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Want to Be an Industry Influencer? 8 Do’s And Don’ts

Business Network and Communication
Lorna Garey

Lorna Garey

Managing contributed content is one of the best parts of my job. Besides serving as the proving ground for the sessions we place in our Channel Partners Conference & Expo and Evolution conference tracks, columns are a way to bring in a variety of voices from across the channel community. Not that every column that comes over the transom makes it onto our site. Side note to my friends in content marketing: I can tell when a 23-year-old intern wrote a post onto which you’ve slapped your client CTO’s byline. Yes, cloud is really big. So is digital transformation. Security is hard, but important. Thanks for that.

Community content editors kiss a lot of frogs. But the payoff – finding smart and funny people, making their writing shine and bringing it to our audience – is well worth it. A mentor once told me that in most fields, there are creators and refiners. I’m the latter. And over the years, I’ve come up with some best practices for people in technology and the channel who want to build an audience and share the wisdom that they’ve compiled over a career. Maybe your outlet is a personal blog, maybe you want to contribute to your company’s content efforts, or perhaps you’re interested in writing for Channel Partners or Channel Futures and potentially be invited to speak at one of our events.

Whatever your goal, here are some best practices, in no particular order.

Don’t be North Korea. No one likes people who launch missiles just to see them explode. Just because you can write something doesn’t mean you should. Be careful with incendiary topics and headlines. Yeah, they’ll get you eyeballs, but make sure you want to defend that stance. Going out on a limb now and then is often a good way to serve your audience, as this “C.P. McGrowl, Chief Channel Curmudgeon” column shows. But constantly playing the contrarian role just for the sake of being argumentative gets old fast. Practice some self-censorship, and mix up your columns with some kvetching, some cheering, some educating and some just for fun. And when you do decide to put a stake in the ground, choose your words carefully.

Don’t carelessly poke your spouse, employer or customers in the eye. There’s a difference between writing under the auspices of your employer vs. a personal blog vs. being a journalist. But no matter your situation, think before you take a shot, because like we tell our kids, once something is on the interwebs, it’s forever. A well-thought-out indictment of a company’s practices or product strategy (hey there, Adobe) is fair game and serves your readers. Cheap personal shots might get a laugh, but they’ll cost you your reputation in the long run.

Do have a plan to defend yourself when attacked. If you plan to write consistently and interestingly, the you-know-what will eventually hit the fan, even if you follow Rule  No. 1. Maybe you piss off the Apple fanbois; maybe you get picked up by Slashdot. Maybe one day you get off a long flight and have thousands of responses to an ill-considered tweet. Don’t jump into the fray immediately. Let people fight it out for a while and take some time to think about how, whether and when to engage in response to comments. Set ground rules. You can’t reason with stupid and intractible, so difficult as it is, ignoring trolls is usually the best plan.

Do assess whether you have the stamina. Not to be a killjoy, but building a following is work. It takes time, consistent effort and the grit to overcome that modern version of writer’s block, a blank Word doc and blinking cursor. Do you have what it takes to come up with topics week after week, month after month, often in the face of deafening silence? Some blogs will be …

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3 comments

  1. Lorna Garey Lorna Garey February 14, 2018 @ 3:48 pm

    I have one addition from our own Art Wittmann, who says to always follow Orwell’s six rules of writing. To wit:
    1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

  2. Avatar Bryan Reynolds February 15, 2018 @ 6:04 am

    Great advice! So important (in my opinion) to “go for thought leadership,” as you stated here. Too many times have I started to read something only to realize that they were trying to sell me on something…sneaky. Confidence in tone and usefulness of content is way more effective than the common “mine is better than yours” tactic.

    • Lorna Garey Lorna Garey March 1, 2018 @ 8:26 am

      Exactly, Bryan. People scoff at the term “thought leadership,” but it’s perfectly descriptive IMO. I also happen to like “actionable.” Lead by sharing smart thinking that gives your reader solid advice they can use.

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