Three Content-Writing Lessons for Businesses

Last week, I gave a presentation for an organisation called Waterford Chamber Skillnet, which provides courses to help business owners and employees improve their skills. When I looked at their programme, I saw that they didn’t have content creation among their courses, so I approached them and they scheduled me into their programme of social media workshops. I gave the presentation in this beautiful room.

Ship Room Edmund Rice Heritage Centre
I gave my presentation in The Ship Room at the Edmund Rice Heritage Centre. Photo Credit: Edmund Rice Centre Website.

Writing content is essential to a lot of jobs, particularly marketing and communication ones. But a lot of people feel they don’t know where to begin. I’m not a writer, they think. What can I say about my company? I wanted to banish those doubts with my presentation, and give them the tools and confidence to figure out what to say and how to say it.

I had a particular focus on social media content, because there’s a lot of buzz around content marketing, and I wanted to equip people with the skills to avail of it. A lot of the people at the presentation were employees, and I hoped the presentation would make it easier for them to do their jobs. For the business owners who are juggling marketing with all their other jobs, I hope to take the hassle out of creating content.

Here are three of the messages that I aimed to get across to the attendees.

Know why you’re writing content

This is fundamental to the success of your content marketing campaign. The fact is, on a busy day at the office, writing content is going to slide down the to-do list. If you know why you’re writing your content, you’ll find time for it. I told the participants that if they’re lucky, they’re doing it because their business or their job is their passion. But as a lot of them were employees, I said that if you can at least see the merits of writing content in fulfilling your role, that was reason enough.

Be Consistent

As I said, time is a challenge, so I told the attendees to create a schedule for their social media posts based on the time they had available. And I said that it didn’t matter if they only blog once a month. The point is that they do it regularly, on a specific day. Then their customers will know when to expect their content. They’ll be a regular presence in their customers’ lives, making it easy for their customers to stay in touch with them, and ultimately to buy.

You’re the Expert

A lot of people feel that because writing is not their forte, they’re not in the best position to write their content. But they’re the ones who are doing their job, day in, day out. That’s what qualifies them to write their content. They don’t need fancy words or an elegant turn of phrase. They just need to tell customers clearly what their customs can do for them. In my presentation, I aimed to give them tips and resources that would help them to do this. Only time will tell whether I’ve succeeded.

As a business owner or employee, do you write your own content? How do you approach it? What do you find difficult about it, and what do you enjoy about it?

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My Big Fat Arts Award

This blog post will be short, but very, very sweet. I received a delightful shock last Thursday (11 May) when I won an arts award. The awards were part of an awards scheme organised by the Waterford branch, an organisation which offers support and networking opportunities to professional women.

Proper Award Photo
Me with my fellow arts awards and some judges and official types.

The Waterford branch is a fledgling branch, so I entered the awards to make sure that the arts were included in its awards categories. There had to be three entries, and there were, so I was very pleased about that. It’s great that an organisation whose core membership is businesswomen recognises the professionalism of artists and gives them a chance to boost their careers.

Filling in the awards application was more fun than I thought it would be. I had to talk about the work I had done, and it was good to remember the successes I had achieve. I also had to outline my vision for the future, and we artistic types do love an opportunity to dream. The most squirm-inducing part was the financial section, but my figures appear to have satisfied the judges.

Award-Winners’ Clichés

I’m now going to utter a number of clichés, but I hope you’ll forgive me, because clichés happen to be true. I did not expect to win the award. My fellow finalists are very cool and talented women. Bara Alich is a portrait photographer who takes intimate portraits of women and children. Eadaoin Breathnach stages ambitious plays in the mountains around Waterford with her theatre company, rig-out productions.

And yes, I do feel honoured to be chosen, honoured that three judges who didn’t know me at all felt that my work was impressive enough to merit an award. We can’t exist in a vacuum, and it’s great to get such validation.

My prize was a trophy, a certificate and free entry a national conference, where the national awards will be given out. I have to do an interview for the national awards in September, so watch this space.

Have you ever won an award? How do you feel it has benefited your career overall? Or was the glory of winning enough?

