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It is ironic that a time when we have so much content in various formats and on different forums, there remains a vacuum in information. It would appear that instead of sharing knowledge, there is a lot of noise generation.
The herd mentality has taken over the content creation arena.
People seem to think that throwing around popular (often misunderstood) terms such as “personae”, “editorial calendar”, and “reciprocity”, they can magically transform poorly researched article into insight. Not so. The truth is that no matter how many catch phrases they mimic, the underlying shallow creative process shows through. This begs the question: why do content marketers bother investing time and financial resources in a strategy that will not deliver on business integrity and growth?
As business writers and content creators, we need to drop the charade. We need to invest in more credible motivation. If we can’t find it within ourselves, we can borrow from other practitioners. I have looked around and I’m happy to say there is an abundance of good practices business writers can adopt to nurture our skill.
My latest source of inspiration is the design field. Somehow we all know when things are “designed right” – they give us a glimpse of what makes good design. It turns out that it is no accident; there are fundamentals of good design. I imagine all good designers know them and consistently deploy them in their craft.
I think good business writers need to define and commit to some fundamentals.
Before we begin stringing together our words, we need to start with basics like questions. What is the problem? Why is it important? Why is it important that we understand it correctly? What are the consequences of addressing the wrong issue or providing the wrong answer? Is this a ground-breaking topic? Is there a current consensus on solutions? The more questions we raise, the more open we are to critical thinking.
Questions help us clarify. Questions help us uncover what we might otherwise miss. They help focus on the essentials. They help us define the parameters of best solutions and write convincingly about them.
My search has shown me that good designers are skilled at asking questions. For them, no question is silly if it helps the design process. I am honing my question-asking skill and learning some of the basics of design, which might help me do a better job as a business writer.
Here are 3 things I have learned so far:
It is fairly obvious that skipping any of these basics undermines the design process. In terms of good business writing, failure to pay proper attention to the LOOK, THINK, DO aspects weakens the impact of the content we create.
My challenge to my fellow business writers is to toss that template that promises to help you generate a-hundred-and-one unique articles and white papers effortlessly. Sounds great, but (always) true. Let’s spend a little more time (I know, who has more time?) on the fundamentals. It may mean that we write less volume, but it could mean that what we do write will be a cut above the rest – and memorable.
Filed under: Business of Writing, Our Freelance Beat, The Writing Process | Tagged: Business of Writing, content marketing, copywriting success, creative process, Critical thinking, freelance writer, herd mentality, targeted writing, writing inspiration, writing ritual | Leave a comment »
I recently read this article from the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge newsletter. It is an excerpt of an interview between the author (Joan Magretta) and Michael E. Porter, renowned authority on competition and strategy.
Even though it is an excerpt, the Q & A format touches on the key mistakes we all can relate to as business operators. They are the sort of missteps we wish we could avoid. They are wasteful of time and other resources; yet we appear unable (perhaps unwilling) to remedy the situation.
According to the interview, businesses make several common strategy mistakes, including the following:
As I indicated in the opening paragraph, these mistakes are familiar. We are guilty of committing some, or all, and know of businesses in the same trap. Why then do these mistakes persist? What is responsible for the failure to strategize –in the economically meaningful sense?
According to Porter, many barriers distract, deter, and divert managers from making clear strategic choices. Some of the most significant barriers come from the many hidden biases embedded in internal systems, organizational structures, and decision-making processes.
He sums things up as follows: “Strategy links choices on the demand side with the unique choices about the value chain (the supply side). You can’t have competitive advantage without both” – Michael E. Porter.
CLICK HERE to read the article. There is a link to information about Joan Magretta’s book, which distills Porter’s core concepts and frameworks into a concise guide for business practitioners.
© Rachel Agheyisi, Report Content Writer, Report Content Writer’s Bolg, 2012
Filed under: Miscellaneous Articles, Our Freelance Beat, Third-Party Posts | Tagged: business strategy, competitive advantage, HBS Working Knowledge, operational effectiveness, Value chain, value proposition | Leave a comment »