Top 10 Tips to Find the Right Writer to Tell Your Company’s Stories
Few business tools are more powerful than a compelling story. I’d argue that the most effective social media posts, news releases, magazines, advertorials, videos, podcasts and other marketing tools tell an interesting story. Are you maximizing this amazing resource?
The power of a story well-told can present your company in a memorable, accurate, persuasive way that:
• Gets you noticed
• Distinguishes you from the competition
• Positions you as an expert and an industry leader
• Turns prospects into customers
• Builds customer loyalty
• Boosts sales
Here’s a feature story I wrote about Penoach Winery in Adel, Iowa. Instead of being a shill (“buy our wine!”), we chose to tell the unique story of the winery’s historic barn.
Even though we’ve been enjoying stories since we were kids, there’s an art to great storytelling. How do you keep you keep your story from sounding like a boring, amateur-hour product pitch?
You need the right writer.
Someone who can uncover remarkable stories about your brand. Someone who can spark conversations among your target audience about your company and its products and services. Someone who understands the craft of writing and knows how to harness its power for maximum impact.
But–how do you avoid hiring a hack?
Business professionals trained in journalism are a good option, because they know how to find remarkable stories and tell them effectively to reach your target audience. Note–you don’t have to look for a full-time employee if that doesn’t fit your current situation. The right freelancer can help you save money (no health insurance, vacation time or other benefits to worry about!) and get the job done right. Freelancers with a journalism background can be invaluable to you, thanks to their outsider’s perspective—an asset that can sometimes elude marketers.
Top 10 checklist to find the right writer
After working with business clients of all sizes in a variety of industries across America for the past 20 years, I urge you to look for these top 10 traits to help you spot the right writer for your business:
1. Proven writing ability. While lots of people call themselves writers, not everyone is a skilled storyteller. Check out writers’ blog updates, as well as their writing samples (including the copy on their website) to get a sense of their skill and style. If their headlines are boring, their intro paragraphs fall flat, the text is rambling, the content is inaccurate, and/or the ending fails to pack a punch or include call to action, keep looking.
2. An audience-centric writing philosophy. Great writers know it’s essential to always focus on the target audience and their needs. They know how to present your message so it resonates with the needs, fears, hopes and dreams of your target audience. If you ask prospective writers to describe their writing philosophy and they don’t mention a focus on the reader, be afraid—be very afraid.
3. Talent for spotting a good story. The best writers and content creators can smell a good story. They also know how to organize the “bones” of the story for maximum impact. Plus, they are masters of humanizing the content to make it interesting and fun to read. If you give prospective writers some background about your company, its mission and its success stories, and they can’t envision a story idea or two, keep looking.
4. Good listener. Listening is the secret to spotting great stories. It’s also essential to the art of the interview. Only by asking the right questions can a writer get the best answers to understand your company’s culture, figure out your company’s goals and create stories that resonate with your target audience. Look for writers who ask plenty of smart questions and know how to put you at ease. If a writer talks more than he or she listens, fails to ask relevant questions or makes you uncomfortable, keep looking.
5. Passion. The best writing touches people at an emotional level, not just an intellectual level. A skilled writer who is passionate about life can tap into the passion to add the human element to stories and make them memorable. Ask prospective writers about their hobbies and interests to get a better sense about their passions and motivations. If you come across a writer who is as bland as stale popcorn, keep looking.
6. Marketing mindset. It never hurts when writers have a flair for marketing. See how prospective writers promote their own work. The best writers promote their own content. They build and nurture relationships. They might even be a social butterfly online. If you can’t find a writer who knows the basics of how to sell, keep looking.
7. Ability to think in pictures (and other multi-media). In today’s digital world, it’s usually not enough for a writer to just crank out stories. The most highly sought-after writers are multi-media content creators who not only have a flair for words, but are well-versed in photography. Some may also be experienced with podcasting and video storytelling, too. If you find a prospective writer who can’t convey stories beyond the printed word, keep looking.
