3 Ways to Write for an Industry You Know Nothing About
My first job was working for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association. I wrote about cool things to do in the city, what new restaurants were popping up, and encouraged people to visit. It was a great gig for a fresh college grad. I only wrote about what I liked; I learned a lot, and it was fun.
My second job was a project manager at a creative ad agency, balancing clients of every industry (finance, non-profit, government agencies, software) with internal design & development team needs. My third job was a PR/content role at a tech startup, selling an online form builder to small businesses. And my fourth? Working for a SaaS startup selling inventory management software to multichannel retailers.
I wasn't hired because I was an expert in these fields. I was hired because I excel at creating content that's relevant to a particular audience and driving results from that content.
But the important thing to remember is I can't do this alone. To write content that moves people, I have to empathize with those people. To empathize with them, I have to understand them, talk to them, and think how they think. I have to feel their pain points.
So how do you do that when you feel completely ignorant? How could you possibly become an expert and write content that drives results?
A lot of patience, confidence, and these three habits...
WAKE UP HUNGRY AND THINK LIKE A JOURNALIST.
Who are your readers? What is your beat? Wake up every morning, eager to find out what's going on in the news. Set up news alerts. Subscribe to popular industry blogs. Know who the industry celebrities are and what's the latest gossip. Become the expert at your company on every single update that is going on in the news. Share it on Slack, via email. Once you assume this position, the accountability will set in, and you'll feel obligated to continue being this person for your company. Let it push you to be curious.
TALK TO THE EXPERTS. MAKE THEM YOUR FRIENDS.
If there's one thing I've learned throughout my career, it's that people LOVE talking about what they know. Search Twitter for keywords in your industry and see who the biggest talkers are. Share their content. Read their posts. Ask to chat with them over a phone call or coffee. Learn from them and make them your best friend. These are people who will advise you on not only your content but potentially your software product. (And what a great way to build credibility with your product team!)
FOSTER MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS WITH PRODUCT MANAGERS.
Once you have a clear understanding of what's going on in the industry, use that confidence to have meaningful conversations internally. Ask thoughtful questions and take the initiative to talk with your product team. They are in a constant state of input - from executives, marketers, sales people, etc. Ask them questions and give them an opportunity to SHARE.
BONUS TIPS: PRACTICE WAYS TO GET CONTENT OUT QUICKLY.
If you're under a deadline to produce content as soon as you start a job, here are things you can do that won't take much time:
- Repurpose old content: If your company already has content published, find ways to repurpose it into different formats (guides, SlideShare, etc.)
- Case studies: Interview customers and post case studies on your blog. You can also ask the customers what type of content they'd like to see.
- Q & A with your CEO: Publish it and use it as an opportunity to establish your company's authority. It's also a great way to find out what's important to the leader of your company.
- Find key influencers to post: Find people already blogging in the space and ask if you could repurpose some of their content in your blog. Sell it to them as a way to promote their business.
- Poll Twitter followers: Ask a question on Twitter and publish the content on your blog.
- News roundup: Publish relevant articles in the industry as a round-up of what your readers should know.
Are you a content marketer with clever content creation tips? I'd love to hear them! Comment below or let's connect on Twitter.