Great writing starts with a great process

Outsourcing great b2b writing—content that reflects your company’s style, tone and overall brand—can be a tricky process. Not only do you have to find a great writer (or agency of writers), but you have to be able to establish a writing process that works for both parties.

 

The writing process can be different for every company. So, while an experienced writer will be able to offer suggestions as to how things could work—or how other companies have done things in the past—you ultimately have to know what will work best for your specific organization. To help, here are some questions you may want to consider:

 

  • Will you provide the writer with content ideas or will they be expected to come up with topics themselves?
  • What materials, information or interviews with subject matter experts will you provide? How will interviews be arranged and conducted?
  • How hands-on are you going to be? Will you write something first and simply ask the writer to fix it up? Or will they be expected to write the articles from scratch?
  • If you have a larger in-house team, how will you streamline the outsourcing process and keep track of the external writer’s workload?

 

Feel free to involve your writer in the discussion and acquire insight into their preferences. The ultimate goal, after all, is to find a system that works well for both parties—and is most likely to elicit great results.

 

To hear more tips on how to improve your company’s content with an external writer, download the new AR Communications Inc. ebook—The Right Fit: How To Outsource Great Writing.

 

Do copywriting formulas work?

I hate it when content takes longer to write than anticipated—especially when my calendar is overflowing with deadlines. So when I recently came across a website that offered a complete handbook of copywriting formulas—a handbook that promised to drastically reduce the amount of time I spent writing content—I felt like I hit the jackpot.

 

Right there in front of me were standard formulas for writing tweets, headlines, blog posts, web pages—virtually any form of content you could imagine. But, once I had a chance to really look at them, I have to admit—those formulas made my head spin. Honestly, I think it would take me longer to force information to fit into a template than it would to simply write that same content from scratch.

 

The entire experience got me thinking—is there really such thing as a copywriting formula? Judging from personal experience I’d say yes—but in very rare situations. If you’re sending out a standard press release—say, announcing the opening of a new office—then sure. Certain types of speeches could probably benefit from a fill-in-the-blanks approach also. But things you write in abundance—like blog posts? Personally, I think you need to freestyle those.

 

My reasoning is simple. The whole POINT of content marketing is to write pieces that will capture the attention of your target audience, and you can’t do that if all your content follows the same, predictable formula. Writing a boring, run-of-the-mill press release is fine if you just need something—anything!—to post in your website’s ‘news’ section. But if you want to really capture the attention of the media—and gain some coverage—you need it to stand out.

 

To do that, I suggest ditching the templates and, instead, trying some of these time-saving techniques:

  • Put the most interesting/important/eye-catching messages at the top of the page. Not sure what those messages are? Try implementing some tried-and-true journalistic rules—sourcing out the 5Ws, the news peg, the inverted pyramid—to help you organize your thoughts and find the nugget of information that will really speak to your audience.
  • Stop thinking so much. Can’t get that first paragraph perfect? Jot down the first thing that comes to mind—without worrying if it’s good or not. Revising it later is so much easier than getting it perfect the first time.
  • Tell the story. When verbally telling stories to others, we tend to naturally offer up the most interesting information first. It’s a great way to determine what’s really important about your piece—and also offer some clues on how to arrange your thoughts.
  • Glance at some precedents. When all else fails, look at a similar, previously-written piece of content. Pay close attention to how the information is arranged and copy that “formula” (in your own words, of course).

 

What do you think? Is there a time and a place for copywriting formulas? What tricks do you use to write efficiently? Please share—I’d love hear!

Is your email font ruining your life?

You spend hours a day staring at your computer screen—with a good portion of that time writing and reading emails—but have you ever given any thought to your email font? In all likelihood, probably not—but you should. Because it could be ruining your life.

 

According to this Bloomberg article, many email clients default to Helvetica or Arial—two serif fonts that are incredibly difficult to read because their letters are just too close together. While they may work in glossy magazine advertisements due to their simplicity, they’re not great for reading on itsy bitsy computer screens—or mobile devices.

 

So what fonts should you change your email client to? Fonts like Georgia, Calibri or Verdana are apparently much more legible and professional at the same time. Whichever font you choose, however, make sure you’re comfortable with it—and enjoy it on an emotional level. After all, given the amount of time the two of you will be spending together, you want to find one that makes you happy.

 

Here at AR Communications, we quite enjoy Calibri. What email font do you prefer?

 

 

Finding your writing soulmate

Finding the right external writer to handle your b2b writing needs is a lot like dating—you have to know yourself first before you’ll even have a chance at finding your perfect partner.

 

To help you out, here is a list of questions you may want to consider before beginning your search for your business writing soulmate:

 

Question #1: Why am I looking for a writer?

Am I searching for a better writer than I have on staff—perhaps to take the reins on our organization’s major content marketing efforts—or do I want someone to take over the smaller tasks that my internal team doesn’t have time for, such as churning out blog posts?

