You know it and I know it: writing a great article is hard.
But content is the bread-and-butter of inbound marketing. You depend on it to attract visitors to your website, generate leads that close, build relationships with your contacts, and start meaningful conversations with the people your business needs to grow.
Last year, research by leading growth platform HubSpot revealed that 55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority, while marketers who prioritise blogging efforts are 13x more likely to see positive ROI.
What’s an ambitious marketing manager with little time and even less budget to do?
Executive summary: 5 ways to create better blog content
For many brands, turning in-house is usually their first port of call. Your thought-leaders and subject matter experts (SMEs) offer invaluable insights and unparalleled knowledge of the more technical aspects of your offerings, perfect for creating authoritative content that showcases your products, services, and experience.
When this isn’t an option, businesses frequently look to freelancers to fulfil their content requirements. Thanks to the expansion of the ‘gig economy’, and an increasing desire to outsource for internal projects, the freelance business is booming.
But there are problems with both of these approaches. And those problems are costing you time, money, and potentially business. You know that because you’re reading this article.
So what are those problems — and how can you solve them?
But your experts aren’t typically writers by trade. Content marketing is an industry in itself. While no one knows your offerings like they do, this can result in content that’s overly technical, opinion-based, or otherwise not fit for purpose. Content that’s jarring is hard to follow and doesn’t do your experts or your business justice, while editing said content takes time and expertise that could have been better used to write the article in the first place.
The result is content that takes much longer and costs much more than it should to revise and approve — not a good use of your experts’ time, or yours, for that matter.
Freelance producers can create great work under demanding deadlines. And unlike your SMEs, a freelancer’s sole focus is your brand’s content. But while they’re an expert in producing strong prose, being an expert in your business and its growth strategy is another matter.
Briefing an external party on your services and products, audience and buyer personas, and even how your content should look, feel, and sound all takes time. There’s also the question of how close a freelancer is to your wider business goals and strategies. If they’re creating content without a working knowledge of what that content needs to achieve or how it’s going to be measured, can you be confident it will drive the results you’re looking for?
The result: You might have no problem convincing the budget holder to loosen their purse strings for the cause, but you’ll likely face a loop of input, broken content, and a messy approval process, making the freelance option inefficient and costly.
The good news is, there’s a better way to create content and to find it you need only look at an industry that sources compelling stories and turns around timely editorial on a daily basis.
How do I make my own content, then?
Everything that’s causing you content production friction right now, the nation’s newsrooms have got down to a tee.
With a team of journalists at their disposal, they can uncover the stories that are going to make the headlines and drive up sales. A predetermined content process enables swift turnaround of editorial, from the editor’s desk to the front page. And an editorial calendar promotes structure and consistency, so there’s never a lull in production.
Bringing this back to you and your business, what learnings can you borrow?
5 lessons in content creation, straight from the newsroom
1. A dedicated content writer
For all their subject matter expertise, your movers and shakers aren’t content writers. And freelance writers just aren’t close enough to your business. Whether you hire in-house or work with an agency, a person in a content role gives you a dedicated resource you can depend on to follow best practices, creating the quality content your campaigns need to succeed. (Here’s everything you need to know about hiring a standout content writer.)
2. An interview process
Just because your SMEs aren’t writing your content, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be involved. Adopting an interview process will make sure your writers have access to all the insights and knowledge possessed by your most experienced colleagues, so they can create standout content that reflects you and your expertise.
3. An editorial process
The content production process can get messy, especially when you’re creating content at scale. Newsrooms navigate this challenge with a clearly defined editorial process, so editors know exactly who should review each piece, how many rounds of edits they have, when deadlines are, and even the level of their expected involvement.
4. A content calendar
Like the editorial calendar that it’s based on, a content calendar should be your team’s Bible, documenting everything the writer needs to know about what article they’re creating, who they should speak with, fixed deadlines, and more. If you aren’t using one of these, this is the biggest single takeaway you can use to improve production.
5. An integrated sales and marketing platform
When a newspaper’s stories stop shifting papers, you’d better believe they’ll take a second look at what they’re printing. Are you able to say the same? An integrated sales and marketing platform should join the dots behind the scenes, so you can not only draw data-driven insights from your content’s performance but see how they have gone on to influence ROI — great for proving the impact of your work and securing further buy-in in the boardroom.
Adopting the five changes outlined above should pay dividends in both your ability to produce effective content and the results you see from it. We’ve been using them for years to revise and improve the way we deliver our content services.
Today, content is its own department within the business. Our Head of Content, Dr Thomas Brown, works closely with our writers and strategists on a daily basis to review their drafts, support their personal development, and improve our content processes.
“Over the years, I’ve worked across every rung of the content ladder. The shape of our content services has been directly influenced by those experiences, enabling us to service our clients’ content requirements consistently, repeatedly, and in a way that drives tangible business results.” — Thomas Brown, Head of Content, BabelQuest
Our content creation process has been tested time and time again, leading to a sleek, efficient approach defined by client interviews, the number of revisions permitted, expected response times, internal reviews, and a framework that enables, not inhibits, our writers.
“When work does reach our clients, it’s filled with much more than just draft copy. You’ll find everything you need in there to help distribute and promote that piece when it’s live.”
And because content should never be created in isolation, all of this is underpinned by a personalised content strategy and calendar unique to your goals. It’s always our preference to create content that aligns with all your customer-facing functions, so you’re getting as much value as possible — and seeing the biggest return — from every piece you publish.
Running behind the scenes, our clients’ HubSpot instances gives us full visibility over attribution, enabling us to see exactly how each piece of content has influenced a conversion or even sales.
Yes, creating content is hard. But if you’re able to adopt even a few of the tips recommended above, it will get easier. Your subject matter experts will find themselves with more time on their hands. And you? You can get on with proving the return of your marketing strategies, safe in the knowledge that the next draft to land on your desk is front-page worthy.