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Posts Tagged ‘research’

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.


  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?


  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?


  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?


  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.

Posted in illustrating, learning, publishing, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

10 ways to use Answers to work your LinkedIn professional network

Posted by contentgrrl on November 27, 2007

LinedInLately, everybody* has an article on using LinkedIn to build a professional network. The obvious — public profile, colleagues, and recommendations — are moot.

The real answer may lie in Answers. Here are ten ways you can use Answers to work that network to its fullest potential (without coughing up for premium features):

  1. Subscribe to the RSS feeds for relevant Answers Categories. I subscribe to Web Development, Project Management, Writing, and Marketing. But if I were selling my company’s product, I might subscribe to E-Commerce and Enterprise Software. Every day, My Yahoo! gives me a list of the latest questions in those categories.
  2. Answer questions from people who could use your services or knowledge, or that of your colleagues.
  3. Recommend colleagues from your network who might also be experts; when you do, make sure you give them a heads up by forwarding (Sharing) the question to them. Listing your expert colleagues will get their names out, and may encourage people to consult them for more information.
  4. Share Q&A to forward to your colleagues who might find them of interest. You can Share a question asked by someone else, and highlight an answer that your friend might find useful. It can instigate a conversation, which can get the ball rolling for other opportunities.
  5. Ask private questions that you ask only people in your network to answer, and nobody else can see the details or the answers. This might be helpful if details in your questions might be more proprietary than you’d like the whole world (and your competitors) to see.
  6. Look up people who are asking and answering questions in your area of expertise. Sometimes you can strike up a conversation about how you both know several people in common. It’s like playing six degrees of separation (six degrees of Kevin Bacon) or less! For instance, Zach Miller was looking for software similar to what my company is offering, and we happened to be one of their customers for insurance.
  7. Ask questions where you think you know the answers. The question might draw people in, and your additional explanation, clarification, or individual responses can help convince people to think your way. For instance, Gerred Blyth asked about interactive design for some research, and offered to send contributors his research.
  8. Clarify your Qs & As. You’re not allowed to edit a question or answer you’ve submitted, but you can add clarifications, including expert people from your network and links. It looks thoughtful and lively.
  9. Boost fellow members with Best Answers and Good Answers. When you ask a question, follow up later by identifying the best answer and other good answers. The more people who thoughtfully use this rating, the better for the people who thoughtfully contribute.
  10. Drive traffic to your site or blog. You can blog about something that answers the question in detail, and post the link to your specific blog article, as I did for a freelancing question. Or just include a link to your site or blog whenever you answer a question.

* “Everybody” includes Lifehacker, TheSimpleDollar, FreelanceSwitch, WebWorkerDaily, Brazen Careerist, and the list could go on…

Posted in citizen, community, marketing, persuasion, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »