Three lessons in selling from writing a weekly column

Language, editing and persistence are your tools of trade. 

Today’s piece starts the sixth year of this column. And today I wish to universally respond to those who desire to sell their ideas through writing for a publication like this one.

First. Readers of this column know that it challenges salespeople and institutions to sell differently; the more in the disruptive era we live in. But much as we do so, we remain steadfast in the fact that the English language is not getting disrupted any time soon. Thus, if you are going to write for the workplace (as this publication does) you must watch your grammar. This has nothing to do with “not being patriotic” (as I’ve heard it said); or, justifications that English is not even your ninth language. The fact is, English remains the official means of communication here and globally. In fact, seeking harmony in communication, multinational corporations insist affiliates (even in non-English speaking countries) communicate in English. So, if you are going to get regularly published, ensure you can competently (not necessarily perfectly) write in English. It defines the quality of the service (article) you are selling.

Next. Newspaper editors are like brand quality assurance inspectors and make the writing sellable to the reader. They are your first buyer. Every publication has a target market and a style of writing it espouses. Editors exist to ensure this standard is consistently met. Unknown to many, for instance, many eloquently written letters to the editor that you read have been painstakingly extracted from eye-straining, patience-testing twaddle. Editors also arouse the reader’s interest through deriving an inviting headline and image. So, nine out of ten times, your well-thought out headline will not see the light of day. It will instead be replaced by one suitable for the publication but still relevant to your story. Accept that and move on. And no, you do not get to choose the image to be used. So, for all of you who say ‘my’ images should remain all African all the time, now you know whom to ‘blame’.

Finally. You could speak and write in Queen’s English plus be accepting of the inevitable corrections and still not get your proposed articles noticed. Welcome to the world of writing. Either because publication houses are inundated with data they must convert to information (news), or, because editors in the newsroom are forever impatient, having to contend with continual deadlines, you’ll be lucky to get a response to your well-thought out piece. Fret not. You are selling, remember? Persistence pays.  Keep at it. So long as your writing is relevant and you keep prospecting (knocking on doors) you’ll catch a break (sale). Meantime, start a blog. Satisfy yourself that you can consistently write weekly for six months without fail. You just may discover it’s not as easy as you thought.

This is 256th Sales Pitch article. And you’ve been with us every step of the way. Thank you.

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