8. Interest in re-imagining content. Great writers offer suggestions of how stories can be illustrated with photos, charts, infographics, info boxes, pull quotes, subheads, and other design elements to capture the audience’s attention. These writers also understand the cost-saving potential of re-imagining content. They can run a digital “chop shop” that turns a magazine article into a series of blog posts or transforms a blog post content into an array of social media posts. If a prospective writer can’t re-imagine content beyond the original assignment, keep looking.
9. Coachable, but willing to coach you, too. The kind of writer you want to work with is polite, listens carefully and won’t throw a fit if you ask for a round of editing. They’re coachable as they learn about your business and its unique needs. By the same token, though, the best writers won’t take all of your suggestions as gospel truth. These are skilled professionals with extensive writing knowledge to help coach you and show you the best ways to help your project to succeed. That’s why you hired a professional writer, right? If a prospective writer balks at the idea of edits or doesn’t offer any of his or her own insights to help strengthen your marketing content, keep looking.
10. A spirit of service. Every piece of strong writing makes a promise to the audience. That promise might be to share knowledge, make them smarter, solve a problem, help them make more money or save money, help them do their job better, save them time or accelerate their success. This kind of valuable content gets read, shared and helps your company reach its goals. If a prospective writer doesn’t convey a spirit of service focused on helping your company and your audience succeed, keep looking.
So there you go—my top 10 tips to separate so-called “writers” from skilled content creators. You’re well on your way to finding the right writer to tell stories that matter and set your company apart from the competition.
If you want to learn more about how I can help your business tell your story effectively and get results, let’s start the conversation. First, I listen. Then I put my 20 years of experience to work for you. E-mail me, or call me at 515-971-4415. I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you.
P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here.
@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co.
One last story before you go
Oh–one more thing. I’m passionate about history and am always looking for ways to reach a wider audience and sell my books, including “A Culinary History of Iowa.” History is NOT boring when it’s presented in a compelling story:
- Do Press Releases Still Work?
- Erasing History? Budget Cuts Threaten to Gut Ag History at Iowa State University
- Machines that Changed America: John Froelich Invents the First Tractor in Iowa
- Bob Feller on Farming, Baseball and Military Service
- Classic Restaurants of Des Moines: A Taste of Thailand Served the "Publics" and Politics
- Want to Combat Fake News? Become a Better Researcher
- Communication Tips
- Dallas County
- Food history
- Iowa food
- Iowa history
- Small town
Archive by year
- When Agriculture Entered the Long Depression in the Early 1920s
- The Corn Lady: Jessie Field Shambaugh and the Birth of 4-H in Iowa
- Sauce to Sanitizer: Cookies Food Products Bottles Hand Sanitizer Made with Ethanol
- Myth Busting: No, Your Pork Doesn't Come from China
- Long Live Print Newsletters! 5 Keys to Content Marketing Success
- Shattering Silence: Farmer Helped Slave Find Freedom and Racial Equality in Iowa
- Meet Iowa Farmer James Jordan, Underground Railroad Conductor
- George Washington Carver Rose from Slavery to Ag Scientist
- Remembering the African-American Sioux City Ghosts Fast-Pitch Softball Team
- Want to Combat Fake News? Become a Better Researcher
- Classic Restaurants of Des Moines: A Taste of Thailand Served the "Publics" and Politics
- The Untold Story of Iowa’s Ag Drainage Systems
- Stop Rumors Before They Ruin Your Brand
- Finding Your Voice: The Story You Never Knew About "I Have a Dream"
- Warm Up with Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Soup
- Can a True Story Well Told Turn You into a Tom Brady Fan?
- Baking is for Sharing: Best Bread, Grandma Ruby’s Cookies and Other Iowa Favorites
- 4 Key Lessons from Bud Light’s Super Bowl Corn-troversy
- Could Your Story Change Someone’s Life?
- What To Do When the Travel Channel Calls
- Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes and the Magic of Maid-Rite in Iowa
- How Not to Invite Someone to Your Next Event--and 3 Solutions
- We Need FFA: Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig Reflects on His FFA Experiences
- From My Kitchen to Yours: Comfort Food, Conversation and Living History Farms
- Smart Marketing Lessons from an Uber Driver--Listen Up!
