We live in an age of outsourcing. Companies who can’t afford to hire an in-house writing team often use freelancers to help them create content. But are you getting the best that you can out of your writers?
Here’s a common scenario. You give a writer a topic and some notes about a piece. The piece comes back and it’s well-written, but it’s completely off the mark. The branding is off, the tone isn’t quite there, and they didn’t mention this important thing about the product… and so forth. And so you go through a round (or several) of edits asking for changes and dragging out the deadlines on your editorial calendar.
If all goes well, the content writer takes it in stride and learns over time. But if you rub them the wrong way (because you expected them to read your mind) or their contract limits the number of revisions, you could cause your content strategy to crash.
How can businesses avoid this in the first place? What do you need to give your content writers before they can write the perfect piece? That’s what we’ll be exploring in this article.
Writers👏 Are 👏Not 👏 Mind 👏 Readers 👏
Any writer worth their salt will do their best to gather research about a topic before starting to write. According to the IDC, a knowledge worker can spend about a third of their day just gathering information. So where do they get this information?
Many companies expect their writers to just lean on the internet to do research. But is that enough to differentiate your content from the rest? Probably not. You need to share internal information with your writers so they can create pieces from an informed perspective. Otherwise, you might get a piece that has the same information as all the others out there.
This could be as simple as an opinion or a perspective you want the writer to push. But it can be as complex as bringing in the writer into regular meetings to ask questions (technical writers have to do this often). Writers have to mine raw information ore to turn it into content gold. Give them what they need!
However, the thought of giving too much internal information to a writer, especially a freelance writer, can make some executives nervous. Writers don’t have to know everything about your strategy or confidential information to write well, but they might need to know some. For instance, knowing what the company’s plans are over the next few quarters can help them find topics that align with those plans.
This is something that has to be overcome. Much like IT workers know that they’ll run across information as part of their duties, good writers know how to be circumspect about what they learn. Freelancers have no problems signing confidentiality agreements and will avoid revealing secrets. Just make sure you tell them which things you don’t want in print when you’re discussing things!
Here’s another pitfall. You know your audience better than your writer will know them. If you throw out a topic to a writer without audience information, your writer will have to make some assumptions about your audience that you might not like.
For instance, say you hire a writer to write about content marketing. You might want an article about the latest trends in the field because your audience is made of experienced content marketers. But you didn’t tell your writer, so you get a basic piece on what content marketing is. It could be a great article, but it’s completely useless to your audience. It can go the other way as well. A highly-experienced writer could make a brilliant piece that would work great as the core of a white paper but is incomprehensible to a layperson.
Writers need to know the experience level of the intended audience so they can tune their articles right. Are there acronyms they need to explain, or will the audience already know them? What jargon is acceptable to use without explanation? What can the writer assume the audience already knows or doesn’t know?
Again, writers are not mind readers. If you don’t tell them about your intended audience they will have to make assumptions.
One of the drawbacks of content marketing is the constant search for topics. This search is a big reason for why we made CONCURED. Running into a wall about what to write next is common for content marketers.
Too many companies expect their writers to do all of that heavy lifting. Throwing all topic research onto your writer will work for a time. They’ll pitch topics, or just write what appeals to them. But one day those ideas will run out.
Brainstorming topics with your writer well before the due date will keep your content calendar full and your writer happy. This is a great way for you to introduce your writer to the company and share ideas back and forth. These meetings also give your writer the chance to voice concerns about research and set up interview meetings to improve their pieces.
If you expect your writer to keep pulling topics out of thin air all the time, don’t be surprised if some fall flat. And if a writer starts begging you for topic ideas, that’s the time to let that writer take a sip at the idea well. Remember, you’ve been in your field longer than they have, and you know the right questions to ask and answer.
In a nutshell, don’t silo off your writers from the rest of the company. They need the valuable information and insights you have so they can create the best pieces. This is especially true when you hire a new writer. The first few pieces are often rough as you and the writer get used to each other’s styles and editorial guidelines. The more information you can give your writer beforehand, the better they’ll be able to get up to speed and start making great content.
When writers know that their clients have their back and want to help them succeed, you’ll be amazed at the types of pieces that they produce.
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