At our agency, we tell the hard stories. We have clients who produce very technical solutions that impact you and me every day. So how do we write about something that’s complex but make it easy to understand and succinct for a targeted audience? Whether the content involves a news release, article, blog or social media post, it also has to be accurate and achieve the goals of our client. How do you get there?
To walk us through that process, we interviewed Drew Albee, Comprise’s content development manager. In our interview, Drew shared his tips for getting up to speed quickly on unfamiliar and complex topics, the most interesting topic he’s had to write about and how to battle writer’s block.
Q: Tell us a little about your professional writing history.
Drew Albee: I began my career in the Daily Camera’s newsroom in early 2016. After graduating from CU Boulder, I freelanced at the Broomfield Enterprise briefly before beginning my career at the agency.
Q: Who’s had the most impact on your writing?
DA: I am not sure any one person has had the most impact on my writing, but I am personally entertained when reading Shea Serrano and Bill Simmons (back when his fingers worked), and I professionally enjoy everything the folks at Copyblogger put out.
Q: What do you like about Copyblogger?
DA: I like Copyblogger because it equips me with the tools and resources necessary to help our clients succeed by leveraging content marketing. Referred to as “the bible of content marketing” by VentureBeat, Copyblogger teaches writers like me how to create valuable content that helps our clients achieve their goals, whether that is to attract attention, drive traffic or boost the bottom line. It’s definitely a great resource.
Q: We work with clients in a lot of different technical industries, from fintech and industrial IoT to autonomous robotics. When you first began to learn about these industries, what were the steps you took to get caught up and prepared to write about them?
DA: Read, read and read some more. We like to say that “we do the hard stuff,” and sometimes that means understanding complicated subject matter to help our clients tell their stories. When I’m unfamiliar with a topic, a technology or an industry about which I need to write, my first step is immersing myself into that topic, tech or industry by reading as much as I can about it.
Q: Oftentimes the information that our clients tell us is complex. How do you take this information and distill it into writing that not only gets the right message across but is also easy to understand?
DA: An important consideration when communicating complicated information is to know who your audience is — and speak their same language. Some questions I ask myself are what do readers already know about my subject, what do I want them to know and where can I fill the gaps?
The key is to simplify without dumbing it down, which can be a difficult balance. I’ll also occasionally use metaphors and analogies to drive certain points home because they can give people a point of reference to familiarize themselves with the unfamiliar.
Q: What is your favorite type of content to write and why?
DA: I thoroughly enjoy writing news-style articles because I always learn something new. From my days as a rookie reporter at the Daily Camera all the way through today, where I write contributed articles — authored by our clients — regularly. I’ve written hundreds of articles on varying subjects, so I like to say that I know a little about a lot.
Q: I think every writer at some point runs into the dreaded “blinking cursor”, aka writer’s block. How do you manage to get through writer’s block when it hits?
DA: Ah, yes. The loathsome blank page staring back, taunting you. When writer’s block rears its ugly head, I take a few approaches:
- Moving to a different workspace.
- Going for a quick walk.
- Setting a timer and getting as much out onto the page as possible in the time allotted.
- Starting in the middle of a piece. If I can’t think of a catchy intro to hook my reader — and I’m stuck thinking about it — I’ll dive into the meat of the piece and then come back to craft the beginning.
Q: What is the best writing tip you were given that has stuck with you?
DA: While the infamous Shakespeare quote “brevity is the soul of wit” did not originate as a writing tip, it does underscore the importance of conciseness — and is a tip I always try to keep in the back of my mind.
Q: What advice would you give to new writers in communications and marketing?
DA: Be curious. If you’re not eager to learn about something or know more than you do today, how can you persuade your audience to want to care about the story you’re trying to tell? As a professional writer, I learned about the importance of curiosity early on. If you don’t care about a complex idea — or any topic for that matter — that will show in your work. Curiosity lies at the heart of valuable communications and marketing content, so if you want a career as a content writer, start sharpening your curiosity sword today.