If you run a marketing or communications department, you’ve probably worked with content contractors. And you know it doesn’t take much for a contract project to go off the rails: missed deadlines, round after round of revisions, submissions that look nothing at all like what you expected.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. From my own experiences on both sides of these contract partnerships, I’ve found that putting the following three rules into practice keeps the process smooth, efficient, and mutually beneficial. And it results in higher quality outcomes.
1. Deliver all your assets. Up front.
My philosophy on assets is this: You can certainly have too few, but you can never have too many. Your contractor can always set something aside if it doesn’t seem relevant. But if she never receives the information in the first place, she can’t use it to inform your projects.
The more information your contractor has at the beginning of the project, the more she is set up to succeed. It’s always going to cost more—in terms of both money and time—to inject assets into your content processes rather than starting with the information in mind.
To be more specific, here are a few things your contractor would benefit from seeing:
- Your content strategy, including key messaging guidelines
- Your marketing and/or social media strategies
- Client creative briefs and/or interview footage
- The project’s information architecture or (if you started with design) the design
- Any old brochures, websites, newsletters, or other marketing collateral (make sure to tell your contractor what you do and don’t like about the old stuff)
- Any internal brand standards, training materials, etc.
- New research or reports that relate to the content being created
- Websites, brochures, blogs, etc. that you love and want to emulate
- Websites, brochures, blogs, etc. that you hate and never want to emulate
Good content creators and strategists are excellent at sifting and synthesizing information. And they’re great at asking questions. So even if you provide things that are not relevant or helpful, they’ll quickly be able to sort through them. So don’t fret about overwhelming them. Pile on the assets. In the case of the contractor, more is better.
2. Ask the right questions.
Before any project, make sure you have a clear game plan and that you’re on the same page by asking practical, administrative questions, such as:
- Is this an hourly estimate that may change, or a set price for a set deliverable?
- What can I expect in return for the price I’m paying?
- How many rounds of revisions did you include in your estimate?
- How long will each phase of the project take you? If I give you feedback on a Monday, will I have revisions by Wednesday, by Friday, by the end of the month?
Put these terms in writing, and be sure both you and your contractor are clear on everything before you start the project.
And as the project rolls on, keep asking questions. I find that contractors respond well when asked about something before they’re given feedback. For example, asking, “Why were you thinking we’d leave off the sidebar content on this page?” instead of saying, “Add sidebar back onto the page” may generate more interesting insight or new ideas rather than just an end result.
3. Give specific feedback.
When you get the first draft of an article, website copy, or a blog entry, be clear about what changes you need. Specific feedback means a more efficient process, not to mention a more correct end product.
For example, a comment like “revise tone/style” leaves lots of room for interpretation, even if your contractor has a document that talks about tone and style. Instead, use specifics, like, “We want to be more casual here. Use simple language. Say ‘that’s’ instead of ‘that is,’ and ‘Say Hi’ instead of ‘Contact Us.’”
Your feedback document should be simple and clear, and if you need to pick up the phone and have a live conversation, do it.
Also, always avoid putting notes to self in your feedback document. Use a separate doc for things you need to research or confirm.
By adhering to the rules above, you should start to see more efficient and better results for your content marketing projects. What other practices do you consider essential to the success of your projects? Let us know in the comments section.