How to (successfully) outsource content creation

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Whether you’re writing for your own blog, managing one for your organization, or are responsible for other multi-media channels of content, you don’t have to be in this alone. There are countless external resources that can contribute content for you, many at no cost. Here are six best practices that the most successful publishers and aggregators use to fill their channels with quality, traffic-generating and converting content.

Start with a plan
Know explicitly what kind of content you need to successfully “feed” your target market with rest, value-added content. Base these content needs on your customer personas (you have these, right??) which enumerate the needs, problems and pain your customers currently face. Even if you have volunteer content contributors, don’t be afraid to ask them for specific content angles. They may appreciate the direction, and produce content for you faster than if they had to guess at something on their own.

Build an editorial calendar & start using a system
Just like you would for a qualified sales opportunity, agree on a “close date” with the external contributor. Make sure it’s a date that’s reasonable for the contributor and follow up a few days in advance. There are several content management systems available on the market today to help you keep track of external content requests and commitments, but a solid spreadsheet can do the trick here as well.

Find more content creators (inside & outside the org)
Expand how you think about who can contribute content for your program. Others in marketing may be your go-to, but what about those in product management, customer service or sales – who may have a unique and compelling perspective on the customer? What about partners, other industry bloggers, analysts or customers themselves? All of these groups could have a vested interest in investing time to create and share their content via your channels.

Expect slippage
Know up front that external contributors might not adhere to your deadlines. Have enough of a “pipeline” of these contributors so that you’re expecting more content than you need, but getting enough to fill your calendar. Play the yield management game like an airline.

Invest time to edit & provide feedback
Your contributors will want feedback on what you need from them next time, how to make it better, and how to get more of their contributions accepted and published. Ensure their content works well, but avoid over-editing in a way that might discourage contributors from participating again in the future.

Review, measure, adjust
Over time, you’ll get a sense for which contributors are producing the best content, which draw the most attention, and what tends to drive not only the highest quality consumers of content but also the best conversions.

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