AIB Start-up Academy Coach Fiona Ashe on how to achieve clarity in business writing

Picture of Fiona Ashe presenting at the AIB Start-Up Academy.

Fiona Ashe has been a film and video director for over 20 years, and a copywriter and trainer specialising in online video, writing for digital, and social media. As one of the mentors in the AIB Start-up Academy, this week she taught the finalists about Clarity in Business Writing.

The importance of strong business writing

Communication is everything in terms of getting the result that you want. That includes verbal pitching as well as writing. The main PR tool that people have is their website. And as an extension of that people will have blogs, social media profiles, and maybe some will do print brochures and things as well. So the writing needs to be very persuasive. It needs to identify the customer you’re trying to target because nobody can target everyone. It also needs to be clear on what you’re offering the customer, and it needs to do that in a persuasive way and in a way that makes a particular business stand out from their competitors.

Learn to promote yourself and your business

We tend to be very humble in Ireland. We’re brought up not to promote ourselves. And when you have to promote your own business, you’ve got to be able to write and pitch verbally in a way that portrays your company in the most powerful and brilliant way possible. You have to describe it as outstanding, unparalleled and acclaimed. And we’re not used to doing that. We’re taught that that’s an arrogant thing to do. So that’s a big learning curve for people when they learn about writing.

The most common mistake in business writing

There is a lot of very bad writing even in established companies. I think the biggest mistake is that people tend to describe the features of their business instead of writing in a way that targets the emotional needs of their customers. For instance, they would say something like “This is our company, we are located here, and this is what we offer you” and that’s not selling it to me. That’s not persuading me to come and buy your product. Whereas if you were to start by describing how I will feel when I experience the benefits of your product, then that’s going to be much more influential. And then if I’m interested in your company I might go in and see who you are and where you’re located. But that’s not what’s going to sell it to me in the first moment that I come across your business.

3 ways to improve your business writing

1. Identify your ideal customer

You have to write to your ideal customer’s emotional needs. That’s the most powerful and persuasive way to influence your customer to buy your products and not your competitors’ products. Some people start off by thinking they have a very broad range of customers. But if you target all of your marketing money at unexpected walk-ins then you’ll be losing a lot. What you have to do is define very clearly who your main target market is. Because that’s where your biggest revenue is going to come from. And that is people who will refer business to you, give you repeat business, and spread the word online.

2. Use strong words and formatting to communicate more clearly

Get over the shyness of not promoting yourself and be able to describe yourself in a very strong way. Use shorter sentences, write very clearly, use active sentences, and write in a more personal way so that the customer feels a relationship with you. The correct use of formatting is also important. Having lots of white space, breaking up the text with headings and subheadings, using bold and italics to draw attention to critical information, and using bullet points can all help you communicate more effectively.

3. Keep practicing

Writing is a skill. It’s not something that you’re going to be brilliant at the first time you try it. But if you do it over and over you learn to do it really well. It will become easier and your writing will become much better.

Learn more about growing your business

The AIB Start-Up Academy sees 11 new companies compete for the chance to win a prize package worth €250,000 to develop their business. Find out more about the AIB Start-Up Academy and follow the progress of this year’s Academy participants on @AIBBiz and check out our photo album on Facebook.