Gail Downey, journalist, broadcaster, filmmaker and Difficult Conversations media communications lead shares her experience.
Know your audience is the best advice I was given when I started as a trainee journalist a thousand years ago. My first job was on a local newspaper in Warwickshire. The audience were the people who lived in the town the newspaper served. Woe betide you if you spelt any names wrong or misquoted the leading lights. They generally were on drinking terms with the editor and you would soon find yourself hauled into his office for a dressing down.
These may seem minor misdemeanours compared with the fake news scandals of today. But to the people of that town, getting it right was important, and so it should be.
Now anyone can write. You don’t have to be a journalist to get published. There is a wide variety of ways to share your expertise and your stories without having to go through the media. Blog writing and thought leadership articles give everyone a chance to get their opinions out there. The problem is it is a crowded market place. So how do you build up a following? How do you ensure your article gets noticed and best of all shared?
First of all, as already mentioned, know your audience. So if you belong to a group of clinicians on LinkedIn, the readership is going to be obvious. Write about something that is relevant to them. Think less about what you want to write and more about what they would like to read. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about what you are interested in, but think what would interest them too.
People tell me one of the hardest things is actually starting the article. I couldn’t agree more. It is the same for journalists and I have been writing, broadcasting and making films for two thirds of my life. Sitting at your desk won’t help. A blank screen will remain a blank screen regardless of how long you stare at it.
Take yourself off for a walk. Go into the garden. If you are in the office then visit a colleague. Have a chat. Make a coffee. Writing is not meant to be a chore. Think of other things. It is the same when you have forgotten someone’s name. It comes when you least expect it. Don’t force it.
Have a favourite writing place. I like the café at Marks and Spencer which is a couple of miles from where I live. I sit in the corner undisturbed. The Wi Fi is good. Having spent most of my life in noisy newsrooms I am not bothered by the chatter of people around me. The staff are friendly and if I go in at 4pm I have a deadline of 6pm to finish my article before it closes. All very civilised.
Writing is time consuming so think about why you are doing it. What do you want to achieve? Again if you are a clinician and you want to share best practice then that is a laudable aim in itself. Do you want anything to change as a result of your blog or thought leadership article? If so, don’t be afraid to spell it out. You may have a solution to a common problem. All the better.
Be real. Be controversial. Share your expertise and tell it like it is. Write it down. As Benjamin Franklin said. “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.”