Should your content be created in-house, or should you hire a freelancer or agency? Columnist Rachel Lindteigen takes a look at the options to help you determine what will work best for your organization.
Something I see clients struggle with regularly is the question, “Who should I trust to create our content?” I get it. It’s hard to know who should speak for your brand. Do you want it to be the marketing team, your agency, a freelancer, a dedicated writer or another option altogether?
There are many options, and often, different departments have varying goals and agendas. Sometimes brand teams speak about their brand completely differently from the way the e-com team speaks about it.
Let’s look at the options:
The marketing team is likely a great resource for content development. You may even have trained writers and creative resources on the team. They’re responsible for the company’s identity, and often, branding.
The marketing team may work online, offline or both, and they likely have researched your customers and know who they’re trying to reach, what type of messaging works and where to reach out to them.
The potential issue here is bandwidth. How many people are on your marketing team, and can they add content development to their current workload successfully?
This is one area I see clients struggle with regularly. They want to keep content development work in-house, but ultimately, they don’t have enough resources to do so.
Often, the issue here is that when multiple people are assigned something, no one takes ownership of the project, so nothing happens. Conversely, one person ends up trying to do it all and either is stressed out or misses other deadlines due to the increased workload.
It’s true that in most cases, your agency doesn’t know your brand as well as you do. However, they can be your best asset in a content marketing program.
An agency can scale your production and has multiple dedicated resources working on your account. As they say, “Two heads are better than one.” Well, imagine what you get when you’re working with five, six, 10 or more people all focused on telling a client’s story.
Agencies look for the best and brightest. They want to have a good mix of skill sets, and sometimes they’ll partner with freelancers when their in-house team doesn’t have the right background in a specific vertical.
On my team today, I have multiple staff members with degrees in English, journalism and public relations. We have several team members with graduate degrees as well. It’s this combination of the number of team members and the educational/background mix that can make your agency a great asset for content development — if you’re willing to be a good partner, too.
The agency model doesn’t work when clients don’t communicate enough. If you’re not sure about your goals or brand guidelines, be honest: Let the agency know you need help.
If they deliver ideas that feel a little “off” to you, discuss it, provide feedback and let them try to adjust. If they can’t deliver what you want, they might not be the right partner. But you have to talk to them. Feedback is important to success.
Working with a freelance writer can be a great way to have content development work done without worrying about taxing your internal team. Freelancers are often trained writers, editors or journalists and have specialty areas they focus on.
It can take a while to find the right freelancer for your brand, but once you’ve found a partner, the relationship can be great for both of you.
As with an agency, communication is the key to success in this type of setup. You have to train the freelancer on your brand guidelines, tone of voice and so on. With some guidance, they should be able to provide you with high-quality content.
Potential issues here are bandwidth and scalability. You will likely need to partner with several freelance writers to create enough content for your brand. Relying on just one can put you in a vulnerable position if he or she should take on a new client, take vacation, get sick or otherwise be unavailable. If you only have one trained writer working on your content development, you’re too dependent upon that person.
As with any option, there are good and bad things about having your content development work done in-house.
Your staff should know your brand better than a third-party resource would. What you really want to think about here is the investment level. To have a great content marketing program, you will need multiple content creators on staff.
I’ve seen clients suffer when an employee leaves and they don’t have someone else who can immediately take over the content development work. Having just one person can also lead to bottlenecks and issues if they can’t keep up with the volume that’s needed.
Finally, sometimes it’s helpful to have someone else to brainstorm with. It’s tough to be creative day in and day out on your own.
The clients I see who are having the most success with their content marketing programs are most often those who do a mix of the options. We have several clients that have started building out in-house content marketing teams or content groups. They leverage the agency for strategic direction and guidance and create a lot of the content in-house. This multi-faceted approach seems to work well for them.
Most struggles I see are with brands that have too few resources for content development. I’ve had clients call when someone turns in their notice, and they’re not sure how to keep the blog going without that staff member in place anymore.
We’ve probably all seen a corporate blog or two that was well-maintained for a while, and then nothing happened for months or years. Often the case is that they didn’t have enough staff in place, so when someone left, no one was able to pick it up, and the blog was forgotten. You want to avoid that if at all possible.
Content development can work well whether it’s in-house, freelance or provided by an agency. To be successful, make sure you have enough people working on it, with a good background and understanding of your brand. If you don’t have a clear brand tone, voice and editorial guide, that’s probably where to look next.
Determine your brand guidelines, and then train your staff, freelancers or agency. And remember, it’s a partnership — the more feedback you provide, the better product you should receive back.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.