Marketing Blueprints for LinkedIn profiles

Marketing MentorIlise Benun of Marketing Mentor has unveiled the second episode of her Marketing Blueprints series, featuring Excellent Examples of LinkedIn Profiles of Copywriters and Content Strategists. While I confess I got a nice ego boost from being one of the featured “blueprints,” I also learned a lot from what my colleagues are doing. Check out the video here.

Designers — There’s no reason for you to feel left out! Ilise recently created a similar video just for you: 6 Excellent Examples of LinkedIn Profiles of Designers.

  How to write what you DON’T know

Question“Write what you know” is one of the most common bits of advice given to new writers, but it isn’t always the most useful. True, an inexpert writer can quickly lose an audience by saying something that strikes readers as ignorant or inaccurate. But what if you want — or need — to write about something you know nothing about?

There’s no question that personal contact or observation of something gives you an advantage when writing about it. That’s why many clients look for writers who specialize in a particular field or market. There are also some fields — such as science, finance and medicine — where a certain amount of technical expertise is practically a prerequisite — even if you’re writing for a lay audience.

Still, there are plenty of times when a professional writer has to start from scratch…

  • Sometimes the client can’t get (or doesn’t want to pay the higher fees of) an expert writer.
  • There are some things that no one living has directly witnessed, such as what was said between two generals after a historic battle.
  • You might be asked to write about a new product or other invention that is initially known and understood only by its creator.
  • Writing a story requires you to create characters who don’t exist, whether they live in a science fiction/fantasy world or are much like the folks next door.
  • And most common of all: you want to connect with and generate response from people who aren’t like you.

Here are three strategies that will help you sound like an expert quickly enough that you can still make your deadline.

1. Learn fast

If it’s possible to actually get the experience you need quickly, do it! For example, if you’re writing about a product, try using it. I was recently asked to join the creative team for a local pizza chain that had just opened a new store near my home. Guess what I had for dinner that night? Many clients are happy to help you learn more by providing samples, demonstrating a prototype, letting you shadow a professional for a day or two, and other “discovery” experiences vital to the pre-writing process.

If you’re working for a client, ask your contact plenty of questions. They may know useful information that didn’t end up in the creative brief, and may be able to explain concepts that don’t initially make sense to you. Many clients are also willing to put you in touch with subject matter expert or “SME” (pronounced just like the name of Captain Hook’s sidekick) to help you get up to speed on specialized information.

If that’s not enough, hit the web, the library or your own network of contacts to get additional insights. This will help you get the facts you need, as well as insights into how they’re interpreted. This kind of research is also critical when no one living has direct experience with something, such as how canals were built in ancient Egypt.

Pro tip: Make friends with a good reference librarian. You’ll be glad you did when you have to deal with tricky stuff that can’t be resolved with just a Google search.

2. Channel your passion

While it’s not impossible to write what you don’t know, doing it well does require extra work up front. A strong personal interest in the subject is a big asset when it’s time to buckle down.

I use this as my personal litmus test whenever I’m asked to write about something new. If I’m intrigued by a topic, I’m more likely to take it on so that I can learn more about it. If not, I try to recommend a colleague who’s a better fit for the project.

Passion can be a two-edged sword. As you make discoveries, be careful not to get carried away to the point you try to include every little detail you discover. Word count limits can be a big help here.

3. Get a reality check

Once you have a draft in hand, try to run it by someone who is closer to the topic than you are. For example, if you’re writing specialized copy, try to get feedback from a SME or other specialist.

This type of review is especially important when you’re “writing the other” — using the voice of someone who’s a different gender, ethnicity, culture and so on than yourself. Have one or more people who match the characteristics of your intended voice review the copy, and pay close attention to their feedback. This simple step can easily mean the difference between connecting with your audience or unintentionally turning them away.

