A Writing Process — 5 Steps for Your Writer To Follow

5 steps your marketing writer should follow

When you hire a content marketing writer, you should be able to see the steps in her writing process. Ask for them, and be sure they make sense to you.

You’re evaluating a content marketing writer to do a white paper or a case study for you. “So, how do you do this?” you ask her. “What’s your writing process? What steps do you follow in writing a piece like this?”

You should get an answer that makes sense to you, and that doesn’t sound like a rambling, top-of-the-head proposal.

Here are 5 typical steps in a writing process for content marketing.

If the writer includes these, so much the better; if not, at least you’ll know what to ask for.

  1. A review of existing materials – A good writer is willing to perform some research on your industry and specialty. Save her time by pointing her to the sites, analysis and published reports she’ll need to conduct a fruitful interview.
  2. Interview – The task is to take what’s in somebody’s head and get it into print, which calls for an interview. The goal is not a grilling, but an effort to get the subject matter expert talking. Perfect interviews are rare, and few experts are adept at imparting their information flawlessly, but a professional content marketing writer can always get something useful out of an interview.
  3. Outline – For a paper or a report, it’s important that the writer lay out the piece and let you verify that it makes sense to you. While it’s not so important in short pieces like blog posts, brochures and case studies, long pieces need to guide readers down a path to educate and convince. The outline is the best way for the writer to show where she is going to lead your readers. Extra credit goes to the writer who fleshes out the outline, say, by writing the introduction or conclusion, so you can check messaging.
  4. Drafts – Once you’ve approved the outline, the writer hangs text on it and produces a draft. Most of the work should be in the first draft, which should result in something close to what you had in mind. Circulate this, get comments, reconcile them and get them back to the writer for a second draft. Because you breathe your own exhaust day in and day out, the writer gets extra credit if she introduces ideas and angles you hadn’t seen. A good writer who sinks her teeth into your business provides external perspective.
  5. Final review – After the final draft, there’s not much for the writer to do, but her job isn’t yet over, either. Most content requires layout (HTML, print, InDesign), and that effort begins after the final draft. Have your writer review the piece once it has emerged from layout. (Somebody almost always changes something along the way.) This is a good chance for the writer to clean up final typo’s and tell you what looks right and wrong before you go live with it. (As I’ve posted before, most companies omit this step.)

Don’t go into the writing process blind. Good writers have a method and they can explain their steps in ways that will make sense to you.


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.”

4 thoughts on “A Writing Process — 5 Steps for Your Writer To Follow

  1. John,

    It’s always encouraging to see other writers share the methodologies I practice. This is exactly the process I follow. I’ll skip #3 sometimes, but I find it essential for longer projects like brochures and white papers.

    One additional step I’ll occasionally take – let’s call it 3.5 – is to submit the first couple sections of a draft to ensure the client likes the general tone of the piece.

    I find this a valuable step when I write 12+ page strategic marketing brochures for clients. I’ve made it a practice to discuss only the first two inside spreads before work continues on the rest of the brochure.

    In addition to ensuring the brochure opens with the right tone and context, this approach also helps clients ease into the review process rather than tackling a big honking draft all at once. I also learn their preferences and prejudices regarding wording, tone and style early, which saves a lot of editing and rework later on.

  2. @Dan: Good point. The essence of the thing is to avoid going too far down the wrong path (upcoming post on that). Professional writers know multiple ways to insure themselves against that risk.

Comments are closed.