With the rise of branded content, many marketers find that they have a new management challenge — working with writers. After all, it’s a unique breed. Decent writers know the rules, but great writers are willing to bend them a bit. They’re idea machines who bring a breath of fresh air to brand content that no press release could ever come close to matching.
But content marketers and brand strategists often aren’t used to working with writers — and many writers are wholly unfamiliar with a corporate environment. Here are a few guidelines for efficiently managing the marketer-writer relationship so that everyone’s better-served and more productive.
1. View your writers as partners
It’s a myth that brand writers don’t actually care about the clients they’re writing for — that they’re only picking up content marketing work to pay the bills. In fact, brand writers care much more about the brand’s success than the marketers employing them often realize. More often than not they’re thrilled to be part of a content marketing team and will offer up ideas and provide guidance even if it’s unsolicited.
They want to be collaborators, and however inconvenient it may seem to listen to another five-minute pitch, a writer invested in a brand’s success creates a positive team energy that any content marketer should crave. Writers should be viewed as collaborators and trusted advisers on a project, not as semi-automated production talent.
2. Value experience
The path to becoming a writer has often been a winding, eccentric one even if you’re not dealing with any Hunter S. Thompson clones. And brand strategists who employ writers, particularly veteran writers with a decades-long background in journalism, can learn a lot from that array of experience — much of which would never adequately shine through on a resume.
Coming in-house at a brand for the first time (or freelancing for brands) shouldn’t mean that a “reset” button is pushed on a writer’s experience. Content marketers should learn about that time when a writer spent a year on the cop beat for a local newspaper, or about the stint a journalist spent shadowing a political campaign. This could end up bearing fruit in the form of particularly creative content later — writers’ strengths and areas of expertise can be tapped into to fuel a brand’s content strategy into territory that it never would have imagined.
3. Hold relentlessly high expectations
There’s nothing wrong with constructive feedback, diplomatic debates, assertiveness, and positive reinforcement. Writers are used to having editors, and it creates a significantly more stimulating experience for them if they’re challenged throughout the writing process.
The writers worth keeping around are those who are invested in their own success and will always embrace room for improvement. High expectations — but not criticism for criticism’s sake — will make brand writers respect and value the judgment of the strategists and marketers they work for. A consistent cycle of dialogue will also create a better team environment. That’s something that many writers, accustomed to the independent but sometimes isolating life of a newsroom journalist or freelancer, are hoping to achieve when they go and work for brands.
Good writers do good work, but great writers want to excel and constantly get better — and to that end, they will always listen.
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