  13 traits of a great ghostwriter

Ghostwriter's-keyboardOctober is the month of goblins, ghouls, and my favorite phantom—the “ghost” writer. While skeptics dismiss them as skeletons in the closet, ghostwriters are in fact friendly spirits who bridge the yawning chasm between people with great ideas and the arcane craft of writing.

If you’re contemplating a pact with one of these ghostly scribes, the best way to avoid getting spooked is to be mindful of these 13 observable phenomena, which separate merely grisly phantoms from the ranks of the supernatural.

  1. Discretion—Responsible ghosts respect the privacy of their clients before, during, and into the afterlife of your project. While they may advertise ghostwriting services, they won’t reveal Secrets Men Were Not Meant to Know unless they have prior permission to do so. Your best hope is to seek referrals from those who’ve had prior encounters.
  2. Versatility—Your ghost should possess the ability to write in your voice, adapting his or her style to match your own. A skilled ghost will eventually develop a paranormal ability to channel your style—to the point that you may wonder which of you actually wrote a particular passage. (Whether this qualifies as ESP remains open to debate.) Wise apparitions recognize that a key part of this process is a willingness to respond to constructive criticism without losing one’s head. If the two of you disagree, it’s okay for the ghost to make a case for her way, but ultimately you always have the right to say “no, never in life would I say such a horrid thing!”
  3. Humility—Ghosts work from the shadows, leaving their clients to bask in the bright light of day. If the ghost’s name appears in public at all, it’s in smaller type below the client’s name. This is the nature of the business, so anonymity shouldn’t give your writer chills.
  4. Initiative—You don’t need to be haunted by the responsibility of keeping your project alive. Look for a self-starting specter who will keep it moving relentlessly forward until it meets its ultimate fate.
  5. Follow-through—Many clients who use ghostwriters are “idea people” who work best with partners who excel at execution. Your ghost should have a proven ability to meet dead-lines.
  6. Curiosity—A ghost who takes an interest in the mortal world will be more open to the ideas and perspectives of others, making it easier for them to see things through your eyes (figuratively, that is). It’s a good sign if your ghost asks a lot of insightful questions, such as: “What types of beings do you wish to make contact with?”, “Did you always want to be a vampire?” or “Is this haunted room actually stretching?”
  7. Interviewing skill—Professional ghosts have a knack for putting you at ease while they unearth details of interest to your readers that might not have occurred to you otherwise. Of course this doesn’t mean you have to reveal Secrets Men Were Not Meant to Know—if something comes up that could threaten the world as we know it, inform your ghost that it’s off the record (see item #1).
  8. Category experience—If your publication requires specialized or technical knowledge, it’s helpful to have a ghost who’s already somewhat familiar with your specialty—or at least a Jack-O’-Lantern of all trades who’s dabbled in your field. For example, if you want to write a book on the use of lightning to animate artificial humans crafted from the bodies of the dead, the process will take much less time if your writer already has a basic understanding of anatomy, meteorological phenomena, and common laboratory equipment.
  9. Organizational skill—Assembling thoughts and ideas in a compelling way is a useful skill for any writer, but it’s especially important for ghosts. It can be a frightfully complicated task to reassemble the many items of lore from the various notes, interviews, and other sources your writer will spend hours poring over in his lair or local coffeehouse.
  10. Judgement—Ghost writing requires a good sense for what will lure your readers and what should be left unsaid.
  11. Respect—Working with a ghost requires you to entrust someone else with your voice and reputation. That’s a grave responsibility that can easily leave you feeling vulnerable. If the thought of revealing your personal thoughts to a particular writer leaves you with a sense of lingering dread, it’s probably a good idea to try a different ghost. (Hint: Pay close attention to the background music.)
  12. Self-awareness—Truly objective apparitions must recognize the difference between their own ideas and opinions and those of their clients. When the two conflict they must be willing to take the client’s path, even if it seems a bit otherworldly.
  13. Enthusiasm—Don’t settle for a hazy revenant who just goes through the motions. Your project should excite and inspire your ghost, encouraging him or her to manifest the true spirit of your ideas.