Research: scary or fun?

I don’t know about you, but many people think research involves test-tubes, or hours poring over dusty tomes in a library. When you think about it, though, we all do research pretty regularly- every time we browse online, for a good start.

When you’re trying to find something to write about for your regular blog (you do write one, don’t you?), research may not be the first thing that springs to mind. Instead, “what am I going to write about?” is quite possibly your dominant thought. It’s a truism, though, that the better you know a subject the easier it is to write about, and that’s where your research comes in.

The Six Ws of Journalism
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If you know your business inside out you’re off to a flying start. If you’re writing about what happens in a part of your business you’re not usually involved with, though, you might need to ask a few questions before you put fingers to keyboard.

If you’re stuck for ideas, you can start with other people’s research. I’m not talking plagiarism here, just your FAQ list. What are your customers asking about? Take one Q per blog and you’ll probably have a good-sized list to work your way through before you have to start thinking of new ones – and you know there are people out there who want to know the answer. Write it right and you’ll get comments, which could give you inspiration for further posts.

If that doesn’t happen, or when you run out of Qs, you have to dig a bit deeper. If you’re on LinkedIn or other forums related to your work, you can get ideas from what’s being posted there. Look your industry up online – there may be articles you can rewrite for your own audience. You can even ask the author to do a guest blog for you. It’s not laziness, just a good use of resources! Joking aside, it’s a good way for the other author to get known, and you may get asked to reciprocate, which then creates a link back to your website (do remember to put your web address in your post!), which helps boost your site’s ranking in most search engines.

Is your company history worth a blog? Do you have any member of staff, present or past, who’s done something brave/clever/interesting (or eccentric – past members only)? Did your company develop a process that changed your industry? Have you got a branch somewhere exotic that you could parley into a travel piece? Is a member of staff an athlete or member of the Territorial Army or other forces Reserve? Do you source ingredients of a product from a tiny mountain-top principality?

You get the idea. You’re looking for something that will make your company different from your competitors: your people, origins, products, place. Things that humanise your business and make people realise that it is run by real live bods, not robots.

You’re aiming for what journalists call the “human angle”, to bring your products and services to life and give your customers that warm, fuzzy feeling that makes them want to deal with you, not with your boring, faceless competitors. It’s rather fun, once you get the hang of it: sanctioned nosiness.

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