Endorsing Your Writer

This post was written by John White on Thu, 11 Jun 2009 15:42:25 +0000
Posted Under: endorsements,rapport with writer

As the economy continues to stagnate and people invest more time in their online search for work, are you getting more requests lately for endorsements and recommendations? How do you handle them?

Several of our writers have contacted me recently for endorsements. I don’t mind giving them, even if they take this cookie-cutter form:

“Hi –

I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include in my LinkedIn profile. If you have any questions, let me know.

-Bert”

LinkedIn makes things easy for even the most inarticulate of networkers, suggesting this banal language for a recommendation request.

Writing recommendations may not scare us as much as public speaking does, but we avoid it with just about the same dread. When writers ask you for an endorsement, they should prepare themselves for these outcomes:

  1. No answer at all. Frankly, there’s almost nothing visible in it for you to endorse your writer, so you’re going to let it sink to the bottom of your inbox. Besides, most of us hate to mix business writing with creative writing, which is the essence of a recommendation.
  2. A terse, one- or two-sentence endorsement. Do this when you realize that you may soon be in a position to ask the writer to reciprocate. Grind out a couple of mentions that could apply to anybody from your housekeeper to the leader of North Korea. The writer has the option to accept or reject the endorsement, and she will likely decide to take the bird in the hand rather than pester you again.
  3. A ridiculous, glowing endorsement. “Congolea is a brilliant tactician and take-charge thinker who never failed to interface strategically on all parameters and operationalize all available variables.” You can carpet-bomb the writer with windy encomium, borrowed mostly from other people’s hollow LinkedIn recommendations. If you’re in a hurry, this may work.

BUT…

…have you thought of asking the writer to draft the recommendation for you?

This serves a number of goals:

  • It saves you the precious time and effort of coming up with something sensible.
  • It ensures that the writer gets what he needs out of it. Since the text is going to adorn his profile or Web site, it’s important that it underscore the writer’s value proposition, not your idea of his talent.
  • It informs you of what the writer thought was most important in your work together. If you thought that the writer’s value lay in collecting supporting data for the white paper she did, and her draft recommendation focuses on how she met your deadlines, you now have new information and perspective on how to hire a writer in general, and how to work with this one in particular.

I should mention, though, that asking the recommendee to draft the text can backfire. I tried it a few weeks ago when a client asked me for an endorsement, but he answered, “I know I couldn’t do it as well as somebody who has your way with words.” So, for auld lang syne, I made the time, wrote up the recommendation and submitted it.

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