Business writing experience: worth a bit, or pile of sh*t?

small__4612873059People snigger, with justification, when you mention “experience” – largely because experience comes in two forms: e.g. 20 years’ real  experience? Or is it really 1 year’s experience repeated 19 times?”

This applies to blogging and writing for business every bit as much as it does to any other profession. For the purposes of this article/post (Artipost? Posticle?), other professions can deal with this as they want.

But how exactly does it affect writing for business blogs and other online content?

As I’m sure you know I have been in the pro business writing business since the Ming Dynasty or thereabouts, so do have a weensie bit of experience under my belt. But I have always been careful to keep experience in its rightful place.

So don’t think I am being ageist here. I just have a big problem with old – and not-so-old – goats who bore readers online with stuff based on their “experience” … when that in itself has no relevance whatsoever within today’s blogs and other online (and offline, for that matter) business circumstances.

Why experience doesn’t always work in blogging and other online business writing

It’s sad to say, but many such people just talk about the expertise they developed when they were in their prime and expect that to make sense within the needs of business writing now … without thinking beyond the end of their noses. Why does this not work?

1.They don’t understand how what you write for “new media” is different from that of the older media. This may seem blindingly obvious to you if you’re 20 years old and sh*t hot online. But whether we like it or not it is hard for many older – yet still very wise – gurus to grasp the huge culture shift between the printed media and the online variety. It’s not just moving from paper to screen; it’s a whole new way of communicating.

2. Experience by itself is worth diddly squat. It’s what you do with your experience that makes it useful not only for you, but for other people. Writing about what you did in the past might eventually lead readers to understand how that experience might help them now. But face it: people don’t have the time or inclination to wade through hundreds of words of stuff that tells them what it was like in the good old days. If you have useful experience you need to relate it to what people need now. Fast.

3. Readers do not like to feel they’re being talked down to. Much as you may feel you know a whole lot more about your topic, based on your experience, than anyone else … even if you’re right … bear in mind that readers don’t like to be made to feel that they’re drooling idiots. Treat your readers like priceless treasures, too. Write to them as equals: OK, they’re not experts in your field, but they’re probably experts in another.

Where experience is useful and how it can  work for your readers

Remember that line I mentioned earlier, i.e. 20 years’ experience … or 1 year’s experience repeated 19 times…?

Frankly, I love it when people who have experience share that with their readers in an intelligent, up-to-date way that benefits the readers. But equally I hate it when people with similarly valuable experience just go on about themselves and their past. That’s not sharing experience for others’ benefits; that’s just being up yourself.

Here’s how I reckon experience can be very useful now:

1.Knowing how to assess your target readership. People who have experience as copywriters, corporate script and speech writers and also business journalists have had to learn some very sharp ways of assessing and writing to specific audiences. This can be very valuable in helping to identify and write to online audiences today. Ditto company staffers and savvy SME owners who are marketing orientated and know how to communicate in words. Experienced writers/bloggers know where to go look for their target readers.

2.Understanding how that target readership thinks and listens. Yes, people move on and fashions change, but the very basics of life don’t. Students still face poverty and difficult choices about their future. Moms still are focused on what’s best for baby. New start-up businesses still have needs for basic financial, marketing and strategic help. People still need to eat, and want to enjoy themselves. Audience/readers may change, but the ways in which to assess them don’t – and that’s where experience of such assessments can help now just as it has in the past … often by improving on more elaborate online methods that are much fancier but don’t necessarily reveal any more.

3.Whatever new stuff emerges, human nature doesn’t change much. As in #1 above, experience in business writing and allied disciplines can short-circuit current initiatives to determine where a contemporary marketplace is coming from, simply by knowing – from earlier experience – what questions to ask, and what trigger points get some action. As long as that prior knowledge is married up carefully with current analytics and other techniques, you’re on a roll, because you get the best of both past and present worlds.

And these are just a few ideas.

What do you think? Have you felt frustrated by this “experience” issue in your dealings with business blogs and other writing? Do you feel that such writing experience is over-rated, or is it something that could be used for better effect, and if so, how?

I would be truly interested to know your views, so please share them with us. Thanks in anticipation!

While you’re here, don’t forget to stop by my Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and to give to friends and family – from just $2.50

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