When to Produce Content Yourself or Leave It to Others

Dec 13, 2016


BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Next to “What’s your favorite CMS?” the question I am asked most often by clients is, “Who should be generating our content?” While the context and business scenarios vary, there are certainly proven practices that dictate how your organization will grow and sustain its content. Regardless of the type of content you are producing, the question remains: Where is the content being produced and by whom? 

While most organizations are not in the business of producing content, the majority of today’s brands have backed into content production based on two driving principles: marketing and support. A lot of organizations are compelled to create content to attract new audiences. Many also feel the need to produce support content. 

A lot of organizations falter with content that supports their marketing efforts due to the demands of content management and maintenance. The pace of marketing-based content is often vastly different than the department tasked with its upkeep.

When it comes to support content, organizations’ success is predicated mostly on staffing and the commitment from the organization to fund a proper content ecosystem that supports the product or service being offered. The disconnect in producing quality support content is centered around who is producing it. 

Are you with a content marketing firm? Are you in the publishing business? If you answered “no” to both of these questions, then it most likely makes sense to outsource your marketing content or at least augment your staff with some outside help. If there is one thing I have learned about content in 15-plus years of consulting, it is that if your business is not centered on content maintenance and support, getting outside help is more often the most viable and less expensive solution. A common misconception is that outside help equates to prodigious costs. But that doesn’t have to be true.

Seeking outside help for marketing-based content works when you match the scale of your need to the size of the company or individual who helps you. If you’re a 20-person startup, you probably don’t need a 200-person marketing agency to handle your content. There are so many nifty folks, in and out of the agency space, whose primary objective is to produce content that resonates with your intended audience. Professionals are used to the pace of marketing-based content. You have a business to run. Let someone else produce the content that supports it.

Have you ever seen or paid for a white paper written by someone who was not a subject matter expert? If there is one thing writers and subject matter experts agree on, it’s that you can very easily see through content that was written by someone who didn’t know the whole story. Thankfully, your internal teams have the valuable combined knowledge of your organization and the internal politics that drive so many of today’s organizational ecosystems. 

I’ve seen many of today’s top brands better serve their customers by producing support-based content via internal teams. This may be a combination of writers and non-writers, for whom the dependence on governance and editorial guidelines is paramount to creating a unified tone, consistency, and accuracy. However, product and service departments are not natural writing departments. This is why I recommend stocking these areas of the business with writers who have cut their teeth in the journalism or technical communications fields which value editorial diligence. Having just one house writer with this type of background ensures that writers and non-writers alike produce accurate and trusted support content. 

If your company makes pencil erasers, it must be really good at it. However, just because it is good at making erasers doesn’t mean that it has to be the foremost authority on producing content. Knowing when to ask for help and when to handle it yourself will go a long way toward maintaining your organizational maturity as it relates to content. Your future and present customers will thank you.