How to Manage a Team of Writers to Build An Awesome Company Blog
Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was the blog you most admire.
Building a company blog is a lot like building a town square. Only there are no products or services being sold in your town's buildings. Instead, value is being provided in the form of information, education, and/or entertainment.
When a prospect lands on a page, they are essentially walking through the door asking, "Hey, I'm looking for something. Can you help me?" Your job is to answer those questions and to build a virtual space where prospects want to "hang out."
So, how do you do that?
By releasing relevant, consistent, and original content—which is easier said than done.
If you've ever sat down to write a blog article, you know it's not as easy as it looks. Knowing your audience, generating fresh ideas, and linking them to keywords all come into play. And then, there's the actual writing part...
Which is why nearly every successful company blog has a well-organized team of writers behind it. Notice we said writers (plural). Asking one person to write the entirety of your editorial calendar is rarely a good idea. This can lead to stale perspectives, feelings of monotony, and missed deadlines.
Not sure how to assemble your team of writers? Check out this article here.
Ready to generate better results with your current team? Let's get started!
1. Take Organization to Another Level
If you're currently keeping track of assignments in an Excel spreadsheet, it's time to reevaluate. Not only are traditional spreadsheets cumbersome, they're also inherently non-collaborative. Sure, you can share a Google Doc with team members, but will they be able to easily see down the pipeline at a glance? Probably not.
Instead, share your editorial calendar with collaborative software like Trello, Basecamp, or GatherContent. While each option works a little differently, all are inherently visual. Meaning, team members can easily see what they're assigned to, when its due, and any internal notes for the piece at hand. Collaborative software also incorporates direct messaging features that allow any questions to be answered quickly.
At LeanLabs, we're a huge fan of GatherContent. It allows us to organize a variety of topics before having writers "claim them." It allows you to make your own color-coded, categorical system (i.e. In Editing, Needs Revision, Ready for Publishing) for labeling articles.
2. Set Clear Expectations
There's a high probability your team of writers is geographically diverse. According to The Plato Group, an outsourced sales and marketing firm, roughly one-third of Americans are now self-described freelancers. Experts forecast freelancers will make up 50 percent of the workforce in 2020.
While you might not be able to control where, when, and how they work (and would you really want to?), setting clear expectations is vital. You want to make writing for your company blog a predictable routine for your team. That means you should:
Distribute Editorial Guidelines. What is your business' tone of voice? Are articles written in AP Style, Chicago Manual of Style, or something else? What's your policy on linking to other websites? Provide a detailed PDF with examples of "good" and "bad" writing, preferred styles, and anything else that will help generate the consistent quality you desire.
Create Production Protocol. As previously mentioned, there are many steps to creating content. How do you want to streamline this process for your team? What is the first step? Should writers begin by submitting outlines for approval? How should they submit their completed work? Develop a system that works for your team and stick with it.
Set Routine Deadlines. Are articles due as "a batch" once a month? Or should they be delivered every Thursday? Not only will setting agreed-upon deadlines help your writers better manage their schedules, they'll also give you a birds-eye view.
3. Create a 'Content-Centric' Community
Writers often feel frustrated when they're the only ones generating topic ideas. The pressure to be unique can be huge. You can relieve this burden and enhance the uniqueness of your blog by including all stakeholders in the ideation process.
The reality is, every individual within every department has a unique perspective worth hearing—from Customer Service to Executive Management to Sales & Marketing. You just need to make sharing those perspectives an easy and worthwhile process.
Consider sending out a monthly company email asking for interesting customer interaction stories, problems solved, and free-range content ideas. Decide which topics are worthy of publishing before turning them over to individual writers as assignments. Not a lot of companies do this because they assume workers are too busy to be concerned with content, but the ones who do stand out head and shoulders above the rest. The key is getting everyone within the organization to "buy in."
4. Think Like a Newspaper Editor
Even if your company blog is about a fairly narrow subject matter (i.e. water conservation in apartment buildings), you can still provide writers with the freedom to craft content "outside of the box." Maybe Jenny loves writing "how to" articles, while Victor thrives on human interest pieces.
There is no rule you have to format your blog the way everyone else does. In fact, don't—it's boring. While playing with new formats may involve some experimentation, the results can be worth it. Ask writers what types of content they would most enjoy producing. Q&As, podcasts, investigative long-form pieces, how-to articles, and slide-shares are ALL within the realm of possibility.
Don't be so quick to veto an idea just because it sounds complicated or more time-consuming than standard articles. Work with your writer to come up with a fair compensation arrangement and a plan for experimenting. Bonus: Writers who enjoy what they're doing, produce better work!
Create An Awesome Company Blog
As you can see, creating a noteworthy company blog is a team effort. And it doesn't just happen overnight. By thinking about your blog like a small town and creating a communicative writing environment, you can create something truly unique.
And what writer wouldn't want to be a part of that?