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Feb 09, 2010

Outsourcing Your Blog: 6 Tips for Finding and Managing Quality Contributors

SUMMARY: The biggest hurdle in creating a strong company blog is the time and effort it takes to maintain a steady stream of high-quality posts. Outsourcing some blog writing remains an option for time-constrained marketers.

Before you hand over writing duties to a third party, read these tips for finding good writers, managing relationships and avoiding missteps.
Most marketers understand the benefits of blogging, such as establishing thought leadership, connecting with their audience and regularly adding content to a website to improve and maintain search engine status. That said, blogging is a lot of work.

"A lot of businesses donít have the resources or the time to produce what we recommend -- four blog posts a week," says Bob Poole, CEO, Poole Consulting Group. "Five is better, but [there should be] at least four."

In response, some marketers are choosing to outsource a portion of their blog writing. Pooleís team helps marketers develop a blogging strategy and provides content for those outlets. But using third parties to supplement the voice of your company requires careful planning and management.

Here are Pooleís six tips for finding writers and managing their contributions.

Tip #1. Look for writers already familiar with your blog/company

When you donít have time to blog, the simplest solution may be to find someone to do the work for you. While this doesn't need to be a staff member, you want this writer to be familiar with the content and tone of your blog, and with your company and industry.

Here are a few places to look for writers who can contribute relevant content:

- Comment writers

If you already have a blog, reach out to active and insightful comment writers and ask if they would like to elaborate on a comment in a full blog post. You can set up a one-time guest post, or an ongoing relationship. You can also search for writers in the comment sections of other blogs pertaining to similar topics.

- Business partners

Companies you hire to help your marketing might be interested in adding a blogging commitment to the contract. For example, if youíve hired a Web development company to revamp your site, you can negotiate for a short-term blog post commitment as part of the deal.

Also, customers might be interested in writing blogs for you. One of Pooleís clients, a social services staffing agency, features posts from people and companies with whom they've previously worked. The posts typically feature general commentary about the social services industry.

- Guest posts

Once your blog is up and running, youíll likely receive requests from others in the industry to write guest posts, free of charge. This is a great way to get more content, but itís only likely to happen, Poole says, if you have:
o More than one person already regularly blogging
o An active comment base

- Hire copywriters

For a large volume of posts, or to ensure consistent quality, consider hiring one or more part-time copywriters. Poole usually finds writers through his online social networks, and through search engines. He pays about $500 per month for eight posts, and usually less for an inexperienced writer, he says.

Tip #2. Know the writerís skills

Before agreeing to publish someoneís post, make sure that you have proof of their writing abilities. You can ask for samples, and if no recent samples are available you can ask for a "test article." Be sure the writer understands the tone and the topic of your publication before requesting a sample.

When Poole is looking for new writers, experience and samples are important, but more than anything he looks for talent and emotion. A blog writer doesnít have to be the next Hemingway, but s/he should be interesting and comprehensible.

"I look for something that captures my interest and has an emotional element to it that makes me feel something," he says.

- Donít be afraid to edit

Donít publish a post unless you feel that itís the right topic and tone for your publication. If you have an issue with a piece, go back to the writer, explain what youíd like changed and provide time for a rewrite.

"Most writers want to know, and want the help because itís their reputation on the line," Poole says.

Tip #3. Require comment responses

A major benefit of blogging is the interaction with your audience. This interaction is only possible with two-way conversation, which is why responding to comments is vital.

Require anyone who writes for your blog to respond to comments to their posts. Many comments are addressed specifically to the writer, so itís important that the writer responds in kind.

Although responding to comments requires additional effort, it is much less demanding than writing a follow-up post. You shouldnít have to add extra incentives for bloggers to interact.

Tip #4. Write some posts yourself

You didnít think you were getting out of this completely, did you? It's very important that someone from your team write at least one post a week for your blog.

This is your blog, which establishes your teamís thought leadership. Without your contribution, the blog will only serve to promote others. Also, youíre supposed to be connecting with your audience, not introducing your audience to third-party experts.

"Once you have a commitment towards this type of marketing, writing and maintaining the relationships with readers is absolutely 100% necessary when using this kind of media," Poole says.

Tip #5. Think beyond text articles

Blogs can host a range of content. Consider partnering with content providers who specialize in video, audio or other media to add to your blog. You can follow many of the same strategies to add more interactive elements to your site.

Poole has been looking for video and multimedia providers to add to his team, and has noticed theyíre not as easy as finding writers, he says. This is because video and interactive graphics are often part of larger productions created by a team of people. And unlike articles, there arenít any bylines.

"To find someone who is the creative genius behind something is sometimes more difficult than finding a writer," he says. "The actual creative itself, such as an opening animation on someoneís website -- it might be hard to find out who made that portion."

To find the person youíre looking for, contact the person or company who published the content and work from there.

Tip #6. Review and monitor diligently

When people outside your company are writing content for your website, review everything before it is posted. Make sure posts are grammatically, tonally and topically correct.

Also, be sure to monitor comments to ensure that your audienceís reactions to guest posts are positive, and that guest bloggers are responding to comments when necessary.

Poole uses a system that automatically updates him on comments posted to clients' blogs.

Useful links related to this article

How to Create and Manage a Team-Authored Blog:

Measure the Impact of Blogger Outreach

Bob Pooleís Water Cooler Blog

Poole Consulting Group

See Also:

Comments about this Interview

Feb 10, 2010 - Christine of Your Voice, Inc. says:
Great post! It is critical that when outsourcing this type of service that you pick someone who can be authentic to your brand, duplicate your voice and honor your content. Collaboration is key at the beginning of the process. Christine

Feb 15, 2010 - Sharon Long of We Know Words says:
Thank you for this article and for recognizing the value a good copywriter can add to a blogging effort. I'm a copywriter who blogs for clients, and the client who recognizes the true worth of well-written, interesting, keyword-rich content is rare. You'd be shocked and even dismayed by what I have offered in pay! Reading this made me feel much better!

Feb 16, 2010 - Urs E Gattiker of - CyTRAP Labs GmbH says:
Dear Sherpa Author This is an interesting interview with Bob Poole, CEO, Poole Consulting Group. I thought I needed to respond to your article and share some of my experiences. a - I find the suggestion to reaching out to comment writers a very good one. However, one might find good comment writers not just on one's blog but possibly also in discussion groups on LinkedIn or Xing as happened to us. So we asked Karen Purves to guest post here: b - I am not sure about business partners. Especially those that have designed your webpage or your ad-agency. These parties have a vested interested and can they really be trusted to do an objective comment? I love comments from clients or suppliers but I neither ask them nor encourage their participation, it should be of their own choosing, should it not. c - The guest posts points you make are interesting but again, it depends upon the language your blog is in and the culture. I think in the U.S. people are more worried about their personal brand than the average person in Germany. Hence, to increase one's visibility one might be more willing to guest blog in the U.S. than in a European country? d - Hiring copy writers seems to be a bit of a surprise to me. If we are supposed to find our personal voice through blogs especially as a company, why should I hire outsiders who are not part of our team? They can surely not be our voice can they? Instead, having an editor go over your stuff is a good idea sure to make sure that the writing and grammar is good enough As well, paying somebody $50 does not seem much for a blog post. Is the subject that simple that one can do it in 1 or 2 hours? Might it require a bit more to get quality. Rest assured I spend much more than 2-hours on my blog posts for our corporate blog. I truly hope the quality shows otherwise, of course, I have wasted shareholders' money. Anyway I just thought I wanted to share these thoughts and I appreciate this interesting post. Respectfully Urs - @ComMetrics - benchmark your blog => improve your performance

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