Yesterday’s #WrMatters Twitter chat with Michelle Baker centered on the writing processes professionals use to create those complicated research reports, spiffy whitepapers, and shiny promotional materials that make businesses large and small go ’round.
Wait, really? You mean you don’t just squirt it out of your creative organ and neaten it up on Word?
Yes. Really. I mean, no, I don’t. Most of the time, anyway.
As Michelle said during the chat, for very small or rote assignments we can go through the brainstorming and organizing processes in our heads and produce finished pieces in a very short time. For the monsters, though–whitepapers, research reports, or ebooks, it’s necessary to sit down and plan in black and white.
The first brainstorm I do (after I have enough data on my audience) is brainstorm my approach to the content. When I say “approach,” I mean headline. Nothing matters for a marketing piece more than the headline. And that one set of words–less than eight, if you follow the standard advice–usually entails quite a bit of research.
I need to know the good, the bad, the customer concerns… everything necessary to inform me about the big stuff, including:
1. How aware is the customer of my product?
2. How major are any concerns about my product?
3. What is the core benefit of the product?
As I gather information in each of these areas, I jot down headline ideas and fragments. What tone should it take? Which what’s-in-it-for-them should it highlight for maximum reader-capture, and which should it save for the details?
It’s not until I have a good set of headline choices that I consider my brainstorm complete. That isn’t usually until days, many Evernote clips and browser favorites, and pages and pages of half-scratched-out notes (yes, on paper) later.
Michelle briefly described cubing, a process she enjoys using for her larger pieces because it allows her to look at the same topic from six different sides–like a 3-D cube. I thought that was cool (and I usually never say “cool”), but we didn’t have enough time for her to go into detail about it. So I found a nice piece you can use as a guide if you like from the Portland State University Writing Center.
What does brainstorming mean in your line of work?
If you haven’t joined Michelle Baker and I for #WrMatters, you’re missing out, but it’s not over! We’ll be chatting again on the first day of May, and every other Thursday thereafter. Hope to see you then.
Photo credit: Miranda, courtesy Flickr, CC 2.0.