Most Content is Bull$#!% Part 3: Managing the Writer / Expert Relationship

Content marketing is like crossing this bridge. You'll probably fall into the cold creek, but learn something along the way.
You have a writer, an expert and a wolf. They all must get to the other side, but you can only carry two at a time across the bridge. If you leave the wolf with either the writer or the expert, the wolf will eat them.

It's usually the case that writers like to write. That's not always the case with everyone else. Software engineers may like to write code, but writing about how they wrote that code? That can be a harder pitch.

By the same token, it can be pretty difficult to to find your average writer who knows the differences between java, python, coffee and a snake. Which is why your best results will come from a decent compromise of the two.

We've already talked about how most content is just copied from other content with a little reworking along the way and how that's fine if you're selling spatulas but not great if you're trying to do content marketing properly.

The best way to engage users and build long term relationships is by providing unique insights and new perspectives about the things they care about. The place to find those insights and perspectives is at the top of your field, where the true experts are. Whether that's a scientist, developer, VP of whatever or lawyer, there's no better way to find real value than by talking to those who are creating the future of your industry.

Find The Experts Within and the Writers Out

Chances are good that you already have these experts working internally within your company, and if that's the case, you understand just exactly how busy they are and how writing a 2,000 word article might not be the best use of their time. That's very astute.

Unless your marketing department is huge, chances are also good that you don't have a dedicated staff writer with a decent amount of knowledge in the field of the expert. It might seem like a pain upfront, but taking the time to find a writer who understands the particular field will save a lot of time down the road.

Once you've found one that can do what you need, you should expect to pay a fair bit more than whatever you might have paid in the content mill days of yore - that's OK, this is an investment that will pay off - 20 cents / word is about the lowest you'll probably find for someone who can write like you want, but more than likely will be significantly higher. That's not an issue. Good content will more than pay for itself, and bad content can end up costing way more than whatever you saved with a bad writer.

How to Create Content with a Writer and an Expert

Van Morrison once sang about this exact tree.
This tree didn't grow overnight, and neither will your content strategy.

There are a few different ways to approach the writer / expert relationship (WER), and it mostly depends on what works best for your team.

The Interview

This is just what it sounds like, and is more effective on the earlier side of a WER. It gives the writer a high level overview of exactly the expert's position, role, purview and their understanding of the industry.

It's also a great opportunity to get quotations. These can be stored away and used on articles in the future as well, which is an amazing way to create content that's original and highlight the in-house expertise that your company has.

Whether the interview is being done to get more general information, or to address a specific content topic, the writer should be taking detailed notes and identifying potential future blog post ideas.

The Outline

A thorough content strategy and creation process means that you already have the next few months of content planned and outlined. If your expert has the time to dedicate and the desire to write a little bit, this is the most efficient way to gain their unique insight.

Let your writer take the outline that was initially created for the content calendar and beef it up a little bit to give the expert a solid framework to work within. Then, fire that off to the expert to let them do their thing. Make it perfectly clear that they're only making a rough draft and that getting information from them is more important that them making it sound nice -- that's for the writer to take care of.

This might take a little more work from the writer's side to rearrange the content, make sure all the transitions flow nicely and all the ideation has been covered, but, well, that's the job of a writer.

The Draft and Forth

This is definitely the most time intensive for the expert, but can be the best option if they have a strong desire to write and the time to do so.

This time around, the expert selects a topic (in coordination with the content team) that they'd be very suited to write about. They create the first draft from scratch and send it over to the writer.

The writer's goal here is to make the article accessible to the audience. Experts usually have technical language and jargon that is second nature to them, but might need a bit of explaining for a more general audience.

It's also a good time to expand on any ideas that are touched on and relevant, or add additional content if necessary. It's important to note that the expert shouldn't play the role of editor as that's a waste of their time. That said, if the writer adds content or makes significant changes, the expert must review the document to make sure that the more technical aspects are still correct.

Even if the writer just adds the requisite links, CTAs, and formats the content, it's worth firing over to the expert before publication just so they have a chance to see their work one last time before it goes live.

Publish and Promote

Now that the content is created, it's time to publish and promote. Obviously that's what you do with content, but this doesn't refer to promoting the new article, but rather the author. Make sure to link to their online profiles or code repositories if they're comfortable with that. If it fits your style, give them a shoutout on your preferred social media channels. Let the world know that you have subject matter experts and that they're actively working with you to make a better product for the end user.