By Joe Griffin published April 14, 2017

3 Best Practices to Nurture a Content Writer Into an Industry Expert

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The vast majority of content writers are generalists. They are talented with language; they understand how to structure effective blog posts, lists, guides, etc. However, their biggest challenge is learning how to write from a place of true knowledge and not broad conviction.

The nurturing process for content writers has far less to do with helping them become better writers (that’s a given) and more to do with teaching them how to learn a new landscape quickly and effectively. It’s unrealistic to expect a new writer to get his or her bearings perfectly without adequate instruction.

If your challenge is in nurturing content creators on your team, here are three best practices so they can become industry experts in record time:

1. Help them know what they don’t know

Before writers can effectively craft that first sentence, they need to know their boundaries. They need to know their audience. And most importantly, they need to know what big conversations are happening in the particular field.

Instead of immediately setting new writers out an assignment, it’s more important to help them learn how to get a firm grasp on the industry and topic(s) they will be writing about.

Don’t set new writers out on assignment before helping them get a grasp on industry & topics. @joegriffin Click To Tweet

One of the best ways to do this is to have someone (a researcher on your team, for example) prepare a primer of industry information. To get a writer properly acclimated to a new industry, you should provide them answers to the following questions at the onset of a project:

  • Who is currently leading this client’s space in thought leadership and why?
  • How does this space make its money?
  • What ideas are considered taboo and are not discussed (and why)?
  • What ideas are the most commonly accepted (and why)?
  • What laws, restrictions, or guidelines exist in this space?
  • Who is the audience this space attracts? What are they searching for?
  • How is success measured in this space?

2. Supply a list of competitors to watch and study

Quite a few content writers make the mistake of trying to establish themselves as thought leaders before taking a page out of the real thought leaders’ playbooks.

Save your team of writers and content creators a lot of time and unnecessary publishing by investing more time in up-front research on who the top thought leaders are in the particular market or industry. And the best part is, once you’ve gone through this process for an industry, you can share these must-follow lists with future content writers.

For example, have someone from your team make a list of the top 10 most-viewed writers in your field on Medium or LinkedIn or make a spreadsheet of the most prominent voices (related to the respective field) on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Do keyword research to find the dominant bloggers or companies. Have content creators listen to the top podcasts in a relevant category on iTunes. With that due diligence, you’ll be able to give new content writers a more definitive view of the landscape – exactly what they need.

At the end of the day, being a content marketer is a game of attention and value. For content writers to help a brand stand out among the competition, they have to deliver more value than anyone else in that space. The only way they will be able to deliver more is when they know who is currently setting the bar and how.

For a brand to stand out, #content writers have to deliver more value than anyone else, says @JoeGriffin. Click To Tweet

Once they are aware of the competition, you can then instruct them to create each piece of content with these four things in mind:

  • How can we take this same topic (published by another thought leader in this industry) and teach it even better?
  • How can we go deeper or provide a different perspective?
  • How can we make the learning process easier?
  • How can we deliver even more value?

3. Teach them to measure and adjust based on performance

Every content writer should, on some level, be an analyst. Over the long term, a crucial part of writing effectively is being able to measure your success. As much as you need to nurture the art of writing, you also need to point out the value of data and the importance of having a goal.

Analytics can take something highly ambiguous like writing and suddenly make it actionable. Data can tell a writer if people are reading or not, if people are engaging or not. Data can help writers know whether their work resonates with the target audience.

In fact, data can really dictate the growth of content writers and help them pivot to adjust their voice and grasp of subject matter over time. Consider setting up reports automatically emailed to your writers each week from your marketing automation or analytics tool. Or, if you use Google Analytics and want your writers to dig deep into that data, send them to Google Analytics Academy for free training.

Data can dictate a content writer’s growth, help them adjust voice & grasp of subject matter. @JoeGriffin Click To Tweet

Great content writers aren’t taught but empowered

Now, what’s interesting about these three steps to nurturing successful content writers is that while they are a great place to start, they are also the fundamentals to an ongoing journey. Even content writers well-versed in a particular niche or market continue to cycle through these three steps, always looking for what they don’t know, always keeping an eye on the competition, and always measuring their performance over the long term.

Nurturing content writers is less about teaching them something definite and more about guiding their learning process so they can continue to educate themselves. A great content writer is not so much taught but empowered.

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Cover image by StockSnap, Helloquence

Author: Joe Griffin

Joe Griffin is the CEO of ClearVoice, a content marketing technology company for high-quality blogs and content destinations that he co-founded in 2013. He has served in executive roles at Web.com and iCrossing, and has founded multiple companies. You can follow his tweets @joegriffin or connect on LinkedIn.

Other posts by Joe Griffin

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  • bobscheier

    All great ideas. If the writer also has reporting skills, send them to an industry conference and let them prowl the aisles learning about various vendors. That’s how I educated myself in IT after coming from daily newspapers. As for measurement, I’d love it if my clients let me in more on how my content is performing.

    • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

      Agreed on measurement. Measurement is extra tricky with content because a lot of the important KPI’s are often not rolled into a custom dashboard in GA (even creating it can be a challenge). Marketing automation platforms can be better sources of information at least in B2B.

      • bobscheier

        Understood and thanks. What do you think about sharing the data with outside content producers — worth the time?

        • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

          I think looping the wins back to the content creator is a great thing to do. Especially the easy stuff like page views and social shares. Over time smart creators can figure out why some content is performing better than others and optimize their approach per client.

          • bobscheier

            Amen — have wanted to do that since my days at Computerworld, but hard to get clients to provide it. Think they’re so busy digesting it and analyzing it themselves it’s a bridge too far to extend to the content creator, especially if they’re external. Thanks again…

  • http://gearboxmagazine.com Brian Driggs

    I’m pretty much living this right now.

    Though I’ve been traveling in marketing, social, and publishing circles for more than a decade, I never heard about account-based marketing until I landed at LeadMD. It’s been a hell of a learning curve, but it’s exciting.

    If I’d add anything to this piece, it would be that any content creator worth a damn is going to find this degree of support (empowerment is *exactly* the word) thrilling. We love what we do, so anything which helps us do what we love more effectively is welcome.

    My CEO quickly picked up my contextual shortcomings and got me a short list of expert sources to follow. I’ve been following key players in the account-based scene, listening to fresh new podcasts, and having deeper conversations with in-house experts. It’s getting to the point where my understanding of the topic is such that I’m starting to see ways of implementing it as a framework in other areas of my life.

    You can’t put a price tag on that kind of knowledge. It’s like pouring gas on a fire.

    Six months in, our content strategy is starting to evolve in exciting ways.

  • http://synateldesigns.com Bess Obarotimi

    Totally agree! The more the client empowers you the better the content

  • Kasper Eagan

    Agree. In addition to all that has been said, nowadays there are plenty of services like https://studentshare.net to help an inexperienced writer to approve his/her skills and to generate new ideas for content. But if the writer starts to abuse such services, then his career may not go in the right direction.

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  • Karen Gugerty Tremblay

    All important points – especially around ‘who is the audience’. Make sure writers know to whom they are speaking and what is important to them. Otherwise, minimal actionable results will occur

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  • Richard Lowe

    Fantastic article. You’ve made some important points. Knowing your audience is vital and the part that many authors miss entirely. They just write and assume they understand their audience. Been there, done that. It all works better if you actually stop assuming and KNOW your audience.

    Richard Lowe

  • narayan verma

    Amazing Joe. I’m working exactly with these thoughts for my writers, and it’s wonderful how many similar stuff I’ve done so far, that you have mentioned. Additional points are really eye openers.