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Your industry writer

As a professional business writer, I sometimes am asked if I have experience writing content for a specific industry.

While I could give a yes/no answer to each person, depending on the industry they are asking about, the reality is that being an experienced writer is more relevant that my industry knowledge.

different industries - engineer, dentist, dressmaker, accountant.

I am not an engineer or dentist, a seamstress or accountant, yet these are some of the industries I have successfully written for

Don’t believe me? Well think about these points:

  1. expertise in multiple fields (e.g. writing and science or superannuation) is harder to find – and should be unnecessary as the client is the subject expert and the writer is just making it read well
  2. someone outside of the industry can provide more clarity about how customers will perceive information (For example, people in superannuation and insurance talk about ‘benefits’ in a way that the general population doesn’t, so as a writer I change ‘benefits’ to ‘payments’ for clarity)
  3. a writer’s job is to communicate a message clearly and effectively
  4. good writers know how to research, and to read information to find the relevant points to put into a message
  5. a lot of business content is actually generic and doesn’t need a lot of industry knowledge – website home pages, ads, media releases, profiles and brochures are about the business and marketing so a lot of technical information isn’t used
  6. experienced writers are used to meeting guidelines and choosing words carefully so can manage even in tightly regulated industries – just tell the writer  any rules and then use your usual due diligence checks. Good writers can use words well but avoid misleading people so may meet the regulations quite easily anyway

In comparison, we need some trees removed at home. We want a professional tree lopper who will do the job safely and appropriately – I don’t care if they’ve chopped down the same type of tree before. Likewise, I don’t insist on a hairdresser who only does long, wavy hair or a graphic designer who has experience with other writers’ websites.

If you need writing help, you will find it much harder to find a suitable professional if you limit it to those with industry experience. Concentrate on finding a good writer and providing them with the relevant facts for a project (or at least reliable sources of information).

Do you disagree?

 

* Images collated from Microsoft Clipart

Managing feedback

When I’m writing for some of my corporate clients, a number of people need to be involved in the document – usually a mix of technical experts and legal advisers, along with a manager or two. If you have ever had to deal with a committee consensus, you’ll know that this process can be frustrating and time-consuming.

The best results arise when everyone has the appropriate input with one or two people having responsibility for the final result – usually the writer and a senior manager.

Here are some of my tips to keep this process under control:

  • have all feedback come into a central place so it can be collated – and if a technical expert can collate it for you, even better!
  • as much as possible, get everyone involved to review the same draft by a specific deadline. This way, you can blend all of the feedback into the document in one go rather than having many drafts and missing details in the confusion. Most stakeholders then do not get another review – legal, management and you get to do final checks.
  • get the document as accurate as possible with one or two client representatives before it goes to the group
  • explain any potential issues before they start the review. For example, I often write ‘refer to page xx’ in a draft document rather than ‘refer to page 10’ to allow for layout changes. I warn clients of this when I give them the draft to save them and me dealing with page numbers unnecessarily
  • understand as much as possible who is who amongst the stakeholders. If Jane and Mary give opposing feedback – which should you rely on as technically correct and which is an opinion?
  • be willing to give way on some points if they aren’t important so that you can stand your ground on points where it is important – remember that the same information can be written in multiple correct ways, and it can be personal choice as to which is ‘better’

As a writer, it is my job to take their technical knowledge, legal requirements and document intentions and provide them with a clear, easy to read document. So sometimes I do exactly as their feedback requests (e.g. changing a measurement from 5mm to 5cm) and at other times I adjust their feedback for clarity.

Use your words wisely!