Financially Responsible Marketing

How to use an external writer for content development

Posted by on Jun 24, 2015


Twenty years ago, content was barely a consideration for the VP Marketing of a B2B company. Now it’s a necessity for large firms and a critical differentiator for small-mediums. Fresh, engaging, informative content is how you show you are worthy of consideration – growing, evolving, a thought leader and keeping up with change.


Finding your writer

Finding a good B2B writer is no easy task. You’re looking for the ability to write clearly and engagingly about intangible topics, business savvy, and marketing knowhow in a single person.

Start by asking friends and colleagues for referrals to writers they have worked with. Then, once you’re looking at samples from referred writers, look for engaging writing that draws the reader in – if your target audience doesn’t read your content, it will not matter what you say. Even for complex topics, a simple friendly style works best online, which will be your default forum.


Takes two to tango: good content development is a team effort

Your next task is to ensure that you and your team work with your new writer, not against him/her. While this may seem like obvious advice, it isn’t. Many projects with external writers fail because your team and your writer are at odds.


How do internal experts hamstring external writers?

Here are the three main ways:

1. Your team doesn’t let the writer do their job

Your internal experts have difficulty believing an outsider could write about the expertise, knowledge, and experience they’ve earned over time. Accordingly, they decide they should run the process. They balk at answering questions, stating: “You don’t need to know that.” They take over the interview/briefing, not letting the writer do what he/she does best.

2. Fear leads to pre-filter

Your team member doesn’t want the writer to know all the grisly details. They hold back information, for fear that the writer will let the wrong things slip. Later on they’ll be unhappy, because the writer doesn’t write as an informed insider…

3. Thinking that marketing = advertising

This is a prevalent view. Many people assume that the writer will be writing a puff piece full of flowery words. This incorrect belief kiboshes the information-gathering process.


What can you do to make content creation work with an outside writer?

The biggest thing you can do is prep your team members for the briefings/interviews with the writer. Tell your team these three things:

  1. Relax, just say what you know during the interview. Don’t question the process, do not second-guess! Just answer.
  2. Don’t filter, don’t say to yourself “the interviewer doesn’t need to know that.” Ghostwriters do their best job when they have a true and full understanding of the subject. Regardless of what ends up actually going into the piece.
  3. Filtering will come later, from two places. First, the ghostwriter will select which pieces of information to use. Second, the author(s) of the content will review the draft and decide what to remove or modify.


Anything else?

If anyone on your team is of the opinion that marketing is a waste of time, keep them away from content creation. Their attitude will only poison the pudding.


Last but not least: how do you prep your writer?

Tell your writer:

  • What your vision is for your company as a whole, what your current objectives are.
  • In general, what you’re looking for (this many words/pages, this general outline).
  • Why you want this piece of content, what your hopes are for it, who you’re trying to reach.
  • How you’ll use the piece, and what you hope to gain from it.

But not – at least until you see the first draft – how to do it, or what specifically goes into it!