Outsourcing content creation can be a pain in the neck. Finding a good content writer who has availability, fits your budget, and doesn’t miss deadlines is no easy task.

The kicker is that sometimes, even if you find a content creator who meets those criteria and follows your instructions to the letter, you still feel a sense of disappointment. The writer did everything you said to do, but it’s just a tad bit…off. Why is that?

3 questions content writers should askThe most likely culprit is that, even if your content briefs nail the details, they fail to mention the big picture. I’ve seen some incredibly detailed content briefs over the years — briefs that delved into things like customer personae, competitors, market and company size, etc.

But with a few exceptions, nobody ever tells me what the content is for  unless I ask. (And I don’t mean likes and shares. Those are metrics, not purposes.)  Some may not know the answer themselves (which is a whole different problem); for others, it just never occurs to them that the content’s purpose might come in handy for the writer to whom they’re outsourcing content creation.

And that’s a huge mistake, especially when you’re working with a top-notch content writer. It seems counterintuitive, but the greater the expertise of your writer, the better your content brief has to be. There are plenty of content writers out there who will take your instructions at face value and deliver what you ask for. Experienced writers, on the other hand, drive you crazy with questions, because no matter how detailed your content brief is, these writers are looking for opportunities to use nuance and subtlety to make your content as good as it can be.

Let me show you what I mean. Here’s a hypothetical brief for a roofing supply company that’s experimenting with outsourcing content creation:

Client: Elvis’s Roofing 

Topic: What’s trending in green roofs

Product: The client sells roofing supplies, equipment, and supports

Target audience: Contractors, facility managers, and building owners

What to avoid: Avoid mentioning competitors or linking to sources that mention competitors

That’s not a bad content brief if you’re just looking for an overview on green roofing options. But I’d be pestering you with questions:

  • Are you trying to support the sale of green roofing supplies?
  • Are you trying to discourage the sale of green roofs?
  • If you’re trying to discourage the sale of green roofing supplies, why? Is it because those products have a lower profit margin? Or maybe because previous clients have been less than satisfied?
  • Do you have a “soft” purpose for promoting green roofing supplies (like highlighting your commitment to the community)?
  • Are you trying to steer the market in a specific direction (like Google does with their search algorithms)?
  • If you are trying to steer the market toward green roofing, why? Is it because the supply side is becoming more green? Do you get tax credits for selling a green roof?

I know, I know — blog posts aren’t supposed to be obviously promotional. But there’s no need to be promotional when little tweaks work just as well.

This is where an experienced content writer really shines. Sometimes it only takes a word or two. The example I always fall back on is “Fully X% of Americans are trying to lose weight” vs. “Only X% of Americans are trying to lose weight.”

See the difference? Changing one little word completely altered the message. The first sentence is positive, while the second implies that more people should be dieting.

Little tweaks during the content creation process can nudge readers in the desired direction through things like:

  • Headlines and subheads
  • The order in which you present certain facts
  • The examples you use
  • The use of comparative adjectives: “fully” vs. “only”, “almost” vs. “not quite,” “success rate” vs. “failure rate,” “tried to” vs. “did.”

Yes, it really is that simple.

The bottom line on outsourcing content creation

Sure, some content writers suck. But many writers are capable of delivering far more than content that’s so bland nobody knows why you wanted it in the first place. And that means you’re missing out on some really amazing content.

If you’re not going into depth on your content brief,  there’s a good chance you’re wasting resources by outsourcing content creation. Unless there are confidentiality issues, let your content writer peek behind the magic curtain. Share the big picture. Tell them what you’re trying to accomplish for each piece of content.

You just may get more than you bargained for — in the best way possible.

Feeling ignored because your content writer isn’t pestering you with the kind of questions that would make your content better? I can pester with the best of them, so just get in touch.