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How brands can work with freelance writers to create effective marketing content

It is estimated that by the year 2020, 60 per cent of those involved in generating marketing content for brands will be paid freelancers. As the freelance network continues to broaden and expand, cultivating a writer is still a task that must fall on somebody "in-house" who understands the brand.

According to Contently, which works with 600,000 freelance writers in their network, talent is not really in short supply. However, in B2B marketing, if staff repeatedly bring on freelancers without having some committment to clear and honest feedback on the message they want to convey with content, the content will suffer.

Marketers and those involved in content generation have to do a better job getting themselves familiar with the editorial process.

While drafts and revisions are the norm in the editorial process, many invovled in brand marketing are not trained editors, so it is a common assumption that the first draft is the best a freelancer can do. If a marketer is willing to collaborate with a freelancer, they can help make their freelance content writers a reliable part of their team - and not just a gun for hire.

Additionally, building a content pipeline enables the team to determine that if a writer's pitch is off the mark, the team can offer feedback that might lead to better pitches in the future. It also stated that if a writer were to ask the right questions, a B2B marketer might then cultivate better stories by offering specific, direct feedback.

Brands are growing fast and letting the content and the brand wither in the hands of a freelancer or an external agency is a concern. There are many strategies to consider and pitfalls to avoid when you’re a brand owner and working with outside-in support.

Consider these three tips when working with freelancers.

1. Not talkers but doers. Quality comes from experience

Do not compromise and hire someone with little or no experience in marketing or writing. Effective brand managers should be able to write and move the reader. A specific portfolio of their writing shoule be a prerequisite. Ask for writing examples. Some young writers may not have a lot of client work, but then check their published work.

When hiring a blogger, check if they ever blogged before. Use the 10,000 hour rule. It gets better with more years. Digital or social marketing, no matter how young/ tech savvy it may sound, also improves with more years of work. Quality comes at a price and is worth the investment.

2. But you know your brand. Yes, and they know their field

Marketers should be open to the idea that a freelancer or an agency can give you outside-in advice and suggestions that may surprise you but work far better.

Brainstorm more and try and use the fact that someone has a differing view. Polarizing views are good. Let new ideas in. A cautionary note to consider is that hiring someone and then having them copy paste from a competitor is not taking you far. Ever.

3. The grand silence

Plenty of times creative projects in marketing fail. According to research the worst offender is communication. It is important to build in a cycle of feedback in your working relationship. It is also important to formalize this process and not rely on non-verbal cues for communicating what you didn’t like. No one can imagine what you’re going through, and it is important to give your feedback directly. Feedback does not have to come in the form of a scathing email. You need to function like a team. This means, feedback needs to be constructive, or you risk totally blowing off the relationship. Create an atmosphere of constructive feedback and an open culture. Your pout or grand silence is least likely to help.

Be sure of what you want. A good practice is a written contract at the beginning of each relationship, so as not to threaten anyone later, but to ensure everyone is on the same page. And everyone knows what they’re in for. This reduces the chances of poor communication and helps manage the entire process better.

Laurie Fullerton

Laurie Fullerton is a writer based in Boston, MA with a background in business, sports, community, medical and travel writing. She has been a newspaper editor in the Boston-area, a sports writer covering yacht racing and a community reporter. She has been reporting for The Drum since October 2015.

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