If you’ve ever hired someone to write a case study, white paper, or special report (or even written one yourself), you know that research is significant to the process. And I think it’s fair to say that for most of us, research begins with Google.
Online research is the gold standard today and yields valuable results for sure. But I’ve found that interviewing a subject matter expert (SME) never lets me down when I’m in the hunt for premium content. Facts and details garnered from conversations with an expert can uncover some sparkling gems of information.
But that’s not the only reason why I suggest interviewing as an alternative to Google. Here are some more that make it worthwhile.
~ Reduces research time. Scouring the web for articles that may or may not provide useful information can eat up a good chunk of time. Sometimes it feels like you’re circling your topic, slowly closing in on it with narrower search queries until finally, you hit some results that fit. This hit-or-miss searching is a time-waster.
When you interview, by preparing questions in advance, you can approach the topic head-on and collect up-to-date, specific industry information from an expert. I can generally accomplish this in about 30 minutes to an hour.
~ Information gaps are quicker to fill in when you interview a subject matter expert. With online research, the information that’s returned sometimes isn’t quite right. The focus might be too narrow or addresses only one part of your topic. So you keep searching for the additional pieces. And when you find them, there’s the chance that the information is out of date, incomplete, or too general.
Or, maybe you have a good grasp of the topic you’re writing about but want to dig deeper. Input from an expert source could help you flesh out some juicy details.
~ Some of the best content lives in another person’s head. Because your expert is sharing her unique perspective and experience, insightful and profound details often bubble up to the surface during the interview. Your back-and-forth discussion can go down paths that you might not have considered and lead to quality material. Such tasty morsels can offer a writer more clarity, and clear writing is a goal of any edu-marketing piece
Research doesn’t have to begin and end with Google. Why not give interviewing a try? I think the stellar results you can achieve will surprise you.
We all have those little business tasks that we put off doing.
For whatever reason, they don’t get done.
You don’t feel like doing them. You’re too busy now. They’re not a priority. They’re just plain boring.
And there’s always that chance that maybe someday, some extra time might pop up, even though we all know that there’s no such thing as ‘more’ time.
Enter the coronavirus.
(I think ‘someday’ just arrived for us, whether we like it or not.)
Now, all those activities that eat up our time like commuting to work, picking up the kids, enjoying a night out, are suddenly struck from our calendars.
The world’s been turned upside down, giving us a very unfamiliar view. In attempts to gain back normalcy and distract ourselves from reality, those little mundane tasks abruptly become must-do.
Banal and boring just a few weeks ago, their simplicity and everyday-ness now give us comfort, a little slice of security.
Did today’s headlines leave you unsure and worried? Well then, organize your desk!
You can’t control the path of this unruly pandemic, but the top of your desk (or boundaries of your hurriedly thrown together home office) are your domains. Control them as you wish.
Need suggestions for some other comfort ‘tasks’?
Take a look at your website. You know that footer at the bottom of all the pages? Is the copyright date 2020, or does it reflect back to the good ol’ days of 2017? Now’s a perfect time to fix that!
How about the “Contact Us” link. Has it inadvertently morphed into a “Don’t Contact Us” link because it doesn’t work anymore? Or worse, it’s working, but no one’s ever checked that mailbox.
While you’re at it, why not check the links on all the pages of your site. Do they still transport your users to a valid page, or do they arrive at a 404 error?
See, before you know it, you’ll be lost in the safe haven of minutiae, while accomplishing those little chores you’ve been procrastinating about for months!
Remember, even the darkest of clouds have shiny, silver linings ...stay focused on the shiny lining.
I was never very good at math.
Throughout my school years, courses that involved numbers and making sense of those numbers were never my strong suit.
Matter of fact, at one point I’d contemplated becoming a veterinarian, but worried I wouldn’t be able to hack those evil courses like chemistry or calculus, so I ended up as a business major. (And yes, as a business major I did encounter calculus, and as I had feared, it didn’t go well. I squeaked by.)
Now, on the other hand, I like writing.
With writing you have all these WORDS to describe and explain with. You can make a point or illustrate an idea in infinite ways. And the beauty of this is, if you write something one way and a person doesn’t understand it, you can re-word it in other ways until it finally makes sense.
In contrast, this chemical formula for caffeine will always be the same: C8H10N4O2
And therein lies my point. Standing by itself, that formula would be meaningless to you, unless you’ve a chemistry background. But preceded by the words ‘chemical formula for caffeine’ the average Joe (sorry, had to say it) recognizes what it is -- his reason for getting out of bed every morning.
Remember this the next time you’re compiling numbers to include in your content marketing piece, whether it’s a case study, blog article, or social media post.
From a content marketing perspective, pure, raw data that stands alone is valuable only to those who can decipher and make sense of it. Pure, raw data combined with a written analysis that further explains why this data matters, is far more valuable.
Why? Because it educates the portion of your audience who may not have the aptitude to draw understandable conclusions from the numbers presented. These readers will gain a deeper knowledge because you shared your expertise with them.
They’ll appreciate your going that extra mile. By translating the numbers into digestible information, your readers grow a little bit wiser.
And in the world of content marketing, wisdom is a treasure. Knowledgeable consumers are more likely to buy.
Is it better to hire a freelance copywriter who’s already an expert in your field?
This is a question you may ask yourself as you consider working with a freelance copywriter. And it’s a valid one, for sure.
Last month, I wrote about how you can work successfully and productively with a copywriter who isn’t an “industry insider.” I gave my rationale here, and used an example from my own experience.
As I explained, it is possible for a copywriter to get up to speed quickly and learn the essentials about your industry. A vast majority of copywriters already do this on a daily basis. After all, one can’t know everything about everything, right?
However, what if you’re selling a product that appeals to a niche market?
Let’s say you sell fly fishing equipment ...
Fly fishing is a sport that uses a significantly different method for casting a line compared to other types of fishing. This requires the fly fishing enthusiast to acquire a specialized skill, which develops through practice and experience.
It’s a good bet that your fly fishing customers are a keen bunch with a rabid affection for their sport. You’ll want your copy to resonate strongly with them. So a copywriter with a robust understanding of fly fishing consumers and what drives their passion may be your best choice.
A master angler can probably better express that passion in the copy, because he’s walked in your customers' boots (or rather in this case, their waders.)
Ultimately, whether you decide to hire an industry expert or not, remember one thing: The copywriter you choose must have the knowledge and skills to write copy that will achieve the results you’re aiming for.
A potential client asked me, “Do you have any experience writing about debt management?”
I must confess, I did not. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
“No,” I said, “but in the past, I’ve written for other clients whose business I initially knew nothing about.”
I was once hired to write blog articles for a paper company.
Their customer base was varied, ranging from professional printers, amateur scrapbookers, event planners, and brides-to-be. And their paper products were as varied as their customers, from plain-jane cardstock to specialty paper like vellum. Vellum?
And what did I know about the paper industry?
Zilch. Nada. Nothing.
But lack of industry knowledge didn’t stymie my production of weekly blog articles. Working with the company’s subject matter expert and performing my own research, I became a paper prodigy in no time at all.
However, even though my product knowledge initially was minimal, my copywriting knowledge wasn’t. And ultimately, that was why my client hired me, because I knew the marketing value of their blog.
With regular posting of articles that were educational, fun, and sprinkled with discount offers, the company grew their customer base and increased sales.
The same holds true for any other copywriting project, whether it be a landing page, a case study, or an email marketing campaign.
Knowledge of the industry is important, but, without a copywriter who’s familiar with the channel being used and how to write the copy to achieve specific results, you’re only solving half the problem.
Suzanne Quigley - Copywriter