Content Marketing Institute: 4 Secrets To Building A Virtual Content Creation Team

As more and more companies embark on content marketing strategies, the need for quality content is increasing beyond the abilities of the in-house staff. So what’s the answer to this new challenge? Freelance writers, or online workers as, Keener Marketing Solutions president, Matt Keener calls them in a recent blog for the Content Marketing Institute.

“The demand for quality content creation has never been greater,” said Keener. “As your content footprint continues to expand, your in-house staff may reach a point where they are no longer able to keep up. Should you hire more salaried employees to keep pace? I vote no, and here’s why. Online workers comprise one of the fastest growing segments of our economy.”

“This rapid growth is being fueled by many factors, a major cause being convenience for the employer,” said Keener. “We all know how much of a headache it can be to hire a full-time employee, particularly in terms of paperwork, multiple interviews, recruiting costs, and risk.

Hiring online workers minimizes such issues. In fact, a recent study found that hiring online workers typically takes less than three days total (compared to 24 days for on-premise workers). So if building a team of online writers has so many potential benefits to your organization, what’s the best way to tap into the virtual workforce?”

So here are Keener’s four secrets to make the freelance writer hiring process easier:

  • “Secret 1: Stop thinking like it’s 2003.” Identify the your specific content needs before you look for writers with expertise in that area. If you don’t know what content you need, then you’ll never be able to explain it to your freelance staff. Keener says, “When building content plans for my clients, I typically start by considering the following ‘categories’:

a) “General web content, such as products, features and benefits, company-focused information, etc.”
b) “Blog & blog categories, including content that is educational, timely, news, technical, industry-related, etc.”
c) “Downloadable content/assets, such as white papers, brochures, case studies, eBooks, or checklists.”
d) “Email content, like newsletters, product-related mailers, call-to-action blasts, lead nurturing, auto-responders, etc.”
e) “Social & micro-blogging content that is aimed at engagement, industry focused, and/or company specific.”
f) “PR materials, such as press releases or event-related content.”
Once you know exactly what you need and how frequently you need it, finding someone to fulfill it becomes a lot easier.

  • “Secret 2: Systematically scour the virtual world for the right fit(s).” Now that you’ve identified what you need, it’s time to start looking for the right writer to fulfill it for you. A good writer can write about anything, but a great writer also has depth and experience in the specific topic to pull from. Keener says, “Here are specific steps to follow:”

1) “Begin with a well-written explanation of needs.” You already articulated what you need in ‘Secret 1.’ That makes this step even easier. Start with the basic ‘We are seeking a writer to…’ and then simply and concisely enumerate the responsibilities and level of experience you require.

And don’t forget to include how you intend to pay—i.e. pay-per-article, pay-per-word count, monthly contract rate, etc.—This will serve as the freelance writer’s job description and filter out those without the experience you need or those who require more than you’re willing to pay.

2) “Utilize filters to ‘drill down’ into specific skill sets and indicators.” Keener recommends using online marketplaces like oDesk, Elance or Guru.com and setting the ‘filters’—i.e. feedback score, hourly rate, tests taken/passed, etc—to your specific needs. But I would add sites like Journalismjobs.com or even LinkedIn to the mix to locate more experienced professional writers.

3) “Pre-interview and interview best practices.” Narrow the field of possible candidates by checking out their ‘clips’. All writers keep clips, portfolios, and other examples of their work. The best way to get to know a writer is to read what they’ve written. For the interview Keener recommends using sites like Skype, JobOn.com, or a cloud-based applicant tracking system like the one offered on Zoho. But I think that sometimes the simplest approach can often be the best. A simple five-minute phone call can tell you everything you need to know about your freelancer.

  • “Secret 3: Date before you get married.” Give your candidates a few trial articles or test projects to show how well they can fulfill the content you need. Keener says, “To start the dating process, let your new writers prove they mean business by working on a test project. Be sure to set clear expectations and deadlines on the test project.”
  • “Secret 4: Match skills, needs, and budgets.” Keener says, “The net result of the previous three secrets should culminate in a rock-solid virtual content team. Use your matrix (identified in Secret 1) as a living document. As team members leave or join your team, update the matrix to ensure no gaping holes exist. Continuously recruit using the secrets outlined in this article.” Keener offers four tips for keeping a cohesive virtual content team:

1. “Set clear delegation guidance.”
2. “Avoid billing and payment friction.”
3. “Identify your ‘virtual liaison’.”
4. “Foster open communication.”

G2Market Inside Scoop: Keener gives an excellent checklist for how best to build a virtual content marketing team that has the depth and expertise to deliver to the higher standards required in the B2B space. Remember, the most effective content marketing must deliver results at a higher level – and that often means matching your budget to your project requirements and campaign goals.

(For additional information contact: Content Marketing Institute, www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/contact; http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2013/03/building-virtual-content-creation-team/.)

- Jack Bradman
Sr. Client Partner, G2Market