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Variety is the Spice of Life - Especially When It Comes to Copywriting

Variety is the Spice of Life - Especially When It Comes to Copywriting

When you're evaluating contractors to take care of several projects around your house, do you look for different people who each specialize in one aspect of construction? Or do you want someone who has a broad range of skills and knowledge and can take care of all your needs? It might depend on the project or the timeframe or the cost. But there are certainly pro's and con's for each path.

Mining Content Gold: Getting the Most Out of Your Subject Matter Experts

The used printing press we purchased had just been delivered and sat forlornly in the middle of our shop floor. Fred Hudson, our plant engineer, just stared at it, one hand on his hip, the other rubbing his bald head. The riggers who shipped the press deployed a unique method when disassembling the machine. Instead of properly disconnecting the wiring, they simply hacked all the wires off at the power source. So as Fred examined the carnage of tangled wiring, he was trying to figure out how to make all the proper connections. And of course no wiring diagrams or user manuals came with the old, used machine.

Luckily for us, Fred was a genius. He walked around the press for a few days and then pounced. Within a day, he connected all the wires and power was surging through our now running printing press.

Electronics wasn't the only thing in which Fred was expert. He knew everything about mechanical equipment, building construction, auto mechanics, HVAC, and safety. He was our resident subject matter expert (SME).

Regardless of your type of business  - technology, software, analytics, marketing, healthcare, manufacturing - chances are you have a Fred or two on staff. They are often quiet, unassuming women and men who harbor a vast source of knowledge of your industry and company. That makes them an invaluable resource when it comes to creating content to help market your business. Whether you need a white paper, eBook, case study, blog post, or sell sheet, your SME's can provide the knowledge and insight to make your content pieces relevant and compelling.

Here are four ways to get the most out of your SME's when it comes to content creation.

Tap into their passion

Regardless of how quiet and reserved your SME's may be, they will open up if you can get them talking about something in the business they are passionate about. They carry around a ton of knowledge they rarely get a chance to share. Showing genuine interest and tapping into that passion often results in a treasure trove of valuable and compelling information that will interest your customers and prospects.

Be thorough in your interview

To get really good information from your SME's, be fully prepared for your discussion. Ask open ended questions and listen closely. Follow up and probe to get them to dig deeper. If the subject is particularly complicated, try to strip away the jargon and get them to explain in plan English. Oftentimes, SME's are so well versed in a topic, they forget that we mere mortals may not have any idea what they are talking about. Fred used to start most discussions with "As you know..." before going on to talk about something about which I was totally clueless. Don't be embarrassed to say "I don't understand. Can you please explain?" Have your SME use analogies to further clarify the subject to make it easier to convert your conversation into meaningful content.

Record the discussion

Before you begin, ask for permission to record the conversation. Even if you are master at shorthand - something very few people are these days - you'll never capture all the content gold your SME will share. They may be intimidated at first, but once you get them talking they will usually forget they are being recorded. Having a digital record of the conversation will be invaluable later when you parse the discussion into various pieces of content.

Keep them in the loop

As you convert their words of wisdom into blog posts, ebooks, or white papers, make sure you keep them involved. Let them review anything you write before publishing. This will not only reinforce that you appreciate what they had to say, it will also ensure that you haven't misinterpreted something or simply made some errors of fact. Keeping them involved will demonstrate that you truly care about what they had to say and will also make it easier if you decide to go back to them for more interesting content later.

As you put your content schedule together and scramble to do research, don't look past your internal resources. Engage your SME's and enjoy a bountiful content reward.

How do you use the knowledge of your SME's? What forms of content have you been able to put together with their help?

 

 

 

6 Ideas To Break Through "Content Block"

Pulitzer Prize winning sportswriter Red Smith once said, "Writing is easy. You just sit at the typewriter until the drops of blood ooze from your forehead." That's what it feels like for many people as they stare at a blank computer screen coming up totally empty as to what to write. The pressure builds as a nagging voice shouts in their head: More content! Publish or perish! Come up with an idea!

Writers are all too familiar with "writer's block" when typing that first sentence becomes overwhelmingly difficult.

Corporate marketing teams can sometimes face the same dilemma. You understand the importance of creating compelling content for your prospects and customers and you know it's a proven way to build relationships and drive revenue. Publishing blog posts, white papers, eBooks, or case studies is the best way to get in front of your target audience to convince them of your expertise in your field and reassure them you understand their issues and can help solve their problems.

But that doesn't make it any easier to create compelling content. Instead of a blank screen, though, you're faced with an empty content calendar. You just don't know what to write about. You're suffering from a problem I call "content block."

I've been on a number of calls with clients who want to produce a white paper, eBook, or blog post series, but are struggling with what the topics should be. To break the block, I'll walk them through a number of possible ideas and eventually we come up with relevant areas of interest we can convert into solid content.

Here are six ideas for topics that will get your creative juices flowing and help you overcome your "content block."

Discuss an industry trend. Pick a hot industry topic and provide your take on it. This will show thought leadership and demonstrate to customers and prospects that you're in tune with current trends. The many newsletters you receive contain a wide variety of issues that would interest your audience. You can also check out brochures on industry conferences and review the list of breakout sessions for a number of topic ideas.

Interview an SME. Most organizations have valuable sources of content right under their noses in their product or service subject matter experts. These individuals not only possess valuable company knowledge but they are also well aware of what's going on with your industry as a whole. Unfortunately, we often fail to take advantage of their vast wealth of knowledge. Sit down with them and ask "So what's new?" Chances are within a short time you'll have an extensive list of topic ideas and the actual content to flesh them out.

Present an opinion on an industry article. We are all inundated with both physical and electronic magazines and articles on a regular basis. It's a good bet you've come across more than one viewpoint with which you disagree. That's great. Make it your next blog post. Linking back to the original article and then providing your unique opinion on it provides your customers and prospects with two sides on a topic of interest. That's the best way to get a dialogue going while honing your thought-leadership chops.

Analyze an industry survey or report. Chances are you often find a report or survey lurking in your email inbox containing information of interest to your target audience. Digest the report, cull out the pertinent points, and put together an analysis explaining what the data means for your prospects and customers. Even if they received the same report, your spin on it could make it more specific and relevant to them.

Offer an objective discussion of a technology you offer. This one can get tricky since if your goal is to be a thought leader, you don't want to jump up on the podium and give a sales pitch. A well written brochure is helpful at certain points in the sales process, but for thought leadership purposes, you want to present a broader look at the topic. For example, one of my clients is a leader in the waterjet cutting field. We did a series of white papers and ebooks discussing the benefits of waterjet technology without specifically mentioning the company's products. We wanted to help educate our target audience and by doing so, we helped cement the company as a thought leader in a growing manufacturing space.

Give a first person problem solving example. These occur on a daily basis but often go unnoticed and unreported. That's unfortunate since they can be among the most powerful pieces of influencing content. Check with your customer service team or sales group for examples of where your product or service solved a customer problem.It can be difficult to get permission from a customer to use their name, but you can make it generic and get the same impact. The result will be similar to a case study with the familiar formula of background, problem, solution, results. This is a great way to provide your prospects with an illustration of what you might be able to do for them.

You may feel the well has run dry when it comes to content will interest your target audience, but that's really never the case. Spend some time thinking about your company, your clients, and your industry and chances are you'll be tapping away at your keyboard in no time.

What have you done to break your "content block?" Where do you find your best content ideas?

 

 

 

 

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?