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Creating a Great Freelance Writer Team

A group of casually dressed freelance writers.

A group of casually dressed freelance writers. Establishing a competent and reliable freelancing writing team that will bring in clients and get the job done can be a huge headache. Since freelance writers are technically not employees, ensuring quality, consistency, and timeliness are great concerns for business owners. Choosing the right people is important, and there are certain traits you will want to look for in freelance writers. Below are some of these traits, as well as common tips for working with freelancers once you have selected your team.

Ask for a portfolio or sample

A resume or curriculum vitae is not always a good representation of writing skill. When hiring a freelance writer, the first step in the process should be testing his or her abilities. Assign a mock project with a topic that matches your desired style of writing. This will give you a good idea if the freelance writer can follow instructions, research, and write well on the topic. You should have some quality criteria established ahead of time so that you can review the work objectively. In addition, freelance writers usually have a portfolio of previous work they can provide upon request. You will need to review each sample carefully to evaluate quality.

Set clear requirements

You need to communicate with all of your freelancers all the time to ensure projects are completed well and on time. You need to make sure to set out your content expectations regarding style and tone, and you should provide tips and reminders as often as possible to keep your content production on track

Look for variety

When hiring, look for a wide variety of skillsets in your freelance writers. Journalism, SEO copywriting, researching, and blogging are all essential in content development. You will need to put out several advertisements in different places to attract the right applicants.

Provide resources

Do not be surprised if a freelance writer does not understand the field about which you are asking him or her to write. A lack of expert knowledge does not have to mean low-quality content if you provide the proper resources. For research purposes, make blogs, websites, and manuals available to your freelance writers. Also, maintain a freelancer availability schedule to ensure you have the resources you need to complete the projects you have in your queue.

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Improve Your Content Development Strategies

If your business is looking to increase traffic on your blog, read Inklyo.com's content development tips.

Content DevelopmentThe goal of content development is attracting an audience, but this can be difficult to do well. As a content developer, you strive to bring in an audience with your words alone, but you must also use search engine optimization to bring in more traffic. If you’re struggling to keep your audience, you may need to work on a few content-development strategies to lock in your audience’s interest. Read on to discover how to make your blog more appealing to readers.

Include a tasteful number of advertisements

While advertisements on your website may be important to help fund the operation, you also want to avoid scaring away your customers with an excess of annoying videos and pop-ups. If your blog has videos without a pause button, huge flashy banners, and sidebars that look like they belong in a circus, then it may be time to redesign. Space your ads out, and plan well. Readers that get irritated with the ads every time they visit your site may just stop going. They’re there for the blog, after all, not to be trapped into consumerism. Focus on content development, not managing ads. Know your audience.

Before you can begin content development, you need to know whom you’re developing content for. Figuring out your audience is the first step in creating an appealing blog. You may have to change your style, tone, or topics to appeal to that target audience. This can be daunting at first, but once you get started, you’ll get into a flow of content development that appeals to your audience so that it feels natural to write.

Narrow your scope

Don’t lose your reader base by trying to fit too many topics into too small a blog. While having a wide range of topics can certainly interest a wider range of readers, it will also prevent a loyal, frequent readership. Your readers will be discouraged from visiting your blog regularly if they think you’re inconsistent.

When you’re thinking about content writing, pick a theme, and stick to it. If you have multiple interests you want to blog on, it may be time to create multiple blogs. This will certainly take more time than if you only run one, but it will also ensure a solid stream of traffic to each.

Ensure fluid and efficient content development

Have you ever read choppy, disconnected writing? It’s difficult to follow and often confusing to read. This type of writing is common to content developers who are trying to make edgy, casual content to catch the reader’s eye. Unfortunately, it ends up being a huge turnoff to your audience. Read your content before you publish it on your blog. Read it aloud to see if it flows well or if your tongue is tripping and stumbling over the words. Ask yourself if it would make sense to someone unfamiliar with the topic. Alternatively, you could consider outsourcing your blog writing. These important steps in content development will only take a little extra time, but they will go a long way in ensuring your readership sticks around.

Use lists

Readers like lists. Remember that, in modern society, with so many stories flashing by every minute and with busy schedules, a quick, easy read is exactly what your audience wants. For this reason, lists are perfect for content development. They provide your reader with the option of breaking the article into manageable sections, to only take what they need, or to read what they need when they need it. Lists also make your article look much less intimidating than big blocks of paragraphs.

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How to Craft a Content Marketing Mission Statement

In theory, content marketing is the perfect form of promotion. It’s affordable, effective, entertaining, and educational. There’s just one problem.

It takes a lot of effort.

Content marketing, as John Buscall once said, is a commitment, not a campaign. Joe Pulizzi, a seasoned content evangelist with the Content Marketing Institute, said a similar thing last week during his address at mesh13. According to Pulizzi, content marketing never stops — the minute you stop telling your story is the minute your customers stop listening.

