Business Writing For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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Business writing skills can be applied to online platforms just as easily as other workplace situations. The Internet has leveled the playing field for those willing to learn its ways. People could scout for jobs and be discovered by recruiters, reach a VIP with a click, or compete with big well-funded businesses armed only with a good idea and a website. Everyone gained the power to be not just an author, but also a commentator, editor, and publisher. No more gatekeepers!

All of this and more remains true. But there’s a snag: Today almost everyone has landed on that playing field. You’re competing not only against people in your industry, but also with hordes of talented, well-paid communication specialists. Most companies dedicate in-house or outside resources to manage their websites, blogs, and tweets, and to produce videos, create infographics, and post cleverly on social media. The advantage no longer belongs with the early adaptor.

But you can certainly succeed if your online life is strategic and well-executed. Creative thinking, reflected in good writing, is your ticket to today’s digital universe.

But, you’re asking what about visually based media: Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, and new platforms that are brewing even as you read this?

Ideas start with words. Imagination translates those words into images. Often, the corporate posts you may love are not bits of spontaneity, but carefully crafted messages created by teams working within an established marketing frame. They often use those most traditional tools: writing and storyboards. What you ultimately see may contain few words or none at all, because the message is carried by imagery.

Sometimes a platform’s visual orientation is in part illusory. Pinterest, for example, which collects and displays images based on themes, nonetheless delivers plenty of information as infographics. These typically involve extensive planning, research, writing, and graphic design.

However, if your aim is to entertain your friends, or share moments of your life, strategic thinking is a lot less necessary. For many people the value of digital media is the spontaneity the technology underwrites. If you want to communicate “look what I’m doing,” or “here’s where I am,” or “isn’t this funny, or beautiful, or inspiring,” that’s absolutely fine.

If you want your messages to support larger aspirations, they must be strategic. Random tweets will produce random responses. Carefully written blogs won’t help your cause if they don’t tie to your goals. Spontaneous social posts won’t build a following that matters if you don’t have a plan.

Everything you put on the Internet adds up to a unique social profile that can bring you opportunities, or if you’re careless, lose them for you. Therefore, you must know what you want to achieve and whom you want to reach.

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Natalie Canavor's career spans national magazine editing, journalism, corporate communications and public relations. Her writing for business media, professional audiences and The New York Times have won dozens of national and international awards. She has taught advanced writing seminars for NYU and conducts frequent workshops.

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