Many of us, through our career or business choices, can rightly claim to have developed a certain expertise in our particular fields. Some of us may also have become seasoned thinkers about our area of business. But do we make enough of our expertise and our thoughts?
Every business needs to market itself, using advertising and other forms of communication. Advertising sets out the offer to sell, and strives to elicit a buy response. Other channels – loosely ‘public relations’ – educate customers to make informed purchasing decisions.
Expertise (not to be confused with experience) is a powerful marketing tool – and a good hook for a PR campaign. Thought leadership is even more powerful, because it couples ability with understanding.
From personal experience: two clients, one manufacturing bricks, the other, plasterboard. At face value, two relatively boring subjects. No! Both clients were able to showcase expertise in wide product ranges and great technical quality. Both were also able to demonstrate thought leadership in terms of the contribution their products made to the built environment, and the application of the products to solving problems facing building specifiers and contractors. The result: people noticed.
These days, one can sometimes convey thought leadership via articles in the mainstream press, both national and local, as well as consumer and trade publications. Increasingly, however, better results are achieved electronically – especially where you or your PR team control the final output: in your own email newsletters, blogs and online news pages. Get maximum ROI by using the same basic words in as many channels as possible – and remember to use social media to drive readers to your words.
Too busy with the day job to worry about thought leadership articles? That’s where you need help from a PR professional – preferably one who can also demonstrate expertise and thought leadership.
You are in the widget business, and you have decided to step up your communication with customers. So you are thinking of a website, a newsletter and, perhaps, some news releases and a blog to get the ball rolling. You managed to write your way through school and higher education – so why, you may ask, would you need to hire a professional writer?
Let’s first look at some of the underlying issues: who are you trying to reach, what is your message, and what is your desired outcome?
In most cases, the main targets will be existing and potential customers. The message will be to tell or remind them about the goods and services you offer (and how good you are). You want them to buy from you – not once, but repeatedly.
Achieving this goal may require patience and dedicated effort to influence perceptions and change buying habits. Breaking through may require more than one type of communication. You’re a bit like the BBC – you must inform, educate … even entertain. Each type of communication needs a different approach, which makes more difficult for the non-specialist to produce.
If you can do it, good luck to you. If you can’t here are five reasons why you should hire a professional writer instead.
1 The time factor
A good piece of writing requires research, composition and editing. That translates to a briefing interview, reading source material, gathering contributions from various people, sorting and selecting key information, writing it into a readable article, and checking to ensure the words convey what is intended, in a manner suitable for the recipients.
Many businesspeople can write – some extremely well. But I doubt that there are many whose business responsibilities give them enough freedom to tackle in-depth writing on a regular basis.
Hiring a professional writer means you can minimise your involvement in the process and focus your attention on your primary responsibility: managing the business.
2 Not all writing is the same
Very little ‘grown-up’ writing bears any resemblance to what we learned at school – and what we did pick up at school and university may not provide adequate grounding for addressing today’s plethora of media channels.
As a business person, unless you are unusually talented with the written word, the chances are that you will struggle to write effectively for all the media now available to promote your business.
Professional writers, on the other hand, draw on their multi-channel experience to produce copy in a variety of styles. For example, they will package your basic message in news releases, feature articles, blogs, case studies, web content, brochures, speeches, presentations and more – even Tweets.
3 Presenting a balanced, objective view
Many professional writers trained as journalists, and were taught the importance of reflecting both sides of a story in their copy. They would also have learned how to pitch their writing at a level appropriate to the mythical ‘average reader’.
People who write without this background tend to write for themselves, highlighting the facts they want to hear in language that sounds impressive to them. This often results in stodgy, self-congratulatory verbiage that does little to convey the real message.
The professional will ask lots of questions to get to the core of the subject – and then write about it objectively, in a clear, concise fashion, to ensure the message gets across, loud and clear!
4 Knowing what to say
Business people often find themselves approached for comment on issues relevant to their business. Some are blessed with the eloquence to dash off a quick sound bite that adequately puts their point and demonstrates their thought leadership on the particular subject: others are less able.
A professional writer is quickly able to get a good understanding of the client’s views and ability to comment on key issues. This enables the writer to develop suggested words for the client to approve – and if the job’s done properly, there won’t be many amendments.
Equally, the professional who becomes deeply involved in the client company’s products, people and ethos is able to write authoritative, image-building articles with a minimal brief on the requirements.
5 Good grammar and spelling enhance your reputation
What you say is very important – of course. How you say it is also vital, because the delivery impacts the effectiveness of your communication – as well as the listener or reader’s perception of you and your company.
Professional writers sometimes make mistakes (we’re only human, after all), but generally we can be relied on to spell well, use words correctly and to be masters of grammar and punctuation.
In these times of predictive text and gr8 messaging shorthand (lol), it may seem pedantic to show concern about spelling and grammar. But there’s good reason to believe that a company’s image suffers significantly as a result of poor attention to detail in this regard.
Consider: if you were choosing between two ‘professionals’ and one had a mistake-riddled website – all other things being equal, who would you choose?
So, if you are really serious about your widget business and promoting it through quality communication, brief a professional writer today.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 16 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.