By Jeff Beals
Professionals who appreciate the value of personal branding make concentrated efforts to be quoted in periodicals, radio talk shows and television news. Such exposure is valuable and helps propel careers.
However, it’s awfully difficult to earn media quotes. That’s why more and more professionals are blogging and submitting articles to publications. There’s great opportunity here. Every major city has numerous publications, and many of these depend on outside writers to supply the content.
The writer Robert Benchley once said, “The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece, per word or perhaps.” In other words, you don’t do it for the money. Instead of thinking of writing as a profit center, consider it as a form of marketing, a personal calling card. If you write enough articles, and spread them around the Internet, people will start to notice you and eventually respect you as an accomplished, well-known expert.
To help you get started as a published article writer or successful blogger, here are some tips:
Thou shalt be interesting
Entertaining the reader is just as important as educating the reader. Pick a topic that relates to what you do professionally but is fascinating to others.
If research is necessary, find the best possible sources. Those sources might be interviews you set up with experts. Convincing prospective sources to do interviews can be challenging, because many of these people have been burned before by journalists. Let them know that your motives are positive. Be transparent and explain exactly what you are doing with the article or blog.
Take copious notes during interviews. If you quote someone, you have an ethical obligation to make sure you write their words verbatim.
Write like a pro
Purchase a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook. You can find it at most bookstores and on line. The vast majority of publications follow AP style. If you follow it, your writing will appear to be much more legitimate. By the way, there are a number of little quirks to AP style. For example, AP uses the term “adviser” instead of “advisor.” Large cities like Chicago, Atlanta and Boston “stand alone,” meaning you don’t write the state name following them. Speaking of state names, AP doesn’t use the U.S. Post Office abbreviations. For instance, Nebraska is “Neb.,” not “NE.” California is “Calif.,” not “CA.”
When composing your article, use the “inverted pyramid” method of writing. The fat base of the upside-down pyramid is at the top of the article, and it represents the biggest, most significant, most newsworthy part of the story. The small, narrow tip of the pyramid at the bottom represents the least meaningful part of the story. Place great emphasis on the article’s first sentence also known as “the lead.”
Active is better than passive
Most of your writing should be in the active voice instead of passive voice. In other words, “The president vetoed the bill” is better than, “The bill was vetoed by the president.”
Remember 8th grade English class
Use proper grammar, punctuation and spelling. Proofread carefully. Tenses should be consistent. Subjects and verbs ought to agree.
Brevity is beautiful
Short articles are more readable than long ones.
Use real words
Don’t try to be too cute with your writing by filling it with clichés or politically correct double speak. Make your message as clear as possible; avoid balderdash, poppycock and gobbledygook.
Don’t get defensive
Unless you are writing in your own blog or for a publication you personally created, you give up some control once you submit the article. An editor will probably review your work and make at least a few changes. For the most part, having an editor is a blessing as it reduces the likelihood of errors.
Be a team player
There has to be a “balance” between your editor and you. Don’t allow the editor to walk all over you and change too much, but be understanding and remember the editor has a job to do. The relationship between editor and writer should be like a good marriage: Both have to give a little.
Not all ghosts are scary
Even if you’re terribly busy and not very gifted as a writer, I recommend you write your own stuff. Writing is best when the writer really writes it. You can always have someone edit it. However, if you have no confidence in your writing or are too busy, there are professional ghost writers, who will do the dirty work for you in exchange for a reasonable fee. In fact, I have done some ghost writing for clients.
Any professional can enjoy increased name recognition and ultimately more business through writing. The trick is to do it properly and compel people to read your material. After all, the best-written article in the world is useless if people don’t read it.
As you write, put yourself in the reader’s shoes. You must make sure that someone who knows little about your subject, who quickly browses it, can understand and appreciate the message you are trying to convey.
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.
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