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In this course, author Tom Geller explores the process of writing articles and publications for businesses large and small. The course begins with a look at the preparation you'll need to do, best ways to find assignments, and smart strategies for determining your article approach. Next, the course dives into techniques you can use to brainstorm angles, research, interview experts, finish a piece, and build your portfolio.
- Adopting technical tools
- Gathering reference materials
- Defining an article
- Finding assignments
- Determining your approach
- Conducting interviews
- Managing revisions
- Following up
Skill Level Appropriate for all
Most of this course assumes that you'll get the assignment, write it, turn it in, revise a bit, and then just move on, but the real world is not always so simple. Things can get complicated when your article is part of a bigger project, especially if it's a new kind of project for you or the publisher. So let's pretend that our example article isn't for an established magazine; instead, it's for the first issue of a newsletter. Now, earlier, I said that you should make your article's style, tone, and format match those of articles that have already been published, but with a new publication or one that's lacked consistency, you don't have such guidelines.
Now, I personally see that as an opportunity to put my stamp on a new publication. But it is extra work. For example, the print layout might not be finalized, so they won't know how much space your article has to fill. That will affect how many words you need to write, the number of illustrations, whether you should include captions, and so forth. A different issue arises when the publisher hasn't really settled their procedures. For example, some publications internally handle articles using an online content management system, but it takes a while to work out the bugs, both human and technical.
Finally, you might come across communication problems caused by a bad corporate structure or maybe by an individual persons who's holding things up. That's a lot of challenges, but one thing to remember is that it's not your job as a writer to solve them all. You just have to get pass the obstacles that prevent you from delivering your article. The key is to change things so you're not depending on some other person or event to do your job. So let's look at those. Questions of style, tone, and format are best answered by whoever's in charge of the project's vision.
Figure out who you ultimately have to satisfy; then have a chat with that person to work out such details. For a new publication, I would see if they would be willing to look at my work while it's in progress, just to make sure I'm going in the right direction. For missing assets and elements, first talk to the project manager to confirm that those items really are needed for your article. If you still have doubts, you could have placeholder text such as "A short list of links in the sidebar would go well here; please advise." Doing that does two things: it gives them ideas to help them solve the problem, and it shows that you're ready to deliver when everything settles down.
If procedures are weak and nonexistent, your work can get buried or forgotten. My solution is to tell them what I'm going to do, then do it, then tell them what I just did. Be loud but polite, and be ready to adapt to new procedures as they develop. You might have to make policy decisions, you know the sorts of things that would normally be spelled out at a more established publication. If so, make them as best as you can with two goals in mind: to complete the project and to protect your own interests.
As with so many things in life, communication will solve a lot of problems. That will ideally be two-way communications. But even if you're not getting prompt or satisfying responses, a stream of outgoing communication shows that you're fulfilling your part of the project.