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Strategic Internal and External Communication Editing

The President of a cooperative business organization asked me to review communications about an organizational change to its membership and the local media. As the organization was a client, I was familiar with its operations. 

The first item is my e-mail message to the President, which explains what follows. All names and many other nouns have been changed to preserve the privacy of the individuals and the organization. 

Introduction to Letter and Press Release

Ben,

Your content and organization are excellent, so I haven’t suggested any rearranging. Many of my suggestions are based on making the reader (member) feel more involved and more a part of the process. Words like “we,” “you,” and “our” are inclusive. They’re good to use in corporate communications, and I think especially helpful for a cooperative. A few other suggestions are intended to make the letter more concise and simple. I also suggested strengthening the tone by replacing passive phrases with active ones (for example: “The Board discussed” instead of “There has been some discussion”).

For your convenience, I’ve marked individual suggestions in brackets in the body of your letter, and then followed that with an easier-to-read version with all my suggestions. I hope this helps.

I did the same thing with the press release, which is below the letter in this message. Although I suggested fewer changes for the press release, I think it will be more powerful and understandable with some of the information rearranged or removed as suggested. I added a brief allusion to the process improvement because I think it adds credibility.

Thanks,

John

Letter

John: This is a letter to go to our members.

October 15, 1999

Chris Widger

Widger’s Widgets, Inc.

13455 SW Brown’s Dr.

Agboro, CA 97123

Dear Chris:

Today, Widget Cooperative of California is announcing the opening of its membership, and [we] will begin actively seeking new members.

[move up to first paragraph (paragraph should be more than one sentence)] The reason that the Board has taken this action is that recent improvements in processing machinery and technology have increased the through-put [no hyphen needed] of the processing plants.  This has made additional capacity available, and in order to effectively utilize [split infinitive] that capacity, the cooperative needs to handle more volume.  [suggest: The Board is able to take this action because recent improvements in processing machinery and technology have increased the throughput capability of our processing plants. To maximize that additional capacity, the cooperative needs to handle more volume.]

This also represents an opportunity to continue the growth and profitability for the producers of this product [suggest changing “the producers of this product” to “you” or at least leaving out “of this product” – an alternative would be “to continue your growth and profitability”], and will enable WCC to grow with the customers and markets we have developed.  These expanding markets enable us to handle more tonnage and extend the benefit of higher profits to more producers.

With Brazil now producing nearly as many widgets as the entire world consumes, California has to market its product aggressively just to stay in front of the buyers.  We must supply the best, cleanest and freshest widgets at the right time and at a competitive world-price [remove hyphen].  It takes cooperation among producers who pool their resources in order to be successful in this global market environment.  Utilization of the improved capacity will reduce costs and allow us to better compete [split infinitive] in the competitive world markets. [suggest: Cooperation among producers who pool resources is necessary for success in this global market. Greater utilization of our improved capacity will reduce costs and allow us to compete more effectively in the competitive world markets.]

There has been some discussion of initiation fees, but a consensus of the Board felt that the fees would limit new producer interest. [suggest: The Board discussed initiation fees, but reached a consensus that fees would limit our ability to attract new members.] The Board [change “The Board” to “We”] felt that the advantage of reduced costs associated with [change “associated with” to “from”] increases in volume greatly outweighed the benefit of a limited increase in equity that such fees would bring.  Therefore, the Board [we] has decided to continue our policy of charging only the $10 application fee for new members.

Soon, you will see articles in local newspapers which [should be “that”] are intended to [will] alert producers of the membership opening [suggest: opportunity].  In addition, you should mention to [“tell” or “please tell” instead of “you should mention to”] your non-cooperative [consider: non-member] neighbors that WCC has an opportunity for them to be a part of the most successful widget processing and marketing company in California.

Best regards,

Jeff Ford

Chairman

Revised Body of Letter

Today, Widget Cooperative of California is announcing the opening of its membership, and we will begin actively seeking new members. The Board is able to take this action because recent improvements in processing machinery and technology have increased the throughput capability of our processing plants. To maximize that additional capacity, the cooperative needs to handle more volume.

This also represents an opportunity to continue the growth and profitability for you, and will enable WCC to grow with the customers and markets we have developed. These expanding markets enable us to handle more tonnage and extend the benefit of higher profits to more producers.

With Brazil now producing nearly as many widgets as the entire world consumes, California has to market its product aggressively just to stay in front of the buyers. We must supply the best, cleanest, and freshest widgets at the right time and at a competitive international price. Cooperation among producers who pool resources is necessary for success in this global market. Greater utilization of our improved capacity will reduce costs and allow us to compete more effectively in the competitive world markets.

The Board discussed initiation fees, but reached a consensus that fees would limit our ability to attract new members. We felt that the advantage of reduced costs from increases in volume greatly outweighed the benefit of a limited increase in equity that such fees would bring. Therefore, we decided to continue our policy of charging only the $10 application fee.

Soon, you will see articles in local newspapers that will alert producers of the membership opportunity. In addition, please tell your non-member neighbors that WCC has an opportunity for them to be a part of the most successful widget processing and marketing company in California.

