How to Get Your Writer to Write Like You Talk

talkingheads“This sounds nothing like me,” a client recently confided about his content from another writer. “It’s not what I wanted.”

His disappointment was evident–and not uncommon.

What do you do when you read your first draft of content from your writer in high hopes . . . and feel disappointment instead?

Some people give up on their writer and return to cobbling together their own words. Some seek another writer, hoping to find The One that will magically breathe life into their content.

To be sure, not all writers are equal. Some are better than others at certain forms of writing, such as blogging, business, or advertising. And some are simply just better writers.

But before you ditch your writer, consider this: Have you provided her with enough guidance? Have you taken the time to tell her about you and what you want? Writers are a bit like hairstylists: Provide little instruction, and you’re likely to get a mohawk instead of that simple trim you wanted.

My clients are usually sure about one thing: They want a writer who can write like they talk. And a good writer changes her tone to accommodate each client as easily as she changes her wardrobe.

But what clients aren’t always certain of is how to communicate what they want to their writers.

To get your writer on board with your expectations, consider these four simple ideas:

  1. Compile a style guide, which is simply a list of what you want in your written communication. The most well-developed guide I’ve seen so far is that of Explore God, a nonprofit organization that invests deeply in its team of writers. In addition to six instructions dedicated to tone alone, the organization provides 15 more parameters as guidance—down to the ideal number of words to include in a sentence.
  2. Provide your writer with any existing corporate materials that help her get a feel for the way you’ve been presenting your company, including your online materials such as your website and social media forums as well as print materials such as article, brochures, and flyers.
  3. Provide direct, specific feedback. You’d be surprised how many people hesitate to tell their writer they’re unhappy with their content in an effort to avoid an awkward conversation. Experienced writers, however, already know that their writing will not satisfy every client, particularly a first draft. They appreciate clients who are honest and specific about what they want to change.
  4. Perhaps the most critical—and most overlooked—piece of information is the published version of your content. Don’t let your busyness or fear of an awkward conversation get in the way of this step. In addition to providing specific guidance to your writer, she can begin compiling a study guide based on the final product. That way, you both win.

With a little effort and communication, you can align your writer with your expectations – and you might get a better haircut to boot. What other strategies have you used to communicate with your writer?

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for companies, publishers, and organizations. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her website to continue the conversation.

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Upgrade Your Genius

Photo courtesy of borntocompete.com
Photo courtesy of borntocompete.com

“Successful people simply practice successful habits.” – Brian Tracy

Successful business leaders are more than great visionaries. Their success is in their everyday habits — the small choices that build an empire over time.

One notable empire is the basketball career of Michael Jordan. Houston business coach Glenn Smith recently shared Jordan’s incredible story of successful habits with me.

“Michael Jordan without a doubt was one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the NBA,” he said. “But Jordan was not born a star basketball player. He was actually cut from his high school varsity team.

However, he didn’t let that stop him. He worked hard to play high school ball and even earn a shot at playing in college. He wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted to play for — North Carolina State — and he wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him.

But Jordan never let any of this get in his way. At college, his coaches were taken aback by his willingness to work harder than anyone else. Even at the height of his success with the Chicago Bulls, his coach called him ‘a genius who constantly wants to upgrade his genius.'”

Michael Jordan’s story is a fantastic example of successful habits. Most notable is his daily investment of time and energy toward his vision in spite of obstacles and rejection.

Another notable habit was Jordan’s decision to resist distractions. Surely he was tempted at times to steer his attention toward other promising activities, people, or purposes, but he didn’t take the bait. Instead, he focused solely on doing one thing very well — “upgrading his genius.”

Like Jordan, successful business leaders define their vision and practice successful habits daily in spite of obstacles and rejections. But they also resist promising distractions. Even a worthy task, such as blogging, can prove to be an ineffective, distracting effort if a leader doesn’t have the time to maintain it properly. Business success includes tapping into resources and delegating tasks in order to remain focused on your primary genius.

What daily investments will you make — and what distractions will you delegate — to upgrade your genius this year?

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for business leaders, organizations, and publishers. Connect with her on LinkedIn or on her website.

Become the Media

Courtesy of prosoundweb.com
Courtesy of prosoundweb.com

Jello Biafra, a former lead singer for the punk rock band Dead Kennedys, once said, “Don’t hate the media; become the media.” The songwriter and political activist combined his bold ideas and artistic talent to impact the worlds of music and politics.

As you reflect on this year and prepare for the next, consider this: How will you become the media in 2015? Real change happens in your personal and professional life when you share your ideas with the world.

Identify one goal in your professional and personal life in which you want to make progress. Perhaps you want a better job or to promote a cause.

