3 strategies for nurturing a content writer into an industry expert

Here’s a scenario: Jane, a senior writer for a small social enterprise, recently hired a talented junior writer, Chris. Jane was really impressed by Chris’ skills and background, and she came out of the recruitment process with great expectations for what Chris could do for her organization. A few months later however, Jane finds that the strength of Chris’ writing as it relates to the organization’s industry is significantly wanting. What should she do?

Writing for the Content Marketing Institute blog, Joe Griffin offers three strategies that managers can use to help their writers become industry experts quickly and effectively:

1. Help them know what they don’t know

“Before writers can effectively craft that first sentence, they need to know their boundaries. They need to know their audience. And most importantly, they need to know what big conversations are happening in the particular field,” says Griffin.

Ensure that new writers develop a good understanding of your industry and relevant themes and topics they will be writing about, before their writing assignments begin. Griffin suggests that someone on the team prepares a primer of industry information or a list of answers to key industry questions for the writer at the onset of a project.

Other good ideas, particularly for nonprofits, could include getting your writer to participate in industry workshops, events or field missions, where they can engage more closely with specialists, project managers and communities. These activities have certainly helped me rapidly improve my understanding of the themes and approaches that I have written about during my nonprofit career.

2. Supply a list of competitors to watch and study

“Quite a few content writers make the mistake of trying to establish themselves as thought leaders before taking a page out of the real thought leaders’ playbooks,” says Griffin.

Invest more time in researching who the top thought leaders are in your industry. This can include getting someone in your team to make a list of the top 10 most-viewed writers in your field on Medium or LinkedIn, or a spreadsheet of the most prominent voices on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other digital platforms. You could also utilize keyword research to find the most dominant bloggers or organizations in your industry, and have content writers listen to the top industry-relevant podcasts on iTunes.

Griffin adds: “At the end of the day, being a content marketer is a game of attention and value. For content writers to help a brand stand out among the competition, they have to deliver more value than anyone else in that space. The only way they will be able to deliver more is when they know who is currently setting the bar and how.”

3. Teach them to measure and adjust based on performance

“Every content writer should, on some level, be an analyst,” says Griffin.

Writers need to measure their performance and success over the long term, in order to improve, adapt and ensure that their work is providing value.

In addition to nurturing the art of writing, managers must also promote the value of setting targets and monitoring and evaluating performance through data gathering and analytics.

Griffin adds: “Data can tell a writer if people are reading or not, if people are engaging or not. Data can help writers know whether their work resonates with the target audience.”

Reflecting on the strategies

Griffin emphasizes that in utilizing these three strategies, managers and mentors should focus less on teaching and more on guiding their writers’ learning process so that they continue to educate themselves. “A great content writer is not so much taught but empowered,” he adds.

Griffin also points out that these strategies are not just for nurturing junior content writers. Smart and successful content writers that consider themselves industry experts “continue to cycle through these steps, always looking for what they don’t know, always keeping an eye on the competition, and always measuring their performance over the long term.”

Featured image: home thods, Flickr Creative Commons

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