Just Do It

Why you should start writing to boost your intelligence and geopolitics career

Since I’ve started gobbing off on here about intelligence and geopolitics, I’ve been asked by a few people for advice on getting into the industry.

At some point I will get the guide I’ve been writing on this finished, but for now I have put together a quick guide on possibly the best thing anyone can do to advance their career in intelligence or geopolitics (and probably many other careers): Start writing about it.

Why is this such a helpful thing to do I hear you ask?

  • Practice makes perfect: The more you write, the better you will become at writing. Not only will your actual writing will be more interesting to read, you will also begin getting work done in a much shorter space of time.

  • If you build it, they will come: By writing about your favoured niche, you will invariably attract others who are also interested in that niche, therefore organically building a network of like-minded individuals and increasing your chances of hearing about potential job opportunities or even being commissioned to do bespoke work.

  • You will become an expert and gain authority in your field: If you are consistently writing about a subject, you will invariably become an expert in it. The more people read and come to rely on your writing to assist them in their own work, the more authority you will gain in your niche (funnily enough, not a single person asked me for advice before I started writing about geopolitics and intelligence).

  • Showing beats telling: If I was hiring for a role, I would be more likely to choose someone whose work I could see and evaluate first-hand over someone who had a fantastic CV without any evidence of their work.

Platforms for sharing your content

Thanks to the internet it has never been easier to begin writing and get that writing in front of thousands of people. Here are some of the ways you can do this:

LinkedIn: The simplest way to start writing and getting that writing in front of people is to begin posting regularly on LinkedIn. The benefit of this is that once you start getting good, people will begin engaging with your content and therefore expanding its reach to more people who are likely to appreciate it.

The first few times you post you may feel a little apprehension that your work is shit and no one will take it seriously. That may even be true, but after you’ve posted a few times both your confidence and your ability will skyrocket.If you have your profile set to “Creator mode”, LinkedIn also allows you to publish a newsletter to which people can subscribe. You can do this by clicking on the “Write article” button below the post entry box at the top of your feed. Click here for more information on LinkedIn newsletters.

Email newsletters: While you can use more traditional email delivery platforms such as Mailchimp or Sendgrid, they begin getting very expensive once you start building up a significant subscriber base and have a limit on the number of emails you can send.

Instead, I would suggest using a more community-oriented platform like Substack or Beehiiv, for three reasons:

  • They are cheaper. Substack allows you to publish unlimited emails to unlimited subscribers for free.Beehiiv gives you unlimited sends to 2,500 subscribers on its free plan, and up to 100,000 on its $84 a month plan (for contrast, that’s how much it costs to have 5,000 subscribers on Mailchimp. For 75,000 subscribers on there you are looking at around $800 a month!)

  • They help you build your subscriber base by recommending your emails to readers of similar publications

  • You can monetise them very easily. Substack allows you to charge for subscriptions (it makes its money by taking around 10% commission).Beehiiv allows you to charge for subscriptions AND makes it very easy to place adverts for other newsletters in your newsletter which earn you money every time someone subscribes to them (generally between $2 and $4 per subscriber). Additionally, Beehiiv does not cream off any commission from your subscribers payments, so it can quickly become a much cheaper alternative to Substack.

  • They are more user friendly. Beehiiv’s audience segmentation function is massively superior to Mailchimp’s, and it is much easier to build an attractive landing page and archive of previous newsletters.

Whether you choose to use a community-oriented platform like Beehiiv or a more traditional one such as Mailchimp, you can further monetise your newsletter by getting sponsorship.

If you don’t fancy asking companies to sponsor you directly, consider using a service such as Paved which is like an AirBNB for potential advertisers looking for newsletters to sponsor. But be aware you will need at least 5,000 subscribers to apply and it does take a hefty commission (roughly 30%).

If you would like an example of some great geopolitics and intelligence newsletters, check out my geopolitics newsletters article.

Websites that accept submissions: Being featured on an independent website as a contributing writer will do wonders for adding to your authority, and will help give you an “in” both with the company that runs the site and in networking with other contributors to the site. Some sites that are open to accepting submissions include:

  • OSINT Telegraph: A new project by Sky News Commentator and former Colonel in British Military Intelligence Philip Ingram aimed at bringing the OSINT community together. Connect with Philip on LinkedIn if you would like to contribute an article.

