Getting consistently on-brand content for clients can be a challenge for a number of reasons. This definitive guide for content managers takes the pain out of planning, coordinating and managing content writers so that there’s a high quality and consistent result for the clients.

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Don’t squash or squander their creativity, incorporate it and encourage it!

1. Get the right client brief

The client should be clear about their content requirements with you, so that you can then translate this for your freelance content writers. If the client is unclear themselves about what they need then put your strategy hat on and provide insights and recommendations for them about content types, relevant channels, content strategy, timelines and what sort of content and platforms will get the best results.

2. Work out the strategy

If you and the client are going down the blogging route, then develop a third party blogging strategy that encompasses the needs of the client and a series of credible, interesting and enjoyable blogging topics. These blog posts will need to read as authentic, interesting and from an SEO point of view, a good way to provide backlinks to your client’s website.

3. Ideation of topics around thought leadership

The content strategy should emphasise that the client is an authority in a particular area. Be it teaching languages or selling lawnmowers. So the posts created by the content writers should demonstrate this expertise by offering helpful, practical advice that can be a real resource to readers.

4. Communicate with your content writers

Once you have liaised with the client extensively and worked out a content strategy, then at this point its a good time to involve your content writers in the content creation process. You can ask them to consider your topic idea and investigate into the topic extensively. Ask your writers to write while considering whether or not they would actually enjoy reading the article themselves. Would they find the article useful or enjoyable to read. If not, then there is still work to be done on the post before it goes live.

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Communication is critical with your team to get the best result in terms of writing

5. Headlines are vital

Get your writers to consider the strength of the title. Headlines/titles are a key part of blogging. People don’t spend ages reading everything online; they read what stands out and catches their attention. The headline is a writer’s chance to grab the attention of the audience and the post itself is the chance to maintain attention in a sustained way. Content writers can do this in a number of ways, including:

  • Surprising the audience.
  • Creating a sense of mystery
  • Making the audience empathise with something
  • Talking about a trigger (such as a celebrity, news story or seasonal event) they may be interested in.

Headline formats: 

  • Top 10 tips
  • How to…
  • 6 of the best…
  • 8 ways to…
  • 7 reasons why…
  • Dos and don’ts
  • The secret of…
  • The lazy way to…
  • 10 things we can learn from…
  • Early warning signs of…
  • The big question (one people can empathise with!)
  • Do you make these common mistakes?
The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Push your headlines to go off with a bang, not a whimper

6. Blog post essentials

In order to make sure your content writers are making web-friendly content, instruct them on including the following blog post essentials into their posts. These make posts more scannable and useful.

  • Great sub-heading
  • Bullet-point lists
  • Specific recommendations:
    • Places, events, etc
    • Physical addresses and contact phone numbers.
    • Website URLs and information
    • Maps
  • Images
  • Embed codes for Google Maps
  • Embed codes for YouTube clips

7. Branding considerations

There are certain commonsense things no client will want to talk about in articles such as crime, drug abuse, etc. Many of these topics will be obvious and won’t require any explanation.

Although ensure that you liaise with your clients for any touchy subjects or off-brand subjects that should not appear in content. Instruct your content writers to bear in mind that they should think about the client’s desired projected image and branding when they are writing. Instruct them to cut anything they are unsure about.

Also remember that the focus of an article should never be a service offered by a client’s rival. Services offered by the client must never be referred to in a negative way. If they’re compared with something, they should be represented as the better choice.

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Writing for brands can be risky, especially when you need to explore difficult subjects

8. Accuracy, grammar and punctuation

Although as the content manager you should be vigilant for various grammar and punctuation issues in the final copy, the overall responsibility to ensure factual accuracy and quality control should also be the purview of the content writers themselves.