Press Release

For Immediate Release:  October 15, 1999

Media contact:  Helen Trojan, Widget Cooperative of California, 123-488-4176

WCC OPENS MEMBERSHIP

Widget Cooperative of California (WCC), the largest and most successful processor/marketer [processor and marketer] of California widgets, has opened its cooperative membership to prospective members. [add: for the first time since 1994.] [suggest adding: WCC now has the capacity to process more widgets and the ability to get them to market quickly. – or add it below] [grammatically, a paragraph should be more than one sentence, however the technique of one explanatory sentence can be effective in press releases]

“This represents an opportunity to continue the growth and profitability for the producers of this product,” [suggest “This represents an opportunity for continued growth and profitability for widget producers”] says WCC’s Chairman, Jeff Ford, “and will enable WCC to grow with the customers and markets we have developed.  These expanding markets enable us to handle more tonnage and extend the benefit of higher profits to more producers. [suggest “share the benefit of higher profits with more producers]

Chairman Ford continues, [intro unnecessary] “With Brazil now producing nearly as many widgets as the entire world consumes, California has to market its product aggressively just to stay in front of the buyers.  We must supply the best, cleanest[,] and freshest widgets at the right time and at a competitive price.  It takes cooperation among producers who pool their resources in order to be successful in this competitive global market environment. [suggest: Cooperation among producers who pool resources is necessary for success in this global market.]  That’s why we decided to open our membership and consider applications from all California widget producers.”

Paul Sasaki, the cooperative’s treasurer[,] says, “We have a long history of returning to our members a price [suggest: “getting a price for our members” – it sounds less like jargon) that is typically 6 to 8 cents above the industry-average field price [suggest: “above the industry average.”]  For a 100 acre [100-acre] producer who has been a member over the 15 years the cooperative has been in operation, that amounts to about $300,000.  That’s extra profit to the business, over and above the field price.” [suggest: “that amounts to about $300,000 extra profit.”]

Sasaki adds, “Since it’s [its] inception in 1984, The Cooperative [the cooperative] has pursued a mission of investing in marketing, machinery, technology[,] and people.  The funding of the [delete “the”] capital investments have [has] come from a retained portion of the annual profits generated by the company [WCC], not from the pockets of the producers.” [“not from the pockets of the producers” is redundant]

A producer’s initial investment when joining the cooperative is a $10 application fee. [suggest: A producer only has to pay a $10 application fee to join the cooperative.] Then, members are paid the industry price for their products over the course of the marketing year. [“marketing year” is jargon that I don’t think will be understood by the media. I’m also not sure the next sentence is necessary for a press release; you might be over-explaining the process. As the fourth paragraph demonstrates that producers will get a better return through WCC than they will get on their own, I suggest leaving out this paragraph. Interested producers will want a more detailed explanation of the mechanics of their return than can or should be provided in a press release. Instead, move the first sentence in this paragraph to the first paragraph.]  Some of the profits from the product are retained for a time by the Cooperative [cooperative] to provide investment and working capital.  Historically, the retained portion of the profits has been 3 cents per pound, which has been repaid to the members after five-years. [five years, no hyphen]

Chairman Ford says, “We welcome all widget producers who want to work together to effectively market their product, own the business, and share in the profits made by it.” [suggest moving up]

Widget Cooperative of California, located in Stockton, California, is the largest handler of California widgets and markets approximately one third of total US produced widgets.  The Cooperative’s membership rolls have been closed since 1994. [delete sentence, move to first paragraph- key clarifying point of newsworthiness as opposed to part of description of who you are]

Revised Press Release

For Immediate Release: October 15, 1999

Media contact:  Helen Trojan, Widget Cooperative of California, 123-488-4176

WCC OPENS MEMBERSHIP

Widget Cooperative of California (WCC), the largest and most successful processor and marketer of California widgets, has opened its cooperative membership to prospective members for the first time since 1994. A producer only has to pay a $10 application fee to join the cooperative. WCC’s Chairman, Jeff Ford, says, “We welcome all widget producers who want to work together to effectively market their product, own the business, and share in the profits made by it.”

“This represents an opportunity for continued growth and profitability for widget producers,” says Ford,” and it will enable WCC to grow with the customers and markets we have developed. These expanding markets enable us to handle more tonnage and share the benefit of higher profits with more producers.

“With Brazil now producing nearly as many widgets as the entire world consumes, California has to market its product aggressively just to stay in front of the buyers. We must supply the best, cleanest, and freshest widgets at the right time and at a competitive price. Cooperation among producers who pool resources is necessary for success in this global market. That’s why we decided to open our membership and consider applications from all California widget producers. Additionally, WCC now has the capacity to process more widgets and the ability to get them to market quicker.”

Paul Sasaki, the cooperative’s treasurer, says, “We have a long history of getting a price for our members that is typically 6 to 8 cents above the industry average. For a 100-acre producer who has been a member over the 15 years the cooperative has been in operation, that amounts to about $300,000 extra profit.”

Sasaki adds, “Since its inception in 1984, the cooperative has pursued a mission of investing in marketing, machinery, technology, and people. The funding of capital investments has come from a retained portion of the annual profits generated by WCC.”

Widget Cooperative of California, located in Stockton, California, is the largest handler of California widgets and markets approximately one third of total U.S. produced widgets.

 

 

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