February 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 don’t 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. Poole’s 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 Poole’s six tips for finding writers and managing their contributions.

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

When you don’t 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 you’ve 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 Poole’s 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, you’ll 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 it’s 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 writer’s skills

Before agreeing to publish someone’s 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 doesn’t 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.

- Don’t be afraid to edit

Don’t publish a post unless you feel that it’s the right topic and tone for your publication. If you have an issue with a piece, go back to the writer, explain what you’d like changed and provide time for a rewrite.

"Most writers want to know, and want the help because it’s 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 it’s 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 shouldn’t have to add extra incentives for bloggers to interact.

Tip #4. Write some posts yourself

You didn’t 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 team’s thought leadership. Without your contribution, the blog will only serve to promote others. Also, you’re 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 they’re 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 aren’t 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 someone’s website -- it might be hard to find out who made that portion."

To find the person you’re 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 audience’s 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 Poole’s Water Cooler Blog

Poole Consulting Group

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