Does Your Copywriter Have To Be A Know-it-all?

"How comfortable are you writing about.....?" "Do you have content development experience in ....?"

"What have you done in the xyz industry?

I receive some variation of that question from prospective clients nearly every week. While I have significant experience in certain areas, I am more of a generalist, able to create effective copy in just about any industry. There's no question that there are specific disciplines that require focused experience and a depth of knowledge. However most copywriters can do a solid job creating solid content in any long as they follow the basic ABC's of copywriting.

A - Audience

Know your audience. For whom is the message intended? What's in it for them? The writer needs the answer to this first basic question before beginning any writing assignment. Once the target audience is established, the next step is defining the goal of the piece. Is it to entertain? Inform? Educate? Excite? The answers to these questions apply to every industry and every piece of content. Having a clear understanding of the goal and the audience are the first steps to creating any effective content.

B - Background

Here is where experience comes into play. Yes if a writer has done a good deal of work in a particular industry - as I have in business management, logistics, graphic arts, supply chain, quality, HR - there is clearly an advantage. However not having experience in a particular sector does not prevent a writer from producing quality content. A diligent researcher and interviewer with a healthy curiosity can get up to speed in any number of industries very quickly. Remember, it's more important to have the right questions than to have all the answers.

One of my prospective clients rightfully expressed concern about my lack of experience in a particular industry. Her main fear was that the engineers that I would be dealing with expected a deep understanding of the subject matter. That's a valid concern if the industry and the target audience are both highly technical. However in many cases, the fact that the writer is not deeply embedded in a particular discipline can actually be an advantage. Someone crafting a piece involving a technical subject for an audience that is not technical may find new ways to explain and describe the subject matter. This fresh approach could actually give the piece more life and make it more effective.

C - Clear, concise, compelling

Okay so that's three C's but they all fit, especially when it comes to writing. Regardless of the industry, all content must be well written. The writer needs to express industry terms and concepts in clear, concise and compelling language. The writer's ability to interest, explain and persuade hinges on his or her writing skill. And with a good writer, that skill will shine through regardless of the subject matter and will ultimately translate into effective content.

What do you think? Expertise or Experience?

Content is Still King: 5 SEO Experts Speak

In 1992, James Carville, a key advisor to presidential candidate Bill Clinton, came up with a memorable slogan for the campaign: It’s the economy, stupid. As the battle rages over how best to incorporate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) into website copywriting, more and more SEO experts are returning to a basic idea that can be similarly summed up: It’s the content, stupid.

The “stupid,” is probably harsh, but there is no doubt that the SEO discussion is shifting from a focus on “technology” to an emphasis on “content.”

Here is what five SEO experts have to say on the subject.

Paul Boag (@boagworld) co-founder of Headscape from his Smashing Magazine article,  “The Inconvenient Truth about SEO.”

- “We shouldn’t be optimizing for search engines at all. We should be optimizing content for people.”

- “Your primary objective should be better content, not higher rankings.”

- “In short, write useful content.”

He suggests you do this through white papers, blogs, research findings, case studies, user generated content and interviews among other things.

Gisele Navarro Mendez (@giselenmendez), Upstream Connections’ Social Community Manager in her In Social We Trust post  “The SEO Way of Thinking Needs to Go.”

- “Instead of building links, try building relationships.”

- “People don’t care about SERPs or the way Google works. They will click on the links they want, but if you have failed at delivering good content /products /services /support, they will leave your site and never look back.”

- “People will find your site if there’s a network of happy customers supporting your business.”

Jonathan Gebauer (@jobebauer), founder Explore B2B in B2B’s article, “Debunking SEO: Jonathan Gebauer.”

- “Good SEO is natural SEO.”

- “Provide strong, engaging content that people are interested to read.”

- “Focus on being an entertaining and reliable content provider.”

Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone), VP of Strategy at Overit in B2B’s article  “Debunking SEO: Lisa Barone”

- “Shift away from creating ‘unique content’ to ‘purposeful content.”

- “Content has always had the crown, but now it’s got the respect to go with it.”

- “Focus on the right party – customers, not the search engines.”

Melissa Fach (@SEOAware), CEO of SEO Aware and Managing Editor of Search Engine Journal in B2B’s article “Debunking SEO: Melissa Fach.”

“You cannot be successful without content and SEO combined. I know there are those that get a site at the top of page one with crappy content, but they have nothing in place for conversion and/or maintaining a solid audience. So even if you get to #1, without the right content, you fail anyway.”

What do you think? Technology or Content? How best to reach your prospect base?


7 Traits of a Valuable Freelance Copywriter

You’ve decided to hire a freelance copywriter. There are many reasons you’ve come to that decision:

  • Your internal staff is swamped.
  • You lack an in-house resource with experience on the topic.
  • You're simply looking for a fresh voice and perspective.

What should you consider as you seek the person that is going to solve your problem quickly and effectively?

Here are seven key traits to look for as you conduct your search:

1. Writing Skill – This one seems obvious but you’d be surprised at the wide variety of writing skills that are out there. The person you hire needs to deliver compelling, consistent, and coherent copy that hits the mark with limited intervention from you.

2. Reliability and Dependability – Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is showing up.  No matter how good your writer is, if the copy isn't delivered on time, it's not going to be worth much to you. The person you hire will be a crucial member of your team. You have to be able to rely on him or her to be there when needed.

3. Flexibility – Your writer needs to be able to roll with the punches that inevitably come in the dynamic day to day business environment. That could take the form of last minute scheduling changes or requests for edits in the copy. You have enough problems without fighting your writer on changes you want to make or on deadlines that may shift.

4. Versatility – You likely have various writing needs ranging from editorial to technical to promotional. One writer may not have the background or experience to handle all of your requirements, but the more projects one writer can handle the easier your life will be. Once you develop a solid relationship, you'll be much more productive using that writer for as many of your needs as possible.

5. Strategic Thinking – You should be looking for more than a writer. You need someone with a broad business background who can understand the underlying issues you face and can offer ideas on how best to address them in your copy. You want someone with whom you can discuss ideas and concepts and who can help you develop the appropriate strategy to achieve the goals of each piece.

6. Natural Curiosity – Your writer should be genuinely interested in learning more about your business, product, and the project at hand without having to be led every step of the way. This trait becomes even more crucial if the project requires research or interviewing of an SME.

7. The Ability to Get “It” – You want a writer who is a quick study, knows who the target audience is, understands the goal for each piece, and delivers copy in the style and tone you require. And someone who can get it to you quickly without much hand holding on your part.

Do the copywriters you've been using match up?  What traits do you value most?