Beat the Heat: Keeping Cool While Managing Distance, Writers & Content Creation

By Annu Subramanian

Long distance relationships can be tough.

You spend a lot of time on the phone, try hard to extract tone from emails and start thinking in two time zones.

Image: SkinnyMom

But when it comes to content marketing, overcoming the major challenges that come along with forming and maintaining relationships with clients in faraway places can be simple with the right tools in place. Much like a long-distance relationship, it calls for a whole lot of time management, patience and understanding, but with these tips hopefully you’ll find this partnership to be gratifying instead of grueling.

The challenge with content marketing is that, in a sea of blogs, copy and social media, you want your content to rise above the rest. And as you begin expanding your client work, you’ll be bringing a range of additional content creators onto your team. Not only do you want to produce quality content to your high standard, but you have a whole lot of people around the country to juggle and manage.

Distance might mean you have a bigger learning curve while creating the ideal content campaign but you can easily turn that into an asset. Coming from an unfamiliar place can create fresher content.

Finding The Right Voice

To start, get to know your client really, really well. One way to do so is to conduct a content-specific interview with your client where you get to know their work, vision and – and this is very important – voice.

In addition to client and industry-specific questions, some other questions to ask during this pre-interview include:
1. What are some of the standout features you offer?
2. What excites you the most about your company/service?
3. When people talk about you what do they say? What do you want them to say?
4. How does your service improve the industry? How does it impact its community?

After that, the Internet is your best friend. And you can get to know a city like the back of your hand with some basic browser searching. I always start by seeing if the location or industry in question has a specialized magazine. When writing about Washington, DC I dove into Washingtonian Magazine, neighborhood Patch pages and Brightest Young Things – an events planner and guide for young people.

To get to know specific regions, I reached out to friends and friends of friends who knew the neighborhood best – that’s how I found out some fun facts and locals-only information about cities I’m less personally familiar with. By getting to know local media, you can learn what an area values, from happy hours to locally sourced produce. Combine that with some Yelp searches and you’ll know your client’s home base as well as your own.

As for creating the content itself, there are a range of places where you can get inspired. Yelp offers insights into what the market in an area is like, Pinterest and Tumblr are a digest of some of the best-looking images of topics you might be writing about.

But beyond that, I’m going to shy away from a formula and introduce you to the theory of neuroplasticity. Simply put, with each new event, the brain fires neurons and forms new synapses and connections. I’m a strong believer in the importance of neuroplasticity in life, writing, creating and, yes, content marketing. While you don’t always have to be working, your brain is always forging connections. Tune yourself to a frequency where you extract nuggets of knowledge from seemingly unrelated reads, events or conversations you come across in day-to-day life and make them relevant.

You’d be surprised by how much overlap and how many connections get formed if you stay alert even when you’re not on the clock. Your brain is a beautiful thing.

It might sound trite, but it’s through “random” events that are totally unrelated to a formula that I’ve come up with some of my favorite ideas for content creation. In an earlier Thunder post, Monique mentioned a great way to operationalize some aspects of neuroplasticity through random affinities – check it out!

Managing Writers

Managing content writers is the part of the job that can get really tough, since you are constantly doing a balancing act among a range of people and their responsibilities.

Thankfully, finding great writers and content creators has never been easier. Some great websites where you can post your content needs and find freelance writers, photographers, designers and videographers include Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, Contently, Elance and Assignmint. Once you make an account through these websites, you can post the assignments you’re hoping to have done and you’ll be contacted by a range of freelance writers. You can also browse freelancer profiles – many services offer freelancer reviews and portfolios – so you can find the content creator who’s just right.

If you bring on some freelancers to work with you on a regular basis, consider them your team and also consider them a bit like you would a client you’re getting to know. Tasking them with specific content might yield precisely what you seek, but it often requires as much pre-writing from you as it does time for the freelancer to pen your vision. Spending time getting to know your content writer’s approach, voice, passion or areas of knowledge can help you guide them to the posts they’ll write best.

Thunder SEO works with a range of clients and offers content support for their blogs and social media. By getting to know our writers and their strengths, we’ve been able to hone our direction and task certain writers with posts that they’ll do best. As a result, we’ve seen stronger, more original guest posts and content from writers who glean satisfaction from their work.

An ideal freelance writer is eager, dependable and versatile. We look at personal blogs to see how they write and what their interests are. Work on having open channels of communication with your writer, so that he or she can come to you with questions, concerns and suggestions. You won’t ever get content that looks exactly like what you would have written, but if you keep up with what your writers are doing, you might be surprised by what they produce.

Staying On Top Of Things

Clearly, communication is key. And managing a major content strategy can mean you’re communicating with clients, content creators, graphics designers, developers and freelancers – all on deadline. With so many moving parts, it’s easy for something to get overlooked. While it’s great to have productivity software like Basecamp or Trello for your office, not every company can afford to include their legion of content creators in that system.

That’s why we built a Workflow in Google Spreadsheet that does the job for you.

While you’re reviewing a piece, mark it as “in progress,” and when you’re done, mark your post as “completed by [your name]” and “waiting for writer.” When more info or specific images are needed, mark a cell as red.

With this outline you can always know where content is, and since Google Drive constantly refreshes, you and your writers can have an up-to-the-second status, from images to content. We plugged in our own conditional formatting cues – when someone types “completed,” a cell automatically turns green; when someone types “in progress” it turns blue – which are included in the download, and you can add on or amend them to your own process.

The advantage to having a workflow like this is that it can be shared with as many people as you like, and you and your content creators will always be in dialogue about a post. From topic idea to publishing, all your behind-the-scenes info is in one place.

An in-progress workflow could look a bit like this:

Content Workflow

Download a workflow template here. Just copy and paste the workflow into your own Google Spreadsheet and share it with your writers!

Just because your client isn’t nearby doesn’t mean your relationship has to be rocky. By getting to know them well and managing a solid group of efficient content writers your story can most certainly end in happily ever after.

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