Maybe you’ve felt that way, too.
- Maybe you’re starting to feel like you’re starting with the same lead, hitting the same beats, and using the same approaches again and again.
- Maybe you feel uninspired and just want a few more ideas as you sit down to work on projects
- Maybe the thought of doing even one more donor profile exhausts you.
Maybe, like me, you found that your profiles were starting to feel stale, and you worried your readers might be able to sense that.
I wanted some inspiration and some good ideas.
Was there a manual out there with a better set of tools that I could use to do my work? Specific of profile packaging I hadn’t tried? Approaches I hadn’t considered?
I considered myself creative. But what I really wanted was a few step-by-step processes that would make every profile I did better.
So I went to conferences to listen to the world’s best profile writers share secrets of their craft. I loved their talks, but I’ll admit I couldn’t really relate to their stories of interviewing world-famous celebrities or carving out months to report and write a single story.
I took week-long writing intensives to learn more, but found that most people at these events wanted to write their memoirs or a novel — no help to me.
I read countless books about writing — Bird by Bird, On Writing, and many others. But their advice just didn’t feel specific enough to my situation.
You may have experienced the same thing.
You go to the conference keynote talks.
You take the classes.
You read the books and blog posts.
Maybe you get energized and take lots of notes!
But you might find, once you return to your office, that those ideas don’t apply to the profiles you have on your to-do list.
I was looking for best practices and a better roadmap, but none existed.
It was time for me to get to work.
If you’re like me, you want your work to be as good as it can be! You just need some help that applies to the work you’re actually doing.
I decided to create my own toolbox with the exact things I had always wished these conferences, courses, and books had included.
I got on the mailing lists of some of the very best alumni magazines in the country. I spent hundreds of dollars every single year to subscribe to some of the most creative and groundbreaking consumer magazines. I reverse-engineered the work of great profiles to understand what made them tick, then I applied their techniques to my own work.
I collected hundreds of examples, carefully organized them, and built a vast collection of ideas that I could refer to whenever I needed.
When I was feeling stuck, it felt like a secret weapon.
I went into interviews feeling confident that I had good questions that would provide illuminating quotes and anecdotes. I knew I could come up with a creative lead that went beyond the newspaper-style approach of “who, what, where, when, why, and how.” I knew even without much material, I could create a story that would grab a reader’s attention like velcro.
Instead of humdrum profiles, I had the tools to turn otherwise boring profiles into pieces that editors loved and that sources wanted to send to friends and family.
Sometimes, they even won awards:
Over the years, profiles I’ve written have won numerous awards. Here are just two.