Copywriters are often asked to write blogs, eBooks and web content on subject areas we know next to nothing about. It's then up to us to become experts on a topic very quickly... or at least sound enough like experts to create convincing copy!
If at all possible, your first step should be to speak directly with the business owner, client, interview subject or whoever asked you to write for them. The best way to get the information you need is directly from the source. There is absolutely no substitute for the insider knowledge and expertise that you can get from interviewing your client firsthand.
In an ideal situation, we copywriters would have unrestricted access to get the information we need from our clients. But, what if you can't get the input you need from the client? It happens more than you think. Either the client is too busy, unwilling to talk or simply isn't sure what they want their content to be about. In any case, the content still needs to get written!
Here's the process I typically follow when writing for a tricky subject area:
Start With Your Client's Site
Even if you can't get the guidance you need from your client, hopefully they already have a website up and running that you can search through for content ideas.
Many times, I've had clients forget to mention that they have a huge resource section or years' worth of blog posts on their site.
If you can't get them to send you the information you need, comb through their site, watch their videos, and grab all their downloadable content to form a starting point for your research.
Figure Out How Other People Talk About It
The topic you're writing on may range from something you're vaguely familiar with (such as appliance repair) to something you have no concept of (professional dog training techniques). In either case, I start by trying to find out how people talk about the subject and what specifically they talk about.
You can approach this phase of your research in a number of ways depending on the audience for the content you're writing. You may want to figure out how your client's competitors talk about this particular subject, how consumers talk about it, or even how other industry experts talk about it.
As you start to get a better idea of your topic, you can begin to identify common points that you should include in your copy.
Find Other Experts
So, perhaps you don't have access to the expert you want to speak with (your client), but that doesn't mean you can't locate another person who can help.
Find out which individuals, companies, or organizations would be considered an authority on your subject. Scour their websites for blogs, downloadable resources and helpful links to other related sites.
Collaborate & Ask For Help
Don't be afraid to reach out to whoever you can to find someone who is more knowledgeable on the topic than you are. You never know who among your friends or coworkers has a hidden interest or talent and would be willing to share information about the subject you're writing on, knows someone who can help, or can at least point you towards resources that could be of use. When I am tackling a more challenging project, I don't hesitate to ask my coworkers, "Hey, do you know anything about
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* Lead image adapted from @boetter