Tag Archives: content writer

Big Ideas Begin with Writers

By Erica Dix, former BIW Writer

They say that you can do a lot of different things with a degree in English. Some routes are obvious to everyone, like becoming an English teacher, or going on to law school. However, many students choose English because they have a passion for writing. Of course, not everyone is cut out for writing the next great American novel, so what’s an English major to do?

The fact is, writers are in high demand, and bringing creativity to writing is a truly marketable skill. As an English major, the important thing is to know that your writing is valuable, and to explore where it will be valued.

I enjoyed learning about great literature and critiquing fiction, but I never guessed it would translate to the world of marketing communications. However, in English class, we are taught to come up with big ideas, create content from prompts, and analyze text for meaning and direction, which is exactly what is necessary to be an effective writer who can create engaging content for websites, blogs and more.

Enter Big Ideas Writing

While I was a student at DePaul, I was lucky enough to intern at my mom’s company, Big Ideas Writing, a marketing strategy and content marketing firm. I learned the basics of freelancing, and how to work independently.

One of the toughest skills I learned was how to focus myself and stay motivated even when the boss isn’t around, and you are working at home, surrounded by distractions. I learned to meet deadlines despite the allures of Netflix or the constant barrage of unanswered texts and emails. I also learned that people who are good writers have many job titles like Marketing Strategist, Social Media Manager, Project Manager, and Communications Specialist.

Every person with a liberal arts degree can turn those essay-writing skills into a great career in marketing communications if they are willing to learn a few things outside of the classroom. Here are some practical, tangible skills that Big Ideas Writing taught me, that many businesses are looking for right now.

How to write a press release. Like the iambic couplets I studied in Shakespeare class, I learned to write press releases within certain parameters to convey information in a specific way. Press releases are designed to provide information to the media, and they have to be as straightforward and informative as possible, all within a word limit. Being able to write within a very specific set of rules can be very rewarding, and hone your creativity.

How to create social media posts for business. Companies like writers who can put together a creative Facebook, Instagram or Twitter post. When you write for social media, you have to be brief, pointed, and keep your eye on the prize: increased exposure for your client. Like the essay outlines we are taught to create in English class, social media calendars and posts help us hit the objectives of our campaign and organize our ideas into relevant content.

What SEO keywords are and how to use them. Search Engine Optimization is not something that they teach in English class, but if you have a way with words, knowing a little about SEO can get your digital content found on the internet. As English majors, our attention to detail in grammar and style makes us experts at inserting SEO keywords in a natural way.

How to write a “share-worthy” blog post… like this one! In the classroom, the professor that we English majors write for is a captive audience. With a little creative problem-solving, writers can produce an informative, persuasive or disruptive blog that reaches the public and generates those views, likes and shares. Creating online content will bring your writing into the 21st century!

How to edit my own work. Everyone likes to imagine that their first draft is perfect, but anyone who rereads their first draft the next day will realize that it’s not. For many writers, that journey begins in college where professors have students rewrite essays. The novice writer is easily frustrated by revisions and criticism, but by graduation, English majors have the humility and patience that it takes to revise like a pro.

How to always look for new opportunities. Having no boss sounds like fun… until you realize that you have to become your own boss. If you’re too easy on yourself, you will never meet deadlines and strive to be your best. The only way to succeed in freelancing is to be disciplined and passionate. Never stop searching for your next project, always promote yourself, and think from the client’s perspective. Figure out what clients need, and make it available to them.

Speaking of looking for opportunities, I am currently on the hunt for my next big one. I sadly say goodbye to Big Ideas, but the skills that I learned while working there are ideal for work with a marketing agency or association, preferably one in science, medical or environmental issues. I have always had a mind for science, and minored in Environmental Studies, so I am especially interested in work that is related to science and health. I also live in Chicago and am interested in loop locations. You can check out my work portfolio here. I will always be thankful for the lessons I learned at Big Ideas Writing, and I am excited to launch a long and prosperous career in content writing and marketing.

If you are interested in referring me for a position working in content writing, please email me at erica@bigideaswriting.com.

Why Content Writers Create Great Marketing Strategy

 

I was speaking recentlyMagnet with the owner of an agency who helps companies with the creation and implementation of corporate marketing plans. We were discussing the possibilities of using my services to manage some of his marketing projects. As we discussed ideas, he said something I had never heard verbalized before: “You know, content writers make the best program managers,” he said.

I knew exactly what he meant.  Yet I had never put it that way myself. Then after thinking about it, I decided to think it through and it makes perfect sense. Why?

Content writers are all about the message.  Let’s face it, if you are creating a marketing communications piece, you want to send the right marketing messaging to the right audience. You can put out all the blogs, videos, etc. you want but if they don’t speak to your audience, nothing will happen. Content writers understand this, and it is the bread and butter of what we do. We craft the messages that get your audience to do something…and now!

