Planning for Persuasion
The readers of formal proposals need to be convinced, as a salesperson convinces a customer. If you are to be a successful proposal writer, you must address your audience effectively and prevent any skepticism. Here are some guidelines for convincing your audience.
· Collect as many facts as you can to support your proposed plan.
· Be accurate. Plan to check your data. If your reader discovers a discrepancy, an exaggeration, or a mistake, you lose credibility.
A team of employees at Blue Vale Packing worked for two months on a sales proposal to a major national mail-order company. The proposal offered to supply all foam packaging materials for the business. Because this proposal could represent a major portion of Blue Vale’s business, the team worked diligently to develop and present the best plan possible. However, a serious problem arose that the team had not anticipated. Most sales proposals must be approved and signed by someone in an executive position in the organization. The team scheduled time for researching, prewriting, composing, and editing before the submission deadline. What they did not anticipate was that the president of Blue Vale was leaving on a four-week business trip ten days before the due date. Therefore, the president would not be available to approve or sign the proposal in time to meet the submission deadline.
What could the team do? Could they salvage the situation and meet the submission deadline? If so, how?
· Study your audience and the situation so you understand the reader’s point of view. Planning with an understanding of the reader allows you to write a more convincing proposal.
· Be realistic in your planning. Do not propose to do a job in two weeks to make a sale when you honestly believe the work will take a month. You may suffer the consequences later because your proposal becomes a legal document when it is accepted.
Planning for Integration
Another goal of prewriting the formal proposal is planning for integration. The entire document must come together as a logical whole. The description of the problem, for example, will affect how the reader views the effectiveness of the solution. When different writers are composing different sections, a primary writer or editor should plan and edit the entire report for consistency.
Planning for Graphics, Definitions, and Supplemental Materials
As you gather data, consider whether a graphic would help your audience understand the information. Then decide what type of graphic aid will most clearly depict the idea (for example, a pie graph, a diagram, or a bar graph).
Plan what terms you will use and whether your readers will need definitions for them. If the proposal needs definitions, decide whether you serve your audience better by placing the definitions in the report or in a glossary at the end of the report. If you need to provide only a few definitions, it may be easier for you to include definitions in the text. (Your reader will probably find that arrangement easier to use as well.) However, proposals that require numerous definitions should probably contain a glossary after the body of the report.
In addition to graphics and definitions, think about materials you might like your readers to have access to but do not want to include in the body of the proposal. Consider placing relevant but not essential materials in an appendix (material that you want readers to have access to but that is not a primary part of the proposal). For example, if you used the results of a questionnaire in your proposal, you may want to show interested readers how you gathered data by including the questionnaire as an appendix. You can read more about appendixes on page page 345.
Parts of Formal Proposals
The format of formal proposals is designed to aid the readers. Each formal proposal follows the same basic plan so that readers and writers know what to expect and where to find the information they seek. Remember, many expert readers review only one or two sections of a formal proposal.
The parts listed below make up the formal proposal. Those parts with an asterisk (*) are used in informal proposals as well.
|Letter or Memo of Transmittal||Body (or Discussion)*|
|Title Page||Conclusion (or Summary)*|
|Table of Contents||Glossary|
|List of Illustrations||Appendixes|
|Executive Summary (or Abstract)*||Works Cited|
Letter or Memo of Transmittal
The letter or memo of transmittal is similar to the cover letter that is mailed with a resume. It is an official greeting and an introduction of the document to the reader. Write a letter to accompany a proposal when you are addressing an external audience and a memo when you are addressing an internal audience. Key the letter or memo using acceptable formatting guidelines.
Because the message is usually good news for the audience, this letter or memo uses the direct strategy, as follows:
1. Begin with the purpose, the fact that you are submitting a proposal. Name the proposal topic and explain whether you are responding to an RFP, responding to a request, or initiating the proposal on your own.
2. Note areas of special interest to the reader.
3. Thank the audience for reviewing the proposal. You may offer to provide more information or answer questions.
The letter or memo of transmittal is usually written last, after the proposal.
The title page of a formal proposal, like a book cover, gives the reader important information about the document. In designing the title page, use white space to make the page attractive. Be clear, accurate, complete, and precise in composing the title page. Provide the following:
· A descriptive title of the proposal
· The name of the company or companies involved
· The names of the writers
· The date the proposal is being submitted
As part of the title page, some internal proposals have a routing list of readers who will review the document.
Note that a precise title such as Proposal to Develop a Policy Governing Substitute Staffing for Absentee Technicians in the Fiber Twist Area or Proposal to Purchase and Install the Evermorr Secure 3120 Security System in Glynndale Condominiums is useful because it gives readers more information than a vague title such as Proposal to Deal with Absent Workers or Proposal to Improve Security in Glynndale Condominiums.
