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:
- Design is truly a process; not a task. Process denotes a method, intent, a procedure, a course of action while a task often denotes a chore or an assignment. The way I see it, adopting a process approach is more likely to expand expertise and efficiency. It is more likely to diminish reliance on rote mentality inherent in a task approach.
- Even if the project is not an original idea (it may have been done a million times before), it is important to find a way to instill some creativity. I agree that it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. However, it is important not to simply echo others. Good designers replicate purposefully. The challenge is to make each final product memorable.
- You are on the right track if your process includes these 3 fundamentals:
- Looking → see/prioritize/understand
- Thinking → research/sort/organize
- Doing → informed action/draft/edit/finalize/share
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 »