I turn on my cellphone in the morning and the first thing I read when I wake up (yes, I’m one of those people who have the bad habit of leaving their phone on the bedside table) is the following message from one of my best friends:
I have an interview this afternoon 🙊
That’s great news! When I congratulate him, he says:
It’s a content position and in theory they pay very well, but I don’t think they’ll hire me 😞
And of course, I ask him why.
Turns out it’s a software development startup. You know I know nothing about all that stuff. In fact, I think I’m going to tell them that I’m not available this afternoon… 🤯
Here comes the impostor syndrome again.
Dear reader, if you’ve ever found yourself in this situation or are considering a career change and are afraid of writing posts on topics you’re unfamiliar with, I hope this article will help you find your full potential.
I can assure you that I’ve been there before and even nowadays there are some topics I feel a bit uncomfortable with.
For all the journalists and communications professionals who welcomed me as an intern in Agencia EFE‘s Barcelona office on two occasions.
And of course, for all the scientists and doctors I had the pleasure of interviewing during my internship and in memory of the day I had to get so into the role that I ended up in an operating room dressed as a surgeon:
Don’t worry, my only work tools were a pen and a notebook. 😉
Why Should I Learn to Write About Subjects I’m Not Familiar With?
Did you know that the main companies in search of copywriters and other content marketing professionals are normally specialized in very technical subjects?
A simple LinkedIn search will show you that most jobs with the keyword “content” (not counting agencies, which usually include a bit of everything) are from software development companies, pharmaceutical industry, research and development, economics and finance, etc.
It seems that the “easiest” option are the offers from companies in the tourism sector, where the worst thing that can happen is that you have to write a post about a destination you’ve never been to (something like what happened to me with an article about Macau, although it wasn’t the only time).
The good news is that you don’t need to have five masters to write a quality article on a topic you’re clueless about and get into a new industry. Whether you want to start working in a new company or you’re a freelancer and want to get familiar with other niches, just follow these simple steps:
Research and Collect as Much Information as You Can
It may sound pretty obvious, but the truth is that you’ll spend 80% of your time doing research. This is because content curation consists of searching, sourcing and identifying quality sources on any given topic.
Collect as much information as you can about the company: who is their buyer persona, how many years they’ve been in business, what benefits their product or service offers and what they could improve, how are their competitors (and how they’re different), in which markets they operate, and so on. It will help you to empathize with the person who will read your content and be able to respond (and anticipate) to their needs.
You’ll see that there are a lot of sources, and depending on the field you’ll focus on one or another. A good starting point could be the following:
Study the Company’s Website and Blog
Here we would include the site, the blog, social networks and other channels of communication of the company we will work for.
Studying the company website and their blog will help you get into their shoes, allow you to understand what their product or service is and how they address their customers (for the latter you will find the “about us”, or any equivalent page very useful). Besides, many times they offer free training resources from their website, such as video tutorials. Not only are they for their users, they can be useful for you too.
Check if they have case studies. They are also known as “success stories”, as they’re posts or videos that show the positive feedback of a company or client after the acquisition of that product or service. It will help you to better understand what the product or service of the company you are interested in is for and what its strengths are.
If, for example, it’s an ecommerce, you can check the customers’ opinions and comments. You can see what they think about the products, what they like about them and what they would improve. The best thing about this is that the language is usually simple.
Search for Relevant and Authoritative Sources
If, for example, you have to write for a healthcare company, you’ll see that there are many popular science magazines. There you’ll find interviews, clinical trials and an infinite number of texts, some of which are highly complex. They will help you to familiarize yourself with the jargon and are good sources to quote.
Most of these sources are published in English. In fact, I take this opportunity to encourage you to look up all your sources in English whenever you can. Why? For the simple reason that in most fields, the original source is usually in this language. This means the information is usually more up-todate than in any other language and the results are usually of a higher quality.
That doesn’t mean you can’t look up information in other languages, but by including sources in English you’ll expand your range of information considerably.
Keep an Eye on the Competition
Collect as many competing sites as you can. If you don’t know how to do it, you can try with Semrush.
First you’ll analyze the domain of the company you want to work for. Then select the country from which you want to extract the information.
In “domain overview”, observe the sections on “main competitors”, both the organic and paid ones. If you select “view details” you’ll see a complete list of similar sites.
Let’s try with netflix.com, for example:
As a result, we’ll get movies and series websites. You can repeat this process with any site or blog of the same niche. It will help you to get lists of similar sites to collect information from (many of them will not be strictly from the competition, so they could be useful for a future link building campaign).
You can also check the “backlinks”; that is, websites that link to that page. Be careful though – they’re usually related, but there are many sites that have long lists of toxic backlinks, loaded with spam. However, if you filter a bit you may find some useful material.
Another way of finding websites without using any tools is doing ordinary Google searches until you find useful sources. If you want to speed up things a little, you can try the following combination in the address bar:
“keyword from that field” inurl:blog
You will get a list of blogs with that keyword as a result.
Watch YouTube Videos
Here you’ll find videos like the typical unboxing and setup of a product, as well as positive and negative reviews.
They’ll allow you to see how that product works or what it does without having it. Also, they normally use informal language, are aimed at a general audience and don’t use too many complicated words. Also check the comments of the videos – sometimes they include doubts that the users have and oftentimes even the authors of the video answer them.