- Hog Trailers to Humidors: Two New Iowa Convenience Stores Reflect “Waspy’s Way”
- A Dirty Tip to Make Your Social Media Content More Shareable
- Are You on Team Cinnamon Roll?
- Senator Grassley on Farming: Any Society is Only Nine Meals Away From a Revolution
- Why We Should Never Stop Asking Why
- What’s the Scoop? Expanded Wells’ Ice Cream Parlor Offers a Taste of Iowa
- Independence, Iowa’s Connection to the Titanic and Carpathia
- Memories of Carroll County, Iowa, Century Farm Endure
- Iowa's “Peacemaker Pig” Floyd of Rosedale Helped Calm Racial Tensions
- How to Cook a Perfect Prime Rib
- How Did We Get So Rude?
- Mmm, Mmm Good: Soup’s on at the Rockwell City Fire Department
- Quit Using “Stupid Language”
- In Praise of Ham and Bean Soup
- Recalling a Most Unconventional—and Life-Changing--FFA Journey
- Events Spark Stories That Help Backcountry Winery Grow in Iowa
- Sac County Barn Quilt Attracts National Attention
- Doing Good, Eating Good at Lytton Town Night
- Young Entrepreneur Grows a Healthy Business in Small-Town Iowa
- Digging Deeper: Volunteers Showcase Thomas Jefferson Gardens in Iowa
- How to Tell Your Community’s Story—with Style!
- DNA Helps Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Return to His Family
- It’s Time to Be 20 Again: Take a Road Trip on Historic Highway 20
- The Biggest Reason You Shouldn’t Slash Your Marketing Budget in Tough Times
- Are You Telling a Horror Story of Your Business?
- Pieced Together: Barn Quilt Documentary Features Iowa Stories
- Unwrapping Storytelling Tips from the Candy Bomber
- Barn Helped Inspire Master Craftsman to Create Dobson Pipe Organ Builders
- Butter Sculptures to Christmas Ornaments: Waterloo Boy Tractor Celebrates 100 Years
- Ag-Vocating Worldwide: Top 10 Tips for Sharing Ag’s Story with Consumers
- Growing with Grow: Iowa 4-H Leader Guides 100-Year-Old 4-H Club for 50 Years
- High-Octane Achiever: Ethanol Fuels New Driver Tiffany Poen
- Shakespeare Club Maintains 123 Years of Good Taste in Small-Town Iowa
- Iowa’s Ice Queen: Entrepreneur Caroline Fischer’s Legacy Endures at Hotel Julien Dubuque
- Darcy's Bill of Assertive Rights: How to Communicate and Get What You Need
- Celebrating Pi Day in Iowa with Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie
- Cooking with Iowa’s Radio Homemakers
- Top 10 Tips to Find the Right Writer to Tell Your Company’s Stories
- The “No BS” Way to Protect Yourself from Rude, Obnoxious People
- Learning from the Land: 9 Surprising Ways Farmers Make Conservation a Priority
- Leftover Ham? Make This Amazing Crustless Spinach and Ham Quiche
- Iowa’s Lost History from the Titanic
- Coming Soon--"Dallas County," a New Iowa History Book!
- How to Clean a Burned Pan in 6 Simple Steps
- Iowa Beef Booster: Larry Irwin Takes a New Twist on Burgers
- Get Your Grill On: How to Build a Better Burger
- "Thank God It’s Over:" Iowa Veteran Recalls the Final Days of World War 2
- How to Thank Veterans for Their Military Service
- Imagine That! Writers, Put Your Reader Right in the Action
- Remembering Ambassador Branstad’s Legacy from the 1980s Farm Crisis in Iowa
- Busting the Iowa Butter Gang
- Lightner on Leadership: “Everyone Has Something to Give”
- Show Up, Speak Up, Don’t Give Up
- Small - Town Iowa Polo Teams Thrilled Depression - Era Crowd
- Ethanol:Passion by the Gallon
- Cruising Through Forgotten Iowa History on Lincoln Highway
- Why I'm Using a Powerful 500-Year-Old Technology to Make History--And You Can, Too
- 5 Ways a “History Head” Mindset Helps You Think Big
- Behind the Scene at Iowa's Own Market to Market
- Let’s Have an Iowa Potluck with a Side of History!
