Tips for Sound Business Writing
Never write a story directly from a press release. This is a bad idea for any type of story, but some reporters are tempted to take economic reports or corporate reports at face value because of the often complex financial information presented. Always call a variety of knowledgeable sources, such as economists, analysts and experts to help you determine the story behind the press release.
Make the numbers come alive. By putting numbers into everyday terms, you can make a story much more relevant and interesting to your readers. For example, instead of saying, "building the dam will take 288,000 man-hours," say "building the dam will result in 150 new jobs that will last for at least one year."
Look for the human angle. Again, don't just talk numbers or policy in your story. Look for the people who are most affected by a company and its actions or by government policy, and tell the story from their point of view. For example, if milk production is slowed because of rising feed costs, then interview a mother who is having trouble finding milk for her kids at the grocery store.
Find out who is behind a product study. Always look at who conducted and paid for a product study. Not all studies are purely scientific. Even if scientists or other experts have conducted the study, find out whether the laboratory is independent of the company whose product is being tested. Some companies have their own laboratories, or they will hire a lab to conduct a study as part of public relations campaign for their product. Be sure to talk with other labs or experts who may have a different opinion from the one expressed in the study.
Get to know the people behind the company. Don't forget to interview and report on the corporate officers of a company. Look at their backgrounds. How experienced are they in this field? Have they been successful at other ventures? Talk to people who have worked with them in the past. Try to get a feel for how they operate on a personal level.
Know your audience. Depending on the publication for which you are writing, you may need to provide in-depth information about specific businesses or government policies that relate to these businesses. Know which topics your readers care most about. Don't be afraid to ask elementary questions during an interview, and never walk away unable to explain something in terms your readers will understand.
Develop a list of terms and their definitions. Whenever you run into an unfamiliar business term, research its definition and add it to your list of terms and definitions. You can always refer to the list and be consistent in how you define a term for your readers.
Keep your own files on the businesses you cover. Keep files on specific businesses so you have your own library for future stories, background information on companies, and biographical data on corporate executives.