Compelling, accurate, and well-written copy is not always easy to achieve, even when working with expert writers. That’s because managing copywriters is a bit different than managing photographers, videographers, and social media creators.
If you’re a content marketing manager (or aspire to be), here are some tips and tricks to achieving best results from your copywriting team.
What is the job of a content marketing managers?
A content marketing manager (or a director of content) oversees all content produced for marketing purposes within an organization.
These managers receive content requests from the marketing, sales, and customer service teams. They also anticipate the company’s content marketing needs, create a long-term strategy, and align all content to the company’s mission and vision.
Content marketing managers understand on a basic level what it takes to create written, audio, video, and visual content. They also know how to distribute and promote content effectively to create demand, nurture audiences, drive conversions, and improve customer retention.
Needless to say, being a great content marketing manager is more than writing a few SEO-friendly blogs and posting on LinkedIn or Instagram every day. To be successful, these managers must have a strategic mind that knows how to project manage teams of writers, designers, multi-media specialists, and more.
What is the role of copywriters in a brand’s content marketing strategy?
Even though visual content assets – images, videos, etc. – get a lot of attention in marketing, written content is a critical piece of any successful marketing strategy. Managers understand this and dedicate many hours to finding the right copywriters, establishing the brand’s voice/tone, editing, and then formatting content to fit various content environments.
Individual copywriters are not always privy to the manager’s wider vision, and it’s imperative that content marketing managers communicate clearly and consistently with their copywriters. When content directors and their copywriters are in sync, the company’s content results rise dramatically.
Managers lean on copywriters for all the following written content needs:
- Email nurture streams
- Ad copy
- Social posts
- Landing page copy
- Product description pages (PDPs)
- Transcriptions (webinars/podcasts/interviews/etc.)
- Infographic copy
- Technical guidebooks
- Press releases
- Proofreading messages from leadership (announcements, employee newsletters, etc.)
- And more
While many writers are versatile enough to create copy for all needs listed above, most managers work with a handful of contracted or in-house writers. Having writers with specific strengths tackling specific types of content is usually the most efficient approach.
10 Things that Every Content Marketing Manager Should Know When Managing Copywriters
1. Words matter to writers, so choose yours carefully when communicating assignments, guidelines, and edits.
If you’re the kind of manager that likes to “think out loud,” be careful what you say to your copywriters. Many of them take everything you say very seriously, and they might become overwhelmed or think that you don’t know what you want.
Consider building a content brief or template for each type of written content, and add in the most critical pieces of information. Ask your writer(s) to confirm that they’ve read and understand the assignment. As long as you are accessible for further questions, this is enough to set your writers up for success.
2. Make the actual deliverable (blog, email, ad copy, etc.) clear.
Many managers dish out assignments but fail to explain what the deliverable is supposed to be. For example, if you’ve assigned your writer a presentation project, do you expect them to submit a Google Doc, Google Slideshow, or Powerpoint?
Do you have an example of a final draft that they can use to give you what you want the first time? Having one or two prime examples is often the best way to demonstrate what you’re looking for.
Once again, creating a content brief template for each type of written project will help you be clear, concise, and consistent. Make your asks as specific as possible, and avoid ambiguous language that leaves instructions open to interpretation.
3. When appropriate, tell your copywriter what you want the content to accomplish.
Each piece of content you create should help you achieve certain goals. It’s not a bad idea to explain to your writer what you want that blog or whitepaper to do.
For example, if you want to create a blog that motivates the reader to book a demo, letting the writer know helps them understand who their readers are and how to direct the conversation within the blog. Similarly, explaining to your copywriter that you intend to use your blog, resource page, or email newsletter to establish yourself as an industry authority will help them focus on informing readers rather than pitching them.
4. When proofreading, learn the difference between “changing” and “editing.”
If you find yourself rewriting the content, chances are that a) you’re not working with the right writer, or b) you’re proofreading for yourself rather than for your readers.
As a director of content, you don’t have time to write the copy. Once you’ve established clear guidelines, trust your writers to do their research and do what they do best. At the end of the day, your edits should only exist to fix minor style issues, bad grammar, or incorrect information.
One great hack that more and more content managers use is Grammarly. Because Grammarly lets you set style and grammar rules for your writers, it will automatically check for glaring issues and offer suggestions. You can require your writers to run their work through Grammarly before submitting a draft.
