Looking to Grow? You MUST Write Well...

Posted by Healthful Elements Staff

If you’re like Jill and me, you LOVE reading, studying, and educating about health.

You could spend all session explaining the HPA axis to a client — perhaps you already have — and then heard snores on the other end of the telephone wire. (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience. :))

But if you run your own business, you’re also forced to think about things like marketing, content creation, legal questions, insurance, taxes, expenses – the list goes on (and on).

If you love some of these aspects less than you love thinking about adrenal function and gut dysbiosis, you’re not alone. And if you’re better at some than others, well then you’re human — just like all of us. The day we’re perfect at everything is the day we’re cyborgs. And I don’t know about you, but I like my human form just as it is, thank you very much!

Maybe you’re a natural at organizing your business expenses and doing your tax prep, but understanding the legal side of things leaves you cold. Or you’re great at marketing and social media, but writing blog posts and creating content gives you spasms of anxiety.

I can’t help with the legal stuff and I’m worthless at tax prep (a big shout out to Jennifer, my wonderful accountant!), but I spent 15 years as a health researcher and journalist, so I know a few things about good writing.

It matters — big time.

Even as social media leans more toward live streaming video and photo-based posts, you must know how to write well.

You need quality content on your website, blog, and sales pages so that readers trust you — and so they’ll take time to listen to your podcasts, videos, and live streams. 

All readers are potential clients or group class participants and they need to resonate with your copy if they’re going to invest in your eBook or online program.

And one of the best ways to resonate with people is to make them feel like you’re speaking directly to them. You can’t accomplish this with poor writing. Your written content needs to make them think, “This person knows what s/he’s doing. I want to hire him/her!”

Don’t let writing terrify you.

There are some straightforward tips and tricks for improving your posts, telling good stories (key!), and building trust with readers.

Below are some of my go-to tips for creating engaging, business-building content.

I’ll be covering all of this — and much more — in my upcoming Health Writer’s Studio group classes for health practitioners, which starts on April 11. More on that soon.

Know your audience. If your readers are interested in weight loss, write about that. If your readers are interested in going Paleo, write about that. If your readers are interested in the healing power of goji berries, write about that.

The more you write on the topic, the more you will be seen as an expert in that area — and the more your audience will (1) return to you for advice on the topic and (2) expand. (This is especially important if don’t currently have a specific/focused area of practice, like autoimmunity or digestive health.)  

Don’t know what your readers care most about? Find out! Use social media or a data collection website like Survey Monkey to get feedback. When you start giving readers the content they want and need, they will keep coming back for more.

Write what you know. The first piece of advice (“know your audience”) requires a caveat and it’s this: know what you know — and know what you don’t know. If you help people with a wide variety of health challenges, it’s important to know which topics most interest your readers and which ones you can cogently write and report on – and which ones you can’t.

For example, if you gather feedback and your readers overwhelmingly agree that they want to hear about finer points of goji berry nutrition but you know nothing about it, don’t pretend you do. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know much about a specific topic (in the spirit of disclosure, I don’t know much about cardiovascular health).

People will appreciate the honesty.

But then wow readers with what you DO know, and it’s a lot! Maybe you know about the nutritional power of berries more generally? Or the magical therapeutic benefits of avocados?  Be honest about the limits of your knowledge, which builds trust, and then show off the vast knowledge you have in a related or concurrent area.

(And if your audience remains stuck exclusively and immovably on the goji berry, you may need to get some marketing help and find a new audience. I’ll leave that to the marketing pros.)

Tell a personal story. If you can tell one about yourself, that’s best. People want to know you’ve been there. If you can change names and revealing details and tell a transformative story about a friend or client, that’s good, too. (But, remember, privacy is ALWAYS paramount. Never give out any detail that could potentially identify someone in real life.) Potential clients resonate with real-life stories — tales full of challenges, obstacles, setbacks, and successes.

Spellcheck. Then scan for missed commas and periods. Proofread. Seriously. A reader’s trust drops precipitously every time she encounters a spelling or grammatical error. Don’t lose potential customers because you didn’t give your copy a once (or twice) over. At the same time, don’t rely exclusively on spellcheck – it’s not likely to catch you’re when you should have used your or it’s when you should have used its. It’s important to know these differences.

Use complete sentences. Don’t write in fragments or run-ons. 

Say what you need to say. Trying to explain a tricky physiological concept? Want to illuminate the finer points of blood sugar dysregulation? Getting tripped up with word choice and sentence structure and how to order your thoughts?

There are advanced techniques for writing about complicated topics that I’ll cover in the Health Writer’s Studio classes, but some of the best advice I’ve ever received is to step away from the computer for five minutes, then return, sit down, and say to yourself, “Just say what you need to say.” I can’t tell you how often this simple mantra has helped me get past writer’s block.

Don’t use long, fancy words for the sake of using long, fancy words. We all want to appear smart and knowledgeable, but simpler is better. I love George Orwell’s saying, “Never use a long word where a short one will do.”

Don’t use extraneous words. I also love the saying, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” In other words, less is more – it can make your writing even more punchy and powerful.

Leave readers with some actionable advice. You don’t have to give away your whole bag of tricks, but readers feel cheated if you don’t leave them with some actionable advice that they can implement in their lives — starting today. Lists are good, and simple is better. Keep your advice straightforward and approachable. The more you give readers tips they can use, the more they will return to see what you have to offer in the future.

On that note, I hope you found this advice simple, helpful, and approachable — and I hope it makes writing your content just a little bit easier.

Again, good writing instills trust and Health Writer’s Studio promises to be packed with information you can use to grow your audience. Health entrepreneurship is exploding and let’s face it – there’s competition. Take it from us, good writing gives you an advantage.

The course will cover: 

  • Grammar basics, with emphasis on those tricky ones we can never remember (which vs. that, for example)
  • Sentence structure and word choices for clarity
  • Appropriate word choices and phrases when writing about health (HEALTH-specific content)
  • How to structure a blog post, newsletter, email to client, and pitch to magazine editor (all with templates that you can use forevermore)
  • And much, much more…

Lastly, I’d love to know what aspects of writing trip you up the most. Leave me a comment below and let me know and I’ll be sure to cover it in the classes! 

Posted by Healthful Elements Staff

Comments

Great tips.  I sometimes struggle with what depth of knowledge to share. I don't want to lose people in big words, but I want to inspire confidence in my expertise and provide more insightful information than can be found in the typical Health magazine. I would love some help striking that balance.

I empathize! Finding that balance can be tricky. Here are the general guidelines I follow:

1. I try to explain only one complex physiological issue (or other “deep science” concept) per post.

2. I never try to dumb content down or oversimplify — readers can always see through this approach and they often interpret it as condescending, which we definitely don’t want. (One of my mantras? Readers are smart.) What I DO do is try to make sure my explanation is free of any obscure medical or academic words, or, if one is necessary, I make sure I define it. You and I probably spend half of every day thinking about endotoxemia (!), but very few others do.

3. When I explain something complex, I don’t shy away from the science, but I do intersperse a lot of analogies. If you can liken a physiological process to acrobats walking a tightrope or outdoor enthusiasts bailing water out of a leaky canoe, you really help readers understand things on a deeper level. Creating a relatable visual always helps.

Hope that helps!

 

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