Isn’t that a crazy thing to say? But someone actually said that at a marketing event I attended.
I heard this during the question-and-answer period of a breakout session on content creation, where the person stood up and declared to the speaker, “There aren’t any good writers out there.”
It’s worth mentioning that this event took place at a brewery, which is not unusual in San Diego. And this comment also surfaced in the second hour or two of the event. Which means that we had all been consuming beer, and maybe people were loosening up to the point of taking their poor writers to task. It’s one of the reasons I myself am now wary of drinking at these types of events. I’ve committed my own share of snafus.
In any case, I stood up, heart pounding because I figured I was the lone writer in the room, and said, “I’m a writer, and there are good writers out there.”
I never did find out why that marketing guy thought all writers he’d worked with were lousy. Maybe he didn’t know how to manage freelance writers. Maybe he hired people on the cheap whose native language wasn’t English. Maybe he gave poor direction.
Whatever the reason, I offer these tips to marketing managers that will help them hire good writers:
- Look at their writing samples. Most good writers have a website with a portfolio. Take a look at what they’ve written to see that it passes muster. Or ask them for writing samples. If you’re worried that what you’re seeing is the heavily edited version of a piece, then go to the next step.
- Look at their testimonials. Smart writers will ask their clients for a recommendation that can be added to a website.
- Give them the information they need. Smart writers will ask you questions. They want to know as much as they can about the project so they can produce what you need. They’ll want to know about the audience, the goal of the piece, the tone, the length, the deadline. They may need contact information or access to additional collateral. Offer that information as soon as you can, so they don’t have to do a mad scramble.
- Be specific about your deadlines. This is not the time to be fuzzy. Be explicit about when a project is due.
- Be specific about the review process. Is it just you, or will every level of senior management want to comment on the piece? I knew a writer whose article went through more than 10 revisions. Good thing she was in internal communications. Most writers I know are pretty clear about how many rounds of revisions they’ll do as part of the fee.
- Sign a contract or a statement of work. This protects you and the writer. It clarifies the scope of work, the project fee, the deadline, etc. If your company has a freelance contract, use that. If not, ask the writer to draft something up. Even something in an email is better than nothing.
Of course, following these steps is no guarantee you’ll get the content you want. Sometimes it’s just a bad personality fit between you and the writer. But hopefully you can figure that out before the contract is signed.
This post first appeared on LinkedIn.