By Michele Linn published November 26, 2013

The Dos and Don’ts of Outsourcing Content Creation

cmi research roundtableMarketers are always challenged to find enough time to accomplish every task they are charged with, so outsourcing a job like content creation may seem like an obvious solution. But, is it really an easy solution, when you factor in all the requirements of quality content marketing?

According to our annual content marketing research, about 50 percent of marketers outsource some aspect of content creation, with writing and design being the top things they get help with.

Below is a glimpse of the outsourcing landscape for B2C marketers in North America, specifically:

content-creation-insourcing-vs-outsourcing

While outsourcing can be an effective way to get everything done, it’s not always a slam dunk — nor does it make sense in all situations.

In this final segment of our B2C research roundtable video series, Andrew Davis (author of Brandscaping), Julie Fleischer (Kraft Foods), David Germano (Empower MediaMarketing), Buddy Scalera (Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide), and Michael Weiss (Content Marketing Institute/figure18), as well as our moderator, Karen Budell (Imagination Publishing) discuss both the benefits and the drawbacks of outsourcing content creation.

CMW B2C Roundtable, part 3 from Content Marketing Institute on Vimeo.

DON’T outsource if you don’t have executive buy-in

As is becoming increasingly evident, content marketing can be used in various ways, by multiple teams across an entire organization — not just in the marketing department. To properly leverage such a broadly applicable asset you must have support from executives, as well as the ability to unite all these individual content pieces into one overarching content strategy —something that an outside agency is not always well-positioned to handle. As Andrew Davis asserts:

If you put content at the center of all of this and let advertising, PR, social media, digital media… I think you have a much better, more integrated program and a really good opportunity to do it. I think that you have to have a champion inside that can actually rally all those agencies to leverage the assets the company now owns to do that right. And if you don’t have a forward-thinking CMI, or you don’t have a CCO in place, it’s almost impossible for any content strategists from the outside to make an impact.

DO outsource to get a different perspective

It is so easy to get stuck in your own head when planning to execute on your content marketing strategy. If you can benefit from an outside perspective, it could be a good idea to bring in a consultant or agency. Experienced professionals can have a lot to offer — and they can help educate you and your team on better practices. Buddy Scalera sums this up well:

I think there has to be a healthy mix of both. It is hard for a CMO to be completely objective and they love their stuff, whereas an external person can come in and be like, ‘Look. I’m not as committed to this as you.’ So I think sometimes content strategists have to be a little adversarial against what the groupthink is.

DON’T outsource to just any agency

As Joe Pulizzi reveals in his post, 4 Truths About Content Marketing Agencies, many agencies have recently rebranded themselves as content marketing agencies, but they aren’t fully equipped to handle all aspects of this discipline. A few tips to help you determine if an agency may be a good fit for your content needs include the following:

  • Ask to see the content marketing work the agency has produced on its own behalf.
  • Request to see a sample of a documented content marketing strategy it has developed.
  • Listen to see if the agency is pitching a “campaign” (with a finite end date) versus a “program” (an ongoing initiative). Content marketing is a long-term strategy, not a one-time campaign.

DO outsource specific skills

Every company has people who excel at certain things, but very few organizations are good at every facet of content marketing. For instance, maybe your team understands how to create content, but it needs help with using paid advertising to expand the reach of your content. As long as you have someone in place to cover the critical skills, it likely will not matter if that person is internal or external.

DON’T outsource your creativity

While not explicitly touched on by our panel, one theme that popped up throughout Content Marketing World was that organizations can’t outsource their creativity. Simply put, you need to take time to brainstorm, see what others are doing (especially those outside your industry), and be ready to try new ideas. (Brad Shorr recently shared some suggestions to help make your content marketing process more creative.)

What have your experiences been with outsourcing? Do you think it makes sense in some situations but not others?

See more results from our B2C content marketing research by visiting CMI’s Research Page.

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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