Rise and Shine

The Process Behind Great (Contracted) Content

ideaBuilding great content is hard work. Not only do you have to worry about getting people to read it, but readers must also remember the content as well as be motivated enough to share it with others. And on top of all that, the content must help you further the reach of your brand.

And while this may seem obvious when creating content for your own business, these guidelines become that much more important when it’s for someone else’s. This post is going to focus on how you can build exceptional content on behalf of clients and will effectively answer some questions about improving your overall content generation, like:

  • How do you build great content when you’re not the expert?
  • What is the best way to make content generation more efficient?
  • How do you build great content with contract writers?

How do you build great content when you’re not the expert?

The process of creating great content is a learning process that comes in stages. The initial instinct for a lot of companies is to produce content in the same way you produce most products, in a factory. Clients need a certain amount of content on a deadline so the most effective way to create content would be to always meet those deadlines with the previously specified amount of content, right?

But if the goal of content generation is to help them build their brand, what’s the use of content that doesn’t serve a purpose beyond being completed before a certain day? This is a solid approach to get a business up and running, but eventually the lack of effectively executed, fully integrated content marketing strategies will make it increasingly difficult to earn audience engagement. Content has to be more than good; it has to serve a purpose and be great. Which means it can’t be produced on a conveyor belt.

General brand content vs. Expert Content

Clients most frequently express concerns about two different types of content that are needed to build their audience and capture their attention: General brand content refers to the basics of a company, i.e. their industry, their personas and the story they’re trying to tell. This often doesn’t take much extra work and can be accomplished by simply researching the company. This helps assure clients that you are familiar enough with the company to faithfully take the lead.

Expert content is content that will most likely require help from a subject matter expert, which can ideally be found within the company. Expert content puts a little more responsibility on the client, as the information is company specific. In this case, you will act as a consultant for the expert, making sure they stay within the strategy for the project and that the content will promote the brand and target the correct audience.

Creating content with an expert can be difficult so try to take as much pressure of them as possible so they can focus on their expertise. Here are some ways to do that:

Allow the Expert to Drive

expertsWhile adding general suggestions and keeping the expert consistent with the strategy are encouraged, it is important to remember that the expert is the expert. Allow them to take the lead with the story and make your primary goal the efficiency of the process.

If the expert drives the process, simply cater to their needs and find the place in their content generation system that you are most helpful. It is also important to keep them on-task in order to finish the project in an efficient and effective way.

Provide the Expert With Structure

If the expert looks to you to drive, don’t push them to take control. Depending on the expert, providing structure and guidelines will allow them to focus their energy on expert content rather than getting bogged down by the process. Even writing out an entire outline or first draft for the expert can be helpful because it allows them to critique and rewrite something rather than generating content from scratch.

As you would expect, expert content is hard work to acquire. Experts don’t always view content generation as a top priority and, because of their lack of familiarity with the process, generate content at a slower pace. This can be made up for by focusing an equal amount of energy on general brand content and expert content, which helps provide an even balance of depth and breadth on the company.

What is the Best Way to Make Content Generation More Efficient?

Having great content is obviously the ultimate goal of this post, but getting that content generated in a timely and effective way is just as important for the client. An effective method for promoting and tracking effectiveness is to have some kind of process established to document the stages of operation. This allows contributors to see how far along in the process they are and what needs to be accomplished to move on.

The key to an effective process is to allow for change. Strict adherence to anything often leads to wasted time and an overall lack of efficiency. But a process that can fluctuate with the work environment tends to produce more inspired content.

Here’s a process that often works towards an efficient generation of content:

1) Determine the problem the process is going to solve

If a process is necessary, there is a reason. Clearly define that reason in order to keep the process as on-task and driven as possible. It should help give a mundane, every day task more significance as a part of a larger goal.

2) Identify the people who are going to use the process

While this may seem obvious, it is vitally important that someone involved in the implication of this process be involved in its inception. Without a solid backing by the specific and relevant individuals on the team affected by the process, no one will value the decision because it will be viewed as outside interference, and will go unused.

3) Find the tools that will allow you to run the process

Don’t feel like this means you have to run to Best Buy and buy the entire store. There are plenty of free tools that can increase the efficiency of any process, like Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Trello. The key is to use tools that make things easier, not harder. Anything too complicated will prevent the actual work from getting done and be another obstacle.

4) Use the process

Every process is not the same. They solve different problems, they help different people and they require different tools. This means that when using the process, it is important to pay attention to downfalls in order to learn and create a better process for next time.

5) Modify the process

Once the process has run its course, it’s important to analyze the downfalls and issues it had and adjust it. Modifying can be the most important part of employing a process as it allows for the work to inform on the process rather than the process bogging down the work with overly structured guidelines.

