So, you want to write a business column? Here are 5 tips to help ensure success

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on July 20, 2020.

This week marks my sixth anniversary writing a weekly commentary column for the Philadelphia Business Journal. I have written over 300 articles for the Business Journal and for national syndication in its 43 sister publications across the U.S. I have also written dozens of articles that have appeared in other publications.

I have a passion for helping people become better leaders, board members and entrepreneurs, so those are the major areas I write about. My articles are based on my experience as a former CEO of a global company, corporate director on public, private, private equity and nonprofit boards, and as a startup company investor and board member.

Based on my articles, I wrote a book that was published in December 2019 titled, “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.”

I have been asked many times how I find topics to write about. I get them from the suggestions of my readers. I also scour the news media looking for stories to which I can apply principles that would be of interest to my readers.

To mark the occasion of my sixth anniversary, I thought I would share some advice to those who aspire to write.

1. Write on areas of interest and have something to say that people will want to read

Whether you write for a publication or for your own blog, write about areas that interest you and are of interest to your readers. You can test this out by posting your articles on LinkedIn and tracking the number of people who view, react and comment on your article.

2. Laser-focus on the subject

If your article is not laser-focused, the message gets diluted. If something is nice to say but doesn’t fit, save it for a future piece. Don’t make it 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 in your article

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 recording. If I can’t find the original source, I will reference what the expert said and quoted by leading media sources.

When writing in an area in which I am not a subject matter expert but feel strongly about the subject, I will include as many hyperlinks to the source as needed to back up my opinion. For example, an article I wrote in May headlined, “Reducing immigration will harm American competitiveness” has nine hyperlinks to publications that support my position.

4. Hire an editor to review what you have written

Another set of eyes on your draft will improve your article. When I started out six years ago, I hired two undergraduate students to serve as editors, who still edit my weekly Business Journal articles. At the time, they were the editor-in-chief and the chief copy editor of Drexel University’s independent student newspaper, The Triangle. They each bring important strengths to the process of editing. They also ensure that my articles conform to the Associated Press Stylebook used by the Business Journal.

My editors ensure that my articles are error-free with respect to grammar, tense and person (first, second or third). They will also make suggestions to strengthen an article. Each article goes through two editing iterations. The more you write, the better you become and the less suggestions your editors will need to make.

Before submission for publication, I also ask my son to take a look at the articles. He is some 20 years older than my editors and reads through the eyes of readers his age.

My computer has the capability of reading my articles to me so I can double check for errors before sending them out. It is very important to submit your article error-free for publication. 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 to your articles

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.

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. When I wrote a July 2019 article criticizing President Donald Trump’s leadership for not holding the government of Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Wall Street Journal journalist Jamal Khashoggi, I received an email from a reader in San Antonio, Texas, who had a different point of view. After a number of email exchanges, we significantly closed the gap in our thinking.

I wrote an article on that exchange headlined, “How courtesy and conversation can help heal the political divide.” We are now on each other’s email distribution lists and I periodically reach out to him to get his opinion on subjects that I write about.

You don’t need to land a position writing as a guest columnist for a media outlet to become a recognized subject matter expert and influencer in your area. Write frequent blogs and you will be noticed by various publications.

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, advisorand widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at

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