Great writers don’t leave content strategy up to their clients
By Seth Kaufman, freelance writer, editor, and content strategist
You're only as good as your client's content PR
Here’s a scary scenario for content marketing writers. Stop me if it sounds familiar.
A recently launched website hires you to write an article. You pour your heart into delivering the perfect piece – which of course, you always do. But this time, you nail it. It is so good, so on-the-money, you actually blush. Seriously, it belongs in the Listicle Hall of Fame. Well done.
You send this masterpiece to your new client who posts it immediately. And then ... nothing happens. No traffic. No buzz. No leads. No conversions. No sales.
And no wonder! If an article from a fledgling website that nobody knows about yet goes live, does it have a chance in hell of making any impact?
The answer, as anyone whose stories have been plunged into a content marketing black hole knows, is no.
In the next chapter of this perfect-article-gone-to-waste sob story, the client wonders why this great content hasn’t torn up the Twittersphere. That’s not a good ending. An unhappy client often becomes a dissatisfied ex-client. And nobody wants that.
A subtle solution
How do content writers and marketers avoid this outcome? It’s tough, because you were hired to write an article, not provide strategy. Plus, you don’t want to insult your new client by suggesting he or she is web-illiterate and doesn’t understand a fundamental rule of content marketing: Producing written content is only the first step toward reader engagement.
And really, it’s not your job to explain the importance of inbound links, the inscrutable logic behind Google’s search results, or why social media campaigns and email marketing are so important in building awareness.
But it is important to remind clients that they need to reach out to bring traffic in. That’s why you should consider submitting your first article to a new client with a freebie – an accompanying one-page content marketing best practices overview.
Your content marketing best practices one-sheet should provide friendly, straight-forward tips on basic low-to-no cost ways to build awareness for any piece. Because while you may be an awareness veteran and know how to get the word out via social media, PR, email marketing, and influencers, that doesn’t mean your client knows what to do or has those skills.
Your content PR best practices sheet serves a number of functions. It covers your butt by letting clients know that they are responsible for promoting the content they’ve just paid for.
It’s a goodwill gesture that, ideally, provides added value to your new client and is also a semi-subtle branding play – assuming you place your name and contact information on it.
Lastly, and perhaps most profitably, it is a low-key, well-intentioned marketing pitch.
The wisdom of offering industry “secrets”
You might be wondering why telling someone – gratis – how to increase traffic will grow your business. Good question.
The shorthand directions for best practices – such as, “be sure to post on social media” – sound simple. But when you detail the nuances to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn and other platforms, and suggest using Hootsuite to manage it all, that friendly advice is now double-edged. It’s a wake-up call and an innocent sales pitch. There’s a good chance your clients may not have the bandwidth to follow these best practices and may ask for your help.
And that’s just after reading the first set of bullet points on the handout.
The client hasn’t even gotten to the best practices advice on creating a newsletter with a link to your article, or pitching it to relevant blogs and websites to include it in their roundup post. Or creating Facebook ads to drive traffic to the article, or your point about ensuring the CTO sends the site index to Google and Bing. And they haven’t yet grokked the suggestion to bake in a post-mortem to analyze how everything performed.
The big win from your best practices document is that the client will now understand a blog post or article isn't finished when it’s published; that’s only the halfway mark – they still must drum up awareness about the story and spread it around to drive traffic.
And that is an extremely important lesson to impart.
Delivered to the right client, it may land you a contract handling strategy or new assignments writing social media campaigns and email newsletters. But even if it doesn’t, it’s a generous, reusable, value-added gesture.
Sharing best practices is itself a best practice, and one that can help you avoid letting buyers morph into dissatisfied ex-clients. Because, if you want that writing business of yours to grow, you can't leave content strategy up to your clients.