So, you think you want to outsource your content marketing? It’s not a bad idea. In fact, it delivers two key advantages: You place this key initiative in the hands of experts. And you take the thing that quite possibly falls to the bottom of your “to do” list off of that list completely.
But before you leap at the first willing writer with a keyboard and capacity, you might want to consider exactly what kind of content provider you’re hiring. You have various options, and each comes with its own advantages.
For my money, I have three prerequisites.
1. Find someone with a journalism background. Now maybe it’s because my degree is in journalism (although I never became a reporter), but I think trained journalists just take a different approach to generating content. They place a premium on objectivity, an important trait when consumers demand transparency and authenticity.
They understand how to write for their audience – in terms of reading level, depth of understanding, even the difference between when an industry term adds credibility or confusion. And they know how to customize by channel and media outlet.
Journalists are also masters of the inverted pyramid – the ability to encapsulate the key points of the article upfront, with detail and color underneath. During an age when reading’s been replaced with scanning and the human attention span has dropped below that of a goldfish, this is an important skill. Journalists understood the power of 140 characters before anyone else.
2. Make sure they know how to tell a story. One could argue this goes hand in hand with being a good reporter. Some writers know how to write, but not necessarily how to engage. There is a difference. And it’s important. Your content can be factually correct, it can be comprehensive, it can even reflect your brand, but if it’s not engaging you’ll be the only one consuming it.
Stories are compelling. They suck the reader or viewer in and don’t release him until the end. Skilled content providers can find the story, the drama, the angle, the irresistible in what you have to offer. They know how to craft an opening frame or an opening line. They will make your content stand out.
And if you don’t think you need a story for your brand’s content, think again. Science has shown that the human brain engages with stories differently than simple facts or bullet points. When a person reads or hears a story, multiple parts of their brain “light up” or become activated. For example, if the story involves motion, the motor cortex engages. The brain acts as if its owner is actually experiencing what she’s reading or hearing about. And this creates more of an emotional connection, embedding the information deeper. By contrast, reading facts involves only the part of the brain needed to process information.
3. Assign bonus points if the content provider knows their way around behavioral science. So much research has been done into how people make decisions. Decisions about what to watch or read. Who to trust. How to act. And social scientists and behavioral economists have found that people rely on shortcuts when making decisions – certain automatic, reflexive behaviors that kick in with little to no thought. Don’t you want the person who understands how this works to be on your content marketing team?
They’ll know how to wield the power of Loss Aversion (science shows people are twice as motivated to avoid loss than to achieve gain), the Scarcity Principle (people place more value on things that are limited), and the Authority Principle (from a young age people are taught to recognize and respect authority – so as adults they often accept without question what perceived experts say). They’ll also appreciate the power of a proper visual.
These are the people that can give your content that extra advantage.
So, if you think you might want to outsource your content development, go for it. Just keep these three things in mind to make sure you get what you’re after.