When you hire a writer for a white paper project, and it goes well, what does that look like?
Here’s how I describe it, based on the last time I did this.
Kicking off the white paper project
- Andrew, the writer, was confident. Not brash – just confident. It came across in his phone manner and in the e-mail we exchanged before we signed the agreement. His take on what we were trying to accomplish with the paper was spot-on. That helped me overcome any misgivings I might have had about the fact that he hadn’t written anything for our industry yet.
- Andrew was punctual. He said he’d send samples by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, and he did. He called at appointed times, even if I was stuck in a meeting and had to phone him back.
- Andrew had a method that made sense to me, and he explained it without rambling on about contingencies and fallbacks. It was obvious to me that he’d done this before.
- He wanted to know about the ideal reader for the paper, to be certain he could write for the audience. “I need to understand your readers’ profile and problems so I can be sure that the paper addresses them in the right tone,” he said.
The long middle
- Andrew asked for (and actually read) materials and information about our product, which helped when he interviewed our subject matter experts.
- A few days after the final interview, he sent me an outline and asked for phone time to go over it with me once I’d had time to read it.
- I circulated the outline to staff, fielded and vetted all of the comments, then forwarded a single revised outline back to him.
- Within a week, Andrew had sent me the first draft. Again, I reviewed it, made changes, circulated it for comments, vetted them, and sent the revised draft back to him.
- He sent a second draft, with graphics, text boxes, callouts and charts to make it more readable. It took us a long time to review it, so he followed up via e-mail after a week had gone by with no word from us.
- Most of all, he managed himself and his end of the project. In fact, he even managed me to the extent that he could. He helped me keep my fingers on the pulse of the project all along.
A quick and successful end
- We did the design and layout of the piece ourselves, and Andrew asked to see the final PDF before we posted it. He went through it, made comments in the PDF about changed text, and sent it back the next day.
- Andrew asked whether he might use the final version for his portfolio. It wasn’t a proprietary white paper, so I gave him permission to link to it from his web site.
Of course, it doesn’t always go this well, as I’ll describe in an upcoming post. Still, this experience taught me a lot about what goes into a good white paper project. I remember it every time I start a new project with a content marketing writer like Andrew.