Want Good Writers? Make Onboarding Easy

stopwpmadness1Today, I give you an exciting post about how to onboard writers to the content management systems that handle your marketing content.

Bored already? So am I, which is the point.

When you’re trying to develop a lot of marketing content very quickly for the launch of a major B2B Web site (as a Fortune 500 client is doing) a clunky onboarding process will make it harder to lure the writers you need. This is especially true if you’re paying those writers – how do I say this delicately? – less than stellar rates.

Water Torture, CMS Style

This came up because I have a friend who’s editor of a new tech Web site and under pressure to deliver a lot of content quickly.  His budget only lets him pay at a level that makes it hard for writers with busy practices to justify working with him. But he’s a good guy, and his employer is a potential good client, so I want to make it work.

Here, though, is what the client forces me to go through just to enroll in their CMS and start my first piece.

  • Upload a resume and clips. If the editor knows me and trusts me, why force me through this? And why not let me directly upload clips, rather than having to provide them only in link form, which is clunky for content such as white papers I have on my PC but difficult to find on clients’ Web sites?
  • Answer security questions and set up security codes. We’re not launching nuclear weapons or changing the Fed’s interbank lending rate here. We’re assigning marketing collateral. Is there really a threat some imposer will write that ghosted blog post instead of me?
  • Categorize the stories I’ve uploaded. After going through the hassle of uploading a story about, say, different forms of cloud-based developer platforms, the CMS asks me to choose from a long list of categories, including “Travel and leisure,” “Arts and entertainment,” “Food and fitness,” and, by the way, “Information Technology.” If the client is in IT, and I’m an IT writer, why force me to manually tell me again?
  • What language the story is written in: If Google can detect what language a post is in, and offer to translate it for me, why can’t a CMS (in which I’ve already entered my home address and uploaded clips in English) figure this out?
  • Accept a list of terms and conditions, such as that I will agree to “build trust with the reader,” be “straightforward, credible, authentic, witty, opinionated” and “share with readers (how to) address real problems” and to educate the reader. If you have to tell your writers to be clear and helpful, you’re hiring the wrong writers.

Too Much Whining?

Am I whining? Yes. But if a good writer is busy, each of these steps make it less likely they will work with you — especially if you’re trying to hold down the rates this pay them.

Still not convinced? Consider this: Another colleague is going through the onboarding process with another technology giant (whose name you would instantly recognize) that asked him to fill in one form using a typewriter. Beyond the unpaid time it takes to find such a relic, what would a prestigious analyst or industry leader think faced with such a request from you? And what a customer think of you as a tech vendor if they found out you still use typewriters?

CMS onboarding may not be a sexy subject, but trust me: Do it wrong and it will hurt you.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

finding ideas for marketing content“What do I write next?”

At each stage of a drip marketing campaign, you need something different, interesting, and compelling to keep the reader engaged as they move from awareness to consideration to comparison to purchase.

Showing readers why they should care about an ongoing story is a challenge newspaper, broadcast and trade press editors have wrestled with years. They meet it by putting themselves in the reader’s shoes and asking “What do I want to know next?”

Let’s say that, as part of a drip camaign, you want to follow up on one of these stories: That endpoint antivirus is obsolete. That Google+  is dead or dying. That cloud security fears are overblown.

1)   Is “X” True?

First, the reader wants to know whether the story rings true, and more importantly whether it rings true for them.

A great follow-up piece (and a great chance to build a rep as a trusted partner) is to do a more detailed explanation of whether, when and why, a given “insight” is true for a specific reader. Some possible follow-ups for these three stories might be:

  •  Endpoint antivirus isn’t really useless, but is becoming a commodity with limited room for innovation.
  • Google+ isn’t dead, but so far businesses to consumer marketers are having more luck with it than business-to-business types.
  • Cloud security can be good enough, especially if your internal security isn’t that great and you don’t have extreme regulatory requirements.

 2) How does “X” affect me?

 Once they know whether and when “X” is true, the reader wants to know whether “X” is good, bad, or indifferent for them. The two hooks are, of course, greed (reading this I might get me a raise) and fear (if I don’t read this I might get fired.)

Possible follows on our three stories:

  •  I can save some money and be a hero by being the first to suggest we let our antivirus subscription expire. Or I look like a chump if we drop antivirus and the next week we’re hit by a vicious attack. Which risk is greater for my specific situation?
  •  Jill in marketing has been wondering about our Google+ strategy and something in this content suggests a new tack we could take. Maybe I should suggest lunch to explain it. Or dinner. (I forgot lust along with fear and greed as news hooks.)
  •  This story tells me he committee the CFO put together to check out possible cloud providers for us really doesn’t know what it’s doing, and I’ll be blamed for a data breach even if the new service provider is to blame.

 3) What should I be doing about “X”?

Once the reader knows the answer to the “good/bad/neutral” issue, the next question is “What do I do about it?” Be careful with advice  because 1) you could be wrong, and b) you’ll lose credibility if the answer to every question is “Call us.”

The way to thread this needle is, as for question 1, to make your answer specific to different types of prospects, and 2) keep it honest. (After all it does you no good to encourage a lot of unqualified prospects to call you.

Possible content angles for our three stories:

  • Since desktop antivirus is becoming a commodity, buy a low-end, but mainstream package and put your main effort into dealing with breaches after the fact.
  • As a B2B marketer, keep an eye on Google+ but don’t spend huge time on it right now.
  • That clueless cloud committee is getting close to choosing a service provider. Better  cover my rear end by sending the CFO some “tough security questions to ask” in case things blow up after we sign a contract.

 4) What is everyone else doing about “X”?

 This is where surveys, case studies or even “war stories” from your sales force or service staff come into play. Everyone wants to know what their peers are doing and if they’re ahead of, behind or with the crowd.

Sample follow-up content for these three stories might include:

  •  Despite trash talk about AV from security vendors, our survey shows most companies are indeed being cautious and maintaining some desktop antivirus capabilities, while beefing up their security response efforts.
  •  Over lunch a B2B marketer told me a horror story about wasting time on Google+. Or, she told me about a little-known Google+  feature that’s a killer for business users.
  • We summarize a Wall Street Journal story about a Mom and Pop firm that thought cloud security was sure to be better than their own but found that wasn’t true and suffered a breach. We describe the questions they should have asked the provider but didn’t.

There are more angles where these came from. But whatever route you take, keep yourself in the mind of the reader and be informative, not salesly.

If you haven’t already, subscribe to my newsletter for upcoming tips on “next questions to ask” to build drip campaigns in specific technology areas.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.