One of my favorite experiences in my corporate career was the opportunity to draft the letter for shareholders/stakeholders (LTS), however an organisation chooses to call it.
It was the first time I was directly “ghost writing” with a really big team – my colleague and I created the rough drafts; it was reviewed by our manager. Then, it went to our unit head, and finally to the CEO. It went to the CEO, of course, after it went through a check with marketing, legal, etc.
It was an exciting assignment as it brought a lot of the experience of journalism to the forefront. You don’t get a CEO’s time for initial drafts; so, we had to listen, listen, and listen whenever he spoke publicly. Our gold mine for content would always be the quarterly reports, and the CEO’s address to the company.
The organisation was going through an extremely challenging time, and I remember, as writers, we had to navigate our tone very carefully. We had to sound confident while stating the obvious: we were in challenging times.
Honestly, I’d worked on only one LTS in that organisation. However, in the next organisation, I had the opportunity to write it on my own (without such a large team of writers), and I wrote it for two consecutive years.
The difference in this LTS was the (1) the industry, and (2) the tone.
My appreciation for large organisations grew much deeper when I had to script something from scratch in the other organisation. With one experience, I found it had shaped me up to handle a lot.
Of course, the process of writing the LTS was the same in the other organisation. We had to get the LTS vetted by various stakeholders like marketing, the corporate secretary, investor relations, etc. and by the time the final draft came out, a lot had changed. Change in writing, especially when it comes to leaders and multiple internal departments vetting the content, can be challenging.
But the cherry on the cake came the next year, when the LTS was published with minimal changes from my first draft. As a writer, ghost writer, that is, I had a big grin inside as you feel supremely proud.
My pride stemmed from the fact that not only did I learn the tone of the organisation, but I also understood the various stakeholders and what they wanted to highlight in the letter.
What changed from the first letter to the second?
- Strong relationships with each stakeholder
After the first letter was done, I didn’t go back to my regular work, but asked for feedback, especially from the corporate secretary, who was with the organisation for an extremely long time – the feedback was invaluable
- Industry insights
I deep dived into what this particular industry was going through, its pain points, and more importantly got a sense of how we were different from competitors
- Voice of the Leader
Since my role was to take care of all communications from the CEO’s office, it helped that I had one year’s time to really understand what the CEO sounded like, and more importantly, his vision for the organisation and the industry
- Imbibed a sense of what was going on
Developing a sense of where the narrative was going helped sharpen my focus on what to highlight
In journalism, I was always taught that the biggest high is to see your byline. Honestly, in the corporate world, the biggest high, for me, has been to support leaders with great writing.
While I do love writing under my name, it’s a really different experience when it’s the LTS that you wrote that’s gone out to the entire company’s shareholders (with all the internal approvals, of course).
If anyone doesn’t read the entire Annual Report, they will most certainly read the CEO’s letter.
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