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Understanding Content Marketing: Six Questions for Getting Started (Part 1) -

When it comes to content marketing, a question I’ve been getting a lot of recently is how to expedite the writing process. Thanks in no small part to changes in Google’s algorithm, in which new content plays an even greater role in determining page rankings, those tasked with generating content are under increasing pressure to produce new material on tighter and tighter deadlines.

So how do you keep up the pace without sacrificing quality?

Don’t jump right in.

It may sound counter intuitive, but the most useful time-saving tip I’ve found is to make sure the project is clearly defined before the writing begins.

Content marketing is an intimate endeavor. When hiring a partner to write on your behalf you’re not just asking someone to tell a company’s story – you’re asking that person to tell it in a way that sounds like, well, your company (or someone who has a good feel for your company).

To help with the assignment process, here are six questions that have helped us both as content commissioners and creators:

1. Who is your target audience?

The needs of your audience will help determine the shape, style and scope your content will take. The better you know your reader, the more effective your message will be.

Action: Describe your ideal reader in as much detail as possible.  Don’t just say “PR people” if what you mean is “PR Directors at small-cap tech companies.” Are they current clients – ones that perhaps you hope to upsell – or are they prospects? Do they understand your industry jargon?

Quick tip: If you are bringing in an outside partner, pick one that has experience in your field, particularly if you’re in a regulated industry.

2. What are your sales and marketing objectives for this initiative?

What should this piece of content achieve? Your objectives may not be explicitly stated in your content, but good writers will fit them in between the lines.

Action: To help define your project goals, ask yourself:

  • Do I want to showcase my company’s industry knowledge or a particular product?
  • How does this topic relate to my brand?
  • What are the key takeaways?

Quick tip: Get input from other departments before you start writing.  If you’re in marketing, for example, ask your sales team if – and how – they’ll be using this content. Get their ideas upfront so your writer can incorporate them from the get-go. This will speed up the revision process – saving you time and money.

3. Which products/services relate to your chosen subject matter (and how)?

This will help to ensure alignment between your brand and the topic you’ve chosen, and will be especially useful when it comes to helping outside partners get a better feel for your business.

Action: Create one list of all services/products that are directly related to the topic and another list of those indirectly related. If you are working with an outside partner, make sure the writer understands how everything relates.

Quick tip: Don’t assume the writer can figure it all out from your website.

4. Do you want to use outside sources, and if so, to what extent?

Third-party sources, whether in the form of academic studies, case studies, or interviews, can boost your content’s credibility.  That said it’s imperative to balance editorial needs with company sensitivities (for more on that, see A Journalist Rethinks the Editorial-Advertising Divide).

Action: Create one list of companies or individuals who can be mentioned and a second list of those who cannot. Make sure the second list includes competitors.

Quick tip: Clients and partners can make great sources, so this can be an opportunity to generate additional good will.

5. What should the tone be?

Tone will depend in part on your audience and objectives. If you are writing for a financial services firm, for example, you probably want to adopt a more formal tone.

Don’t forget to consider format – more formal writing is typically more text heavy.

Quick tip: The more formal you want this to sound, the more stats and other third-party evidence you will need to back up your claims. The more research, the longer the writing process.


6. What are your stylistic preferences?

Particularly important when you work with outside partners.

Action: Make sure your content writer is aware of the following before writing begins:

  • Does your company have an in-house style guide?
  • Does your company have any editorial quirks? (EG: One company we’ve worked with does not use contractions)




Harvey Hudes is the founder of Caliber Corporate Advisers, a New York-based integrated marketing firm. Core capabilities include content creation, public relations, media and event strategy, and helping clients generate high-quality leads through its Caliber Corporate Data service offering. Prior to Caliber, Harvey held various senior-level positions in the publishing industry, including Managing Director and Publisher of leading financial B-2-B publisher Cross Border’s global publications: Corporate Secretary and IR magazine. Harvey also worked for PRWeek, where he was member of the original, Folio Award-winning launch team.

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