In the world of literature, the hero’s journey refers to the common story template of a hero who goes on a quest or adventure to overcome challenges and emerges both victorious and transformed for the better.
Today, we’re going to talk about how writers at professional organizations can go on their own hero’s journey. Admittedly, saving the day from bad writing isn’t necessarily as exciting or dramatic as facing monsters or other adversaries. It can, however, be much more impactful to an organization’s fortunes than you might imagine. It’s estimated that American businesses spend 6% of total wages on time wasted attempting to get meaning out of poorly written material. Worse, organizations can lose sales, time, and reputation from bad writing. In extreme cases, bad writing can even directly lead to disaster.
Here's how to go on the writing hero’s journey at your organization. Tackling this journey can still potentially save the day at organizations that need their written materials to perform better.
Start by becoming aware of the problem.
In the beginning, our hero may start out unaware that there’s a problem, as writing problems can be extremely difficult to recognize and diagnose, often because the consequences could be due to many different causes. For example, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a Presidential Commission investing the incident took months to determine the underlying causes. Only then did it become clear that communication failures, including in written materials, played a pivotal role. Ultimately, heroes can start their journey only once it’s clear there’s a problem in the first place.
Get to the bottom of the problem.
Just because our heroes know there’s a problem doesn’t necessarily mean they understand it. We’ve written about this before: writing problems aren’t always clear-cut and can be due to issues with people (such as inadequate writing skills development), process (broken workflows), or strategy (producing the wrong kind of content for the intended goal).
Remember that heroes rarely complete their journeys on their own: they always have helpers on the long road to success. Uncovering the root of the writing problems at your organization can take dedicated expertise, so it’s probably worthwhile to get input from outside consultants to accurately identify what’s going on.
Figure out the best solution.
Once the problem is understood, it’s time for the hero to start the hard work of solving it. Just as writing problems can take many different forms, potential solutions can vary tremendously as well. The marketplace abounds with services and tools that claim – some more accurately than others – to be able to solve the problem. That can make choosing a solution a problem in its own right.
Complicating matters, some solutions will work in certain situations … but not in others. For example, a proofreading tool like Grammarly can actually be helpful for certain kinds of problems or certain kinds of writing, but it cannot substitute for outright bad writing nor will it fix process or strategy problems.
Here the hero has to do the unsung but crucial work of due diligence. If you got outside help during the “problem awareness” stage from a trusted partner, they’ll likely be able to help here too. Just ensure their expertise aligns with your team’s needs. For instance, an academic review of your writing may identify grammar lapses but will be less than helpful in facilitating goal-driven writing that achieves specific professional outcomes.
Arm your team with the right weapons to conquer their writing problems.
Our hero may be able to apply some solutions to writing woes without assistance, but often it’s going to mandate investment in a writing tool or service. For example, if it has become clear that managers are spending too much time reviewing (or worse, rewriting) poorly written content produced by their teams, investing in professional writing training and writing skills development will pay dividends. But who will you hire to offer those training services?
As with searching for solutions, identifying the right vendor itself can be tricky territory. For example:
- Does your team need a tool they can use every time they write? A consultant to help solve strategic or process-related problems? An educator to provide training and skills development? Or something else altogether?
- When researching training, which vendors offer the right formats to meet your needs (workshop, virtual training, online course, boot camp, seminar, personal coaching)?
- Does the vendor focus on the right kind of training? Academic, scientific, technical, and business writing are all different, targeting entirely different audiences and requiring different skillsets.
Bring it all home.
In the final stage of the writing hero’s journey, all the pieces start falling into place. There’s nothing so satisfying as identifying a problem or areas of opportunity and then making it better.
In business terms, this can pay off in big ways. Aside from writers being happier and the writing process causing less friction, solving writing-related problems can generate measurable bottom-line returns. For example, we can quantify the ROI of more skilled writers working faster and making more sales. And it’s all because a hero took the time and effort to solve the problem.
For a stalwart and powerful companion on the writing hero’s journey, contact Hurley Write for a no-obligation consultation about your team’s writing situation today.