What do authors and engineers have in common? More than you might think.
Both spend lots of time working alone on their books or designs. And for both authors and engineers, storytelling can be used to connect with readers – or prospective clients.
Following are some habits shared by successful authors. Engineers can benefit from similar efforts to improve their companies’ bottom line.
Get ideas by paying attention
Authors analyze their surroundings and look for details that they could use on a current or future book. Many carry small notebooks for jotting down notes. They capture scenic details, dialogue or impressions of people who could inspire their next character.
I’ve known engineers who tour communities looking for future projects, even if funding isn’t readily available.
What are the conditions of roadways, parks and other infrastructure? Did an official mention a dream project he or she would love to pursue? The challenge is to input these thoughts into a contact management system for future consideration.
Creatures know how to be mindful. Check out the wary mink. On the other hand, “Eileen,” the female mallard, liked having her picture taken. In appreciation of her patience, Harold Blaize, the photographer, decided to name her.
Capture comments from the experts
Authors want to add realistic details that bring their stories to life. They do this through research and by interviewing experts.
For example, a male author may talk with a teenage girl to get her perspective on a character of a similar age and sex. Likewise, a female author may seek out a male author or friend to confirm that her male character’s dialog and actions sound authentic.
For professional services firms, clients’ testimonials are golden nuggets that add credibility to their experience. Getting these comments sometimes requires a last-minute effort as firms work on proposals or award applications.
If a client offers a compliment on a project, stop everything. Ask for permission to record their praise and use it for marketing materials. It’s a good practice to confirm the quote and acceptance in an email. They may even agree to participate in a case study to share their success with your firm.
Embrace obstacles in your stories
Any good story needs a conflict, or you’re not going to engage the reader. Bestselling author Ann Voss Peterson shared inspiring words with fellow writers at the recent University of Wisconsin-Madison Writer’s Institute. In her keynote address, she advised authors to “take risks” and “be vulnerable” in their prose. That’s what readers value, she said.
Individuals in the architecture/engineering/construction industry also can use storytelling to connect with existing and prospective clients.
Future clients want to know that professional services firms can successfully overcome project challenges.
Michael Neelsen, documentary filmmaker of Storyfirst Media, promotes leveraging obstacles to engage audiences. Good stories follow a well-known story formula: In the beginning, ___. But then, _____. Therefore, ____.
In your marketing materials and interviews, don’t just list successful outcome. Share your challenges and the problems you resolved. As an engineer, you didn’t slay any dragons like the characters in novels, but that doesn’t mean your efforts weren’t heroic in their own way. Use conflict to create stories that will be remembered.
Editing plays a key role in the publishing process. Authors may seek three kinds of help. A developmental editor offers big-picture comments. Copy editors review a manuscript for grammar, sentence structure, organization and other issues. Proofreading occurs at the last stage before printing.
Authors value their editors and indicate they would be lost without them.
It’s common for authors to rewrite their manuscripts many times. Some many work on a book for years before they consider it ready for publication.
Engineering firms may allocate sufficient time for editing and rewrites for high profile projects. But with looming deadlines, other documents, such as proposals, may receive only a quick last-minute review before the document is printed and submitted.
Build in review time to benefit your firms. After all, prospective clients are looking for reasons to disregard unsatisfactory proposals.
Writers are advised to create a draft, let it sit for at least a few hours, and then review it. The first draft is just the start. Here’s some advice from author Stephen King:
“This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children but it must be done.”
Covers are critical
Even authors on limited budgets will spend money for great covers. They know that without an eye-catching cover, their book probably won’t be successful. It’s got to grab the readers’ attention within seconds and then properly reflect the book’s content. If the story doesn’t match the promise of the cover, readers won’t buy the next book. Unhappy readers also may post negative reviews.
Professional services firms also need to create well-designed covers for their documents. We’re living in a visual world. Photos and images help explain the value of projects designed by engineers, architects and their partners.
During the planning process, consider the best time to take project photos or videos. Will morning or evening light enhance your project? Before and after shots often highlight benefits better than any description. And then use those amazing images in marketing materials to generate interest.
Bring your passion to marketing
Many authors and engineers would prefer to work on manuscripts or designs instead of marketing. But if they want to sell their next book or get the next client, it’s necessary. The good news is that audiences respond to individuals who are passionate about their work.
Authors like to talk about their characters and story development. They may reveal that characters become like real people who help determine their destiny – with the author’s help, of course.
When prospective clients consider hiring engineers or other professionals, they’re also looking for teams who are passionate about their work and connect with each other. Storytelling can help demonstrate a team’s ability to solve problems and work together to exceed expectations. Authentic stories also help to build trust.
Connect for success
Whether you’re an author or someone in professional services, you must be willing to promote yourself and connect with others. That’s the ticket to doing more of the work you love.
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