Communicating with writers is key to great content

Most businesses and organizations have great stories to tell, but they don’t need a fulltime writer.

They may turn to random members of their team to keep their websites updated, write their company’s blog posts and keep their social media channels spinning.

Or they just ignore the whole thing and hope no one notices that their company’s online and print content is hopelessly out of date.

But your audience does notice, and often walks away with a negative opinion about your business if they read bad content in your magazine and online.

As a freelance writer, and a former editor who hired freelancers, I know there are excellent writers everywhere, willing to take on most any assignment.

I work with many different editors. Some are professional journalists; others have never written a single article.

And really, that doesn’t matter. A professional writer who is good at his craft will be able to take an assignment and run with it. Still, open channels of communication between the writer and his editor will go a long way toward creating great content that will tell your story the way you want it told.

Whether you are a seasoned professional editor, a techy type who has never even heard of the Associated Press Stylebook, or a CEO who has no time for prose, you can succeed at managing a stable of freelance writers while developing terrific content for your customers and the general public.

It starts with good communication.

  • If your freelancers are local, meet them in person before ever giving them an assignment. A 30-minute chat over coffee will help you get to know their real voice, outside of their writing voice. If your freelancers are remote, Skype or a simple telephone conversation will work.

  • A good freelance writer will have lots of questions about you and your business or publication. After all, they want to get to know you too. Be prepared to describe your organization, its mission and its values. Allow writers to feel they are part of something bigger than themselves.

  • Be ready to describe your audience. Tell writers who will be reading the articles and content they write. Describe your demographics. Is your audience young or old? Male of female? What do they do for a living? How do their lifestyles or careers intersect with your company and what are their expectations when it comes to getting information?

  • If you are hiring writers for a print publication, provide your circulation. If the audience is online, give the number of page views. If your goal is to increase readership, then be prepared to discuss the role writers can play in that effort too.

  • Let your writers know when their article will be published. And if you decide not to publish it or if you hold it for any reason, disclose this too.

  • Provide clear deadlines, word counts, and outline your expectations. Describe your preferences for formatting, art, photography and side bars, but add in a bit of wiggle room too, especially if the assignment requires research or interviews, or if you are not sure how much space will be available in your publication, especially if it is a print piece.

Getting to know and understand your freelance writers, teaching them about your business, your audience, and your publications, and being willing to keep an open dialogue, sounds like a lot of work. But approach it with an open mind, and you'll see major time savings and feel less stress when deadline time rolls around.

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