www.pursuitcomms.com What is an Executive Summary? For many people it is what it says on the tin — a summary of a much bigger document. Executive Summaries for Government reports for instance often have an opening paragraph followed by a lot of bullet points. They’re difﬁcult to read and are basically a rather turgid list of facts — almost an expanded contents page. For your purposes an Executive Summary is very different — it’s a selling document. Your chance to ‘wow’ the customer. Some companies teach Executive Summary writing as a formula. It isn’t. Each one should be tailored to the customer. Here are some of the top tips we think are crucial in writing a killer Executive Summary...
www.pursuitcomms.com THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE READER 01 Don’t leave writing the Executive Summary to the last minute. It takes a long time to reﬁne and get a version that’s an interesting read. You should know all the key messages that go into it from the early stages of a bid. It’s a good discipline to produce a ﬁrst draft as soon as the bare bones of your solution/response are agreed. By writing a ﬁrst draft early on you can give it to other people in the team who are writing the long–form documents to echo the key themes from the Executive Summary. That way all the key messages ﬂow through your submission like the words on a stick of rock. ACTION: Set yourself a timetable for drafting at RFP stage.
www.pursuitcomms.com PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR READERS’ SHOES 02 Remember, an Executive Summary isn’t just read by the team reviewing your submission. Other people in the organisation will read it too — very often including the board and senior executive team. It needs to resonate with them, to recognise their business challenges and make you feel like a company they could do business with. Research whom you are selling to, the way they talk and the way they present themselves. This way you’ll give your Exeutive Summary a personality and tone of voice that the customer readily identiﬁes with. ACTION: Research your customer’s communications and create a word palette.
www.pursuitcomms.com TAKE THE READER ON A JOURNEY 03 Before you put pen to paper, sketch out your message ﬂow on a sheet of A4/whiteboard. Then work out the headers for each section and add in the supporting proof points. You’ll ﬁnd it’ll soon start to write itself and will follow a logical narrative that tells a good story about why you should win the business. ACTION: Sketch out the message ﬂow on a single page.
www.pursuitcomms.com PEOPLE BUY WITH THEIR EYES 04 ”A picture is worth a thousand words.” Some people absorb pictures better than words and sometimes a picture can say a lot more than words. It’s not about slapping in a load of library shots, but it is about creating a cohesive look and feel. We’ve seen Executive Summaries with charts that have clearly come from different sources and not re–worked into the same format. It’s not a difﬁcult job to reformat them. Another example is a team picture. Instead of a load of mug shots of who will be working on their business, try to get a group shot of everyone. It demonstrates a cohesive team that clearly works together. Finally, think about the overall design. Make it look like your customer, not like you. They should feel at home the moment they open it — which is best achieved by ensuring that it complements (but not necessarily copies) their own branding. ACTION: Think visually and involve a graphic designer.
www.pursuitcomms.com USE WORDS AS IF THEY’RE GOLD 05 It’s easy to throw in the kitchen sink and write reams, but it’s disrespectful to your reader. Sometimes people do it as an insurance policy. If they lose, nobody can point the ﬁnger and say you forgot to mention it in the Executive Summary. You may be restricted to a certain number of pages anyway, but it’s a good discipline to keep to a ﬁxed number of words from the start. It makes you really focus on what are the essential things you need to get across and remove the wafﬂe. ACTION: Set a word count and keep to it.
www.pursuitcomms.com DON’T BUILD A CAMEL 06 Allegedly the camel is an animal that looks like it’s been designed by a committee. But it makes a good point. Decide on a small group to sign off and review the Executive Summary. People like to involve everyone because if they don’t win they can’t be accused of not involving everyone. The problem with this approach is that people always want to have their say and add something. Executive Summaries can easily get overloaded with too much information and the messages are lost. It’s also wise to keep one reviewer ‘fresh’ and only show them a draft that’s close to ﬁnal — that way you’ll get an objective view of what it’s like as a ﬁrst read. ACTION: Agree a small group who will review the document at the outset.
www.pursuitcomms.com GRAB THE READER BY THE THROAT 07 Too many Executive Summaries start with people telling the customer stuff they already know about their business, typically by reciting the brief back to them. This instantly bores the reader. The Executive Summary is your ‘elevator pitch’. You need to draw the reader in from the start. Start with something that’s going to grab them or intrigue them. It’ll set the tone for the whole document. ACTION: Kick off with something that will get the reader’s attention.
www.pursuitcomms.com DODGE BULLETS 08 Have you ever read a novel or a newspaper article with bullet points in them? No. Bullet points are a lazy way of listing things. Create a narrative that reads well. One that Attracts... Creates Desire... Builds Conﬁdence. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace. Just some nicely crafted paragraphs punctuated with pithy crossheads. ACTION: Avoid using bullet points whenever possible.
www.pursuitcomms.com KEEP IT SIMPLE 09 Don’t over complicate things. Avoid using too much technical language or terms if you can. Write it for the senior management/executive team who may know nothing about your bid and what you are selling. All they’ll be interested in is what it can do for their business — not what it does for yours. ACTION: Avoid jargon.
www.pursuitcomms.com IF YOU CAN’T WRITE, FIND SOMEONE WHO CAN 10 We can’t all do everything brilliantly. Not everyone can write well, so ﬁnd someone who can. It doesn’t stop you from planning the narrative and getting all the key messages in. You can then brief someone to make it read and ﬂow well. ACTION: Get someone who can write to polish the drafts if you can’t.