Streamline Your Writing Process With a Few Simple Tools
Even if you love to write, creating valuable expert content on a regular basis is a major drain on resources. Research takes time and energy. Writing requires focus and careful revisions. And once the content is published, there’s the matter of marketing it, repurposing it and measuring its impact on your brand. Not surprisingly, for busy members, the scale doesn’t always tip in favor of more content.
But when you’re being Googled regularly by clients, customers, potential hires, journalists and partners, producing fresh content — even just regular social media updates — is a must. Great content helps you control those search results and present a strong personal brand to the people who matter most.
Luckily, quality and consistency are more important than quantity — and the tools and hacks highlighted here can help you achieve both.
Simplify Your Research
Take the guesswork out of what your next article or blog post should be about with this acronym: TAG (Trends, Audience, Goals). That is: Is your topic related to a current trend in the business world (or in your own company)? Does it address your audience's needs (whether your target "audience" is investors, fellow experts or customers)? Does it meet your goals (e.g. establishing a personal brand or lead gen)?
- Google Trends and other keyword planning tools can help you identify trending topics and keywords that matter to your customers. While keyword-stuffing is a no-no, knowing what your customers are thinking about, searching for and reading about can help you craft relevant, targeted content.
- Feedly is a must to curate your daily reading. Aim for a mix of influencers, competitors (they’re a great source of ideas!) and colleagues plus industry news. You can even incorporate Google Alerts to stay on top of your own brand mentions, or integrate Feedly with Slack and Evernote.
- BuzzSumo is a dead-simple tool for finding content that works for your industry or niche, not to mention key influencers.
- Other ideas: LinkedIn Groups, Twitter lists, industry event schedules, team meetings and customer surveys are all great resources to mine for content ideas.
Write Smarter and Faster
The hardest thing about writing is getting started. Once you do, however, there are a slew of tools that make it easy to collaborate, dictate notes and even correct your run-on sentences.
- Google Docs is a mainstay for a reason: it has much of the same functionality as an offline program like Word (including Suggested Edits), but your team can collaborate in real time. Plus, you can use the research functionality to quickly find and cite sources.
- Hemingway App makes writing clearly a breeze. (The web app is free, but the $19.99 desktop app is also available offline.) Hemingway points out passive voice, overly complex sentences, and pesky adverbs.
- Grammarly is like having a knowledgeable proofreader sitting next to you all day, whether you're writing an email or an article. The basic version is free.
- Evernote is a workhorse for busy people who create content. It can help you do everything from clip web articles to jot down notes, lists, and even full article or Expert Panel drafts.
- Speech-to-text dictation (now a native feature on many devices) makes it possible to talk out your outline or first draft. For more accurate results, consider transcription services like otter.ai and rev.com or premium dictation apps like Dictadroid (Android) and Dictate + Connect (iOS).
Create a Shared Editorial Calendar
A shared calendar keeps your team organized — and reduces decision fatigue when it comes time to sit down and write. (Here’s a great article about how to set up a simple editorial calendar.)
A spreadsheet is a good place to start. But you can often use the calendar functionality of your existing project management system instead, delegating research, transcriptions, edits, and social media updates to other members of your team. Here are some quick links to help you learn about setting up calendars in some of the top PM systems:
With your process organized and streamlined, you're ready to contribute articles consistently and build your presence as a thought leader.
Do you have tips and tricks that help you create better content in less time? Share them with fellow YEC'ers in the forum.
This post is part of a series on how YEC members can best utilize their personal branding and publishing benefits. If you're not yet a member, see if you qualify.