The practice of “content marketing” as we understand it today is still relatively young, and there are plenty of wrinkles to work out. One of the biggest issues we face is a simple question of production.
Fifty-seven percent (57%) of content marketing professionals say they don’t have enough time for content, and 45% struggle with producing enough content, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
Forward-thinking digital marketing blogs and sites are overflowing with solid best practices to do content marketing well, but few address the nuts and bolts of getting it done efficiently and effectively.
And so, I present to you some practical, real-life advice on how to produce more high-quality content, faster. (In other words, this is what’s been making my life easier!)
Make Sure Content Production Managers Stay Focused On Management
It is far too much to ask one person to handle content marketing from end to end, from high-level strategy to writing, editing, proofreading, social media and analytics. In fact, there are so many aspects of the content marketing strategy and production process that one person typically does not have the skill set to handle every area well, not to mention the capacity to do it all.
The content marketing process can be broken down to three broad levels of responsibility:
- Strategy: C-suite, VP or Director
- Production Management: Editorial Manager
- Writing & Proofreading: Contractors, Staff, etc.
It is at the separation of the 2nd and 3rd level where most companies lose their grip on the production timeline and fall behind due to unclear responsibilities and the over-involvement of managers. Here are a few tips to keep your editorial manager focused on moving high-quality content through the pipeline.
- As a manager, stay focused on managing. Avoid the temptation to re-write or significantly edit content yourself.
- Constantly give your writers helpful, actionable and transferable feedback that they can apply to current and future writing projects.
- Attract and retain a team of A+ writers (more on that later).
- Always look for tasks that can be delegated — for example, proofreading for spelling/grammar. Don’t get caught up! Your time is your most valuable asset.
- Treat internal, subject-matter experts as your most valuable assets, because they are! Look for ways to help them reach their own goals while also improving their writing skills.
Work With Many Freelance Writers; Keep Few
A common complaint I hear among business owners and executives that try to hire freelance writers is that “freelance writers always stink.” This may be true in many cases. In fact, most freelance writers we work with turn out not to be a good fit. Even many of those we have vetted thoroughly will not produce the level of content we need.
Does that mean freelancing content simply doesn’t work? Absolutely not. If we embrace the reality that the market of freelance writers is flooded with people that have a very wide variety of experience levels and skill sets, we realize that finding a writer that is a good fit is an ongoing process of constantly reviewing and onboarding candidates, keeping only the best-of-the-best involved on a regular basis.
Finding freelancer candidates can be a very easy process — in fact, you might find yourself with too many writers and the cumbersome task of sorting through them all if you are not careful.
There are many talented writers on Craigslist looking for opportunities, and I’ve found the easiest way to identify the best candidates from the beginning is to include a simple request in the Craigslist listing.
For example, I typically ask candidates to send a link to their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles along with their writing samples and resume. This allows me to use Gmail filters to look at only those that followed those directions and send all others (and spam) directly to the trash.
I’ve used this process for a year and a half and have never seen a good candidate be sent to the trash. In fact, 80% of the leads the filter allows through are typically promising.
(Please note that you cannot use a Craigslist email address for this to work — you need to share a real email address. I usually set up a “Group” email address in Google Apps that forwards to my inbox, which I can turn off after the search is over to avoid getting spammed in the future.)
Using Craigslist to find writers might give you a number of strong candidates. What now? Collect your easy and/or less-important content production assignments to assign especially to new writers. Let them know that they are part of a pilot program and that you are excited to see what they can do so you can invite them to become a regular contributor in the future.
To truly evaluate a writer’s potential while working with their content, don’t just tell them what to change or change it for them — tell them why and let them do the work! (You know what they say: “Teach a man to fish…”) This will give you a much better idea of their true skills and adaptability.
On a final note: freelance writers, even the best, will always drop off, get busy, find a full time job or otherwise no longer have time for you. This is part of the nature of freelance work. If this reality, or the work required, is too much for your team to take on, consider partnering with an agency instead.
Give Writers A Reason To Stick Around
Simply put, just like any team member, you need to give freelance writers more motivation than just a paycheck. Contractors that feel like they are part of the team and are excited about the direction of the company will work harder, be more creative and stay around longer than those that are just collecting some cash and moving on.
This can start with your post to Craigslist, or any other forum or board you decide to use to find writers. Share about how your company is changing the world and why your team is fun to work with. Give them a reason to spend time responding to your listing instead of the 100s or 1,000s of others they could respond to.
Continue to provide creative motivation and excitement throughout the time you work with each writer. Celebrate their wins in front of others, invite them to team meetings when appropriate, and be sure to share part- and full-time job openings with them. (Your HR department will probably appreciate the pool of skilled professionals you have already introduced to the processes and culture of the organization.)
Communicate Content Goals Clearly With Every Team Member, Especially The Writer
It’s amazing how easy it is to develop a clear content strategy with well-defined goals only to never communicate those goals to the team or individuals doing the great work of producing said content.
It’s even easier, in the midst of the scramble of producing content, to forget goals completely or to only give them a brief glance as you fly by.
Don’t go too far before defining goals for a piece of content and ensuring that every team member that touches it — especially a freelance writer — knows and understands those goals.
Use Google Drive
We require every writer to use Google Drive when submitting content. This makes the editing process incredibly streamlined and gets rid of the constant email attachments and most-updated-version chaos.
Plus, Drive’s inline comments make collaboration incredibly easy. We have a simple workflow rule: all feedback and questions should be communicated via comments, and comments should be “Resolved” as soon as they are, in fact, resolved. Each comment then signifies a question or issue to address, so everybody knows what’s in progress and what’s ready to go.
Enough Is Enough!
Finally, set realistic content production goals for yourself and your team. The demand for quality, effective content will never cease. Stay focused on the measurable KPIs you have set for each piece of content and do more of what works, less of what doesn’t. You’ll never beat the competition with volume, but even one short blog post can move mountains if it strikes a chord with your target audience.
Work smarter not harder, my friends. Do you have any more content production management tips? I’d love to hear them — see you in the comments!
Stock images used by permission of Shutterstock.com
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.