5 questions to answer before writing an article

preparation

So, you’ve got to write an article, or a product page, or a sales leaflet, about your latest blue widget. Or even an old blue widget, which needs some new marketing collateral. As any good chef will tell you, the secret to producing something special is to allocate plenty of time for preparation. In this case, that doesn’t mean ensuring you’re undisturbed (although that helps). It means thinking about what you’re aiming to achieve.

Here then are a list of questions you should ask yourself – and I suggest that you write down the answers, instead of pretending that you’ve seriously considered them. Alternatively, if I was commissioning a page from an independent writer, I would get them to do this, or even do it for them to ensure we were both on the same side.

1. What is this article trying to achieve? This could be quite simple, such as “explain the benefits of this product in comparison to red widgets”.

2. Who is this article aimed at? Extremely knowledgeable users? Non-technical management? Editors? All of them?

3. Where is the audience in the buying cycle? Is this the first time they’ll have encountered the technology? Or is the article aimed at getting them to click the “buy now” button?

4. What are the most important concepts you want to get across? These could be benefits, or ideas, or specific messages.

5. What are the search terms related to the article which you’d like it to appear for? Preferably these should be terms you’re not already ranking highly in Google for, and should be achievable (i.e. not too broad).

Now, I reckon that for most articles, you could answer those questions in 10 to 15 minutes. I’d argue that it’ll save more than that in writing time, if you’re the writer, and save more than that in rewriting time, if somebody else is being commissioned to do it. Of course, we all want to get straight into the job, but before anything else, preparation is the key to success.

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