I have recently received several email inquiries on how to start an advice column. Based on these various letters, I am assuming that these readers have read my advice column “Ask GirlShrink” and want to create a similar question and answer (Q&A) model for their own column(s).
So this is the deal. In order to create a regularly produced column, you need questions from people interested in your topic and your expertise. For this, you need to establish a few things first…
Your Expertise — What is it that you are knowledgeable about? What can you answer questions on? And how do you show others that you know what you are talking about? If you are giving advice on a very general topic (such as I do), then make sure you give your column a twist — some flavor:) Write in your own unique voice.
Your Visibility — There are two reasons why someone will follow your column – because your writing is exceptionally clever OR because you have made yourself visible to your target market. They have heard of you. They remember something you wrote before. Or just remember your name. You can of course begin to easily present yourself as the expert on your topic through a series of marketing tactics (one of my favorites is of course article marketing:), and establishing a website and subscriber list.
Regular Communication – Once you have a list and you begin communicating to them regularly through regular emails or your newsletter – they will begin trusting you and then asking for your help. This is a very important step or you will always be talking to “new” people and never start building a base of loyal fans. And what you want are loyal readers.
Can you begin writing your advice column without all this in place first? Well, you could based on what you “think” your clients need answers on. But that would be writing more like a work of fiction or a well-written FAQ page:) And the key to a really great advice column – one that gets syndicated – is to generate authentic content. I mean there are just some questions that people send in which I couldn’t make up if I tried! So authentic content over contrived wins every time in my book:)