Two months and many hours into a writing project for a major global firm I still didn’t know which business unit(s) were involved in a software implementation, which specific software packages were involved and who exactly used the software. Why? Because rather than let me do one or two interviews with people who knew the answers, the client sent three promotional videos about the project, 10 transcripts of interviews done for the video, and a 23-slide PowerPoint.

The only problem is the videos, transcripts and PowerPoints were filled with cryptic insider references to division names, project names, software versions, etc. which meant – after hours pulling

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from these various sources – my first draft was still filled with questions. Each of those questions will require hours of extra checking and confirmation in the review process, and increase the chances that a major error will find its way into the final draft.

Whenever you can, a one-on-one interview (or two, if needed) is the most accurate and most efficient way to give a writer the

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rmation they need. On the phone the writer can ask very specific questions (“Where exactly does this group fit within the overall corporate structure?”) and ask follow-ups immediately (“So am I right in thinking the corporate accounting division is the only part of the company using this software, and the only software they are using is MQSql on Ubuntu 3.2?”

So what, you may ask, if a writer has to take extra hours sifting through transcripts, white papers, presentations and what-not? Because the harder it is for a writer to understand what you want to say, the more likely it is they’ll get something wrong. That means more time and money on your end to fix the mistakes and the more risk a mistake will make into the final collateral anyway.

So if your job depends on getting content out quickly and accurately, do yourself and the writer a favor. Use one-on-one interviews as the first and preferred method to tell the writer what they need to know.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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