Set Your Writer up for Failure

This post was written by John White on Thu, 04 Dec 2008 14:44:04 +0000
Posted Under: marketing manager,rapport with writer,relationship with engineering

Have you ever owned the budget while somebody else owned the content? It’s a bit like buying cake for other people, yet being unable to ensure that they eat it, isn’t it?

One of our engineering managers had a vision for a user networking site and a budget to get content written for it. You need the content to tell people your story, of course; otherwise, they have to guess what you’re up to. The engineering manager chose the writer.

One of our marketing managers, however, has ended up “owning” the site, with responsibility for how it looks, what’s on it and the extent to which it succeeds with the user base.

When these two managers agree on a topic, the writer generates content, then has it approved by both managers and posted to the site. Up to that point, everybody is winning.

The problem is that the engineering manager thinks the content is getting buried and misplaced on the site, where users can’t find it or where it’s out of place. The marketing manager thinks it’s good, creative content, but his bosses and other execs have yet to make clear their vision of what the site needs to do and how it needs to attract visitors. Until he knows that, he wants to focus more on usability and flow than on promotion of text and content. The first one keeps buying the cake, and the second one keeps putting it in the refrigerator for later.

“Figure something out,” both of them tell the writer. “You know the product, you know the technology and you know how to write. Keep coming up with new ideas for different kinds of content we might be able to use in the near term.”

In other words, “Fail.”

From the wings, I’m watching the writer squirm between the rock and the hard place. She’s a freelance writer with plenty of talent (and other clients, for that matter), to whom these two managers have handed a problem she cannot solve because she has neither stick nor carrot. Not only that, but this is more than she hired on to deal with.

I think it’s a temporary problem, but I hope we resolve it while she’s still available to write for us.

Ideas, anyone?

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