However for them to do their job properly, you should provide them with clear guidance on this. For example if they have to read a sentence more than once, they should rephrase it. Ask for concise, plain and punchy language. Use the active voice, not the passive voice. Break up sentences longer than 2 clauses.Paragraphs should only be 2-4 lines long – if they’re longer, ask the content writer to break them up. Subheadings and bullet-point lists should be used where possible to make content easier to scan and speed-read.

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers
Exploring content together and proof-reading as a collaborative team is the best way to ensure accuracy

6. Including Links (external content)

Links in blog posts add legimitacy to the content and provide a high quality addition to posts. Get your content writers to include links naturally in the context of the post. By including them in an author bio they can demonstrate the client’s expertise rather than pollute the content. When links are included, ensure the content writers include them naturally in sentences – the grammar should be correct.

7. Formatting

Provide clear instructions on how content writers should format their posts before submission. How pedantic you become about this is up to you! Below are some guidelines I needed to follow to ensure that posts were consistent all of the time. With a huge workflow, this can be very time-saving in the long term.

  • Posts should be in Word with the following format:
  • Language should be set to English (UK)
  • Margins: 2.54cm all way round
  • Line spacing: 1.15
  • Font: Calibri, 11pt, black (not headings/subheadings)
  • Text alignment: justified (not headings/subheadings)
  • Main heading: centre, Calibri, 26pt, bold.
  • 1st-level subheadings: left, Calibri, 18pt, bold
  • 2nd-level subheadings: left, Calibri, 14pt, bold.
  • Keywords/links: hyperlinks should be inserted where keywords appear in the text, like this.
  • Line breaks: Please leave line breaks after headings and images and between paragraphs.

10. Submitting content

In order to avoid the confusion of a multitude of work coming in from different content writers and for different client briefs, you should give your content writers clear instructions on submission as follows:

  • Reply to the email you were sent that contains the relevant content brief, leaving the original subject line.
  • Attach the Word document with correct file name along with the relevant 2 images (all together in a zip file would be ideal).
  • Include any relevant notes within the body of the email.

Is your content working hard and producing good enough results for your business? Find out with a free content audit!

The definitive guide for content managers: How to get the most out of content writers

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How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy

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How do you know when you’ve raved on for too long about a product or service? It just depends on what you’re trying to achieve and the audience. Here’s the only guide you’ll ever need for when to tone it down, and where more elaboration is needed.

The Litmus Test for Long or Short Copy

The product

A good rule of thumb to follow is the more complex, luxurious, technical or unknown the product is – the longer you need to make the copy. After all, what sort of information would you need to know, if you were going to part with a lot of money, for something you didn’t understand or have never heard of?

The purpose

What do you need to do with the copy?  If want to explain the benefits of a simple and well-known product, only a couple of sentences will suffice. If you’re wanting to compare your product to the competition and state why yours is superior – more words will be required.

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Think of the end-goal for the copy, and work backwards from there

The Rules of Headlines

The rules are as bendy and flexible as Playdoe. When it comes to headlines, the more creative, pun-tastic and playful they are – the better. The 100 Greatest Advertisements by Julian Lewis Watkins is a classic study of the metrics are required for writing. Watkins believed that headlines are best abbreviated to eight words or less.  Although in recent years, this theory has been challenged.

UX guru Jakob Neilsen conducted a study about how readers’ eyes travel across webpages. This demonstrated that readers scan webpages in an F pattern. So the top of the page including the headline is crucial. As well as the first sub-heading, and any points of interest while scrolling down the page, including pull quotes and images.

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Sometimes what you think will work in copy just isn’t the case…and you need to go weirder…much weirder.

What we can take from this is that headlines are the primary pulling point for most readers. So it’s important to have rapid-fire, intriguing headlines. The eight words or less maxim may not apply. For some in-depth advice on creating effective headlines, check out Ten ways to write killer headlines.

When Less is More

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Sassy is a good word to describe going OTT or a bit extra on copy…sometimes this is needed.

