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How to Help Your Clients Overcome Internal Obstacles

By Stacey Closser May 15th, 2018

Freelancers are the wingmen of marketing teams. When we do our jobs well, clients bask in the spotlight. Our creative contributions guide our clients to success within their organizations.

There are times, though, when clients need more than just stories. When business leaders stop responding to requests for interviews or the review process begins to drag, marketers often tap experienced freelancers for advice. This consulting is an extra lift, essentially helping marketers make the case for content marketing inside their own organizations. But in the long run, we can benefit from more assignments, increased trust, and a more efficient workflow.

Here are a few ways to help your client.

Make internal teams care about content

Marketers need to play nicely with a host of tertiary teams like sales, customer success, and product. These colleagues are phenomenal resources for subject matter expertise, but they’re not always excited to be interviewed. They may, however, respond to one magic term: thought leadership.

Encourage your contact on the marketing team to offer internal subject matter experts (SMEs) a little quid pro quo—in exchange for their interviews and insights, they get bylines or quotes that show off their intelligence. If you need a few more terms to get them over the hump, consider: “authority,” “influencer,” “clout,” and, for those certain few, “Jedi Master.” (Just kidding on the last one—never use that term in the business world.)

Pro tip: Let your contact introduce you to their SMEs the first time. After that, take the burden of scheduling off their shoulders and work directly with the expert or your editor to coordinate interviews.

Define key terms

Your marketing contact may host meetings with stakeholders to discuss business needs, upcoming campaigns, and resource allocation. One obstacle she could run into is a lack of knowledge about content formats, prices, and reasonable deadlines.

An internal stakeholder once asked my marketing client for two white papers with a one-week turnaround. After I asked a few follow-up questions and coached the marketing team on content types, we determined that two 1000-word articles would not only be more appropriate for the story they wanted to tell, but also a better fit for the budget and timeline.

It’s the marketer’s job to re-orient internal teams to understand different types of content and why they’re useful. You can help by providing a standard industry glossary.

Blog posts:

  • 300-500 words
  • Targeted pieces of content meant to inform, engage, and build trust while revealing nuggets of information about your organization or industry. Tend to be more conversational and provide a quick overview of the topic.
  • Production timeline: One week
  • Best for driving website traffic, building relationships, and establishing thought leadership.

Articles:

  • 700-1000 words
  • Offers the next level of length, detail, and sourcing. Examples include industry or company news, trend analysis, research, interviews, and feature stories.
  • Production timeline: One to two weeks
  • Best for linking from social media, email campaigns, website content, and thought leadership.

White papers:

  • 3,000+ words
  • Comprehensive and well-sourced reports that cover the finer details of a given subject. The reader should come away not only informed but also valuing the writer/publisher as an authority. Examples include case studies, trend analysis, and original research.
  • Production timeline: Four to six weeks
  • Best for driving subscriptions, educating potential buyers, and establishing thought leadership.

Reset expectations

Effective content marketing starts with great ideas, and internal experts can bring fresh perspectives to the table, validate ideas, and verify facts. But timing is everything when people from other teams get involved.

Encourage marketers to prevent SMEs from requesting extensive edits, changing the tone or style, or inserting unnecessary business jargon. By setting expectations, your contact can avoid gridlock and ensure that the actual content creation is left to the professionals (aka, you).

However, you will want them to participate in a few key areas.

Brainstorming: Experts can add context to story descriptions, proposed research, interview sections, buzzwords, and what to stay away from.

Contributing: Experts should provide relevant data and be available for interviews—they will have a chance to review what they say before anything gets published.

Reviewing: When drafts are done, experts should check the accuracy of relevant claims.

Perhaps the most valuable thing freelancers can offer to their marketing clients is encouragement. They are not the first, and will not be the last, communications team to hit roadblocks inside their organizations. With a little creativity and patience, even the most reticent internal teams can master content marketing.

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