Complete the Composing and Formatting a Title Page worksheet available at www.cengage.com/school/bcomm/techwtg. Click the link for Chapter 14; then click Data Files.
Table of Contents
The table of contents should be designed so that it is attractive, easy to read, and clear. The table of contents may appear alone on a page or on the same page with the list of illustrations, which appears at the bottom. The words Table of Contents in all capital letters should be boldfaced and centered at the top of the page. The list of contents should start at the left margin under the title and visually demonstrate relationships between ideas. Typically, section headings are flush with the left margin and subheadings are indented underneath.
Word processing software has features to aid in creating a formal proposal, such as a feature to create a table of contents and styles for each section of the proposal. If you are working on a group proposal, you can create a master document as the template for the proposal. Drafts can be circulated among the team members, with editorial changes and comments marked in the drafts.
Create a document with heading styles (or add headings to an existing document) and generate a table of contents. Explore different ways to format the table of contents.
Enter headings and subheadings on the left side of the page, pagination (the arrangement of page numbers) on the right side of the page, and leaders (periods) between each heading and its page number.
List of Illustrations Begin with the words List of Illustrations (using initial caps and bold-faced type) at the left margin under the last entry in the table of contents. Under the title, provide the label, number, and descriptive title of the graphic on the left and the page on which the illustration is located on the right.
Executive Summary (or Abstract)
Centered at the top of the page, key the words Executive Summary or Abstract (in all capital letters and boldfaced type). The executive summary is usually two to four paragraphs on a page by itself.
Write the executive summary after you finish the rest of the report. Keep the reader in mind while you compose it. This section, as the title Executive Summary implies, is designed with the administrator in mind. Busy executives want the story quickly and want only the essential information: the problem, the solution, and the benefits of the solution. Because these readers are concerned with the big picture, the overall health of the organization, they may not read the specific information in the body of the proposal, only the summary. However, proposal writers should plan the summary for all readers, not just executives.
Introduction, Body of Discussion, and Conclusion
In long reports (perhaps 20 pages or more), each major section heading may begin a new, separate part of the formal proposal. Each section starts on a new page with the heading name, such as Introduction, in all capital letters and boldfaced type centered at the top of the page. In shorter reports, the entire body may flow from one section to another without page breaks.
The Introduction The introduction is the framework that prepares readers for the body of the proposal. The introduction answers the questions what and why. No matter which subparts of the introduction you include in your document, clearly state for your readers the problem and a solution or alternative solutions. If you determine that the readers need background information, summarize the situation and the proposer’s qualifications. Include information about your company and personnel that will enhance the credibility of your proposal, such as the number of years in business, staff and equipment resources, previous clients, and success with similar projects. Because any reader may read the introductory material, remember to communicate in a way that administrators, managers, technical experts, and financial managers can understand. Introductions should be strong and clear, in which case people are likely to read them. In addition, by coming at the beginning of the proposal, introductions make an important first impression.
The Body of Discussion If the introduction sets the framework of ideas, the body of a formal proposal is the crux of the argument, the specifics of persuasion. In the body, you explain how the technical data prove that your idea (solution) will work. Describe methods for carrying out the project, specific tasks, time schedules, personnel, facilities, and equipment. You could include an organizational chart of people working on the project so the reader will know who is responsible for particular areas. In addition to outlining what you will do, these specific details convince the reader that your approach is best for the situation. The project’s budget should clearly show and perhaps justify the costs. The graphics you have planned should enhance the text of your proposal, not take the place of the text.
Furthermore, keep in mind that the body of the proposal is most often read by technical experts, who have the skills and ability to understand the detailed technical information. These readers expect precise, accurate, and up-to-date information.
The Conclusion Be concise and direct when you write the conclusion of your formal proposal. You have already provided the information to sway your audience to your point of view. This is not the time to add to a sales pitch—or any new information that belongs in the body of the proposal. Instead, summarize your most convincing points regarding the importance of the project and the benefits of the solution. Then suggest a course of action.
If you include a glossary, design it to be easy to read. In the text of the proposal, designate words appearing in the glossary using asterisks, italics, or another highlighting technique. Include a footnote or parenthetical note beside the first entry telling readers they can find definitions in the glossary.
Complete the Revising Glossary Entries worksheet available at www.cengage.com/school/bcomm/techwtg. Click the link for Chapter 14; then click Data Files.
At the top of the glossary page, center the title Glossary (in all capital letters and boldfaced type). Make the entry word—the word being defined—stand out by using boldface or columns. When using columns, place the entry words on the left and definitions on the right. Alphabetize all words, acronyms, and symbols, as dictionaries do.
Consider the needs of your readers when you choose the words to define and determine the extent of the definitions. Do not define words the audience already understands. At the same time, if several people will read your proposal, define a term even if you think that only one reader will need the definition. Avoid overly technical definitions (unless you are writing a highly technical proposal for an audience that is familiar with the vocabulary used in the proposal). Use language the readers will understand and consider including graphic aids if they will help readers understand the proposal.
