What makes a practitioner influential? It’s simple—changing someone’s behavior by sharing subject-matter expertise.
Especially as it relates to tech specializations such as DevOps and DevSecOps, what’s the best way to do that? Share your expertise using the written word and images via the interwebs.
You may be thinking, “But wait! To be influential, I also have to produce content? Doesn’t that mean I need to be able to write well, too?”
In truth, no. The fact is that very few influencers are also skilled writers. You don’t have to be a literary genius in order to share your knowledge and influence others.
You do, however, have to be an expert. That’s what counts.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at where writing fits into the workflow of an influential practitioner in order to explain why writing expertise is definitely not a requirement for the role.
How Influential Practitioners Communicate
It’s true: Written words are at the core of digital content marketing, which is the main medium of influencers. Blogs, social media, and digital media are now the way that most expertise is shared. When people want to make a decision about something that involves technical skills, they usually start by doing a Google search.
This may leave you thinking that you must be a good writer in order to be an influential practitioner.
But that’s not true for several reasons. Consider the following points:
- Digital content covers many styles. When crafting a blog post, you are almost always writing peer-to-peer. This means you can adopt a conversational style that is easier for an everyman to pull off. You don’t (and in most cases, definitely shouldn’t) write dry, academic-style prose when you want to be influential online. No one wants to read boring prose.
- In the digital world, shorter is almost always better. Does the idea of writing a 10,000-word essay terrify you? If so, keep in mind that reading a 10,000-word essay also terrifies most digital media consumers. Rarely will someone read anything longer than 1,000 words when they are trying to make a technical decision online. That’s why shorter content is more effective when delivered digitally. This means that a reluctance to write long-form pieces isn’t a barrier to writing content for digital delivery.
- Digital communication involves more than words. If you’re not a great writer, the flexibility of digital media allows you to play to your strengths by contributing written content with images, video, audio or other media. Whether you are using words or images, you are doing the same thing—communicating information.
- It’s easier than you think to get help with writing. This one’s such an important point that it deserves its own section, so keep reading…
Even Professional Authors Get Help Writing
Here’s a secret that is little-known outside the world of professional writers: For every article, essay or book, even if it is single-authored, several other people besides the named author helped to write it.
That may seem obvious in the case of ghostwritten content. But it is still true, if to a lesser degree, with bylined material. If you write a book, reviewers, acquisitions editors, copy editors, and so on, will help you edit it. They will reorganize your writing, hone the prose, catch typos, and assist you in myriad other ways before publishing. These helpers don’t often get credit for their work, but rest assured that it takes a whole team, including an influential practitioner, to produce good digital content.
This is true not only with long-form content such as books, but also shorter items, like blog posts. Professional blogs have editors who provide guidance to authors throughout the writing process—from topic selection to post-production review. Statements by company executives are usually drafted by PR agencies before they are published under a CXO’s byline. Even social media posts that appear to be organic may have been written by a company that specializes in covertly writing posts for other people. (Yes, they exist.)
If you are a practitioner with confidence in your expertise but lack confidence in your writing, you can count on the help of others in preparing your writing for publication. No one expects you to do it alone.
What Matters Most is Expertise
Sure, you have to have a basic command of language if you are a practitioner who wants to be influential.
But again, you don’t need to be a seasoned writer. As long as you can communicate effectively in one form or another, then you can and should share your expertise with others. Possessing deep and unique knowledge about a particular subject area exceeds strong writing skills.
If you are a practitioner and you want to become influential, your readers’ only real concern is that you are an expert in the area in which they seek expertise. In order to become influential, you simply have to share your knowledge.
This post was originally published in October 2017 and updated in August 2021.