As a digital marketer or copywriter, your job is to produce interesting, engaging content for the target audience of the website you are writing for. However, if you work in an agency, you’re inevitably going to end up having to produce content about something that isn’t your specialist area. Likewise, you might start working in-house at a company in a new industry, and it can feel daunting being amongst industry experts who you feel have much more authority on the subject than you. But part of the skill of being a writer is gathering information, organising it and creating from it a piece of content that people want to read. Once you’ve got a few strategies down for the gathering and processing parts then you’re back in familiar territory to do your thing and write up the final piece.
Those industry experts we mentioned? Use them to your advantage. Rather than being intimidated, see people who are more knowledgeable on the subject as a great resource. If you’re in-house at a new company, come up with a set of questions and seek someone out to ask them. People are usually more than happy to impart their well-earned knowledge, and love it when people are enthusiastic and interested. Or if you’re at an agency working for a client, don’t be scared to ask them questions to get to know their business and products. Present it as you trying to really get to know the company so that you can write the best content possible for them–they can’t argue with that! You’re just doing your job well.
Let’s face it–you’re not going to become an expert on a new, complex subject area overnight. Of course you need to do your background research, but you don’t want to get bogged down by the sea of information that’s out there, so you need to focus your research. The best way to do this is to look at the task at hand and ask the questions you need in order to write the specific piece you’re working on. Start with a few classic W questions: who, what and why?
The first is a basic of writing for commercial purposes: who am I writing for? More often than not, the company you will be creating content for will be selling a product. You need to know which people are potentially going to be buying that product, as this is who you are writing for. This leads us to the “what”. What will interest these people? What should you write about? Depending on the overall content strategy, you might be writing more sales-based copy and therefore focusing on what product features you need to tell people about. Or you might be writing more general pieces related to the industry to show that the company has their finger on the pulse of what’s happening, or simply to get people visiting the website through interesting content.
If you’re struggling, turn to “why”. The “why” kind of helps inform the “what”. Why is this piece being written? Often the functions of a piece of content are manifold, and a couple of them I’ve just mentioned. Aside from more technical reasons such as keeping Google happy with regular fresh content, a big one is also minimising bounce rates by keeping people on the page–so the post needs to be interesting. This leads us on to the next point….
“They” being the reader. Even if you’re dealing with technical, specialist subject matter, when it comes down to it, everyone reading your blog post will be a person, just like you. And marketing is all about understanding people. So approach the post as if it is about a familiar topic–by focusing on making it compelling and interesting, with a clear structure that guides the reader.
Maybe think about the “why” question in a different way: why would someone keep reading this post? If you don’t have a good answer to this, then you need to get back to the drawing board. A good blog post should tell someone something valuable they don’t already know, and let them know this is going to happen from the start. Just packing it full of information isn’t going to do the trick. And actually, once you realise that the key is writing well rather than including all the information there is to know on a certain topic, the task of writing a blog post on an unfamiliar topic doesn’t seem so daunting.