Up your content game: How to get more out of your writers

Image by Uriel68 from Pixabay

by Vanessa Chris

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Not every piece of content I’ve generated in my lifetime has been stellar. In fact, some of my pieces have downright sucked.

It’s true.

So why am I sharing this less-than-flattering truth bomb about myself—when I’m supposed to be convincing you of the merits of hiring a professional writer?

Because, chances are, you’ve hired freelance writers or agencies in the past with less-than-impressive results. In fact, I’m guessing there’s been at least one time that the content you received was so weak you were tempted to throw in the towel and never hire an external writer again.

(Let me know if I’m close.)

If you’ve found yourself in this position once, you could easily pass that off as bad luck. You lost the corporate writer lottery, so to speak, and it’s time to try again. But if you continually get back less-than-stellar content from your external writing partners time and time again? I hate to say this, but the problem may not be them. It may be you. Well, more specifically, your outsourcing processes.

Fortunately, processes are easily fixable. In fact, I can think of three, fool-proof, minor tweaks you can make right now that will considerably up your chances of filling the web with really awesome, captivating, thought-leading content. And, on behalf of corporate writers everywhere, I’d like to share them with you.

Step 1: Know your why

Content marketing: It’s so hot right now. But creating content simply for the sake of keeping up with the masses is—thhppppt!—the worst. For it to truly make an impact, it has to have a purpose. And while improving your search engine ranking can be a wonderful by-product of that overall purpose, it should not be the sole reason you’re producing content.

So before you pick up the phone and ask a writer for a quote, spend some time really thinking about what you want to get out of this blog post, or landing page, or LinkedIn article or whatever you need written. Do you want to educate potential customers? Clarify a common misconception? Subtly let the world know about your new product offering? Showcase the bright minds of your in-house thought leaders?

Whatever it is, pinpoint it—and figure out your ultimate call to action. What do you want your readers to do with this information? Pick up the phone to call you? Sign up for your newsletter? Renew a contract?

Please, for the love of all things content-related, don’t skip this step! All this information will be invaluable down the road. Trust me.

Step 2: Master the art of the brief

Once you’ve put some thought into your “why”, you must collect it all and put it in a nice, tidy, information-rich-but-not-overwhelming brief. (See? I told you all that work would pay off!) If you want good content, this is non-negotiable.

Now you’re probably saying, “Oh, we can skip this step because we already use creative briefs.”


This is your opportunity to look at the creative briefs you’ve been issuing your writers—not the template, but the actual, filled-out briefs—and evaluate how informative they really are. Are they clearly articulating your aforementioned purpose, audience, and call to action? Are they answering the 5ws: who, what, where, when, and why? Most important, are they giving your writer a really good starting point—so he/she knows how to focus their follow-up questions?

Too often in our line of work, we see creative briefs treated as some pain-in-the-butt thing mandated by marketing, rather than the incredibly valuable documents they are. Which leads to my next point…

Step 3: Get everyone on board

It’s a corporate writer’s job to take your knowledge, ideas, and experience and transform them into a captivating story that reels in your target audience while simultaneously making your company stand out. The thing is, our understanding of your business doesn’t hold a candle to yours. Which is why we need your help.

We need you to take all that valuable, juicy, interesting information swimming around in your head—or your colleague’s heads, or your company’s database—and unload the most pertinent tidbits to us, so we can work our magic.

This means you need to get the buy-in and commitment of your subject matter experts so they come to interviews well-prepared, with a clear and insightful company message. It means everyone understands the purpose of the article and how they can incite the preferred call-to-action. And it means you know which previous articles, brochures, or collateral tucked away in the depths of your database can help us really bring your message home.

Talk it out

As with all relationships, you and your writer may need a few encounters before things really start to click. That said, if you follow the above steps, the content you receive should at least be in the ballpark—say, a round of edits or two away from your ideal end product.

If they’re not, don’t be afraid to ask your writer for feedback. Specifically, what do they need to take your content from “good enough” to “out-of-this-world”? If they’re worth the big bucks you’re paying them, they shouldn’t have any problem letting you know.

Finding your writing soulmate

Finding the right external writer to handle your b2b writing needs is a lot like dating—you have to know yourself first before you’ll even have a chance at finding your perfect partner. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of questions you may want to consider before beginning your search for your business writing soulmate.

Are you vlogging yet?

In the B2B space, vlog posts allow companies to showcase the expertise of their subject matter experts, communicate with their audience at a more intimate level and share content in a format that’s more interesting to consume—making it a popular medium both on desktops and devices. Creating a successful vlog doesn’t happen without effort, however. Here, we offer a few tips to get it right.

4 ways to keep the content flowing

Blogs establish credibility, get your name out there and remain excellent search engine fodder. The only trouble? Finding a steady stream of content to publish.

How strictly should you stick to a content calendar?

When it comes to content marketing, a calendar is essential—but how often should you stick to it, and when should you stray?

Do you need a content brand? (The short answer: No)

What exactly is a content brand? In a nutshell, it’s exactly what it sounds like—a strategy that governs how your organization plans to position itself as a valuable content provider. The thinking is that, by gradually building a content brand, you can churn out more focused content and achieve better results. This doesn’t sit well with me.

Tweets, Facebook Posts and Headlines – Is There an Ideal Length?

According to a recent article in Fast Company Magazine, there are , in fact, optimal lengths for our various missives on social media networks.  The article also provide some backup research.

Here are the highlights:

•    Perfect tweet length was right around 100 characters, resulting in a spike of re-tweets
•    Facebook posts of 40 characters or less receive 86% higher engagement
•    Six word headlines increase the chances that the entire headline will be read (Yes, the research showed that our attention spans have decreased to the point where we not only scan the body of an article or post but the headline as well).

For more fun facts, read the full article here.  Once you do, let me if your own experience backs the research up and how you are addressing it in your own marketing campaigns.

Your Company’s Social Data – Do you have a Clue?

In an informative piece in Social Media Today, Ben Harper discusses how social data must be a core component of your content strategy. He also points to three tools you can use to gather insights in-house. These include:

Followerwonk: Followerwonk allows you to analyze any Twitter audience by age, location, and bio word clouds to give you a flavour of your audience. Combine this with the most influential followers and see who they are and what you do to give yourself a headstart

Unmetric: Unmetric allows you to track your competitors’ social media content and get alerted when there are spikes in engagement levels, allowing you to react or use historical data to plan future activity

Twtrland: this tool allows you to delve into the Twitter data of any profile to see their most influential tweets, top followers, and basic demographics

Read the full article here.

Are you tracking your company social data? If so, what tools are you using?