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Top Ten Ways to Leverage Your

Outside Writers

Building a relationship with an outside business writer can expand your internal capabilities, improve client service, and help you meet deadlines you otherwise would miss. But these benefits just don’t happen. They require briefing the writer upfront and managing the person effectively. To this end, here are our ten top tips for leveraging your outside writers.

  1. Pick the right writer for the job. It’s important to screen the writer carefully. Does the person have the right background for the job?  Does he or she understand business and your industry specifically?  What is the writer’s style:  creativity-driven, fact-driven, technology-driven?  And which style is appropriate for the project at hand? Perhaps most important, what is the person’s client-facing skills?  Does he or she  make a great impression on your internal clients, ask relevant questions, and inspire confidence?
  2. Don’t get hung up on writing samples. We know this goes against the grain. But we’re convinced many clients are obsessed with samples. Their thinking is, “If the person hasn’t done my exact job before, then she’s not qualified. The problem with this is you eliminate the possibility of injecting fresh ideas into your projects. If you hire someone who has done your exact assignment, the exact same way you’ve always done it, then don’t be surprised if the result is the “same old same old.”  Instead, look for a transferable background, strong writing skills, creativity, and business savvy. If you can tolerate a little uncertainty regarding samples, you might benefit from a writer’s fresh perspectives.
  3. Brief the writer carefully. Don’t just throw a writer into a project. Make sure she understands the company strategy, the project objectives and metrics, the positioning statement, and the major message points. Then give her access to your subject matter experts and leave it in her capable hands.
  4. Be generous with your resources. Err on the side of giving the writer too much secondary research, too many subject matter experts, and too much product or service background. A good writer loves this!  This gives him a lot of food for thought, perspectives to investigate, and people to quote.  
  5. Be available, but not overbearing. Always make yourself available to the writer to answer spur-of-the-moment questions, to bounce ideas around, or to provide access to an additional source of information. But please, do not get in your writer’s hair!  Calling every day for status checks distracts the writer and wastes your time and his.
  6. Build up the writer to your internal people. If you’ve hired a capable writer, then make sure to position the person as such with internal staff. This will build your clients’ confidence and, of course, reflect well on your judgment.
  7. Set a realistic deadline. Remember, writing is not like making sausages. It takes  thought and time. Once you know a project is in the offing, commission it as soon as possible. Don’t squander time on your end and then expect a writer to bail you out later. This makes for a stressful project, inadequate research, and inferior results. And neither you, your boss, nor the writer wants bad results.
  8. Edit carefully, but not subjectively. When the writer turns in his work, do a hard edit based on facts, company style, and audience preferences. Neither the writer’s style nor your's matters. What matters is your company’s style and what works best with your targeted audiences.
  9. Set reviewer ground rules. Want to avoid approval hell?   Then give your reviewers specific ground rules. These should include how much time they have, the types of changes you’ll accept (facts, company policy only, not subjective word changes). Then take all of the changes and consolidate them on one document. Never give a writer multiple sets of reviewer comments and expect the person to reconcile conflicting requests. Only you can do that.   
  10. Finally, reward performance. If your writer does a top-shelf job for you, look for more ways to tap into the writer’s skills.

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