 

Question #2: How big will the writer’s role be?

Will I need someone to offer advice and perhaps additional planning—for things such as content marketing campaigns, blogging calendars or social media strategies—or will they simply be hired to write?

 

Question #3: How do I want the writing process to work?

Will I (or my team) be writing the bulk of the content, and simply need a writer to polish it, or will I need the writer to generate content from scratch—and potentially come up with ideas too?

 

It may also help to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your existing internal team, so as to better determine the holes that need to be filled. Knowing what you need in a writer will make it easier to find one that offers the right level of experience and service offerings.

 

Eager to hear more? Check out the new AR Communications Inc. ebook, The Right Fit: How to Outsource Great Writing.

The secret to getting the writing you want

Contrary to popular belief, writers aren’t mind readers. Even if you were to hire the absolute best writer in the world, they could potentially deliver content that fails to meet your expectations. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure your expectations are as clear as possible—and well-communicated to your writer.

 

The best way to do this is through a creative brief—a template that clearly explains what the purpose of the project is, what you want it to look like and where the writer can find the necessary information to write it.

 

The template should leave room to address information about:

 

  • The audience (who is this project for?)
  • The tone (will it be informative, informal, enthusiastic?)
  • Additional resources (to fill in missing information, offer examples or illustrate a preferred format/style)
  • The deadline
  • Additional notes of interest

 

Getting into the habit of filling out a creative brief before every assignment will not only help your writer produce better content, but it will allow you and your team to better think through your content on a piece-by-piece basis,  ensuring it fits into your overall content marketing strategy.

 

Want more tips on working effectively with external writers? Download the new AR Communications Inc. ebook, The Right Fit: How To Outsource Great Writing.

Why would you ever pay someone to write?

Writing is a skill most of us learned in the early days of grade school—and one that we practice every day writing emails, notes and LinkedIn status updates. So why would you ever pay someone to do it for you?

 

Well, if you’re writing to a b2b audience, there are plenty of reasons. Today, an increasing number of clients are finding their next vendor online. This means your web content is making your first impressions for you, before you even have a chance to say two words to a potential lead. For this reason, it not only has to be informative—and answer the questions they need answered—but it needs to establish your company as the best in its field. You can’t do that with typos, grammatical errors or language that puts your audience to sleep.

 

When you hire a professional writer, you’re not only getting higher quality writing in a quicker timeframe. You’re also gaining access to that writer’s experience—which can translate into valuable insight and innovative ideas that can drastically improve your content marketing strategy. They’ll also be able to introduce you to current content marketing trends—and find ways to help you adapt these trends to your marketing needs.

 

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of hiring a professional writer—and how to find a good one—download our ebook, The Right Fit: How to Outsource Great Writing.

 

The Loyalty Effect

Back in the day, Fred Reichheld, a strategy consultant at Bain & Co., wrote a seminal book on retaining customer loyalty called The Loyalty Effect. In it, he explains how most corporations lose 50 percent of their customer base every five years—a fact that severely stunts business growth. Reichheld determined that to acquire customer loyalty, you have to follow eight steps:

 

  1. Build a superior customer value proposition (think better quality service at each touchpoint of customer contact).
  2. Find the right customers.
  3. Earn customer loyalty (sounds simple, right?).
  4. Find the right employees.
  5. Earn employee loyalty.
  6. Gain cost advantage through superiour productivity.
  7. Find the right investors.
  8. Earn investor loyalty.

 

This notion of building loyalty from all angles—employees, customers and investors—is still relevant in today’s digital age, and provides a basis for many other loyalty strategies. This article offers up 17 killer strategies for establishing audience loyalty , that are all based around a holistic foundation that prioritizes a company’s reputation, credibility and integrity. Similarly, this Hubspot piece, which addresses the idea that B2B marketers need to focus on customer retention rather than loyalty, suggests prioritizing customer orientation, education (on your product or service) and communication—things that are difficult to do without a strong relationship with your employees.

 

What success have you seen in generating customer loyalty? In your experience, what works—and what doesn’t?

 

You made that up!

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As writers, we often get attached to the way words work. So the idea of making up new words doesn’t always sit well with us. But should it? According to Erin McKean, who’s a lexicographer, language is meant to evolve—and part of the way it does this is through the invention of new words.

In the past few months alone, Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster have added a range of new words into the English lexicon, including:
twerk: v. To move (something) with a twitching, twisting or jerking motion.
crowdfund: v. To fund (a project or venture) by raising money from a large number of people, each of whom contributes a relatively small amount, typically via the Internet.
selfie: n. a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

And here’s an entertaining list of words that aren’t yet in the dictionary—but maybe should be. Our personal favourite? Nomonym. Definition: A food that tastes like another food.

What do you think about making up words? Do you have any made-up words that make it into your regular rotation?

photo credit: Twenty-eight points via photopin (license)