Writing is writing is writing. Right? Seriously, communicators know certain things change when you're writing a message to a senior executive or are asked to create content on behalf of the CEO or another company leader. We discussed these and other issues with Andrea Staub, SVP, corporate communications, Perdue Farms. Staub will be one of the speakers at a session about writing for the C-Suite during PR News' Writing Boot Camp, Nov. 7 at New York's Yale Club. An edited version of the interview appears below. A discussion with Staub's co-presenter, Jenna Hilzenrath, VP of communications at Birchbox, ran on this site last week.
PR News: What’s the most important thing you consider when crafting content that will come from the C-Suite?
Andrea Staub: It is important that your company’s strategic messaging and story are interwoven into all the communications you send to the C-Suite, regardless if it's for the CEO, CFO or COO. Executives are driving the direction of the company. Offering a consistent and steady drum beat regarding the company’s priorities will help them guide and inform employees as to what they should be thinking about and doing in their own jobs.
We practice this at Perdue, which will be turning 100 shortly. All of our C-Suite messaging reinforces company values and the company's annual goals ladder back to those values.
PRN: The C-Suite usually demands clear, concise communications. What tips do you recommend to stay on course when sending a message to the C-Suite?
AS: Think like an executive. Consider what is important to the C-Suite and what is important to the business, and stick to the facts.
Don’t use jargon and get to the point quickly.
If you are sending an email to the C-Suite, make sure you use a subject line relevant to the communications and let them know if an action is required. For example, instead of "Press Release," you may want to write, "New Product Press Release, Please Review."
In addition, understand that your email may be forwarded. Avoid including anything in the message that you would not want others to read.
PRN: What's top of mind when you're writing something that will come from the C-Suite?
AS: When writing for the C-Suite it is important to know the audience that the message is addressing and engender the correct tone. Obviously it needs to sound like it came from the person whose name is on it, the CEO or the COO, for example. With other types of communications you generally have the autonomy to broaden your creativity. It might be a lighter more playful tone in social media or a more in-depth, thought-provoking tone when writing a longer form message, such as an op-ed or article.
PRN: What tactics do you advocate when sending written communications to the C-Suite in terms of length, language, inclusion of graphical elements etc?
AS: As we know, the C-Suite is busy. It relies on me and my team to help provide the right information at the right time and the right length. Its members don’t have the luxury to look through lengthy documents. When a lengthy document is necessary, I generally provide a one-page executive summary and the CliffsNotes of the pertinent information they need to know as back-up if they want additional details.
You also need to understand who in the C-Suite you are addressing. There are a lot of different personalities you maybe communicating with, so make sure the language and tone of your communications is appropriate to the person you are writing to.
As far as graphical treatments, I think that depends on what you are trying to communicate. If you are trying to communicate measurement from a campaign, graphs and charts can help illustrate your message. But if you are providing talking points on a topic or a speech, you most likely will rely on the written word.
Seth Arenstein is editor of PR News. Follow him: @skarenstein