With that being said, content marketers and brands struggle when it comes to creating engaging content for their customers and followers. Back in the day, brands and marketers could get away with publishing empty articles and uninspired blogs; all that mattered was pushing something, anything into the Google engine. But that was then. Search engines have gotten smarter and so have the people that use them.

Now, in order to succeed with content marketing, you need to get serious about the type of content that you’re producing. Or as Joe would say, you need to start creating content that follows a content mission statement.

How Joe Pulizzi creates a content mission statement

Creating a content mission statement will help you to not only stay focused and motivated when it comes to your marketing plan, but it will also help you clearly define your content why — the reason that you’re producing the content in the first place. A solid mission will make it easier for you to produce content that does its job: generate leads, engage readers, builds brand sentiment, and convert customers.

So, what’s your why?

According to Joe, you can’t answer the why until you can recognize the who. The who, of course, is your target audience. In order to create content that will resonant with your customers, you need to know who they are and what their pain points consist of before you can create and deliver content that is truly useful to them.

Take your time understanding your who. If your company markets to multiple demographics and target audiences, make note of each one. Content that appeals to one group won’t necessarily attract the interests of another, so don’t make generalizations. This research period may result in the discovery of multiple whys and multiple content missions, which is perfectly acceptable. The better you understand your who the easier it will be to create content that speaks to them.

Once you’ve established your who it’s time to established your what. In other words, what do you want these target customers to do once they’ve consumed your content? If you don’t have an end goal established, you’ll never be able to track whether or not your content has been successful.

An important note: Generating shares, likes, and retweets should not be considered primary goals. While these user indicators help to build your brand’s reputation and can help generator sales, their value is hard to discern. This is why Joe recommends building your goal around the number of converted leads and the total cost per lead — this is where your true value lies. Secondary indicators should include things like blog subscribers, email list subscribers, and lead quality.

Building out your mission statement

Now that you’re armed with your who and what, you can clearly establish your why in a succinct mission statement. Joe provided this great example from Inc.com:

“Welcome to Inc.com, the place where entrepreneurs and business owners can find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their businesses.”

This statement clearly tells you:

  1. Who the target audience is: entrepreneurs and business owners
  2. What is being delivered and how it will benefit them: useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their business

Inc.com’s content mission statement is tight and concise, and that’s precisely why the magazine has such a dedicated online readership. This is a company that knows what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and who they’re doing it for.

Do you?

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Four Qualities to Look For in a Content Writer

Content marketing is a critical component of any web or social media strategy. As such, don’t you think it’s time your company started to produce quality content . . . or found someone who could do it for you?

Content marketing, the kind that catches eyes, minds, and hearts, takes more than words. While anyone can write, the real feat of creating quality content doesn’t come from putting words on paper or hitting publish on your latest blog post. It comes from the ability to produce a narrative that resonates with your audience. Quality content is masterfully crafted to increase awareness, generate interest, and ultimately inspire a reader to take action.

Who’s in charge of your content?

If you’re trusting your content to an intern or an administrative assistant, simply because they “know how to write,” you’re making a big mistake. Just because someone knows how to string sentences together doesn’t mean they have the talent, experience, or ability to deliver your message in a manner that will convince and captivate your target audience.

You wouldn’t hire a marketing manager to handle your accounts receivables, so why do you trust an inexperienced writer to produce the vast majority of your marketing materials?

If you don’t have the talent on staff, now’s the time to find an experienced content outsourcing partner. According to a recent report from Custom Content Council, 55% of companies outsourced their content development in 2011. This number increased to 62% in 2012. More and more companies are waking up to the importance of quality content—isn’t it time you did too?

Qualities to look for in a content writer

Not sure what to look for when searching for a quality content writer? The following are five important characteristics:

1. Punctuality

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. When it comes to content marketing and business writing, punctuality is paramount. If your writer can’t get assignments done on time, you’re just causing yourself more work and hassle.

2. Proven research experience

Quality content needs to educate its audience. It needs to include useful statistics and source information. Exceptional writers are constantly reading, researching, and learning—that’s how they’re able to create content that’s both accessible and educational. Which leads us to characteristic three . . .

3. Flexibility and adaptability

It takes a very specific kind of writer to produce marketing content. Like other writers, content producers are detail-oriented fact-finders. However, when it comes time to produce a blog post or publish an online resource, they know how to adapt their voice and style so that it suits their audience and medium.

4. Readiness

Content marketing is all about the here and now. Your audience doesn’t want to hear about yesterday’s news tomorrow. They want to know what’s happening in their industry today. Companies need to have content producers that are readily available.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy

Using content as part of a marketing strategy requires time, expertise, planning, and proper management. Don’t produce bad content. Plan for the publication and distribution of unique, relevant, and engaging content through the implementation of a content strategy.

What is a content strategy?

