Saturday, February 14, 2009

30-Day Marketing Challenge: Breaking into Corporate Writing

There are lots of places to market your work: Glossy newstand magazines and newspapers are the most obvious, but there are also custom publications, newsletters, advertorial and corporate writing.

Wait, corporate what? What the heck is corporate writing and how do you break in? To tell you the truth, my corporate writing experience is limited to three or four stories. But this year, part of my business plan is to diversify my client list with more corporate writing.

Luckily Susan Weiner does know about corporate writing. Weiner, CFA, helps financial professionals increase the impact of their writing on clients and prospects. She writes and edits articles, white papers, and other communications for leading investment and wealth management firms. Susan blogs at Investment Writing.

Here's what I learned from her fabulous "Prospecting for Corporate Clients" article:

Step One: Get talking
If you're brand new to corporate writing, try a variation on what I did. Set up informational interviews about corporate writing with people who hire writers. When managers know you're not going to sell to them, they're more willing to meet with you. You'll learn the language of corporate writing and you'll make connections that may eventually turn into work. For example, I didn't know what a white paper was when I started networking... Now they're my favorite kind of project.
Step Two: The other n word
"Tell everyone you know that you're looking for corporate work," advises Weiner.

That is, network. Talk to fellow freelancers about what you'd like to do, refer work to them, and you'll likely see referrals in return. Attend professional association mixers, alumni get-togethers, find people on Facebook or LinkedIn. Tell them the area in which you specialize. And have your elevator pitch ready. Says Weiner: "I tell people, 'I help busy financial professionals who have interesting things to say, but lack the time or skill to write them persuasively.'" Simple.

Another part of networking, writes Weiner, is to develop your relationship before you ask for work. Weiner lists several means to this end:
  • E-newsletters. "If prospects like your unedtied newsletter writing, they'll probably be hapy clients," she writes. Constant Contact is one of the many e-newsletter software programs designed to make sending one of these easy. Have others? List them in the comments.
  • Volunteering. Sign up to write for an association's newsletter, or volunteer on their board. This is probably easier if, like Weiner, you're credentialed in the field in which you'd like to write. But it can still be done.
  • Speaking. Becoming a public speaker on your coverage area will burnish your reputation as an expert, says Weiner.
Step Three: Carefully target your mailings
Careful crafting and targeting applies as much to corporate marketing as to consumer magazines. Follow HR changes in your target companies and send them letters of introduction. Says Weiner:
Corporate directories, industry association directories or even the Fortune 500 list also offer targets. Identify companies in your specialty or in your region, if you prefer to work locally. Then call for the names and relevant managers.
Step Four: Get slick.
You can get creative with glossy postcards touting how you can help your prospect, or send a special report with information useful to your prospect, she advises.
Whatever tack you take, be sure your letter focuses not on you but on how you can serve your client. Prospects don't care about you and your credentials. They want to know "what's in it for me?" So identify an area where they feel pain, then tell them how yu can relieve that pain. For instance, [Steve] Slaunwhite knows an inestor relations writer who began his pitch letters with "Is your Annual Report an annual headache?"
Any other ways you've broken into corporate writing?

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