summary.
For the busy executive, time is money. So write an executive summary that is actually a summary. No cut-and-paste shortcuts from the detailed content.
If you not sure how to do this, go back to the SPIN structure in brief: What’s the situation, where’s the pain or opportunity, how will this impact the business and the reader, and give them the call to action.
What are your top strategies and techniques to persuade and influence in your business reports? Please share them in the comments below, I’d love to learn from you as well.
P.S. Ready to get a start on your audit report writing skills? Join my FREE webinar, Global Communication Competence and the International Auditor on Monday, October 12 at 18:00 CET (Berlin.) Learn more about the techniques and strategies that you can immediately put into place to see more results from your reports. I hope to see you then!
¹ Neil Rackham, The SPIN Selling Fieldbook, Gower, Aldershot, UK, 1996