This process helps inform on another process more fitted to the discussion about the efficiency of content generation. The only significant difference between the two is that the process steps are separated by periodically engaging with the client. This helps them get a better feel for where you are in the process:

1) Use Strategy & 2) Pitch Content

The most important part of these first steps is to be taking initiative. While the client has obviously hired you to work with their company and is invested in the content generation, the purpose of bringing you on was to free up their time to focus elsewhere.

To that end, the use of the “unless we hear differently” approach helps clients feel involved in the process on a managerial level while wasting as little of their time as possible.

3) Collect Data

At Wpromote we firmly believe in a certain level of awareness from the client. The client must be aware of the strategy that has been developed for data collection and be tapped for feedback and input on how the process is progressing. This should be followed up by the distribution of simple printouts or templates that provide simple instructions for data collections (as seen below):

The data collections document helps clearly convey the intent and requests the information needed for content generation. As mentioned before, the “unless I hear differently” model can be further utilized with a key takeaways documents (as seen below):

This further involves the client in the process in an enjoyable way, asking them to come up with additional details, photos and perhaps even anecdotes to support the data. This adds a human touch to the data and helps content seem more genuine.

4) Develop an outline with key takeaways

Once you are satisfied with the amount of data collected, it is important to outline the information gleaned for the client so they know exactly how the data is being used and to what purpose. Getting this approval before the first draft stage involves the client in the process again and helps them understand the shift between data collection and the application of data to generate content.

In an official outline, it would be wise to include the allocation of resources and media so that the client is fully informed on exactly what is being generated and what the content is based on.

5) Provide a first draft with diagramming

A first draft is the first time a client will see a ready-to-publish version of the content generated, so it is important to walk them through the content as simply and efficiently as possible. There are two important elements that must be present in the first draft to accomplish that goal.

First off, you must indicate the key takeaways and feedback from the previous outline on the first draft. Helping the client keep track of what content is being generated for what reason is vital to involving them in the process. This provides the client with a means of verifying that you are staying on strategy. This is also a good opportunity to point out specific content based on their feedback from the data collection, which will show them that their input is invaluable to the process.

Secondly, you must provide the full experience when presenting the content. You must sell the content to the client and make them believe in it the same way you do. This will assure the client that everything, from links to videos, is completed and operational, creating a trust and flexibility between you and the client. And with trust and flexibility comes a comfortable and manageable level of efficiency.

How do you build great content with contract writers?

As efficiency improves, the business grows. And when the business grows, the workload can become too much for a small team to handle. This is where contracting writers can help increase content production and provide better content to clients. But there are a few steps to choosing a base of trusted writers that need to be followed to avoid bad or late content:

1) Find writers who are a value match

Finding a skilled and trusted writers can be a long process, but putting in the time to find a writer that has similar values and expectations for the content is an excellent place to start.

2) Set your writers up for success

Just because contract writers are not in-house, full-time employees, does not mean they shouldn’t be given the same information and opportunity as someone on your staff. Setting up contract writers to succeed will yield positive results and create a wider reaching sense of trust among in-house and contract writers.

3) Invest in your writers’ growth

Contract writers deserve a chance to develop their skills as much as a full-time member of your staff. While it may seem like contract writers are easy to employ, finding good writers is difficult and cultivating positive relationships with them can build to better content with less hassle.

A good way to maintain a record of previous contract writers is to keep spreadsheets in order to track writers that you are interested in working with (as seen below):

Reviewing writing samples, checking references and even interviewing contract writers before hiring them can lead to writers who are not only skilled but also tremendously passionate and inspired. Having inspired writers translates into producing great content. After that, having candidates submit writing samples can help get a feel for individual trends, which play a role in deciding which clients to pair them with.

Helping Your Writers Grow

No matter how you qualify your writers, nothing is ever a perfect fit immediately. All writers need a brief period to adjust to expectations and figure out what works. If you want a beneficial relationship with your writers, you must be patient and help them to grow. Any pieces contributed by contract writers need to not only be analyzed before being handed off to the client, but there also needs to be an open dialogue between you and your writers to foster a learning environment that encourages writers to improve. Because better writers means better content.

An Ongoing Challenge

While all of these steps, hints, tips and suggestions can clearly help you build your brand, content generation will always be a persistent issue (especially as the inundation problem continues to loom). Allowing for change and being open to new, innovative ideas in content generation can help you discover what really makes a difference for your clients’ businesses.

Dorian Travers

Dorian Travers is the Internal Marketing strategist at digital marketing firm, Wpromote and has always had a particular interest in content marketing and coming up with creative ways to help businesses grow.

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