Well-Known Everyday Items

Convenience products like groceries or chain restaurants offerings don’t need lengthy descriptions or much persuasion to sell. The same goes for well-known brand name products. Such as over-the-counter medicines,    Keep the copy nice and short and it will be enough to get a sales conversion.

Let the Picture (or multimedia) tell the story

Imagine that you’re selling home décor or conversely – a debut single for a band. Less copy is necessary and instead there’s a need for either audio or visual input on the product page. Think of the functionality or suitability of the item, does this need to be explained? If it doesn’t then don’t bother!

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Sometimes words can be cheap and an illustration or a photo can tell the story better…embrace those opportunities.

Tried and Tested products

This is the cousin to every-day budget items. Tried and tested products that work the way people expect them to work, don’t require much selling or additional words. Instead what they do require is a compelling and competitive price point, because well-known items are more likely to prompt people to shop around for the best price.

When More is More

Big Ticket Luxury Items

People will need more of a reason to part with large sums of money for big ticket items. There needs to be comprehensive selling points that work in association with strong branding imagery and advertising.

Products That Require a ‘Try Before You Buy’ Principle

 This includes cosmetics, skin care, shoes, clothes, hats, sunglasses, perfume and so on.

Untested items

Any items that haven’t been tried and tested on the market before, or that are unfamiliar to the chosen audience, deserve a much longer and in-depth write up, about the benefits over existing products.

Specialty or Bespoke items

These are the items that people never knew that they needed or wanted until it came along. They fulfill a need and make life easier in some way. However they need to be explained. The same goes for customised or bespoke items. These need to be explained because they have many unique variables and are costed higher than other products.

Is your content working hard and producing good enough results for your business? Find out with a free content audit!

Getting on the blogging bandwagon: How to create interesting blog content

Getting on the blogging bandwagon: How to create interesting blog content

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Every business from start-up to multinational has a blog. You need to get on the blogging bandwagon, or feel its wheels rolling over the top of you! The challenge with blogging often isn’t the budget constraints, it’s coming up with engaging ideas that are going to resonate with your audience.

Everyone has a unique perspective and insights to share

The great thing about blogging is that everyone has many stories to share. Bring together a bunch of people with similar interests and challenges in life and you can build a supportive online community.

Create and Curate

No matter your blog topic – you can bet that somebody somewhere has already laid the groundwork, with an abundance of content written any topic under the sun. So take inspiration from this content, and then write your own story.

Curating lists is also a great idea. You could recommended blog posts, sites, books, podcasts or videos. This helps other people in the community and adds depth to your blog posts. People are more likely to stick around and read when the content is interesting, relevant and informative to them.

Guest Blogging

If you’ve enjoyed reading articles by certain bloggers then ask to interview them for our blog.  Most bloggers or subject matter experts will relish the opportunity for exposure. Firstly, make some editorial guidelines clear.

Don’t allow them to directly promote a specific product or service. Also, in many cases, you can avoid having to pay for a guest post, unless the blogger is enormously famous. Their pay-off comes at the end of the guest post, with an included brief about themselves, their expertise and a link to their own website.

A guest blogger’s writing can be like a breath of fresh air to a business blog. The guest blogger automatically becomes a powerful brand advocate, sharing the post all over social media. It’s a powerful way to immediately increase the reach and virality of the post.

Repurpose Your Existing Content

Use your existing collection of content to create a video tutorial, slideshare presentation, infographic, magazine article or any other type of new content. Most of the work will have already been done, it’s just a matter of tweaking the content for the new format.

Industry round-ups

Collect all of the interesting and industry-relevant research, quotes, and insights you can find from other popular blogs and websites. Then combine this with your own content that’s created in-house as well as industry research nuggets. When combined together this can be turned into long-form content for your blog.  and other little golden nuggets of information that you find elsewhere on the web. Posting this in a steady, uninterrupted flow onto social media is going to keep up the momentum of interest.