There are a number of definitions for content marketing floating around the Internet. Here are a few good ones worth pondering:

  • Content strategy has been described as “the practice of planning for content creation, delivery, and governance” and “a repeatable system that defines the entire editorial content development process for a website development project” (Wikipedia).
  • Content strategy is using “words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences.” (Rachel Lovinger, Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data).

Kristina Halvorson, author of the book Content Strategy for the Web explains content strategy in the following way:

“It plots an achievable roadmap for individuals and organizations to create and maintain content that audiences will actually care about. It provides specific, well-informed recommendations about how we’re going to get from where we are today (no content, or bad content, or too much content) to where we want to be (useful, usable content people will actually care about).”

A well-thought-out content strategy takes into consideration the culture, approach, and end goal of delivering information about your company, product, service, or brand. Where should you publish content? When? How often? What kind of content is best suited for this purpose? When done properly, content can be used strategically as an asset and a quantifiable ROI.

Why do I need a content strategy?

Many companies think they can simply “wing it” when it comes to creating content. A couple of articles here, a press release or infographic there — easy, peasy.

Not quite.

Think of it this way. You wouldn’t try to cook a complicated meal without the help of a recipe. Nor would you try to drive to a remote destination without the aid of a GPS or Google Maps. A content strategy acts in a very similar way. Not only does it provide you with an end goal to work towards, but it also enables you to outline detailed instructions for achieving these results.

What should my content strategy contain?

Before you plan your content strategy, check out Kristina Halvorson’s article The Discipline of Content StrategyIn this post, Halvorson explains that every content strategy should start with the following elements:

  • key themes and messages
  • topic recommendations
  • purpose (how will your content close the gap between what your audience is looking for and what your business is offering?)
  • content gap analysis
  • metadata frameworks and any necessary content attributes (including various search engine optimization techniques)
  • any implications of strategic recommendations on content creation, publication, and governance

These basics will then lead to a more in-depth analysis of editorial strategies, content management, content delivery and distribution, ongoing optimization goals, and key performance metrics.

And you thought you were just publishing a blog!

Putting together a content strategy will help ensure that you have the right resources in place to produce the content you need to set your company apart from the competition.

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What To Look For in a Chief Content Officer

Creating and managing content within a company is a big job. Now, more than ever, brands need to make clients and customers smarter about their product, service, organization, and how they do business. Traditionally, this job falls on the shoulder of the marketing and promotions department. Eager to get word out about their company, these tenacious individuals sit alongside agency partners, discussing brand strategies, campaign catchphrases, creative concepts, and media master plans, and yet, rarely is there a top-level executive assigned to oversee the very foundations of the creation and execution of these marketing messages.

In today’s content crazed world, brands are becoming more and more like social enterprises, as such, the need for companies to tell their stories through engaging, educational content is becoming increasingly paramount. Enter the CCO, or Chief Content Officer. The mastermind behind content-driven programs, it’s the CCO’s job to manage, coordinate, plan, and distribute content as part of an inbound marketing strategy.

And yet, very few organizations have extended their C-suite to include a communications professional. Not surprisingly, this is because many management teams aren’t entirely clear on what a CCO should do. The following are five basic qualities that every CCO should have:

1) Be a leading content creator and curator

The old models of marketing (press releases, product launches, video advertisements etc.,) need to be remodeled for the new world of engaged marketing. The best Chief Content Officers know how to turn customer success stories into sales pitches, and external recognition into community engagement.

2) Have a keen understanding of everything

This may seem like an impossible request, but it’s what sets exceptional CCOs apart from the pack. When you’re working across an enterprise, it pays to know what’s happening in each and every department. This will enable you to create content that ties in a wide variety of components. Remember, your goal is to guide the type of content that is being produced so that it can be used to draw more people into your brand circle. As such, you need to have a strong understanding of everything that’s happening in the marketing, public relations, product development, and editorial management departments.

3) Share your knowledge

The best brands understand the power of knowledge distribution. So don’t be shy. Give your CCO the duty of researching, coordinating, creating, and packaging content campaigns that provide your customers with insightful, relevant, and useful information. Become the expert in your chosen topic in order to gain credibility and customer loyalty.

4) Be capable of building relationships

CCOs need to be connected. From Google+ to Twitter, marketing conferences to media events, CCOs know how to find, engage, and maintain relationships with top writers, reporters, and reviewers in their industry. Always remember that people connect with people. So don’t just send out a faceless pitch or stock press release. Your CCO is there to bridge the gap through the creation of newsworthy content and network building interactions.

5) Be a content DJ

The best brands understand that content can no longer be produced in singular, simplistic forms. The digital world has provided us with countless was to express our stories — text, photos, graphics, videos — the list goes on and on. A CCO understands the nuances of narrative delivery and is willing to remix content in order to engage audiences in a way that encourages engagement.

There’s no question that content can have a major impact on your company. Unfortunately, few organizations have the leadership in place to head up successful content strategies. Make finding your company CCO a priority in order to enhance your company narrative, and enjoy the cost savings that come with a disciplined content plan.