Who writes marketing content for your ISV? Unless writing is a hobby of yours, you probably have a writer on staff or work with an agency or a contractor for marketing communications. And if your experience is typical, the ISV-writer relationship has probably not been totally smooth. Here are some tips for how to work with a writer to make the best use of time and to produce valuable content that gets the results you’re looking for.
Collaborative Writing 101
When you send an article, blog, webpage or other content out into the world with your ISV’s name on it, it has to align with your brand messaging and uphold your reputation as a thought leader. This isn’t something to take lightly — and it’s definitely not a responsibility to turn over completely to a summer intern or a freelance writer. The first step in producing the caliber of content you need for your ISV is to acknowledge that you, or a trusted member of your staff, will be an important part of the process. Determine who will play various roles in the writing process.
Your team should include any combination of people who can:
- Confirm accuracy
- Enforce brand guidelines
All of these responsibilities could be handled by a team of two people — maybe you and a writer — but content creation shouldn’t be left to a single person. The reason? A writer can’t edit his or her own work. Writers make typos, may believe their point is clear because they understand it, or just have a viewpoint that the rest of your team doesn’t agree with. There should always be a second set of eyes before publishing content.
Don’t discount the skill involved
The next step is to choose a writer wisely. You may be looking to your staff to blog “in their spare time.” Remember, though, not every intelligent person is skilled at writing for a specific audience or creating content that’s interesting to read. Furthermore, not every computer science major paid attention in freshman composition.
Writing for the web also requires an understanding of how to optimize content for search engines. You may be able to draft an absolute masterpiece, but without keyword research and following SEO principles, there’s a chance that people searching the internet would never see it. Put your trust in someone who knows how to make your articles rank in search results.
Look for industry experience
A key to simplifying how to work with a writer is finding someone who understands your industry. Time and again I hear ISVs say they can’t use content without major revisions because their writer simply doesn’t understand their technology or the industry they’re selling to. If you choose to work with a writer that has to learn your market and your technology, be prepared to help them through a learning curve. If you aren’t prepared to take the time to teach, find someone who can work independently at the outset.
Collaborate on topics
Once you’ve selected your team and assigned roles, decide how to work with a writer to make the content creation process as efficient as possible, starting with topic choice. Topics for content may come from keywords you want to rank for, pain points your sales team is telling you prospects are struggling with, or timely topics that will pique your target audience’s interest. Include the writer in decision making — in fact, include them as much as possible at all stages to help develop a thorough understanding of your goals. If your writer is pitching topics to you, establish a way that they can effectively communicate their ideas with you and convince you of their rationale for writing about a subject.
Ask for an outline
Seriously consider having the writer submit an outline for your approval before they start to write. You may think this adds an extra step, but an outline will confirm the writer understands the topic and your intent before they invest three or four hours — or more — to finish the draft. When you get the outline, read it. Don’t rubber stamp it and decide you’ll fix problems when you see the blog or article. That is a waste of everyone’s time. Make sure the writer is heading in the right direction.
Work together, not against each other, during review
It’s also important to establish how you and other members of your team will handle the review process. The writer won’t want to revisit the draft multiple times — especially since team members could have different views. This could result in a revision, and then going back to the original wording based on different comments. One solution for efficient feedback and revision is to create a shared document in which all members can comment or make suggestions. Then the writer can addresses changes all at once.
Also make sure you and the writer are clear on how to communicate edits. For example, if the writer is expecting to see a markup or comments, but you present a clean draft that doesn’t show the changes you’ve made, it can actually take longer for the writer to go back through the document to make sure everything is correct.
If you think this is starting to sound a little like working with a software development team, you’re right. Creating content parallels that process in many ways. Keep the lines of communication open, make sure you are clear about your expectations, set milestones to make sure the project is on track, and work together to review and finalize the project.
As an ISV manager, your role in content creation will often be one of advisor or critic, but remember to respect your writer’s expertise. One of the best pieces of advice you’ll get about how to work with a writer is to create an atmosphere in which all members of your team will feel comfortable sharing their insights. You may want to change a heading, but the writer may point out doing so will eliminate an important instance of the keyword. You may question the tone of the blog, but the writer may remind you it is targeting a different demographic segment of your marketing list. You may have a strong opinion about whether it’s “a myriad of ways” or “myriad ways,” but your writer may have a different (but correct) view. Talk it all through with mutual respect.
Get ready to publish
I truly believe the strongest written works are the result of collaboration. Working together inspires more creativity than tackling a project alone, and, as a writer, I feel more confident when I know that I have a team behind me and someone always has my back. Establish the right processes and build a solid creative environment — then be amazed at the content your ISV publishes.