Is the Marketing Writer Up to It? Four Questions

This post was written by John White on Tue, 23 Feb 2010 15:12:31 +0000
Posted Under: Hiring writers,persuasion,process of writing,vetting writers

Stretching the marketing communications writerA good marketing communications writer is versatile, but don’t push it. Everybody’s talent stops somewhere.

How thin can you spread your marcomm writer?

Can she do a good job on everything you need, like:

  • white papers
  • Web content
  • technology overviews
  • case studies
  • press releases
  • corporate backgrounders
  • annual reports
  • blog posts
  • SEO copywriting (isn’t that redundant nowadays?)

Or, do you find you need multiple writers for the different stations along your Content Buffet?

Facts of Life about Writers

A man’s got to know his limitations.

“Dirty Harry” Callahan

Doug Clarke of Hologram Publishing posts that “Good writers, like good singers or dancers, are versatile in numerous topics, formats and genres, and are not just one-trick ponies.” In fact, most marketing communications writers become drawn to other types of content by their clients. “You did an article for a local magazine; can you write our Web content?” Six months later, the writer is hanging out a new shingle.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but as a marketing manager, you have to be sensitive to where your writers’ limitations lie, and be careful not to push them past it, or it will blow up in your face.

4 Questions before Stretching a Marcomm Writer

Here are four questions it’s perfectly fair for you to ask before nudging your marketing communications writer one step closer to his limitations (especially if you’re not sure of what you yourself are getting into):

  1. “Can you describe a project in which the format was new to you, and you delivered content that made the customer happy?” Let’s face it – I need the content, and you know writing, but I’m trying to reduce my risk. Tell me a story about when you went through this before, and convince me that you’re up to it; otherwise, I don’t want to chance it.
  2. “Can you show me a sample from that project?” Slam dunk if he can, and still iffy if he cannot. He should be able to give you something to allay your concerns, or else point you to another writer.
  3. “What method will you follow in writing this?” (Not, “Do you have a method?”) This is part of how he should persuade you that he’s up to the task. If he has written all of your press releases, but never done a case study, ask him how he would plan to go about it.
  4. “What do you need from me to write this? Are you able to help drive the project, or do I need to do that?” How much support do you need as marketing manager to drive review loops, work with the designer, birddog subject matter experts or customers, and generally get things done on a project with which you’re not familiar? Somebody – either you or your writer – is going to have to run the project, so you’d better make sure that your expectations line up with those of your writer.

I recommend that you get satisfactory answers to these questions before you dive into the other important questions:

  1. How long will it take?
  2. How much will it cost?

If you’re not comfortable basing your business decision on the answers to the first few questions, then great answers to the last two questions won’t do you much good.

John White of venTAJA Marketing posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilspicys/ / CC BY 2.0

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