I recently read a great article about how to nurture content writers into industry experts. The topic alone seemed interesting because l’ve spent my career learning how to write for a variety of industries. And though I don’t think “one size fits all” when it comes to writing, I read the article out of curiosity, and it ended up being insightful.
Joe Griffin, CEO of ClearVoice, starts the article with the idea that the majority of content writers are generalists. Their talent is crafting the language and structuring it in a way that’s easy to read. I agree, but I think one’s research skills also play a major role in how they become thought leaders on a particular topic. A good writer is a good reader (and researcher).
To summarize the article, Griffin recommends using these steps to nurture content writers into industry experts:
- Help them know what they don’t know
- Supply a list of competitors to watch and study
- Teach them to measure and adjust based on performance
Griffin’s first point is spot on—writers don’t know what they don’t know. So when a writer joins a new team or industry, it’s important to provide them with basic information about the industry. Griffin also suggests that writers need to know their boundaries, their audience, and what people are saying in that particular space.
In my own words, if you’re wise about what you’re getting yourself in to, you’ll already have some basic knowledge about the industry. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have stakeholders that share their expertise and tips on how to learn what they know. But from personal experience, I can tell you that the latter doesn’t always happen, so it’s important that writers learn how to leverage their own skills.
Griffin’s second tip is to learn from established thought leaders. If you want to be an industry expert, who better to learn from than those already considered industry experts? Griffin recommends having someone from your team compile a list of the most-viewed or popular writers in a particular field. To add to Griffin’s recommendation, I suggest not limiting your list to just writers because they aren’t the only industry experts that can show you what you don’t know.
Let’s say a content writer needs to learn about buying stock at a certain time of year; they should follow the top blogs and publications (like Griffin suggests). But they should also get insights from financial advisors who trade and buy stock for a living. Make sure to keep your options open when building your research portfolio. You’ll acquire more knowledge if it’s coming from a variety of experts that can shed light on the topic in different ways.
Once you know what other experts are saying about the industry, Griffin suggests creating content with these things in mind:
- How can you take this same topic and teach it better?
- How can we go deeper and provide a new perspective?
- How can we make the learning process easier?
- How can we deliver even more value?
Griffin brings the article to a close with the idea that we need to teach content writers how to measure and adjust based on performance. While this makes sense in the content marketing world, where every ounce of energy is tied to ROI, it might not apply to all industries. “Every writer should, on some level, be an analyst,” says Griffin. “As much as you need to nurture the art of writing, you also need to point out the value of data and the importance of having a goal.” Those latter statements can apply to more than just content marketing. Take support content for example—your content serves customers. What those customers have to say about that content, and how they respond to it, provides you with a goldmine of data that you should leverage to improve your content.
Data makes things actionable. By understanding how readers respond to your content, you can pivot to adjust the copy in a way that better resonates with them. You can also use things, like Google Analytics to enhance the search experience—ultimately improving your content rankings.
As Griffin states, “Great writers aren’t taught but empowered.” Though his three-steps lay a solid foundation, he suggests that it doesn’t stop there. The three steps are just “the fundamentals to an ongoing journey.” Great writers will always look for what they don’t know, keep their eye on the competition, and find ways to measure and improve their work.