- Iconic State Fair Architecture: Historic Buildings Reflect Decades of Memories
- Iconic State Fair Architecture- Historic Buildings Reflect Decades of Memories
- Iowa Underground - How Coal Mining Fueled Dallas County's Growth
- Ultra-Local Eating: Jennifer Miller Guides CSA, Iowa Food Cooperative
- The Hotel Pattee and I are Hosting a Party—And You’re Invited!
- Tell Your Story—But How?
- Mediterranean Delights: Iowa Ag Influences Syrian-Lebanese Church Dinner
- 6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations
- 6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations!
- 6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write—Even When You’re Not in the Mood
- Always Alert-How to Stay Safe in Any Situation
- Does Accuracy Even Matter Anymore?
- Soy Power Shines at Historic Rainbow Bridge
- Free Gifts! (Let’s Talk Listening, Stories and History)
- How to Connect with Anyone: Lessons from a Tornado
- Soul Food: Lenten Luncheons Carry on 45-Year Iowa Tradition
- Top 3 Tips for Writing a Must-Read Article
- Darcy's Top 10 Tips to Better Writing
- Top 8 Tips for Building a Successful Freelance Business
- 10 Steps to Better Photos
- Reinventing the Marketer of 2010
- Extreme Writing Makeover
- My Top Social Media Tips for Farmers: REVEALED!
- Honoring the Legacy of Rural Iowa's Greatest Generation
- Iowa's Orphan Train Heritage
- Dedham’s Famous Bologna Turns 100: Kitt Family Offers a Taste of Iowa History
- Iowa Barn Honors Pioneer Stock Farm
- Darcy's Top 10 Tips for Better Photos
- Soup and Small-Town Iowa Spirit
- Savoring the Memories: Van's Café Served Up Comfort Food for Six Decades
- Mayday, Mayday—The Lost History of May Poles and May Baskets in Iowa
- Iowa's Vigilante Crime Fighters of the 1920s and 1930s
- Very Veggie: Iowan's Farm-Fresh Recipes Offer Guilt-Free Eating
- Iowa Public TV's "Market to Market" Features Expedition Yetter, Agri-Tourism, Des Moines Water Works' Lawsuit
- 62 Years and Counting: Calhoun County, Iowa, Families Maintain 4th of July Picnic Tradition
- “A Culinary History of Iowa” Satisfies: Iowa History Journal Book Review
- For the Love of Baking: Lake City's Ellis Family Showcases Favorite Iowa Farm Recipes (Caramel Rolls, Pumpkin Bars and More!)
- Remembering Sept. 11: Iowa Community’s Potluck Honors America
- Talking Iowa Food and Culinary History on Iowa Public Radio
- Talking "Stilettos in the Cornfield," Taxes, Trade and More on CNBC
- FarmHer #RootedinAg Spotlight--FFA Attracts More Women to Careers in Ag
- Rustic Cooking Refined: Iowan Robin Qualy Embraces Global Flavors
- Voice of Reason: Iowa Pork Producer Dave Struthers Offers Top 10 Tips to Speak Up for Ag
- Iowa Eats! Why Radio Iowa, Newspapers and Libraries are Hungry for "A Culinary History of Iowa"
- Iowa Turkeys Carry on National Thanksgiving Tradition
- Riding with Harry: 2016 Presidential Election Reflects Truman's Iowa Revival at 1948 Plowing Match in Dexter
- All Aboard! Rockwell City’s “Depot People” Offer a Taste of Iowa History
- Is This Iowa's Favorite Appetizer?
- O, Christmas Tree! Small Iowa Towns Celebrate with Trees in the Middle of the Street
- Slaves Escaped Through Dallas County on Iowa’s Underground Railroad
- Adel Barn Accents Penoach Winery in Iowa
- Celebrating New Year's Eve in Style at a Classic Iowa Ballroom