Academic to Business Communications: Making the Jump

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In academic writing, you offer a hypothesis, present all the facts in an objective manner, and then offer a conclusion. The objective is to get your thinking in front of other academics (people thinking about the same topic) who will then consider all of your facts and then either validate or challenge your hypothesis/conclusion. The goal is to demonstrate your knowledge while improving the quality of the collective knowledge and thinking on a selected topic.

In business writing, you offer a thesis about a business problem and provide a prescription for how to solve it that is supported by examples (case studies, etc.), followed by a call to action. So, rather than providing people with all the facts and inviting them to reach their own conclusions, you use your expertise to offer a point of view on specific pain points and then offer a very clear success path to solving them. The goal is to establish yourself as an expert so that when a business leader sees your article (or even better, reads your book) they say, “Huh, this person sounds like they could help, let’s get them on the phone.”

If you’re an executive who is going after your doctorate in a discipline, e.g. marketing, your challenge is going to be in presenting all the facts objectively because you have been programmed from your first job to sell everything, including your ideas.

If you are an academic who is consulting to the business world, you have the opposite problem in that you have to become comfortable claiming a clear opinion about what should be done to solve the client’s pain point and then make a strong case for that approach in your communications (writing and speaking).

Your biggest challenge, however, will be reminding yourself that the completeness academia prizes is actually the enemy of the clear and prescriptive communications your clients want and need from you.

Overlaying both of these perspectives is that if you have a foot in each world, you are busy. You might have plenty of ideas and even some time to scratch them down in a Google doc somewhere but you probably haven’t been able to get them into shape to publish. And that probably won’t change without some help from a developmental editor, who also offers some project management assistance.

A developmental editor helps you organize the content and the structure of your publication. The reason you want to look for the project management piece is that rarely, rarely is getting the book structured and actually written your only obstacle. What about the book proposal? Copy editing? Organizing and collecting content from contributors? And just generally looking out for you and making sure nothing falls through the cracks.

If you’re a business person struggling with academic writing, you need an editor who specializes in that type of writing and who can help you learn to communicate in this specific way. If you’re done with your doctoral studies, for example, and are ABD (all but dissertation) there are coaches who specialize in getting you over that mountain. (My colleague Gayle Scroggs is one of them.)

If you’re an academic who wants to write a trade book, you are looking for a developmental editor who has the ability and desire to read through and convert (with your help) the academic concepts into laser-focused, lean prose that can be easily consumed by your already information-overloaded clients. You also want someone who is obviously energized by this work, i.e., has done at least one of these books before and is coming back for more!

So, here’s my prescription: To get out of your holding pattern and increase your publishing velocity, find and engage someone you like who loves learning (that’s most of us) and can help with the heavy lifting. Then, watch what happens.

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