What happens when your clients have trouble putting pen to paper? Last month, Inman published a review of our newsletter service, which allows real estate agents to send e-newsletters to prospects.
Many of our clients just use the professionally written and edited articles we provide that they can send out under their names, but a few use our system to add their own articles as well.
That led to some confusion because the reviewer thought these client-written pieces — some of them rather awkward — were penned by our staff. We wrote to correct this, but the question remains: How can we get our clients to produce more professional content?
To start, we thought we’d put together a list of tips to help even nonprofessionals write excellent newsletter articles. Of course, writing is a skill developed over years.
I’m the chief content officer and have been doing this for more than a quarter century, and I’ve engaged a team of experienced writers as well. However, even newbies can start on the right foot by following these rules:
1. Get a catchy title
No matter how good your piece is, no one will read it unless you grab their attention. For example, for an employee-oriented newsletter we’re planning to launch, we wrote an article on whether work-related clothing is tax-deductible.
Our title: “Is work clothing deductible? Consider Dinah Shore.” Why are we referencing the late singer and TV personality in a tax story? She was involved in a landmark case. You have to read the story to find out.
2. Be useful
In my first writing job, at a technical publication for financial professionals, I’d go to the editor with various ideas for stories.
The first thing she asked was, “How does this article help our readers become better and more successful at their jobs?” I learned if I couldn’t answer that question quickly and clearly, my idea would be shot down.
For example, we recently wrote a piece on umbrella insurance for our homeowner readers. It was short: We didn’t get into theory or legal niceties; we weren’t trying to replace their insurance agents.
The purpose was just to explain what it was, why you need it and what it costs. We stayed true to our focus, to briefly explain liability insurance to our readers, and the article turned out to be popular.
3. Check your facts
This seems like a no-brainer, but in this age of unverified social media claims, the step from rumor to “fact” is slight indeed. You can stand out by being the trusted source.
A couple of weeks ago, I was fascinated by an online article I saw on fingernail polish that would change color in the presence of so-called date-rape drugs. There were hints the product was already on the market — if you could find it. There were even pictures.
But before we covered it, we spent a little time looking for the whole story. The product is not available. The creators are soliciting investments, and a marketable product could be years away.
Don’t fall into the “everyone knows” or “I read it online” trap. Do the real research because if you start making factual errors, you’ll find your newsletters deleted before they’re even opened.
4. Neatness counts
By “neatness,” I mean the whole package: no spelling or grammar errors and everyone’s names spelled correctly. A lot of people say, “Things like this are nitpicking — no one will even notice.” They’re wrong.
People do notice, and they do care. An article on Warren Buffett’s investing strategies might be accurate, but if you spell his name “Buffet,” people are going to wonder how careful you are.
It’s worth the time and money to work with a professional copy editor or copy editing service. At the very least, share all copy with one or more colleagues who have a good eye and knowledge of grammar.
Again, following these rules won’t make you a star writer overnight. But I can guarantee that if you don’t follow them, you won’t make a good impression with anyone.
Richard J. Koreto is the chief content officer of HomeActions, which provides Realtors with a complete e-prospecting system. Follow him on Twitter.
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