The number of documents (reports, email, TXTs, other written
material) managers read every day amounts to a huge amount of textual
information. All of us are now 2.0-conditioned and are more used to
absorbing sound or word-bites and less sympathetic to struggling
through long documents. So you can be certain that, no matter how
important the substance of your reports, your audience will not read
them with as much care and attention to detail as you spent writing
them. Even the management summary may get the 10 second treatment: a
once-over-lightly scan to determine the document’s usefulness
before giving it a proper read – or not if it doesn’t
know all about the 10 second treatment and the good ones construct
their blogs to capture and hold their
target readers. (If they don’t they lose the revenue from
selling their products or the advertisements on their blog sites).
Competent bloggers use successful attention grabbing and holding
techniques to help ensure that their communications get the attention
they deserve and convey their intended messages.
Thanks to the 2.0 world most people have learned to skim-read really
quickly. This is a problem for those writing reports for management.
It means that if they haven’t made the important parts easily
findable and accessible then the whole report becomes invisible.
Write reports, and especially, management summaries, expecting their
readers initially to only scan them. Once the report has captured
their attention, they will return and read more closely what they
medium is the message. Marshall
meant by this that a medium affects the society in which it plays a
role, not only by the content delivered via medium, but by the
characteristics of the medium itself. The widespread acceptance of
PowerPoint last century (!) resulted in many documents and reports
being produced in a PowerPoint-like format. Now, the ubiquitous
influence of the Internet and Web 2.0 means that reports and
documents are being delivered and presented in web-influenced styles.
a 2.0 world, so cater for
speed readers. Managers have to
wade through scads of written material and become proficient speed
readers, scanning at about 900 words per minute, rather than reading
at about 240 words a minute. (It is likely that you will spend about
10 seconds scanning this entire note to determine its usefulness and,
if it has captured your interest, will return and spend four or so
minutes giving it a proper read.) Therefore, if your writing is
initially going to be speed-read it is wise to write it on this
from bloggers. Expert
bloggers capture their readers by making it easy for them to scan the
blog and find the key elements in the approximately 10 seconds
they’ll initially allocate to the blog’s content. They
attract the reader’s eye with:
a catchy blog title,
subtitles or subheadings within the blog
bold, underlined, quoted, or otherwise
highlighted text and hyperlinks
charts, or images
a summary of key
their scan suggests the blog is likely to
meet the readers’ interests they will then go back and read the
article in more depth.
the bloggers. By including these
keys in your document, your target audience can rapidly appreciate
its value and assess the relevance of the content. After that, those
who are interested will re-read it, this time in more depth,
understand the message and act accordingly.
is king is a web catchcry,
generally focused on ensuring that the web sites are easily indexed
by search engines. The same meme
applies to blog writers, wanting to ensure that blog readers see the
value of the blog’s contents and return for more rather than
ensuring search engine optimisation. The whole point of a blog (and
your report) is the message. The person reading the blog (your
report) wants to learn something or have something they ”know”
confirmed – they are reading it for the content. That is why
bloggers use the approach described above.
number 1: Remember, busy people
never read beyond the first page or maybe (the diligent ones) the
second. You may still have to provide all the expected back-up bulk,
but the serious content must appear early. Help the diligent ones
find all the detail by using hyperlinks
to the relevant components.
number 2: Follow
the Three Rules of Targeted Traffic to ensure those you want to read
your material do so:
Determine the audience
you are writing for – write for them.
Stay on-topic –
don’t introduce irrelevant distractions.
Write the document –
and its title – so that your targeted reader finds it as
interesting as their favourite web page.
number 3: review your final
document – and edit if it needs be – to make sure your
target audience will read it. Check that:
You’re making a
unique and new point and not just regurgitating information,
summarised the point of your article in 2 – 3 sentences,
the point you’re trying to make is
Move all those boring front pages containing the revision history and
sign off details to an appendix with a hyperlink to them. Put the
most important part of your document right up front!
Determine your target
readers’ views of the readability, clarity and value of the
documents/reports you provide them, and how they think they could be
Determine if a
“blog-like” approach would improve their perceptions.
set up a pilot program to “blog” a particular set of
documents and monitor the response of the target audience.
If it is successful,
expand the program, possibly placing your non-sensitive “blogs”
on your intranet.
about – Start now –
explore the option of blogging your approach as you develop your
2009/10 IT budget.