- Give writers a content marketing brief explaining your topic, audience, and goal.
- Have a lead reviewer gather feedback on drafts, trim the fat, and decide the most important changes needed in the next draft.
- Give feedback to writers by making comments in the copy document, not by email. Group your feedback by theme and use open questions to guide writers’ revisions.
Writing briefs, talking about revisions, and giving writers feedback can be frustrating parts of the content creation process. That goes for writers and content marketers alike.
But each step matters. A lot. Content marketing managers who have a repeatable process for producing content and handling edits produce higher quality work.
Useful feedback lets writers know what your audience cares about, your brand’s message, and where they’re hitting or missing their mark.
In this article, we’ll talk about these processes in more detail, to help you:
- brief content marketing writers
- give genuinely useful feedback
- and speed up the business of revisions.
Let’s start with those content marketing briefs.
1. Create A Content Marketing Brief
Writers have to use guesswork unless they have guidance to shape their research and writing.
A clear brief is like a map, that shows writers who they’re speaking to, the things they care about, and how they like to be spoken to. A brief should contain:
- The topic: What is the content about and why does it matter? Explain what’s in it for the audience and what they will learn from the content.
- Your goal: Is it B2B thought leadership, an educational piece about how customers can solve a common problem, or views from industry experts? Make this clear.
- A word count: This should be an approximate number or a range. Tailor this to the type of content being produced.
- A lead reviewer: This is who the writer will send their drafts and revisions to. Explain who will be their point of contact. If you prefer the copy in Word Documents over Google Documents, mention that here too.
- Any search keywords: Provide the primary keyword or phrase you want to rank for. Add secondary keywords too, if you have them. But try not to provide a laundry list of terms. Less is more.
- Any internal links: Provide links to your existing articles, product pages, or long-form guides. Two to three internal links are usually enough for a straightforward blog post. One of these links could be an in-line call-to-action.
- Your customer personas: Provide your customers’ and prospects’ age, role, goals, and pain points. It’s easier for a writer to get the tone right if they understand your audience.
- Any competitor content: Give writers information about how your competitors have talked about similar topics. It can help writers spot gaps in your competitors’ content — they can fill these gaps with more interesting, educational, and entertaining content.
- Preferred sources: Give writers links or files for high-quality research sources. Or mention which sources they should use for their independent research (such as universities, government websites, or trade associations).
By the way, you can use Genuine’s template to set up your own content marketing brief, if you don’t have one.
2. Set Realistic Deadlines For Drafts
A good brief explains the what, who, and why.
And setting deadlines handles the all-important when.
Deadlines do more than lend urgency. Assigning a deadline is a balancing act between allowing ample time for creating quality work and getting content out into the world.
Consider the type of work being done. If it’s a 1500-word article a week should be enough. But a detailed whitepaper that needs extensive research and citations can take weeks.
Ask writers how long it will take if you’re unsure. But it’s worth bearing in mind that most experienced content marketers agree the longer you give writers to develop content, the better it will be. Quality normally beats quantity.
3. Consider Asking Writers for Outlines First
At this stage, many content marketers will get on with other key projects while they wait on a first draft. But sometimes it can be useful to add a step before this.
And that step is an outline.
Asking writers to provide outlines before moving onto a first draft can be useful for longer content, or more technical content. Think long-form articles of 2000 words or more, fintech whitepapers, or data-based research reports. Use outlines when there needs to be a logical sequence of ideas.
They can be especially useful for planning SEO-optimised articles.
They don’t need to be super detailed, either. Here’s an example:
You don’t have to be rigid with outlines either. You can use them as a guide, either to speed up the process of writing content in-house or as a way to help writers have even better chances of hitting the brief.
4. Take Charge of Gathering Internal Feedback
OK, let’s move onto that stage where you’ve got a draft back.
