The business writer's challenge

We prepared this guide in recognition of the fact that business audiences consume content differently online than in print. You will find this guide useful if you are preparing content for your own website, or for a downloadable PDF that's read on-screen, or for a dedicated digital publication (like this one).


These are the same guidelines Interop Systems uses if you ask us to prepare authoritative content on your behalf.

Most of us were taught to write business reports and papers by presenting the problem, exploring the issues, providing supporting data, offering possible solutions, then placing a logical conclusion at the end. That approach still works if you can count on your audience reading every word. Unfortunately, that's not what happens online. According to a study by Ion Interactive, 79% of people scan content rather than reading word for word. Clearly, a new approach is called for!

The challenge

In a noisy, competitive landscape, in which the average person won’t spend more than 37 seconds reading your article or paper if it doesn’t immediately draw them in, we recommend creating content that is:

  • Interactive
  • Consumable
  • Measurable.

First Steps

Before kicking off a project, you and your stakeholders (and external consultants) will want to be aligned on purpose and scope. Establishing this understanding includes asking, and collaborating to answer together, the following questions:

  • What are the top three objectives for the content piece (i.e., will it be used for education, product positioning, lead generation, customer engagement, thought leadership, or building influence)?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What are the top three takeaways you want your audience knowing and believing?
  • Is existing messaging around these takeaways already developed (if not, conduct an exercise to determine topline messaging)?
  • What resources are important to include? Is the writer responsible for conducting research? Will the project incorporate new/owned research and how will that fit in?
  • What does success look like? How will you determine ROI and measure success?
  • What is the story? Does it cover a fresh topic on which you have authority (if not, consider a new angle)?