If you find that you spend too much time fixing copy (or feel ill-equipped to do so), consider onboarding an editor. This will save you time and improve the quality of your written content.
5. Distinguish between writing assignments that do or do not require SEO skills.
Any copy for your website needs SEO-friendly content. For these assignments, use copywriters that are well-versed in SEO writing, such as keyword integration, healthy backlinking, and strategic use of H2/H3 headers. Blogs are a prime example where you will always need SEO writers for best results.
By contrast, email writers don’t necessarily need to know much about SEO. For ebooks, eguides, and whitepapers, it’s not necessary to have writers use SEO best practices, so long as the content is accurate and accessible to the right audience.
When assigning projects to your writers, it’s always a good idea to indicate whether or not SEO writing is required and what keywords you hope to rank for. Unless you tell them, your writers may not know whether you want a particular page to rank on search engines.
6. Style guides are great if you make them brief and easy to reference.
I can’t tell you how many style guides I’ve seen that are 10-20 pages. That’s far too long, and your copywriters are likely to skim it quickly and never refer to it again.
There’s no need to spell out every grammar nuance in your guide. Identify what grammar and spelling rules to follow and then provide a link that writers can use to reference those official rules. For example, if your blog follows the AP approach, state it clearly at the beginning of your style guide and provide a link to the official AP website.
Make sure that you specify the tone of voice you’re looking for, along with a few good and bad examples of that voice.
For some audiences and publications, it’s not necessary to follow every strict grammar rule. If this is the case for your brand, add a section that explains what those exceptions are and why.
Another great idea is to include a glossary of key industry terms and definitions that will help writers stay on brand.
If you keep your style guide simple in this way, you will end up with a resource that is effective and easy for writers to use.
7. Build strong outlines for long-form content.
The flow of thought in any long-form piece such as a blog or eguide is critical for growing your readership. As such, you will always drastically improve your content quality if you spend a little extra time building outlines for your writers.
Your outline can be simple, such as providing main headings and a few notes. Or, you can develop more in-depth outlines that include headings, subheadings, statistics to cite, quotes to use, etc.
If you have any writers that have been working for you for several months, consider tasking them with building outlines based on specific topics. Make sure to approve an outline before allowing them to build out the piece.
8. Involve your writers when repurposing written content.
Repurposing content is one of the most efficient ways to extract as much value as possible from every written asset.
One of my favorite things to do is create a blog series and combine them into an ebook (and vice versa). You may also want to pull quotes from a blog to use on social media.
If you have a strategy for repurposing content, don’t be afraid to get your writers involved. Not only can they make necessary adjustments quickly (since they created the original pieces), but they will also be able to recommend repurposing ideas you may have never thought of.
9. Onboard your favorite writer(s) as full-time employees.
Like a lot of content managers, you are likely outsourcing copy to contractors. This approach is ideal if your budget is tight or you just haven’t found the perfect writer. But as soon as you do find a writer or two that you love, do what you can to onboard them full-time.
Great writers that understand your brand and industry are difficult to find. These writers will do even better work when they can focus on your brand. Additionally, they can be amazing editors and future content marketers themselves. Snag them up before another company does.
10. Writers do better work when you give them access to industry research.
One thing I’ve found to be true of myself and other writers is that the more relevant knowledge we have on a topic, the better our writing becomes.
By contrast, it is terribly difficult to write well when the subject matter feels unclear or foreign. And sometimes the very information you need is not available through a simple Google search.
For complex industries like SaaS and cybersecurity, one of the best ways to equip your writers is to show them where to find information. You can accomplish this by getting subscriptions to major publications like the Harvard Business Review or to research databases like Statista or eMarketer’s Insider Intelligence. If you have any data from your own company that is key to a topic, you can share that as well.
You shouldn’t have to “spoon-feed” your writers every source, but going the extra mile to unlock research/statistics/information that is not free to the public will do wonders for your writers.
Writers do difficult work, particularly if they are writing thousands of words on difficult subjects in short turnarounds. The work you put into being clear in your objectives, deliverables, and guidelines will nearly always produce better quality drafts and fewer edits. More importantly, copywriters put more energy into writing for managers that they trust and respect. Using the list above will help you earn that trust quickly and build a powerful writing team.