Think Telephone Not Loudspeaker

Make sure that your social media communication is like a telephone and not a loudspeaker or PA system. Social media is about engagement and getting people involved and interested in your story. People want to see you as a friend on social media, not a brand or business. So keep the content entertaining, light-hearted and amusing – as you would to your friends.  And don’t sell to your followers and fans, they will abandon you quicker than you can say ‘Sign Up Now’.

Quality content is the door, ingenuity and creativity is the key.  Speak with me today about how I can bring your blog to life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six ways to sweat your content marketing assets

Six ways to sweat your content marketing assets

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Evergreen content is the kind that is always useful to people in years to come.

How do you make sure that your investment in copy pays dividends in the coming years, without further time and money spent? The answer lays in how you approach the content and whether or not it’s flexible enough to do gymnastics for you. Ask yourself if your content assets are malleable, flexible and reusable? Here are some ways to construct your copy, so that it will outlive you like a Galapagos turtle.

1. Write Evergreen Pieces

 

Instead of writing news items that have short term value, write about topics that will always be in bloom, in vogue and relevant. That’s what I mean by evergreen. Try instructional and informative pieces as these rarely go out of style. Or try top ten or countdown articles that focus on brand-relevant topics that are close to your audience’s heart.

Doing so will mean more eyes on your content. It also means that the possibilities for republishing elsewhere multiply. Consider offering your content on an attribution licence for other parties to use and syndicate it, with a link back to your website as a requirement. These kinds of backlinks are excellent for SEO optimisation.

 

2. Mobilise Socially Savvy Employees

Yes everyone in the office probably is flat out busy with their own roles. However you can dangle that irresistible carrot in front of them of paid time on social media. You can give workmates the tools and training to generate content from existing material, and the ability to post this content themselves to their own followers and fans. This obviously would need to be monitored, supported and have a clear campaign goal in mind. This ensures that the tweeting and posting frenzy is staying on brand and on topic. When it’s possible, getting fellow team members to interact on social media can be really helpful in boosting social engagment.

3. Syndicate Your Content

When your content is published in newspapers, magazines or other people’s websites, ask the editor or content manager about exclusivity and copyright. Are you able to reuse your content elsewhere? Doing so gives the content exposure to a much wider audience. Generally if you have given the article to a third party, they will be gracious enough to allow you to republish it wherever you want. However always ask beforehand to avoid any awkward misunderstanding. After all, it’s important to maintain these mutually beneficial relationships.

Six ways to sweat your content marketing assets

Your team can help to amplify your brand on social

4. Reuse and Recycle

All sizes and types of content can have another nine lives on different platforms.  You could:
• Use parts of published magazine articles as snippets on social media.
• Use customer reviews as a part of a case study or as a slide on your home page for maximum impact or in your annual report, sales catalogue or advertising.
• Use excerpts from blog posts in newsletters or within print news articles.

That’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Get creative with your repurposing of content and you may surprise and delight your team with innovative ideas.

5. Get Listy

Lists are like content catnip to online readers. They are scannable and irresistible, as they allow human minds to take in complicated, lengthy information in a much easier form. In terms of word recycling, lists are profoundly reusable. The bullet points of lists can be transformed into tweets, posts on Facebook and other little pocket rockets. Lists can be used alongside video or images, or (if they are written well enough) left to shine on their own. Of course, lists have gained a bad wrap in recent years, with a deluge of crappy listicle articles out there in the wild.  However, presenting useful, bite-sized information that is relevant to your audience will never go out of fashion. 

6. Ideation Nation

The final and most important step for sweating your content marketing assets is ideation. This is where a Brains Trust ( which is you, me and anybody else you think is pretty smart) get together for a massive latte and lemon tart session.

Sparks might fly, somebody may even bring out a unicorn helmet if the ideas are just too painfully beautiful to be real. The most important thing is that we take that next step though and ride the magic carpet of content marketing ideation together.

Six ways to sweat your content marketing assets

Six ways to sweat your content marketing assets