Business memos call to mind a black-and-white movie. In this movie, there’s something critical happening at the town’s main employer, the factory. The boss (always a man) calls his secretary (always a woman) into his office and dictates a memo for her to type up. It’s something super important that needs to be shared immediately with the whole company — but not in a company meeting because people need to think about the ramifications of this announcement on their own. Perhaps the governor is coming to visit. Or maybe the plant is at risk of closing, so everyone needs to band together to prevent the closure. Sounds familiar, right?
Business memos may seem like a relic from the past. Memos were one of the only ways to communicate with a whole company before email, the Internet, and social media. Now there seems to be no end to business communication options, including texting, chat, video conferences, and more. Does the business memo still have a place in today’s business world?
What’s a business memo good for?
The answer is “yes” — business memos are still relevant today. You’ll need to share important business information when:
- Setting a course
- Stating a change
- Bringing attention to an issue
- Supporting an initiative
- Calling for action
These are all solid reasons to communicate, and a memo is a more formal communication about important topics. Memos typically focus on only one topic, to drive the point home. A memo may reference a report or other document, but the memo itself is brief. There are business memo templates available in most programs and online. Like this one…
Are you writing memos, following the traditional format, and finding they’re being ignored? Shame on your readers! Or is some of the blame on you, too?
Business memo best practices
People could be ignoring your memos because they’re too long or boring or because the importance of the information is unclear. Are you following the best practices of business memo development and distribution? These include:
- Write to the right audience.
Are you targeting an audience of one or many? Make sure your tone is appropriate for the target audience and the topic. You don’t need to be overly serious when announcing the date of the holiday party, after all.
- Keep it short and sweet.
Remember: A business memo is not a report! A memo is intended to be a short communication that can reference a longer document if needed.
- Proofread, edit, and ask someone you trust to review it.
Memos are business communications that are likely saved and referenced in the future, so be sure everything is correct. Readers give you credibility until you lose it with mistakes — then they begin to question everything you’ve written.
- Take a step back and read it as the recipient.
This is a difficult step because you’re close to the topic but think critically. Does it make sense? What questions do you have after reading it? Revise your business memo to address those questions if you can.
- Distribute the business memo with care.
Think about how the memo will be shared. Via email? Printed and placed on desks? Posted online and shared via a link? However it will be shared, make sure recipients know it’s critical information they must review and are responsible for knowing.
If you’ve tried all of those and your memos still aren’t gaining traction, maybe it’s time for a change. Moving to something more modern, if you will. A 21st-century memo.
A very modern memo
When you start thinking about business communication beyond the traditional memo format, you realize you see memos everywhere (better than seeing dead people, right?). Memos have grown beyond the traditional uses, too. Business memos used to be for internal audiences only, though the information they contained was not secret. Now, with the age of the customer in full effect, it’s important for organizations to communicate with audiences both internally and externally.
Did you see this Tweet?
At first glance, it’s an apology for an incident in a store. When you look closer, it’s also setting a course for change and calling for action. The “incident” referenced led to an afternoon shutdown of thousands of Starbucks locations for employee training. It was a clear directive from management, and it qualifies as a modern business memo.
The modern memo is much like a social post, which captures a moment in time. Those moments can be fleeting, in part because so much social content is generated on a daily basis. The challenge is to find a way to collect and maintain those directives.
Keep it together
In the black-and-white-movie days and the recent past, memos and other important business communications were gathered in binders or other filing systems and preserved for future reference. Whether every person, department, or office had a copy, you could look at a physical piece of paper when you had a question or wanted to note specifics in another document.
The Internet has changed the way hard copies are used in organizations. Many orgs eliminated paper versions of documentation in favor of soft copies — saving natural resources and space on desks and bookshelves. That means it’s also more challenging to preserve formal communications. Different methods of storage are used, from an Intranet to shared cloud storage. Organizations could even set up social handles (likely private ones) to manage and store those communications.
What organizations really need is an easy way to upload memos, share them with specific groups of people, and make them searchable. Each of the online solutions mentioned above includes some of those elements, but they don’t complete the picture. Searchability is really key to a functional solution since people aren’t flipping through a binder anymore.
It makes sense that a software tool would be the solution to ensure modern business memos are accessible. It should be a tool that is cloud-based, more functional than just a data repository, and easy to use. Collaborative work management (CWM) tools like Wrike fit the bill.
With Wrike, memos and other forms of communication can be uploaded or linked, shared, and archived for future reference. Any user, not just the people it was shared with initially, can find information by searching for it. And since those memos are stored in the cloud, everyone can see updates in real time. That means knowledge transfer can happen more quickly and easily for training, and all employees can be on the same page as to business direction or policy changes (among other topics).
To the future!
We’re well past the days of black-and-white movies, but many things that were useful then are still useful now. That includes business memos — just in a more modern format. What tips and tricks do you have for writing memos, sharing memos, and preserving memos for posterity? Let us know below!
Sign up for a free 14-day trial of Wrike and see how easy it is to create, share, and curate memos.