Writing with the Visually Impaired: The Next Level

On Saturday, I’ll be giving the next in my series of creative writing workshops for the visually impaired. It’ll be at the National Council for the Blind in Dublin, Ireland. It’ll be a memoir workshop using the three-act structure, which worked very well at the last workshop. The pieces will be on the theme of journeys.

Journeys can be quite different experiences for visually impaired people. Without sight, they become a feast for the senses in other ways. And even the most everyday journeys, to the shops or on a bus, can turn into adventures. That’s the theme we’ll be exploring, not just in this workshop, but in a bigger workshop that I have in mind.

visually-impaired-writing
How visually impaired people write. Photo source: NCBI Website.

A Full-Scale Project

I’ve been feeling for some time that I want to go to the next level with the writing workshops I give, to help individual people and groups to fulfil their ambitions to be published in some form. With regard to these workshops, I’ve been thinking for some time about a radio-based writing project and now I’ve taken the plunge. I’m applying for the Artist in the Community Scheme to create a piece of spoken-word art for radio.

I’m conscious that ultimately, this is my ambition, and the group I’ve been working with may be happy to keep going as we are. So to make it easier for them to take part in the project, it’s going to be an oral storytelling project rather than strictly a writing project. That takes the pressure off anyone who finds writing a piece for broadcast intimidating. And it allows the group’s natural storytelling abilities to shine through.

Mentoring

I haven’t done a collaborative arts project before. My own instinct is to give people their individual voice and let them write their own pieces. But telling a story as a group will widen the appeal of the project. So I’m applying for the Research with Mentoring strand of the funding. This will give me the chance to work with someone who has done collaborative arts projects before.

If I get the funding, I will be the one leading the project. I will create this piece of spoken-word art based on what the group of participants share with me. But I will also make sure that each of their voices is heard, as part of a greater tapestry of voices. Though it wasn’t quite what I envisaged when I first thought of doing this kind of project, I now realise it will still give the participants a taste of the power and liberation that the arts can bring. And that is my ultimate goal.

I’ll be keeping you updated about my progress with the application and whether I’m successful. If not, I will find other ways.

Blogging As Myself

When I write blog posts for businesses, I am usually a ghost writer. I keep myself hidden and I write as the business. I refer to we and us and I use the name of the business. I just see myself as the facilitator of the business owner’s vision, flair and commitment to delivering great service. My role is just to give shape to their ideas.

But recently, I was asked to write a series of blog posts as myself. It’s for a marketing programme called How Great Marketing Works, and the creator of the programme felt that the blog posts would have the ring of truth if I went through the programme and reported on my experience. The programme involves a small fee, but I am doing a free version, in the hope that my words will persuade others of the value of the programme.

question-marks
Editors ask questions to make sure they’re the right fit for you.

Step By Step

The programme is a bite-sized marketing programme, which means that all the information is broken down into easily digestible chunks. I take a similarly step-by-step approach with the blog posts, showing people how doing each module of the programme will improve the business.

I outline the problem the module helps people to solve, and the lessons people can learn. I finish by telling them how the module will benefit their business. As I’m doing the module at the same time as I write the blog posts, I’ve experienced the benefits myself, so I believe I’m giving people accurate information about how well the modules work.

Doing My Homework

Each module comes with a video, so I gather information for the posts by watching the videos and typing notes based on what I hear. If I need to go back over anything, the scripts of the videos are also included. Each module comes with a worksheet, and I complete those worksheets, so that I can tell people what each worksheet helps them to achieve.

Length of Posts

There’s a school of thought that longer blog posts are actually better, because they give search engines like Google more information to work with. In general, they give more in-depth information to readers and give you a chance to show off your expertise.

For this project, I’ve been asked to write posts of 800-1,000 words in length., about the size of a feature article in a newspaper. To prevent readers from getting bored, I use short paragraphs and short sentences, so people will have reached the end before they know it.

Lessons Learned

I can honestly say that this blogging project will be a learning experience for me. I help people communicate through words, but selling yourself is about a lot more than that. Us artistic types can be pretty crap at selling ourselves, so it will be handy to gain nuggets of marketing knowledge while I write.

Also, Finola Howard, who originated the programme, is brilliant at social media, and is on top of all the latest trends. Working with her will beef up my own social media knowledge.

When you’re writing blog posts for other people, do you ghost write them or do you write them as yourself?