If you’re looking for a way to build your name and personal brand awareness, you might consider media exposure (getting quoted in periodicals, websites, talk shows and podcasts). Such exposure can help attract prospects or make it so they have heard of you when you reach out to them.
However, it’s awfully difficult to earn media quotes. That’s why some sales pros are blogging and/or submitting articles. There are countless media outlets both – online and traditional – and many of them 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 calling card. If you write enough articles, people might start to notice you and eventually respect you as a well-known expert.
DISCLAIMER: If you work for a company, make sure you’re not violating any company policies before submitting articles.
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
Become familiar with the Associated Press Stylebook. You can find it at most bookstores and online. The vast majority of media outlets 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 Philadelphia, 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, Michigan is “MIch.,” not “MI.” 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.
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
Generally, 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 fee.
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.