Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on November 22, 2021.
As a writer of commentary for the Philadelphia Business Journal with over 370 articles written to date, I am often asked to offer advice on how to effectively write about a topic. In July 2020, I wrote an article on this subject. This is an update of that article.
It is much easier to write about a topic for which you have passion and knowledge. I write about leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance based on my experience as a CEO and board member on public, private, private equity and nonprofit boards. My objective is to help people be successful in what they do.
This is my advice:
1. Write what people will want to read
Whether you write for a publication or for your own blog, write about areas that are of interest to your readers.
You don’t need to land a position writing as a guest columnist for a media outlet to be viewed as a subject matter expert and influencer. Writing frequent blogs on LinkedIn will help you become a recognized thought leader in your area.
2. Have a laser-focus on the subject
If something you want to say doesn’t fit, save it for a future piece. Don’t make your piece too long, or you run the risk of the reader not finishing your article. After I write a first draft, I go through it and cut 10-15% out, which makes the piece much more effective.
Remember, you are not writing for yourself, you are writing for your audience. Write in short paragraphs so it’s easier on the reader’s eye. Use bullet points to make what you write more understandable.
Your article is a piece of art you are creating. Don’t send it out unless you have done your best writing it.
3. Reference authorities
I link to external sources when quoting a subject matter expert to strengthen the credibility of my article. I always attempt to find the original source, whether it be something that the individual wrote or said in a video. If I can’t find the original source, I will reference what the expert said as quoted in leading media sources.
4. Hire an editor
Another set of eyes on your draft will improve your article. Two undergraduate English major students serve as my editors. They ensure that my articles conform to the Associated Press Stylebook used by the Business Journal. They also make suggestions to strengthen the article.
Before submission for publication, I also ask my son to take a look at the article. He is some 20 years older than my editors and reads through the eyes of readers his age.
It is very important to submit your article error-free. Editors at publications are very busy people, so you need to make their job reviewing what you write as easy as possible. Occasionally, the Business Journal editors will modify the headline to maximize readership.
5. Anticipate responses
Bullet-proof what you write as much as possible with facts, logical arguments and the positions of subject matter experts. When you make a mistake, own up to it. Value your credibility.
When you receive a comment from a reader with a different point of view, write back to that individual, acknowledging what you agree with and where you differ.
There is no better feeling than being able to have your voice heard through your writing. Good luck to all who want to pursue this path.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.