Content Marketing 101: Who Should Write Your Content?

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Content Marketing 101

“Content marketing” sounds great, doesn’t it? Simply put content marketing means that you should use engaging, valuable content that attracts prospects and turns them into paying customers. The question is, who should be creating all this awesome content? After all, you do have a business to run. Should you be responsible? Should your marketing person or some other person in the office do it? Should you outsource to a copywriter? Should you consider using a content farm (and what the heck IS a content farm, anyway)? Should it be a combination of all of the above?

This post will answer these questions by looking at the pros and cons of each scenario.

You write the content.
Pros: No one knows your business like you. You know the ins and outs of your operation, but you also probably have your finger on the industry’s pulse. There’s no worry about you making factual errors or positioning the company in a way that would make you uncomfortable because you’re the one in charge. You can control the message, the tone, the everything. It’s nice being king, isn’t it? Plus, you get to save some dollars by doing it yourself. That means more money for the kingdom.

Cons: It’s nice to be king, until you realize just how much work can go into putting something like a white paper or monthly newsletter together. And wait! How do you use semi-colons again? And what happens when you’re staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration to strike, but it never comes? And OMG! This writing is taking SOOOO long. Now you’re behind on all these other important things like, you know, running your business.

Is this option right for you? When you’re in charge of writing the content, it all comes down to you, a keyboard, and some uninterrupted time to get your thoughts down on paper. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you like writing?
  • Do you write well? (Be honest.)
  • Can you be consistent and keep to a self-imposed deadline?
  • Do you have the time? (Be honest.)

If you answered yes to ALL of the above, then go for it, but keep this in mind: even if you do write the content yourself, you’ll want to invest in a proofreader. The same is true when it comes to designing and laying out more formal content, like white papers—you’ll want to hire a graphic designer (unless, of course, you’re handy with design as well, in which case you should consider opening a communications firm on the side!).

You delegate it to someone in-house.
Pros: You’ll have oversight. Someone who is internal to your organization will likely know the company line, industry jargon, the right tone, and what sort of communications customers and prospects are looking for. You can save some money since you won’t be outsourcing this piece.

Cons: Unless this is part of your employee’s existing job description, he or she might be resistant or reluctant to take on the extra task. And even if the person is eager to do it, he or she might not be gifted when it comes to grammar, punctuation, and putting together compelling copy. Sure, you might save time since you won’t be doing the writing, and you might save a few bucks since you’re not outsourcing the job, but these “savings” might not be worth it in the long run if the content doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do: convert visitors into leads and leads into sales.

Is this option right for you? If you have a proficient writer on staff, especially one who has some marketing chops, then it might make sense to have this person work on content. But keep in mind that creating quality content does take time, so the person might need to have a couple of his or her other tasks re-distributed to someone else on your team. Or there should be an incentive (e.g. extra money) for taking on the extra work. And you’ll still need to invest in a proofreader along with a graphic designer who can lay out your content pieces.

You outsource to a freelance copywriter.
Pros: Yay! You can hand off all the content creation to a wordsmith who will craft elegant, compelling prose that enchants prospects, satisfies existing customers, and awes your staff. Copywriters live and breathe words, and marketing copywriters who are up to speed on the ins and outs of inbound marketing and content marketing can be an incredible asset to your business.

Cons: Quality copywriters cost money, which means you need to be willing to make an investment. It’s a smart investment, but it can add up. It’s a smart one, but it can add up. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this: not all copywriters are created equal. It can take some time to find that perfect writer for your business. And while you sometimes can find a writer you love easily enough, you still have to deal with the fact you’re one of many clients, that your copywriter can’t be at your beck and call (like an employee), and there will be a learning curve as the copywriter educates himself or herself about your business and industry.

Is this option right for you? If you have the budget and you don’t have the desire to do it yourself or someone on staff that you can delegate the task to, then outsourcing is a smart way to go. Once you find a writer you like and he or she gets past the learning curve, this person can be your go-to person. And while we’ve emphasized the fact that you will need to spend money, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a monthly expense, like office rent and Internet. Your copywriter will typically work on a project basis—you only pay when he or she delivers content; they’re not on salary.

You outsource to a content farm.
So what, exactly, is a content farm? It’s a place where you’ll find writers who work cheap and fast. The goal of a farm is to churn out content. As for the quality of the writers, it varies. Some are great, others are merely competent, and some others aren’t that good at all.

Pros: The biggest draw for most businesses is the cost. Content farms typically cost a lot less than what you’d pay a freelance copywriter on contract. They typically work fast as well. They can often turn around content in 24 to 48 business hours.

Cons: Have you heard this adage: “You get what you pay for”? This certainly applies here. That’s not to say all the work coming out of these farms is lousy. We’re not saying that at all. In fact, some of it is perfectly acceptable, if not a big generic. And therein lies the rub: the goal of content marketing is to create customized content for your customers—content that your customers will love and that will compel them to take some sort of action. Creating content like that takes time—time for the writer to learn about your business, your customers, what your customers are looking for, etc. Content farms aren’t designed to fulfill those needs. You give them a topic and a little bit of guidance (that’s usually communicated through an online form or over email), and they’re off and running, the goal being to write as fast as humanly possibly while still maintaining proper grammar and punctuation.

With a content farm, you get words—and some are quite fine to use. But with an accomplished freelance copywriter, you get more than words. You get customization.

Is this option right for you? Here’s a compromise that can work well, especially if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to contract a copywriter to write a piece from scratch. You could outsource to a content farm and get the “bones,” as we say in the industry. You’ll get some basic, probably generic, most likely acceptable content. Then, you can hand it off to a copywriter for revision.

A good copywriter can work with basic copy and make it better. So, for example, if a copywriter gets an 8-page white paper to revise, it should cost less for him or her to revise and re-work it than it would for him or her to write it from scratch. A word of caution: even with the copywriter’s touch, the content probably won’t be as dynamic as custom content. Retrofitted pieces never are.

You use a combination of approaches.
Pros: This is the way most small businesses probably work. You handle some items, you might delegate others to people in-house, and for a big project that you need to get just right, you might contract a writer. This approach spreads out the work, so one person isn’t overburdened, and it helps save some dollars to boot.

Cons: The biggest problem with this approach is the tone/voice of the pieces. Consistency is key, meaning it’s important that all of your content have a similar tone and feel, and that can be challenging to achieve if you have three or more writers crafting your content. The other issue is overlap or the fact one writer might not know what another person is doing.

Is this option right for you? Since this is usually the most viable way to meet a company’s content needs, what you need to do is think about ways to manage the cons we mentioned above.

  • Regarding the tone issue, share pieces that represent the style and tone you’re going for so that people can use these pieces as models for their own writing.
  • Create an internal “style guide” that outlines some basic rules that your content should follow (e.g. how the name of your company should appear in print, whether writers should use the serial/Oxford comma, how to treat certain words, such as “email”: without a hyphen, or with a hyphen like this: e-mail.)
  • Have a master content calendar in place that all of your writers—internal and external—have access to. A great tool for this (and it’s free) is Google Docs. The content calendar should include the content type (e.g. white paper, newsletter, brochure, and so forth), who is responsible for it, deadlines, topics, and any other relevant details. This way, you won’t be duplicating efforts and you’ll be able to easily spot any gaps.

How do you handle the content needs for your business? Share in the comments.

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