Put one person in charge of collecting all feedback and relaying it clearly to the writer. This isn’t to say only one person should review the content, but that it’s often simpler if writers liaise with a single reviewer. It’s totally fine to have different lead reviewers across different projects.
Stop revisions from becoming a production bottleneck, by getting really clear on your internal process. The clearest way to do this is to document it. Documenting your content marketing processes stops production grinding to a halt when a content marketing editor takes some well-earned (!) time away from the daily grind. Try to:
- Set ground rules for deciding who gives feedback and when
- Sort feedback into major themes to avoid nit-picking
- Get one person to source and provide feedback to writers
- Handle legal and compliance reviews internally, where possible.
Having one person communicating with the writer also sets clear expectations on both sides. It prevents writers from becoming confused by internal reviewers’ clashing suggestions and feedback within a copy document.
In short, the lead reviewer is like a judge: they ‘sanity check’ comments against the goals of the creative brief, to see what is relevant and useful.
It’s a great way to speed up a sluggish part of the content production process.
Ask These Questions When Reviewing Marketing Content
Let’s move on from the who, to talk more about the how.
These questions can help you frame marketing content feedback:
- Where does this draft meet the brief, and where does it not?
- Is the draft factually accurate?
- Is it well-researched?
- Does the tone suit our audience?
- Are sources properly attributed?
- Are names and titles properly attributed?
- Does it use keywords well?
A lead reviewer will set the standards for what the writer’s work should look like, by keeping questions like these top of mind during the review process.
5. Give Writers Clear Directions in Copy Documents
Once you’ve gathered your colleagues’ views, it’s time to press on with the revisions.
Again make sure to do this within the document that was provided — not over email.
Be specific and give as much detail as possible.
For example, it doesn’t help the writer to say ‘I don’t like this’, ‘fix this part’, or ‘this is vague’. It’s better to say a certain idea could be backed up by a source or that a particular concept needs to be explained. Constructive feedback gives knowledge to writers. It leads them to take action, not scratch their heads.
If possible, summarize your feedback in a paragraph or two at the top of the document. Mention any big issues: perhaps the writer doesn’t get what the content is supposed to convey or factual inaccuracies riddle the piece. Then slowly work down the document to smaller issues like misspellings, grammar issues, and punctuation.
- Separate positive and negative feedback, so you avoid confusing writers.
- Organize feedback by theme. For example, put comments relating to tone in one comment bubble and then those about technical accuracies in another.
- Ask open questions to get writers in a problem-solving mindset. “Should this stat should be given more context?” “Add source here”. “Break this up into bullet points.”
- Avoid rewriting copy. Yes, it’s tempting. But giving feedback instead gets writers used to your editorial style, brand voice, and your audience’s way of thinking.
Above all, play nice.
Take a deep breath before you jump in.
And treat writers and reviewers with empathy and respect.
6. Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy of Good Enough
Some going back and forth over some revisions is expected by everyone involved.
But you should know when to call it a day with revisions.
No article is ever truly perfect.
And striving for perfectionism can cause projects to be delayed or be left to gather dust.
How do you know when to stop? First, use the previously agreed deadline as your guide. Second, think of the bigger picture. If the piece captures the core goals of the content marketing brief, you can be lenient on some small stuff. Remember that the point of a piece is to deliver a message your audience will understand, above all else.
7. Share What You Published With Writers
Writers can continue learning, even after an article is published.
Content marketing managers and editors ultimately have the last word on the final copy. Seasoned writers value explanations of why a piece was changed after their final revisions were made. That luxury isn’t always available, especially if you’re a one-person content marketing team. But it pays off if you can do it.
Be thorough in your explanation: going over what was removed, added, and/or modified and why should be par for the course. This will make for better work together on future projects.
Keep Content Marketing Programs Moving
Every content marketing brief is different. Every writer has a different style. And we all give and receive creative feedback in different ways. Hopefully following the steps will help you remove some of the guesswork, so you can produce consistently high-quality work.