Words will drive every strategy; be (very) good at words

Alex Anderson
Matter of Perspective

Well, what does strategy even mean? Honestly, it’s just this vague term that pops up on LinkedIn, telling me literally nothing about a person’s qualifications. And yes, I’ve got “strategist” on my resume, so I’m feeling that pain as well.

There are business strategists, social media strategists, content strategists, M&A strategists, crypto (?) strategists—the list goes on and on, and only sometimes do responsibilities crossover.

But skillsets do. A good strategist should be able to identify problems and communicate to their team the most effective way to leverage the resources available. Talented strategists are able to leverage data, research and observation as fuel — and use those to come forth with a creative idea.

Words create ideas

One thing is for certain: words are important to strategy in any discipline.Across all industries, people are desperate to communicate more clearly. But we struggle with that goal. To communicate better, we need clearer ideas. And in order to have clearer ideas, we need to be able to grasp the initial idea ourselves and understand what makes up an idea in the first place. That’s a hard thing to do.

Strategy is sexy. Everyone wants to be strategic, but not many people can actually figure out strategy. Because not many people are good at words. Our world is jam-packed full of mediocrity, passion and false data that pulls the shade over our eyes and helps us to trust easily and quickly.

But you can be better at words, and as a result—better at communicating ideas.

Everyone should be a writer

Do you consider yourself a writer? Good with words? Able to construct sentences, thoughts, intricacies and emotions through a pencil or your MacBook Pro? Not many people do.

Many people assume that writing is an endeavor that’s reserved for the ‘creative’ people, like J.K. Rowling and Gambino. But that’s ridiculous.

If you’ve been privy to an education, then you’ve most likely been writing for awhile. And if you’ve been lucky enough to land a job that involves you communicating or articulating ideas, then you need to write—and write well. You need a grasp of language that empowers you to write with brevity and clarity, with imagination and creativity, without jargon and without confusion. And if that seems out of reach, you can practice.

Use small, quick words that rarely use jargon—but if you need industry jargon, use it wisely and specifically. To write successfully as a strategist, think hard about how your words are going to be received. Some tips as a beginner to writing:

  • Get to the point faster
  • Use active words rather than passive
  • Use short words rather than long ones
  • Don’t write the important content all at once
  • Clever isn’t always clear

Define your terminology

In the section above, I noted that a strategist should use small, quick words that rarely use jargon — but if you need industry jargon, to use it wisely and specifically. Because there will definitely be moments when jargon is needed and helpful.

But with industry jargon in use, project discussions can easily become confusing. The internal team, agencies, consultants and other stakeholders can waste plenty of time misunderstanding each other because you haven’t taken the time to clarify terms and definitions. At the beginning of projects, it’s important to make sure that your team is on the same page.

Here are ways to ensure success:

Start early. Most likely, you’ll start a project or discussion with a project brief, a statement of work, or a presentation. While those involved in initial discussions may arrive at shared definitions for jargon, other stakeholders involved later may not think the terms mean the same things.

Be vigilant. In stakeholder interviews and research, make sure that you stop and ask what they mean by particular terms. Avoid letting them use a term loosely without setting out to define it. And note each time a term is used differently by different people.

Work together. If you have the opportunity at the onset of the project, start out with some definitions you know to be problematic (defined differently) and define them as a group.