How writers can defuse your marketing emergency

I attended a mixed-martial arts fight with my accountant recently. In between fights, to distract all of us from the omnipresent thonged “fight girls” dancing about 14 inches from our noses, I mentioned that ghostwriting blog posts and web content is one of my top-growing sources of revenue.

After all, there’s a marketing emergency afoot: companies are under the gun to produce content. Unfortunately, what most of them produce stinks. Enter professional writers like me, who will blog, write freelance articles and create marketing copy on your behalf.

He laughed. “Really?” he asked me quizzically. “And how do you know what to write about?”

Since I spend all day working with people who are used to hiring writers, this caught me off-guard for a second. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” he said, “suppose I hired you to write a blog post every month. I would give you a topic, right? How about the alternative minimum tax? I mean, how would you ever know what to write about that?” He leaned back with a dazzling grin; I couldn’t tell if he was declaring checkmate, or if he’d finally noticed the aforementioned dancing women gyrating near my left shoulder.

Writers Can’t Understand Me, I’m Just That Complicated

Kidding aside, there are a lot of people who still can’t fathom what the hell it is us writers do for a living, other than eat Cheetos and read obscure online literary magazines. (Or maybe that’s just me.) There are two main components to the argument:

  1. Content itself doesn’t matter, but if forced to provide it, we (i.e. the Company) should be solely responsible for producing it. We’re totally the experts, you know.
  2. Businesses should only pay for stuff that leads directly to profits, and the path from content to profit is bafflingly obscure to us.

Woof. I have about 70 bones to pick. Here are at least 8 reasons to hire a writer, and also my (rather melodious) audio rebuttal to the first argument. And not to state the obvious, but do journalists really need to be politicians to cover a campaign beat? Of course not. They need to be good journalists!

More to the point, the main reason you hire a writer is to convey complex ideas in a way your clients grasp (with the exception, of course, of materials that require technical writing or subject matter expertise because they’re destined for use in certain highly codified environments). And one can safely assume your clients are not experts, or they wouldn’t hire you in the first place.

That’s not to say you can’t do it yourself; just that most business owners seem to have difficulty doing it well. As William Zinsser himself notes, “Writing, demystified, is just another way for scientists [and others in specialized fields] to transmit what they know.”

Why Content Marketing is Your Friend

You’re often too close to your business to write well about it. You talk to suppliers more than you do to your lowly clients, so you don’t know how to spot the pain points. ET CETERA. But the very best reason of all is very obvious: the businesses that succeed in creating valuable content (even if it’s largely in video, audio or photo-form) are going to do better than the businesses that don’t, today, tomorrow and long into the predictable future.

So if you can’t write, don’t have time to write, or aren’t getting traction with the content you DO write, it might be time to hire a writer. And a marketing or “content” writer’s job is to make YOUR subject, YOUR business and YOUR ideas accessible and valuable.

Plus, content marketing (the fancy nomenclature for writing value-added content on purpose, to cultivate leads, influence, reputation and improved SEO) is enormously advantageous, even to the profit-mongers. This should sum up why:

  • Not only can it make money, it saves money by diverting resources from expensive “traditional” advertising.
  • Instead of interrupting customers, you help them. Turns out customers like that a lot and pay you back in, you know, dollars.
  • Taking the steps to figure out your content strategy benefits the whole business: it forces you to clarify who your audience is, what you do, and why you do it, all things we should know about our businesses (but often don’t).

For more info, please read the best damn beginner’s guide to content marketing I’ve ever come across. Why is it the best? Because it’s written really well — it makes a complex, confusing and worrying topic easy to understand, share and embrace. 

11 Comments

  • Though I love writing, I am not such a fan of blogging – there, I said it. If I can post content from my novel, fine, but…hey, maybe I should hire you!

  • Blogging is not for everyone, but there are many ways to use content to grow a business or reputation. A great way for an author to do it is write about your characters, or insights into how you write (especially tips) — etc. etc. You’ve heard all that before, and you’ve done both successfully. I think you are much better at it than you think!

  • Thank you but it is not something I like to do, unless I feel “compelled” to post.

    • That illustrates a good point actually: people like me, who write for a living, don’t wait for inspiration. We dig our heels in. It’s a job like any other, albeit one that has some creativity (and the opportunity to learn new and different things all the time), and I think a lot of the doubt coming from business owners I work with or meet with stems from a misunderstanding of what the job really is. Blogging for business is about adding value, delivering something — a skill, a lesson, an answer to a question — that the clients on the other end need or want.

    • Yes.. it sure.. until now many people still cannot understand how hard it is for a writer to write. They thought that it is.

  • Great points, Lindsey! So true about helping customers rather than interrupting them.

    • Thanks Sarah. The strong points of content marketing cannot be overstated, that’s for sure — especially in a world so saturated with marketing. Anyone who helps is going to naturally rise to the top.

  • So true! I’ve spent the last few weeks researching and writing content marketing materials for a mining startup, and soon I might be doing a similar project for an engineering consultancy. In unsexy, technical industries like these, well-written articles that are not academic papers or spammy 90s-style ad-laden sites are really hard to come by! It will be interesting to see how these communities of prospects react to what we’re writing.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Amen Leslie! (Also, mining startup — wow!)

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