Now, list the people, resources, and actions with which you can make that goal happen. Be specific about how you will use communication to reach your goal. What action can you take or product can you make to speak to the world? What ideas, images, and strengths will you convey? What misunderstandings, assumptions, and weaknesses will you break down?

Here are some ways to create or revamp your message for the world. Which will add momentum to your goal?

  • Article
  • Artwork
  • Biography
  • Blog
  • Book
  • Brochure
  • Business cards
  • Case study
  • Cover letter
  • Email ad
  • Facebook page
  • Flyer
  • Grant
  • Header
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Logo
  • Photograph
  • Performance
  • Press release
  • Media kit
  • Music
  • Newsletter
  • Radio spot
  • Resume
  • Signage for your place of business
  • Speech
  • Television spot
  • Twitter account
  • Video
  • Website

Once you’ve nailed down your goal and the action you will take to reach it, set a deadline for yourself and ask someone to hold you accountable. If you have ideas but need help articulating them, consult with a writer. The right message with the right method will yield results. Share with me the results of your media in 2015!

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for companies, publishers, and other writers. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her website.

The Surprising Choice for Your Next Project Manager

Photo source: www.rosiemade.com.
Photo source: http://www.rosiemade.com.

Business leaders depend on writers for great words. But did you know that a great writer can also be a great leader? The next time you’re looking for a leader in initiatives related to corporate communications, human resources, or public relations, consider your writer at the top of the list. Here are the reasons why:

1. A great writer will make sense of your vision.

The sole purpose of a writer is to communicate your thoughts to an audience. So, a great writer can quickly grab hold of your vision and provide an easy translation for your people. This means your writer will draw on your strengths — your clearly defined goals — and use them to motivate your team.

But a writer also offers a fresh perspective that can pinpoint your weaknesses — the areas of your message that are vague and need development. With this honest feedback, your vision can be presented to your team in a powerful way that sets a clear direction.

2. A great writer will provide better documentation.

A writer clearly understands her role within your project: to create order for your people the same way she creates order for your words. While your people — the subject matter experts — to do their job, she can plan a schedule, maintain deadlines, and document processes. Her excellent documentation will complement your existing people and processes.

3. A great writer will be more productive.

This is especially true if you hire a freelancer with whom you’ve agreed upon a flat project fee. Her time is her currency, so she will be motivated to get the job done as efficiently as possible. Regardless, without the distractions of office politics and competing job duties, she’ll remain committed to a schedule and will hold people accountable to deadlines.

4. A great writer will provide more resources.

Many freelancers network with other providers across industries. So, tapping into the knowledge of a freelance writer also means tapping into her network of resources. Through her, you’ll be able to get connected to other writers, graphic designers, website developers, and cartoonists, for example. And with more resources, your vision can move in more creative directions.

Not all writers have the skills to lead all projects, so find out about their experience in project management. You’ll likely find a writer who has the experience and insight to lead through a clearly defined vision, better documentation, more productivity, and more resources.

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for business leaders, publishers, and other writers. Connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/ellaritchie or check out her website at http://www.stellarwriter.com.

Why the Kind of Writer You Hire Matters

upsidedownSo, a man walks into a workshop and hires the wrong writer.

“Wait, what do you mean I hired the wrong writer?” he asks.

“You hired a book writer,” I say. “What you need is a social media writer.”

I look again at his LinkedIn profile, the one he had paid $600 for her to write. It describes his humble beginnings, his growing ventures in business, and finally his success as a business coach. It is a masterfully written story that slowly bulges with details. If I want a writer that really understands how to build a story for a book, this woman is clearly the real deal.

But this man needs someone who knows how to write a LinkedIn profile.

“Aren’t all writers the same?” he asks. No, they are not.

LinkedIn is no place for a story that simmers to a satisfying climax. No, LinkedIn bucks traditions and flips stories on their heads. Good social media content starts with a climax and follows with a story.

And the kind of writer you hire needs to know this.

You see, most professionals on LinkedIn aren’t going to wade through endless paragraphs to find out what you’re about. They’re busy, and they don’t want to work for information. When they open your profile, they want to know three things within seconds: What do you do? Are you good at it? How can you benefit me?

A writer who has had experience with social media will understand how to adapt her content to the fast pace of LinkedIn readers. She will take your glorious story, shave it down, flip it on its head, and reach your audience quickly. In other words, she will speak to your audience in a way that grabs them.

Before you hire a writer for social media, find out about her experience. Has she written anything like what you need? Can she provide a sample of her writing? Does she have a proven track record?

And then when you’ve found her, prepare to be flipped.

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for business leaders, publishers, and organizations. Connect with her on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/ellaritchie.