“How can I possibly find time to write articles?” you may ask. “I’m just too busy with my role as a Learning and Development or HR professional.”
But if you knew that by writing articles, you could advance your career, generate new connections, earn additional credibility, and possibly even prepare for a career as a consultant, wouldn’t it be worth it? By writing articles, I’ve been able to accomplish these goals, and create enough interest that 100 percent of my business is generated through leads from writing and from repeat and referral business.
Your first goal in writing is to establish your own personal purpose: Is it to create new interest in a topic, be controversial, or entice the media to reach out to you? By identifying your key objective, you’ll be more likely to achieve that goal.
DEVELOPING THE TOPIC
Where do you begin in picking the best topic? How do you narrow your scope? Consider these avenues for topic development:
- Trends in your area of expertise. What trends do you see in your work? What issues are evolving? What do your colleagues call you about to ask for your expertise? These are no doubt excellent topics for a timely article.
- Controversies in your area of expertise. Do you hold a position that is controversial? Do you speak on an issue that is hotly debated? This topic also may be of interest to readers.
- New legislature. New laws, regulations, and rulings and interpretations can provide a useful source of article material.
NARROWING THE SCOPE
Now that you’ve selected the topic, you must narrow the scope of your article. Consider these guidelines for defining the specific issue and treatment:
- Focus on one element of the topic.
- Include how to’s for implementation.
- Provide steps and procedures.
- Highlight pros and cons, particularly for controversial issues.
- Offer key ideas, tips, and guidelines for specific activities.
- Consider writing analogy/metaphor articles.
For example, as a Human Resources (HR) leader, I’ve provided consultation services on strategic recruitment and have written articles on the following aspects of recruitment:
- Recruiting key labor market segments (both on targeting techniques and the specifics of recruiting labor market segments, such as older workers)
- How to conduct a recruitment activity (i.e., how to conduct a recruitment event such as an open house or career fair)
- Steps or procedures in tracking or planning for recruitment
- Pros and cons of various recruitment approaches, including more controversial activities, such as telemarketing
- Key ideas, tips, or guidelines for implementing specific activities
- An analogy of how recruitment is like marketing and sales
You’ve done your homework. Now you’re ready to write the article. What are the considerations to review as you begin? Some recommendations:
- Refer to the guidelines supplied by the publication. This includes tone, word count, file format, and delivery (i.e., e-mail, Google docs, etc.).
- Present the article in well-organized, bite-sized pieces. Editors tend to like headings, key points, bullets, and numbered points to break up the article, making it appealing to the busy reader (and what reader isn’t?).
- Take a real-world rather than academic or rhetorical approach (unless you are writing for that kind of journal). When I first began writing, I was concerned that my writing wasn’t formal or “academic” enough, but my editors reassured me that most publications— and, therefore, most readers—want real-world approaches in conversational language.
- Provide success stories, examples, and case studies. Use your experiences as a facilitator, speaker, or consultant to illuminate your key points and provide enough detail to make the story come alive for your readers. A longer success story or case example might be appropriate as a sidebar.
- Write to the pain of your audience. What are the concerns and issues that cause your readers pain? Outline areas that may be painful to your readers and provide ideas and recommendations for addressing their concerns.
YOU’RE PUBLISHED…NOW WHAT?
Once the article is published, do you sit back on your laurels and wait for the phone to ring or the texts or e-mails to pour in? No way. Savvy professionals will leverage the publication of an article in these ways:
- Circulate your articles to your leadership team and other thought leaders.
- Refer to the article on your Web page and provide a link to the article.
- Provide reprints as part of your handouts for training sessions and presentations.
- Write another version of the article for another industry (for example, an article written on recruiting for the hospitality industry can be re-purposed by using key industry examples for the retail or healthcare industry).
- Write companion articles that could be put together in a special report, which could be provided as a marketing tool or sold as a product offering.
- Write companion articles that could become chapters in a book.
Writing articles can be an excellent way to remind others of your expertise in the field. By penning articles in your areas of strength, you can build your career and establish your thought leadership the “write” way.