Your “Writer” Could Be A Much More Central Marketing Player Than You Realize

When building out a marketing team, don’t assume that your writer can “only” write

If your conception of a writer is somebody chained to a keyboard for their entire workday, you could be missing out on some of the value that these integral parts of the content marketing puzzle could be bringing to your team. Photo by Min An from Pexels

A couple of months ago, I shared an article here on Medium about why I no longer present myself, to prospective clients, as a “freelance writer.”

I have nothing but respect for full-time writers. I’ve been writing, professionally, for more than ten years. And it’s been a colorful journey at every step of the way.

However, I’ve come to the painful conclusion that writers tend to be grossly devalued by companies — and often their contributions go underpaid too.

You can be a writer with a strong background in strategy — or public relations or SEO— but so long as you begin a conversation with the “w word”… or use it prominently in your collateral….you’re pegged as the ‘writer.’ And once you’re bracketed as such, it can become a professional straitjacket.

To sell clients on results (value) instead of deliverables (outputs), I suggest that it’s in many writers’ best interest to find an alternative way to describe what they do professionally.

Although this may strike as disingenuous, I contend that it doesn’t have to be. Thinking more strategically about how to present what you do can instead be a way to engage in more professionally suitable and satisfying work — that commands higher compensation too.

A writer who has developed extensive expertise in SEO could describe themselves as an SEO specialist first and foremost (who also happens to be able to do the writing) rather than as a writer with SEO knowledge.

The difference here might seem like one of semantics. But in my experience — having made such a transition in my own personal branding — it can be anything but.

An SEO consultant might be called upon to provide advice and join in higher level conversations about marketing strategy. A writer … just “does” the writing. (Can you see how language can subtly devalue?)

Very few professionals aspire to be thought of as task rabbits. The “elevated” writer is likely to feel more valued and inclined to produce his or her best output than the writer who is simply handed already conceived briefs for delivery. Simply being asked “what do you think about this idea?” is a good starting point to see what might lie behind a writer’s wordsmanship, although it’s only a start.

Where Writers Can Add Value Beyond The Writing Process

There are a few areas in which freelance content writers can commonly “add value” to the overall content marketing effort beyond getting through the actual writing.

Given that building out a whole content marketing team involves a lot of hiring and expense — if you want to do it right, at least — if you can find another specialty they may not be bringing to your attention you can make your recruitment effort that much easier.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

Content Strategy

I have a blog post to write down the line: all writers must aspire to become strategists. I suspect it’s going to rub up a few of my writer friends the wrong way.

Writing is great, don’t get me wrong. But see my foregoing comment about nobody liking feeling like a guinea-pig.

Taking in briefs and spitting out white papers, blogs, and other finished writing deliverables is just eventually not going to be enough to keep many professionals content. It’s also, I contend, unsustainable. Writing has to be among the most demanding of activities out there from a focus perspective. I don’t even think that simply delivering writing products all day every day is mentally sustainable.

The good news is that if you do spend a few years doing lots and lots of writing, you develop an eye for what works and what doesn’t. You begin to get a feel for … strategy.

Writers who mature into content strategists can advise upon:

  • What topics might be of interest to your intended readership, blending SEO know-how with a more intrinsic feel for what’s going to connect at the moment.
  • The best distribution channels to tap into in order to reach new customers.
  • How to measure the effectiveness of existing content marketing efforts and how to iterate from that data in order to continuously improve.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Great writing isn’t going to be of much use to the business if it’s too deeply hidden in Google to ever find a reader.

Search engine optimization (SEO) has become quite an elemental skill in today’s content marketing landscape.

At a minimum, most content marketing writers are familiar with basic SEO conventions, including setting out a hierarchy, utilizing keywords efficiently, and writing good meta titles and descriptions.

However, some writers, over time, begin to develop more extensive knowledge.

Working with digital marketing practicioners — who specialize in this field — can be a great way for writers to sharpen their knowledge and competent SEO practicioners in their own right.

Writing is clearly an essential skill for many content marketing efforts.

Although brands are increasingly diversifying into audio and video, text-based communication remains the most practical entry-level for many seeking to institute and ramp up their content marketing production.

There is, however, a tendency on the part of marketers to overlook the many other skillsets that “writers” may have developed over the course of their career.

Whether they’ve worked in-house, freelance, or a mixture of both — I think the likelihood is high that your “writer” may have a few hidden tricks up his or her sleeve that you could be taking advantage of.

Building out a thriving content marketing team takes times and effort. But if you can find a few players who can contribute value in a multitude of different areas, that task can be made far simpler.

The next time you’re having a conversation with a prospective “writer” hire, ask them to tell you a little bit more about their professional experience — and what motivates them besides writing. Once you give the conversation space to blossom, you may be surprised to hear the results.

Daytime: tech-focused MarCom. Night-time: somewhat regular musings here. Or the other way round. Likes: Linux, tech, beer.