Research is a non-stop exercise. Especially in business writing where you need to stay on top of current events to remain an expert in your field. These days there’s no shortage of online news and specialist media to keep you up to date. But it’s important to focus on the best sources and manage time you need to spend reading up on your specialist topic.
Curation and capture
The research drill:
I use a couple of very handy content curation apps to capture articles relevant to technology and artificial intelligence (where most of my clients operate):
• Flipboard: Retrieves the latest news and articles based on your search terms.
• Pocket: An archive of saved articles that you can read offline.
I normally spend about 15 minutes every morning checking my Flipboard feed, saving the most promising articles to Pocket and then reading at least one full-length article.
Often these articles inspire a blog post or at the very least a topic for discussion on LinkedIn and Twitter. I also tag the best articles for long-term reference and of course the ones most relevant to my current projects.
The ‘share’ options on both Android and iOS, make it easy to save mobile web content to these apps. You should also add both Pocket and Flipboard plug-ins to your laptop browser. This means you can save online articles with one click rather than wading through the convoluted process of copying and saving URLs. I also find Pocket and Flipboard more efficient than bookmarking pages.
In recent months I’ve also become a fan of Medium. It’s home to some of the best writing on the web and a valuable source of information, especially for business and technology trends. Once again, it’s easy to save articles on Medium itself or to Pocket and Flipboard.
Can’t start a fire without a spark
Finally, when I’m taking notes, or starting to organize and structure content, I also use Microsoft OneNote. It’s a great way of capturing ideas and getting them into order.
Other useful sources include:
• Client website: Make sure you absorb and understand the messaging in the ‘About’ and ‘Solution’ sections. Read up the latest releases in the Press area.
• LinkedIn: Check up on the profiles of your main client contact, their boss, and C-level executives. By studying CVs and achievements, you’ll better understand the purpose of their current business.
• Google: Equipped with the above information search for the client and the most relevant individuals in the business. Use the ‘news’ tab in the search results to read the latest articles about the client.
• Presentations: As early as possible ask the client to send you current sales and marketing materials. Most will already have presentations that lay out the businesses mission, goals and target audience.
• Competitors: Check out the competition. How do they talk about their offer, the marketplace, the future?
It might sound like a lot of work, but it saves time. It will help you ask the right questions, develop powerful insights and one tiny detail might could be the spark that sets fire to your copy.