A female CEO standing at her desk with a computer screen
A female CEO standing at her desk with a computer screen

How to Write for CEOs

Paul Kiernan

 Perhaps you’re a CEO thinking, I need to get better at this writing thing. We offer concise ideas about how to write for a CEO to get you started.

In the corporate world, the CEO is still a bit of a mystery. Hollywood has created an image of the all-powerful, cloistered CEO in the giant corner office, glass walls with epically amazing views of all they command. They are indomitable, unreachable, and understand business machinations like no one else. All hail the CEO.

About a third of that is accurate, and mostly the part about the office. CEOs get to where they are by being intelligent, driven, aware, and courageous. Despite all those laudable qualities, they are still people, and to keep their positions and swanky office, they may need to write stuff for their company or the public at large from time to time. Sadly, most CEOs are not wordsmiths; their writing can leave something to be desired.

Michael Skapinker recently wrote in the Financial Times, "corporate writing stinks, and the CEO is to blame." This may be true; however, with all that a CEO running a major corporation or even one helming a start-up has to do, is writing better something they need to focus on?

The answer is no. One of the things that makes a CEO great is understanding they cannot do everything themselves and hiring people to do the job better than they can. This applies to writing. A CEO doesn't need to write well because they can delegate that job to someone who does it better.

If this is appealing to you and you think maybe I could make a living writing for CEOs, bravo, that's a great idea. Or, perhaps you're a CEO thinking, I need to get better at this writing thing. We offer concise ideas about how to write for a CEO to get you started.

How and what

Most CEOs have something to say that those in the business want to hear. So, when writing for a CEO, ensure you're writing about valuable information. Writing for a CEO is unlike a social media post; you cannot write about their avocado toast. Their thoughts and ideas are valuable, so write clearly about them in language that doesn't alienate anyone and keep things brief.

Soul of wit

An extreme close up of a woman's eye

What is the soul of wit? Why brevity, of course. Keep it short and tight. Say what you need to say and get out. Like a good performance, writing for a CEO should always leave them wanting more.

Read it out loud

Before you smash that publish key, read your work out loud. Does it get to the point? Is it clear? Does it give enough information to whet the appetite? Does it sound right written as it is? Will it sound right, even if it’s read by someone else? If you’re reading your work out loud and have to do some vocal gymnastics to get your meaning through, that’s not going to cut it. It should make sense without a lexicon on how to pronounce words or what your punctuation means.

Write with balls

By this, we mean to have a view, an opinion and stand firm with it. Don't write a wishy-washy, well, maybe, if sometimes, this could … bleh. I’m reaching for my gun. Have an opinion, back it up, and write with backbone and strength about it.

Don’t wear a mask

If you’re writing for a CEO, don’t wear a mask of corporate speak and dress your words up in Armani suits you never wear. Your voice is needed. Again, CEOs are people and don’t always talk numbers, stats, and stocks. They have humor, odd views, likes, and dislikes. So, the more you allow your voice to come through, the more human the work will sound. Do not put on a persona.

Who is reading this

You’re not writing for the ether; there is an audience with ears, eyes, and opinions. Make sure you know who they are. If your CEO is writing to those outside the business, then you’re not going to get anywhere by filling a post with biz jargon, inside ideas, and humor. Acronyms, too, will suck to a specific audience. Don’t alienate, unite and accumulate readers.

Everybody gets one

A wooden artist's model hand with the index finger up

Here’s some simple math; one post = one idea. Especially with thought pieces, pick one topic, argument, or concept and stay with it. Do not offer a plethora of stuff in one post; you’ll lose your focus, and it won't be very meaningful.

Get it out now

Truth is, nothing is perfect. If you’re writing for a CEO and under a time crunch, chuck perfect and shoot for good; it’s done. Perfection can tie you in knots, and suddenly, that by Friday deadline is months in the rearview, and you’re still editing for perfection. Write it, edit it once, and get it in front of eyes. Simple.

Bring it to ThoughtLab

Reality dictates that CEOs do not have a ton of time on their hands, so even this brief how-to may be too much. If you’re a CEO and require precise, tight, active, well-written work, bring yourself to ThoughtLab. We have copywriters who are experts in writing in multiple voices and genres. We can get your word to a place where they will have the most impact and last effect.

Bring your ideas to ThoughtLab for a free consultation and let our writers put them perfectly on the page. Contact ThoughtLab today.