contentgrrl

I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

20 questions: scoping out a writing assignment’s focus and misconceptions

Posted by contentgrrl on January 17, 2008


To fully capture a writing assignment’s focus and value, twenty questions are usually in order. Give or take a few. At the beginning of a gig, I’ll ask all of them. I never know when I’ll run into a misconception or political curse. But after a while, experience with a particular topic teaches me the answers to more and more of these questions.

Overview

  1. Topic: What are the keywords?
  2. Service or product: What product or service is involved or might be helpful?
  3. Timeliness: Why is this article timely at its writing/deadline?
  4. Focus: What merits a special focus?
  5. Expert Technical Reviewers: Who can serve as a resource for information and to verify the accuracy of the article?
  6. Communication: What channels do we want to use to get the word out — mass email, newsletter, Web page, fill-in form, press release, FAQ?

Audience

  1. Audience: Which target audiences, customers, or prospects are affected?
  2. Assumptions: What does the target audience know? What’s been rumored?
  3. History: What related issues have the audience experienced that may color their motivation or response?
  4. Misconception: What is most likely to cause the target audience to misunderstand or err?

Action

  1. Task: What is the target audience trying to do or accomplish?
  2. Trigger: What situation or case triggers a problem?
  3. Flow: How is it supposed to work?
  4. Solution: What do we want the audience to do? What sequence of steps are recommended in this particular case?
  5. Out of Scope: How do you know if you’re not affected? Are there special cases that merit more in-depth attention?

Value

  1. Benefits: What are the desired outcomes? What does a successful result look like?
  2. Consequences: What are the consequences of errors or inaction?
  3. Alternative: If there are alternative solutions, why wouldn’t you want to use them?
  4. Validation: What case data, evidence, statistics or resources can be used to confirm the veracity of our information?
  5. Illustration: Is there a metaphor, diagram, or image that might attract attention or help understanding?

TIP: With seven really good interview questions, a talkative expert can fill an hour. For the sake of efficiency, I try to get the basic facts out of the way, email my questions ahead of a meeting, and schedule a followup for during draft review to cover the rarer questions.

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One Response to “20 questions: scoping out a writing assignment’s focus and misconceptions”

  1. Tammie Beagle said

    May I have your permission to reproduce this list and use it in my News Writing classes? This is good stuff!

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