  • CT Insight: A website offering insights on counter-terrorism, radicalisation, and extremism. The guys who run it also organise the Counter Terror Expo and Forensic Europe Expo events which take place annually in June in London. Click here to get in touch with them.

  • Geopolitical Monitor: Geopolitical Monitor is an international intelligence publication based in Toronto, Canada. It focuses on events that have a substantive impact on political, military, and economic affairs. Click here to get in touch with them.

  • The Wavell Room: A contemporary military thinking website which hosts long and short read analysis, book reviews, and podcasts. Click here to pitch an article to them.

  • Karve International: Karve host an “Industry Insights” section on their website which offers insights on topics such as AI, geopolitics, defence, and security from subject matter expert guest authors. Click here to get in touch with them.

  • Eurasia Strategy Insights: Set up by Ben Goddard in 2023, Eurasia Strategy Insights aims to draw on the acumen of talented and dynamic experts in global politics, economics, natural resources, and trade. Click here if you would like to pitch an article to them.

In addition to those sites which are actively seeking submissions, there is absolutely nothing stopping you pitching an article to any intelligence or geopolitics site - it’s always worth getting in touch if you think you have something relevant to contribute!

Videos and other formats: Writing is not the only medium through which you can convey your intelligence or geopolitics expertise.

Short-form video format is absolutely massive, with Instagram and that Chinese spyware app making it easy to reach tens or hundreds of thousands of people in a very short space of time in.

Long-form video is also a great way to reach a large potential audience. You will likely reach far fewer people, but those willing to invest a longer period of time than the 30 seconds or so it takes to watch a Reel will probably be a much better quality of viewer.

Additionally, Youtube is the second-most searched website on the internet after Google, so if give your video the right title and description it is likely to be delivered to people who are actively searching for the answer to a question - boosting your authority and delivering a potentially very invested audience member.

How to improve your writing

Obviously, consistently writing is the best thing you can do to improve your writing, but here are a few other tips that will help you improve quicker:

  • Do not correct any mistakes until you have written the first draft of your document

    Pretend you don’t have a backspace button. It is infinitely quicker and easier to write a shit first draft and use that as a base to write your finished article than it is to write a perfect first draft.

  • Try to write so a Sun reader could understand it

    Unless you are writing for a really niche industry publication, keep the language as jargon-free and simple as possible. Not only will this help it appeal to people who aren’t experts in the subject, it will also make it more easy on the eye for those that are.

  • If you can’t write an overview of an event, situation, or thing in a few lines, you probably don’t understand it too well yourself

    Oftentimes when people write massive long essays as a summary, it is because they are trying to explain it to themselves.

    This is actually a good way to get your head around something, but once you have done that go back and trim it down.

  • Eliminate unnecessary words

    If you can remove a word or phrase from a sentence without changing the message, I would recommend getting rid of it. For example:

    “Twitter has announced it has removed restrictions on Donald Trump’s channel after a two-year suspension”

    can be shortened to:

    “Twitter has removed restrictions on Donald Trump’s channel after a two-year suspension”

    This doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but over the course of an entire article it can shave off minutes of reading time, making the reader more likely to get to the end!

  • Keep formatting consistent

    As an example, it doesn’t really matter whether you write 7 October, 07 October, or October 7th, just make sure you use the same format throughout the entire piece.

    The same goes for spellings of translations of foreign place names. As an example, the name of the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor can be written Deir Ezzor, Deir Al-Zor, Deir-al-Zour, Dayr Al-Zawr, Der Ezzor, Deir Azzor, Der Zor, and Deirazzor - none are wrong but it will be confusing if you change spelling as people may wonder if they are different places!

  • For the love of god use line breaks. 

    There is nothing more off-putting as a potential reader than a wall of text.

  • Follow people who put out geopolitics or intelligence content on LinkedIn

    Pippa Malmgren , Justen Charters, and Andy Wong are all worth a follow.

  • Follow people who put out copywriting content on LinkedIn

    As well as being useful, they are also often pretty funny, which helps when you are using a platform that is generally as dry as Ghandi’s flip-flop.

    I’d recommend checking out Dave Harland , Dan Kelsall and Lewis Kemp for starters.

Hopefully this will have encouraged you to start writing about your particular field of expertise if you aren’t already.

If you’ve enjoyed it, feel free to give it a share so your contacts can benefit from it too, and give me a follow on LinkedIn for more intelligence and geopolitics content. Cheers!

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