This is a process that’s a heavier lift than you may think when approached as a DIY project, whether you’re a CEO, executive director, sales rep, attorney, clinician, CPA, contractor, or niche service provider.
How do you turn what’s inside you into thought leadership?
How do you channel your knowledge and passion into a message that matters to your ideal client?
How do you tell a story that makes an emotional connection while also supporting your marketing goals?
Every day, I help clients navigate this process, which I’ll explain here.
The client will typically have an idea or topic in mind, but one that needs to be refined before they share it with the world.
It could be directly tied to a topic on the client’s editorial calendar, or it could be a somewhat random topic inspired by an article they read or a recent conversation with a client or colleague.
Honestly, it’s usually the latter.
As much as we try to schedule topics in advance of targeted publish dates, editorial calendars are often torn up as new topics present themselves. And that’s not a bad thing, assuming the topic is truly relevant to the target audience and supports the marketing strategy.
Clients will say things like:
“I’ll tell you what I was thinking. You’re always able to figure me out.”
“I’m just going to do a brain dump and you tell me what we should do with it.”
“I know there’s a story in here somewhere.”
These are actual quotes, by the way.
Setting the Stage and Listening
Before we dive into what the client is thinking and feeling, I ask them to set the stage for me. Tell me why this topic is important, not just to the client but to the client’s audience. Tell me, on a high level, why we’re developing this content.
In other words, all content should have a strategic purpose, so we should try to identify that purpose before we dive into the topic.
Then I ask what inspired the topic and why the client feels so strongly about it.
And I listen.
If the client pauses for a few seconds, I don’t automatically jump in for the sake of preventing awkward silence. I let them gather their thoughts and continue so they don’t lose their train of thought.
A good marketing professional, especially a good content writer, is a good listener and sounding board.
A good listener is an information sponge who can then ask better questions to uncover more meaningful information and more interesting stories.
Throughout the process, my wheels are turning and angles are being considered for delivering the client’s message in the most powerful, memorable way.
When I sense the timing is right to jump in and cultivate the client’s idea, I start asking questions.
More often than not, the client will say, “That’s an interesting question” or “Nobody has ever asked me that.”
Translation: “You’re making me dig deeper and think harder about this topic than I usually do.”
A big part of my job is to challenge clients to look at their organization, what they do, the value they deliver, and the needs of their clients in ways they hadn’t previously considered.
Asking questions that get below the surface will also help me make recommendations about what the core message of the content should be so I can steer the conversation in a certain direction.
Keeping It Real
Throughout this process, I can tell if the client is trying to predict how the content will look in its finished form before they answer a question. This can cause them to hold back instead of speaking frankly and openly.
In this case, I remind the client to forget about marketing. Forget the website. Forget the blog, the newsletter, and social media. Forget SEO.
Just tell me what you think. Tell me what you know. Tell me what you feel.
Don’t worry about using the perfect language. Finding the right words is my job.
Don’t worry if what you’re saying seems jumbled or out of order. Organizing everything you say and figuring out the right structure for your content are my job.
I record these conversations so I don’t miss anything. Instead of stopping the client to take notes, recording enables me to let the conversation flow freely, pay attention to what the client is saying, and come up with thoughtful questions.
By just letting it fly naturally, clients can share what they think and feel in the most authentic way, which allows me to capture that authenticity in their content.
Once we finish the conversation, I can listen back to the audio, do some independent research, and start the actual writing.
Did I mention my heavy lifting is done before the writing happens?
This Is Not a DIY Project. Or It Shouldn’t Be.
You might say to yourself, “This sounds too complicated. I’ll just do it myself.”
How much time are you willing to devote to the process of getting your thoughts and emotions out of your brain and heart, organizing those thoughts and emotions into a coherent message, and telling your story in a way that resonates with your ideal client?
Even if you have the time, do you have the experience and ability to navigate this process effectively?
Then there’s the actual writing, which takes even longer.
I’ve had clients spin their wheels for hours trying to do this on their own, or even days when you factor in the writing.
For a short blog article, the process I’ve just outlined can be completed in as little as 10 minutes before I take over the writing part. We can get it done while you drive to the office or an appointment.
You also benefit from the perspective of an unbiased outsider who can provide objective, real-time feedback to your ideas and thought process. Challenge assumptions. Play devil’s advocate. Push you to dig deeper.
And then there’s that pesky writing part, which I take off your plate.
We minimize the time commitment on your part while creating more compelling, more authentic content that speaks directly to the needs of your ideal client.
Efficient and effective. Sounds like smart business to me.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I have something important to say, but I’m not sure what the best approach is or how to get my knowledge and passion onto a page, and I sure as hell don’t have time to figure it out,” I can help.
If you’re a marketing director frustrated by the constant pushback you receive whenever you ask your team to contribute content, I can help.