You may also find videos produced by the brand you’ll be working for, such as tutorials and other corporate material for lead generation. Take a look at them, they will surely help you to understand the subject better.
Read Opinions or Reviews
Where else do they offer that product or service? Is it on Amazon, perhaps? We have already recommended you to do the same with the company’s website (in case it is an ecommerce, for example). Nonetheless, you should also check the customers’ opinions on other platforms. Furthermore, see what questions are usually asked about the product and their answers.
The language is often even simpler than on YouTube videos. They are people who have bought the product and just share their opinion with other users. Seeing how others talk about these products in a simpler language will make it easier for you to explain them. In addition, you’ll find potential problems users have had with the product or service and get answers to questions you hadn’t even asked yourself before.
If they happen to have an office, shop or any physical headquarters you can check what users publish (both opinions and photos) in Google Maps or Yelp. Or you can check more specialized directories such as Doctoralia or Top Doctors (for clinics and health professionals, for example), or TripAdvisor for the tourism and catering sectors. Please note that in this article we are giving general recommendations and, depending on the sector, not all of them will have the same weight or validity.
Check Out the Social Networks
Search for Facebook groups on the industry or topic you don’t know. Usually there are communities built by both experts and newcomers, in which they ask questions and clarify doubts.
If you don’t know Reddit, it may be a good time to create an account: this is a content aggregator where users submit posts and others interact with them. This platform is divided into subreddits or subcommunities, and you can find everything from the most geeky to the most technical ones.
It can also be a good place to share your articles once you have them and promote the product.
Quora is also an option to consider. You probably already know it, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it. It’s a platform that offers answers to questions. Maybe your doubts have already appeared there before, but in case they haven’t, you can also ask any question and clear up all your doubts thanks to its international community.
It is possible that not all answers are reliable. However, the good thing about Quora is that all profiles are accompanied by a photo and short description (usually what that person does or where their expertise comes from). Also, by selecting any profile you can see all the answers and questions that person has asked. It should be enough to check if it is a quality answer or not.
Also, don’t forget Twitter, Instagram, etc.Take a look at the hashtags related to the field that interests you and follow the conversations that take place between users. What opinion do they have about a certain product? What would they improve? What ideas do they have? Remember: any network where that industry is present could provide you with valuable information.
Contact Industry Experts
Don’t be afraid to get in touch with all the industry professionals you need. It could be someone you follow on LinkedIn, the author of an article you’ve read, or even someone from another department in your own company.
Networking is fundamental to find new career opportunities but also when elaborating content. Knowing experts in the field and having your own sources is very valuable when writing: it will help you to be original and create exclusive content. Besides, everybody likes to be mentioned in an article (and even more so if you link to their website), so don’t worry, they won’t say no to you.
Make sure that you cultivate a good relationship, as then you’ll be able to count on that person again whenever you need help with an article of a certain complexity.
Take a Free Course, Attend Events and Read Books
In the last years, an infinite number of platforms have sprouted up with free (or very reasonably-priced) courses in Coursera, Domestika, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Crehana, Miríadax, etc. Normally they’re put together by university professors or professionals in the sector. They’re usually short and introductory, so they’ll help you get familiar with the subject. They also incorporate communities or forums where you can participate and ask questions.
Another interesting option is to attend webinars or events where you can clarify your doubts with other professionals from the field and do networking. You can find many of them on Facebook, LinkedIn or in the Meetup app.
Don’t forget books! Some people think that there aren’t any interesting books for technical subjects, but that’s not true. Take a look at your favorite bookstore (or the Jeff Bezos catalog) and you’ll see what I mean.
The Wrap Up
Now that you know how to extract the information for that complicated post, you might be interested in thinking about topics. We’ve already seen how to search for topics when you don’t know what to talk about in the article on how to create an editorial calendar for a blog, so I recommend you take a look at it if you haven’t done so already. As you’ll see, thanks to tools like AlsoAsked.com, you’ll find multiple questions that your post would probably have to answer.
Once you have all your sources, collect them in a spreadsheet. All the useful links you’ve found, posts from the company blog, other similar websites, customer reviews, YouTube videos, LinkedIn profiles of people you could interview… In short, everything you find that you think could help you.
You can also add a second worksheet with a glossary of terms frequently used in that sector and their meaning.
Once your post is ready, read it. If something doesn’t sound right to you, rewrite it. If you don’t trust what you have written yourself, why should someone else do it who may understand the subject more than you? Be authentic and make sure the article you submit makes sense.
Make sure you present the information in a visually attractive way; nowadays readers scan – they don’t stop to read carefully anymore. This means the content will have to be intuitive, visually appealing and will use the same language that they would use.
Practice makes perfect. Don’t rule out a new opportunity just because you don’t have previous knowledge in the field. Writing a quality post on a topic you’re not familiar with doesn’t have to be complicated if you have good sources and all the necessary tools to do it. What really matters is that you love writing and enjoy doing online searches. If so, the rest will be easy peasy.
Remember that this is not about pretending to be an expert when you are not, but rather about knowing how to handle situations of a certain complexity.
And you know what? If you get to work in such a specialized sector you will see that many topics are similar and they even tend to repeat themselves. If so, you will learn very quickly and that initial “writer’s block” will last very little.
By the way, my friend got the job! 🥳
What was the most difficult article you wrote so far?
Header image: Freepik.