If your proposal uses ideas or text from a source you need to credit, prepare works cited or documentation pages according to the guidelines of the style manual you are using. Consult the style manual your organization or the RFP requires and follow it precisely.
An appendix is material you want readers to have access to but that is not a primary part of the proposal. In the body of the proposal, where the topic an appendix supports is mentioned, refer readers to the appendix, as in “See Appendix C.” Each appendix is labeled with the word Appendix and given a letter or number and a descriptive title, similar to the system for identifying graphics. Put every document in a separate appendix.
Assigning page numbers for formal proposals works the same as pagination in books. Prefatory material , or material placed before the actual report begins, is numbered with lowercase Roman numerals. Prefatory material includes a letter or memo of transmittal, a title page, and a table of contents.
The first two pages, the letter or memo of transmittal and the title page, are not numbered. The table of contents, the third prefatory page, is numbered iii. The first page, which usually begins with the Executive Summary, is not numbered. Place an Arabic number 2 on the next page. (In other words, 2 is the first Arabic page number because the first page of the body is not numbered.) Number the rest of the document with Arabic numerals in sequence. Center page numbers at the bottom or in the upper right corner of the page.
STOP AND THINK
Who reads the executive summary, or abstract, of a formal proposal? Where should terms be defined in a formal proposal?
Figure 14.3 Formal Proposal
1. Proposals are persuasive documents that suggest a solution to a problem or a change.
2. Proposals are defined and categorized according to the audience and their needs: internal or external; informal or formal; solicited or unsolicited; sales, research, planning, or grant.
3. Proposals are in memo, letter, or manuscript format, the choice determined by the audience and the complexity of the proposal.
4. The introduction identifies the problem and offers a solution, along with any background information the audience might find helpful. The body uses facts, figures, statistics, graphics, and other evidence to convince readers to accept the solution or change. The conclusion restates key points and calls on the audience to take action.
5. Formal proposals contain many special parts that have unique formatting guidelines. These parts may include a letter or memo of transmittal, a title page, a table of contents, a list of illustrations, an executive summary (or abstract), an introduction, a body (or discussion), a conclusion (or summary), a glossary, appendixes, and a works cited section or bibliography.
· Have I identified the problem I want to see resolved?
· Have I analyzed my audience and then listed the audience’s needs?
· Have I brainstormed alternate solutions? Have I listed positives and negatives for each solution on my list?
· Have I thought about and listed my goals?
· Have I explained the problem clearly in the introduction?
· Does the body give readers enough information to make a decision?
· Have I provided enough evidence, such as facts, figures, and testimony?
· Does my conclusion contain the most important ideas from the proposal? Does it call for action from the readers?
· Have I made information easy to use with headings and subheadings?
· If I am writing a formal proposal, have I included all of the parts that are needed?
Build Your Foundation
1. Interview an employee about a particular problem as well as the solution for which he or she was responsible. Write a description of the problem, the methods the employee used to solve the problem, the effectiveness of the solution, and the employee’s (and employer’s) satisfaction with the work.
2. Use library research to learn more about a great problem solver or innovator (for example, Thomas Edison, Mother Theresa, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Jonas Salk). Find out as much as you can about the methods the person used in seeking solutions. Give an oral presentation of your findings to your class.
3. Interview a proposal writer to find out how his or her company uses formal proposals, who else in the writer’s organization writes proposals, and how successful the proposals have been. Ask what this writer thinks is essential in preparing an effective formal proposal.
4. Use the Internet, regional or state newspapers, or professional journals to search for requests for proposals.
a. Copy the RFPs and bring them to class for discussion.
b. From a careful reading of one RFP, identify the problem or need.
c. Identify the audience the proposal writer needs to address.
d. Brainstorm a list of ideas to include in the proposal’s introduction.
5. Prepare a list of glossary terms for the RFP you read in item 4. If the RFP has a glossary, evaluate it for completeness. Identify any terms the writer omitted that are unfamiliar to you. Research and define the terms.
6. Choose two problems for which you would consider proposing a solution. Write one or two paragraphs describing the problem and the decision maker (audience) for each problem.
7. For item 6, list possible solutions to each problem or need you identified.
8. Using a problem whose solution has already been implemented, recreate the thinking process that the proposal writers might have used by:
a. Developing a list of positive and negative aspects of the solution.
b. Creating a list showing how the solution meets the needs of the audience or solves the problem.
9. Read or listen to the international news for one week. Pick an issue and write a statement of the problem. Brainstorm at least four solutions and list the positives and negatives of the two most realistic solutions.
10. Critique a proposal from business or industry. Analyze how the writers met (or did not meet) the needs of the audience. Review the proposal’s formatting features. Determine its organizational patterns. Share the results of your critique orally or in an essay.
