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How to Create Content About Things You Know Nothing About (Yet)

by Bana Jobe  |  
August 10, 2016

I'm not a doctor. I've never gone to medical school. And I could barely sit through frog dissection day in 7th grade biology (the smell of formaldehyde still haunts me).

But, as it turns out, none of that matters... even though in the past five years, I've taken the most complex topics from medical publications like the New England Journal of Medicine and Gut and made them more readable for mainstream audiences.

In most cases, that involved things I never thought I'd do: poring through clinical manuscripts (the sequence of abstract, background, methods, results and conclusions), pondering them, deciphering them, and simplifying them for news releases, blog posts and bylines.

Any good journalist will tell you that you don't have to have a degree in a topic to write about it well, and confidently. It just takes time, practice, and enough self-awareness to know when you don't know what you don't know.

But writing for a brand is a different beast still. You're telling (and selling) the story of an organization, something you're supposed to know a thing or two about, but sometimes that story is buried in a complicated topic. Or a confusing one. Or a boring one. Sometimes it's not easily told or understood.

It's hard to serve the brand if you can't serve the story, and it's hard to serve the story if you don't know the context (and all the context) surrounding it. It's hard, but not impossible.

Here's how to write clear, compelling content about things you don't yet understand.

1. Find crickets, consensus, and controversy during online research

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Bana Jobe is an Austin-based writer who focuses on content strategy—from editorial direction to measuring/reporting content performance and analytics.

Twitter: @banakjobe

LinkedIn: Bana Jobe (Varnon)

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  • by Ford Kanzler Wed Aug 10, 2016 via web

    I'd add: Find the content expert who is willing to explain the complexities. My career has been pretty exclusively with electronics and computer science engineering companies in Silicon Valley. I'm not an engineer, which is a good thing. But I've had some of the better writing experiences when I located the engineer who would take time explaining and demystifying the technology. It was a bit of mentoring which really helps generalists understand technical complexities in any field. They may not be the author you're ghost-writing for. But they make themselves available to help unwind the mysteries. A great asset in our work.

  • by CarolineDase Sun Aug 14, 2016 via web

    Oh! I remember those frogs! And also the pigeons that our professor let loose ...

    Be brave. For every one of you who are silent, there are 10 who are thinking the same things ... speak

  • by CarolineDase Sun Aug 14, 2016 via web

    I have followed Ann since the ClickZ days ... oh my! Every generation re-invents the world. Yet..... ok, Jason, let'sdo lunch!

  • by Kathy Thu Sep 1, 2016 via web

    Don't be afraid and know your audience.

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