Is Your Content Marketing Writer Up to It? Four Questions

Stretching the marketing communications writer

A good content marketing writer is versatile, but don’t push it. Everybody’s talent stops somewhere.

How thin can you spread your marketing writer?

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

  • white papers
  • web content
  • technology overviews
  • case studies
  • video scripts
  • press releases
  • corporate backgrounders
  • annual reports
  • blog posts
  • SEO

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 content marketing writers get drawn to other types of content by their clients. “You wrote an article about us for a local magazine,” says the client. “Can you write our web content too?” Six months later, the writer has a new shingle to hang out: web content writer.

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

Four questions before you stretch your content marketing writer too thin

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 customer success story, 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 you and your writer have similar expectations.

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

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

Most people are narrowly focused on the answers to those last two questions. But if you’re not comfortable with the answers to the first four, then you probably shouldn’t bother with the last two.

photo credit: / CC BY 2.0


Author: John White

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a content marketing writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Content Marketing Writer.”