When it comes to business writing, you may be thinking that nothing but a specialist will do. I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, there’s a certain type of specialty you should be looking for on every project you hire for.
When it comes to subjects, I’m a generalist. I have an inborn desire to explore new subjects or revisit past ones. I have great respect for people who can write only about organic seed supply houses or catheter manufacturers, but that’s not me.
What I do instead is focus on being a listening specialist.
After all, the most important information any business writer uses to accomplish your goals isn’t what they know when they meet you, it’s what they learn from you. A specialist may know the general audience in your industry, but what about your audience? Who are you talking to? What problem do they have that you can solve? What is unique about your product, service or organization? This can only be understood by a writer who keeps his or her ears open and asks the right questions.
And if they don’t have open ears and good questions? The custom copy you need will be cookie cutter copy. It will either never truly meet your needs or only do so after a lot of hassle in revisions, wrangling and re-education.
So, ask these questions when you’re evaluating a writer:
Will this writer learn enough about our audience to turn our features into compelling benefits which address the customer’s real daily experiences?
If you’ve done a project or two with a writer, ask yourself how much revision you’re doing that’s primarily related to tone or perspective.
Is there a synergy in the areas of this writer’s background that could give him or her a unique perspective? For example, if a writer has sales experience, can this make them more effective at moving the reader along in the sales cycle than someone with more specialized experience?
Do they ask questions about the terms and tone your customers will prefer? About how much or how little jargon is right for the piece?
Do their questions indicate they’re looking for the best way to translate complex information into a compelling narrative, or does it seem like they believe they already know it all?
In fact, how many questions are they asking about the writing of the piece itself? And how many upfront questions are they asking in general?
It’s a writer’s job to know your situation, needs, goals and customers. Whether you choose an inquisitive generalist or a specialist with reams of credits from your industry, make sure they’re a listening specialist before you make the leap.