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.

Do copywriting formulas work?

I hate it when content takes longer to write than anticipated—especially when my calendar is overflowing with deadlines. So when I recently came across a website that offered a complete handbook of copywriting formulas—a handbook that promised to drastically reduce the amount of time I spent writing content—I felt like I hit the jackpot.


Right there in front of me were standard formulas for writing tweets, headlines, blog posts, web pages—virtually any form of content you could imagine. But, once I had a chance to really look at them, I have to admit—those formulas made my head spin. Honestly, I think it would take me longer to force information to fit into a template than it would to simply write that same content from scratch.


The entire experience got me thinking—is there really such thing as a copywriting formula? Judging from personal experience I’d say yes—but in very rare situations. If you’re sending out a standard press release—say, announcing the opening of a new office—then sure. Certain types of speeches could probably benefit from a fill-in-the-blanks approach also. But things you write in abundance—like blog posts? Personally, I think you need to freestyle those.


My reasoning is simple. The whole POINT of content marketing is to write pieces that will capture the attention of your target audience, and you can’t do that if all your content follows the same, predictable formula. Writing a boring, run-of-the-mill press release is fine if you just need something—anything!—to post in your website’s ‘news’ section. But if you want to really capture the attention of the media—and gain some coverage—you need it to stand out.


To do that, I suggest ditching the templates and, instead, trying some of these time-saving techniques:

  • Put the most interesting/important/eye-catching messages at the top of the page. Not sure what those messages are? Try implementing some tried-and-true journalistic rules—sourcing out the 5Ws, the news peg, the inverted pyramid—to help you organize your thoughts and find the nugget of information that will really speak to your audience.
  • Stop thinking so much. Can’t get that first paragraph perfect? Jot down the first thing that comes to mind—without worrying if it’s good or not. Revising it later is so much easier than getting it perfect the first time.
  • Tell the story. When verbally telling stories to others, we tend to naturally offer up the most interesting information first. It’s a great way to determine what’s really important about your piece—and also offer some clues on how to arrange your thoughts.
  • Glance at some precedents. When all else fails, look at a similar, previously-written piece of content. Pay close attention to how the information is arranged and copy that “formula” (in your own words, of course).


What do you think? Is there a time and a place for copywriting formulas? What tricks do you use to write efficiently? Please share—I’d love hear!

The 50 Most Important Content Marketing Stats You Need To Know

NewsCred,  a leading content marketing and syndication platform, recently uploaded this handy PowerPoint presentation.  Here are some highlights:

•    27,000,000 pieces of content are shared every day

•    72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine; 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR

•    64% of B2B content marketers say their biggest challenge is producing enough content

To download the full PowerPoint – click here

To find out how we help our clients make sure they have the all the content they need, when they need it, email me – michael at