Writing can be an effective way of raising your profile, and the profile of your business. A good writer with a professional attitude who has a great angle for a story that fits with the publication’s readership may succeed in getting published but make no mistake: it’s increasingly difficult.
Long-standing magazines continue to close, and in those that survive, budgets continue to shrink. Both situations are largely due to the loss of advertising in traditional print media: advertisers overwhelmingly prefer social media as the advertising can be so highly targeted. Think of your Facebook experiences: chances are all the ads that appear on your feed are relevant to your business or personal interests.
Still, if you have an idea for a story – and you’ve checked that the publication has not run anything similar in the past year and that it’s suitable for their readership – email the editor with your suggestion, keeping it as succinct as possible. Include a brief background to explain why you are qualified to write the piece and add links to your professional social media channels to add to your credibility.
Always be Professional
Professionalism is a major factor to success in writing. Your first commission is a testing ground, and your professionalism, or lack of it, will largely determine whether you’re given more work in the future. So:
- Be scrupulous about meeting deadlines
- Read the publication’s editorial style guide for writers and follow it to the letter
- Present a perfect manuscript: boring as it sounds, correct spelling, grammar and punctuation are critical
- Always aim to leave your work overnight before submitting it so you can re-read in the morning when you’re fresh. This ensures you pick up all the tiny errors you stop seeing after multiple edits
- If the editor requests changes to your work, accept the request with good grace and attend to the amendments promptly
- Take on board any advice an editor offers
- Thank the editor for the commission
The Blogging Alternative
Whether or not you succeed in being published in commercial media, these days there are other avenues for sharing information and raising the profile of your business, the classic being the business blog.
A business blog enables you to get the word out about your products, services, specials and promotions, and expose your business to a wider audience. However, to succeed it must be more than a sales vehicle: instead, you must blend informative content with your marketing and sales efforts.
In planning your blog, think carefully about content. The most important issue with a blog is to create one that people want to read: simply having a blog is not enough to draw people to it initially and keep them coming back week after week to read new instalments. Much as people love to read fresh content, they’ll return to your blog only if they find the subject interesting and relevant, and they like your writing style. Choosing topics you’re passionate about is essential as this passion will shine though in your writing; it will also fuel the motivation you need to continually update it.
Through your blog you can also:
- Involve customers by encouraging them to provide feedback about your business, how you can improve your services, and what they think of new ideas or services
- Share tips and information and provide news that cannot be found elsewhere, in the process establishing yourself as an expert in your field and increasing your visibility with your target market
- Build a community:
o Provide links to and promoting suppliers’ and associates’ businesses, and those of your clients if relevant
o Establish a support group around a political issue or cause that may either impact or be related to your profession, or something that you are supporting through your business
o Interact with visitors by providing the facility for them to add comments to your posts. Think about whether you will filter them (recommended) or include them all
Once you’ve decided the purpose and content of your blog, the next step is to prepare a business plan for it. Decide on the level of resources, time and money you’re prepared to allocate. Be sure you have the time to devote to it as well as the necessary writing skills. Decide also on how to measure the success of your blog: it may be by the number of visits, how long people stay, or the number of comments.
It’s important to write in a consistent tone appropriate to the audience. To achieve this, you need to define your audience: who will be reading your blog, and why will they be reading it? What are the audience’s expectations for your blog?
Writing Your Blog
While blogs by nature are informal, there are degrees of informality: a quick flick through some personal blogs reveals many that are appallingly written, with no thought to spelling, grammar or punctuation, and never a capital in sight. This is completely unacceptable for a business blog, as it’s a component of your brand. So when writing posts, ensure the content is in keeping with the image you wish to convey of your business.
Here are some tips for writing an effective blog:
- Write in a conversational style, as though you were chatting with a friend over a beer or cup of coffee
- Write openly and honestly about your subject and try to reveal something of yourself
- Don’t make your blog too text heavy as this can overwhelm the reader and chase them away. Paragraphs consisting of no more three sentences ensure there is plenty of white space around the text, making the content easier to skim and keeping the reader engaged. Create greater impact by combining text with images
- Identify the keywords and key phrases relevant to your business and use them organically and judiciously in your copy and headings. The old practice of “keyword stuffing”, where keywords were used multiple times on a page, often out of context, in an attempt to improve search engine rankings actually has the opposite effect
- Think before you add a link: you don’t want to send your reader off to another site they may prefer, losing them forever. It’s also irritating for readers to have to follow a trail to interesting information. Give them a reason to stay with you by sharing your views and providing a synopsis about the content of such links
- If you wish to discuss information you have found on another website or blog, be sure to attribute it to the original source and provide a link back to it. This way you minimise the risk of violating copyright or being accused of plagiarism or content theft
- And to reiterate what was said earlier: create a perfect manuscript: correct spelling, grammar and punctuation are critical