I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Know who you are emailing

A hand receiving a letter via emailWriting an email (or letter) request may seem very simple, but it needs care and attention to get it right. A poorly written request is much less likely to get the results you want so the effort is worthwhile.

Probably the main thing is to do some research beforehand so that you know who you are writing to. This includes using the name of the person, and probably even their business. By knowing a bit about the person/business, you can save yourself from looking ignorant.

For example, many website owners receive emails saying something like “We would like to have a link to our website from yours and we will then add a link to your site on [our site]” However, they ignore the fact that the site only takes paid listings or does not have a links page.

Sometimes, these emails go further by asking for additional promotional activities from the business owner – again, not noticing whether these details are listed on the site or if the site even offers any sort of promotion to others.

The end result? The website owners disregard the email and the sender does not get any new links to their site.

And frankly, for the best results in a search engine, you should be selective about who you link with, rather than sending a standard email to every site you can think of in hope that some will accept your offer. But search engine rankings is a whole other subject!

Once you know a bit about the person/business you are writing to, you can aim the email directly to them.

To use the same example, asking for a website link exchange, a better request could be “We see you have a links page on your website. If you would like the benefits of another link to your site, we would like to suggest a link exchange.”

If you are writing a request email/letter, my tips on how to encourage someone to do something may also help.

* Image courtesy of 123RF

How can you pick a good writer?

Once you have decided that you will outsource the content writing for a project, how can you select a good writer to help you? Yesterday, I sparked a discussion on writers being professional and skilled so I thought it best to help you recognise good writers!

Especially if you are outsourcing the writing because you don’t feel comfortable with grammar and sentence construction, it isn’t easy to pick a ‘good’ writer from a poor writer.

So how can you tell?Women reading and considering

Read some samples of their work, not just their marketing brochure/website, and preferably samples of the same type of writing – writing for websites, children, media and manuals all require different writing techniques.

As you read these samples, take note of the following:

  • do you notice a lot of spelling or other errors?
  • did you read the content easily (without really noticing the writing itself) or did you have to reread sections to understand them? (Assuming the content was ok, rereading complex ideas is a different thing altogether!)
  • look at the entire text – are paragraphs all the same or in different lengths? How many start with the same word?
  • was it a struggle (content matter aside!) to finish reading the work? Were you loosing interest during the first paragraph?
  • did you notice any jumps in tense (present/past/future) or style (casual, formal, personal, etc)?
  • did the language seem appropriate to the audience?

Look and ask for testimonials and referrals. Don’t just rely on those the writer provides in marketing materials – ask to speak to previous clients or talk to other business owners who may know of the writer. A writer with poor results or who is otherwise unprofessional will struggle to maintain a good name.

Research the actual writer. Read articles they have on their site, their newsletter, their blog and their articles on other sites. As well as judging their writing skills, such articles should give you an idea of their knowledge and expertise. A newsletter and blog may also give you an insight into the writer’s personality so you can determine if they are professional and trustworthy. You can also decide if you can work with that writer – an effective relationship will produce better content than one where you and the writer don’t ‘get’ each other.

You can also do some formal checks, such as checking if they have a registered business name and number.

Have you had any experiences with picking the wrong writer?

Check details – and check again

Let’s face it not everyone will notice or care about a couple of small spelling or grammatical mistakes. But getting the details correct is absolutely critical.

Make sure you go back and check details in your work – whether it is something you have written, a professional wrote for you or a graphic designer has worked on for you. Ideally, get someone else to check your document just for details.

If in doubt at how easy it can be to make such mistakes, here are some real life examples…

  1. A marketing flyer for a local shopping strip where each shop added their ad looked great except for one little detail – they spelt the name of the suburb incorrectly! And I know because I saw the flyer in circulation so it went out without being corrected.
  2. A course registration form included a second page with the following under the header:
    Invoice Date: 18 December 2008

    Event: Course Name, Melbourne – 20 February 2008
    Obviously, prompt payment isn’t an issue with these people!

  3. A business sent out invitations to an event that cost them a lot of money to arrange. The invitations were sent out stating a day and date that didn’t match so they risked many people not turning up.
  4. 500 business cards were printed with the wrong mobile phone number because no one checked the original source. Luckily, the problem was noticed before any cards were given out.
  5. 100,000 letterhead were printed before anyone realised the disclaimer mentioned another (related) company name. Could you afford this sort of reprint?
  6. a book on small business quoted someone but used the wrong first name for her, which put her offside and made it hard for readers to research that woman
  7. the male CEO of a Melbourne company was named in a photo in an industry magazine – however, the photo was a woman and the article was not even related to the CEO or his company.

So while you won’t be alone with such mistakes, your credibility is better if you take the time to make sure details are present and correct. The cost of not checking can be huge.