11. Have you heard the saying “Every problem used to be a solution”? Everyone involved in the U.S. health care debate acknowledges that the current employer-based insurance system has its problems. Research the origins of the current system and put yourself in the shoes of those decision makers from long ago. Use your imagination to list several alternatives they may have brainstormed. Then make a list of what you think they considered to be the positives and negatives of the system they eventually chose. Make sure you analyze the situation from the earlier point of view, when the current employer-based health insurance system was selected as the best choice.
12. Write a proposal convincing your parents or guardians to take you (or to allow you to go with friends) on the vacation of your dreams. Identify the problem, explain the solution, convince them of the reasonableness of your plan, and justify the cost by preparing a budget.
13. Imagine that you asked your parents or guardians for a car. They said, “Yes, but. …” Your responsibility will be to pay for insurance, gas, and maintenance if they buy this car for you. In an informal proposal:
a. Explain the type of car you want and why you want it.
b. Describe how you will pay for the car’s expenses if you do not have money and your parents or guardians do not want you to work more than ten hours a week, as would be required at a restaurant, grocery store, or department store. Identify your problem and consider alternative solutions. Be creative. Think of ways you can earn money other than by holding a regular job. List as many options as you can.
c. Write the solution you would propose to your parents or guardians.
14. With a group of classmates who share your interests, write a formal proposal to solve a specific problem. Identify a problem at school, at work, or in the community that must be dealt with by decision makers distant from you on the organizational ladder (for example, a superintendent, president, dean, or member of the board of trustees). Your proposal should require some research. Your internal formal proposal should include the following:
a. Transmittal letter or memorandum
b. Executive summary
d. Body, including sufficient details for an informed decision, timeline or schedule, appropriate visuals, and a budget if costs are involved
e. Conclusion, including a specific call to action
Here are examples of problems to solve.
|new or improved equipment||equipment or work space||sidewalks and bike paths|
|access to the computer lab||wages or department budget||zoning or use of land|
|snack bar||improved working conditions||street/traffic signs|
|new club or sport||sponsorship of team sports||access for people with disabilities to neighborhood stores|
|needed programs||insurance and benefits||street and park lighting|
15. Write an informal sales proposal to Karyn Grissom, owner of Mason Office Center. As owner of Green Thumb Planting, an indoor plant service, you are asking Ms. Grissom to become a new client. After visiting the office complex, you determine that the building could use 31 large and 14 medium-sized low-light plants. Your service provides plants and pots, weekly maintenance, and monthly replacement of sickly plants. If Ms. Grissom accepts your proposal, you can install the plantings within one week. For your service, she will pay a $350 installation fee and a $35 maintenance fee each month thereafter. Your proposal should persuade her to sign a service contract. Create and use any additional details or graphics you need to prepare an effective document.
16. Visit a nonprofit organization in your community to learn about the procedures and processes used there. Explain to your contact at the nonprofit that you are studying proposals for this class and ask if he or she can help you practice some of the prewriting steps for a proposal. Ask your contact to select an issue that he or she would like to apply for grant money to solve. Following the process that Chaya Sotelo used to prepare her proposal, starting on page page 336, do the following:
a. List the goals for the proposal (the things the organization would like to have happen as a result of getting the grant).
b. Brainstorm different ways to meet these goals.
c. Analyze each possible solution by listing its positives and negatives.
Offer to share your document with the organization and make sure you thank everyone with whom you worked for his or her time—while you are there and afterwards—by sending a written thank-you note.
17. Identify a local government agency whose work involves proposals. For example, your town or city government’s Public Works Department might publish RFPs or RFBs (requests for bids) seeking proposals or bids for pending construction projects. Or the Health Department might issue RFPs to select the best contractor for providing substance abuse counseling in the community. Ask for copies of RFPs and, if possible, interview the writer(s).
a. Write a brief narrative after your interview with the RFP writer(s) to explain to your instructor and classmates how the professional(s) develop RFPs. Explain who contributes information and how the final document is approved for publication.
b. Share the RFPs with your class. Use them to identify criteria requested by the issuing agency in the proposal. In other words, what factors does the agency want to see covered in the proposals to solve the problem or fill the need?
18. Schedule an appointment to meet with a professional grant writer, perhaps at school or at a local nonprofit organization. Ask for permission to review a recently funded or approved grant. Using the guidelines in this chapter, explain in a brief essay the factors that led to the grant’s success.
19. In teams of three to five class members, identify a local organization that could have a stronger presence on your campus. Perhaps a local ice cream shop could open a kiosk. Or a smoking cessation group might run a semester-long program. Develop a proposal addressed to the appropriate decision maker at your school in which you attempt to persuade him or her to approve your plan. Remember to analyze your audience carefully, considering any reservations or negative history he or she might have regarding the plan.