Good writing is grounded in what E.B. White referred to as 'the eloquence of facts'. Whether it's client copy or personal blog posts, you should always make sure you do your research.
That said, it's a tough balance to strike between knowing enough to write with information and generating copy quickly and efficiently. We can't all be world renowned experts, so here are seven top research tips to make sure you know you're telling people what they need to know:
- Go back to the source. A good brief will include helpful collateral. Clients will always have some document, brochure or video that they can share. Devour and break down whatever you are given. It not only tells you objective information, but tells you how the client likes to see themselves and their offerings in terms of tone and attitude.
This applies for blogs too - think about what sparked your idea. Go back to the article, find the film clip, search out the photo. Even go back to the place where you first thought of it.
- Ask an expert. Whether it's a product expert from inside your client's company, a third party specialist or a happy customer, there is always someone out there who knows more than you. People love to talk about what they're passionate about so aim high and try to talk to the best in the field. And remember, interviews should be guided and informative conversations.
- The site you can never cite. Wikipedia is fantastic for getting an overview of a person, a term or anything else. Of course you should never cite it as a source, but start there and give yourself a grounding.
- Yourself. For a company like Articulate, who writes a lot on tech, there are plenty of occasions where we get crossover topics. Dig through your archive, you'll probably be surprised what you've written on before. Warning: never plagiarise yourself, but feel free to use yourself as an informed prompt.
- Google it....Ok, maybe that's a bit simplistic. We all know 'Google it', but here are a couple of specific search engine tips for researching something you want to write on:
5a. Google News search. Looking at what comes up in the headlines, and where in the world that topic is buzzing is a brilliant way to tap in to the heart of the current conversation, and it helps to make sure your writing is bang up to date. Start with Google News, then drill down into industry or interest-specific publications.
- Google Blog search. Wander down the rabbit hole. Some people write great, well-researched blogs that just happen to get very little traffic. Others are extremely popular and with good reason. Not only is this a good way in to the conversation on a given topic, but a great way of finding links to other articles, studies, facts and figures.
- Future-gazing googling. What I mean by this is: Imagine you have written your article and it's online already. Now be your ideal, target reader and type into Google the question that your article will answer. Use the phrases and mindset of your reader and see what's already out there talking to them, and where the gap is for you to write something even better.