Content is at the root of many a marketing program. When I started my business four years ago, I strictly sought editorial, content writing, editing and proofreading jobs. Now, at the request of my clients, I manage marketing programs that feature content like blogs, Eblast campaigns, social media campaigns and more. Content is at the heart of these efforts so a content writer should be too! This is especially key when a client has a need to broadcast one message across multiple communication  channels, like website content, printed collateral pieces, video content and social media. I personally do this by partnering with exceptional professionals who share my passion for creative communication. Seems like program management is a natural extension of my skills!

Good content writers can also spin a message on a dime. If the first headline isn’t working, we’ve got more waiting in the wings. Again, who decides if you need a change in, say, the headline? Probably your success metrics, as analyzed by the program manager. And if your program manager is also your content writer, well…you eliminate the middle man. How’s that for efficiency? Good content writers are a fount of creativity, flexibility and versatility.

Content Writers think conceptually. We content writers do more than write. We consider the effect our words have on others. We explore options of communication to get our point across, like different media channels, graphic design or sensory experiences. All that big sky thinking is essential for the success of an integrated campaign. And we’ve got it down pat!

I agree that content writers make the best marketers. Maybe that’s why I’ve grown comfortable in my role as the content writer-program manager. If you’re looking for a content writer with a flair for marketing strategy, let’s talk. Contact me today!

So You Want to Be A Content Writer?

WVHS Career Day (2)

This week, I had the opportunity to appear at my children’s high school on career day and present what I do as part of a panel of marketing experts. As I looked out on the audience of young, fresh faces, I thought back to my own high school days, when I had very little guidance on what I wanted to do in life, and actually started heading in the wrong direction.

Back then, I had no idea how to parlay my love of writing into any sort of job. When I graduated high school, “content writing” was not yet a career.  Nobody did what I do now.  When it came time to choose a college major, I was headed towards the health care field, and the only writing career major available was journalism. Through a twist of fate, I ended up taking journalism classes for my minor of public relations while I pursued a speech communication degree. However, I did not know where I was going.

When you’re a teen, figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life is a daunting, yet necessary step before graduation.  Most undecided teens take a cue from their family history and follow in the footsteps of mom or dad.  However, I believe it’s very important to gain exposure to career options beyond the scope of your family’s history, because your talents and skills may be extremely different.  Nobody in my family had ever made a living writing, so I was breaking new ground.  How unfortunate it would have been to ignore my interest in writing and force myself to do something unsuitable to my skills.

Instead, I truly love what I’m doing and my days are filled with variety and new challenges, just how I like them!

present 2As I spoke to the students, I wanted them to recognize any of the qualities that would make them successful in the world of marketing and/or content writing.  What are these qualities?

A love of writing. Duh. Don’t be a writer if you don’t like to write but don’t be afraid to choose it as a career either.  Sure, you may never make Donald Trump’s salary, but in my experience it is more important to be happy with what you’re doing than rich and miserable with your life’s work. Ideally, both your talents and your paycheck will align spectacularly.

Interviewing Skills. I spend a lot of time gathering information to write pieces, and 80% of the time it involves talking to people. To me, the term “interviewing skills” means listening as well as talking. Some people don’t need questions..they just ramble. I can glean so much from them by listening to the words they use to describe their business and the way they organize their thoughts. Putting together a list of questions is important but there are so many more tips to become a skillful interviewer. Watch for an upcoming blog devoted specifically to this subject!

Interested in Research. When I have an assignment, any information I cannot get from my interview subject I must defer to Google.  If you enjoy researching on different topics, content writing may be for you.

Proofing Skills. If you think English teachers are mean about misspellings, extra spaces and “minor” writing infractions, just wait till you are a professional, writing for clients!  As a writer, you have to be perfect in this respect.  Be prepared to be concerned about such things if you write for a living.

Editing Chops.  Remember in school when you had to write a two-page paper and didn’t have anything to say and used tricks like extra spacing, wider fonts, etc. to make the paper longer? It’s the opposite when you begin writing professionally. Words cost money to publish. Say what needs to be said, and nothing more. Editing is an essential skill, and it’s important to be able to edit your own work. I tell clients I am a heartless editor, to my own work as well as to others. Even when work seems “finished”, editing is usually possible. Usually when you write content you also have a word count limit. This makes editing an even more important skill to have.

Natural Curiosity. Every day I am writing about something different and at any time I am serving companies from vastly different industries simultaneously. For example, right now I am writing for an ice cream shop, a railcar leasing company, a private aviation company, a commercial fire protection service, a world-class optometrist, a group of Latina business women, a law firm and more. Who knows what I’ll be writing about tomorrow?  My own curiosity carries me through my discussions and interviews with people in all these industries and helps me formulate questions and explore ideas with them.

I wish all high school students good luck when planning their future, but also the professionals out there who may feel like they need a change.  If you look at this list and feel it speaks to your personal qualifications, maybe you’d make a good content writer. If you need any help or want to learn more,  contact me.