Content Marketing Editorial and Writing Services: What to Look For

Michael Brenner on Mar 26, 2018 in Content Marketing

Good content writing is critical for the success of your content marketing strategy. Mediocrity, on the other hand, can tarnish your brand.

Something as seemingly minor as simple grammar errors can turn people away from your business. 59 percent of web browsers say they would avoid doing business with an organization that publishes content with spelling or grammar mistakes.

On the other hand, when you have content writing that hits the mark, you have the foundation of a successful content marketing strategy.

Nearly half of marketers say that blogging is their number one marketing strategy. Combine informative blogs with engaging emails and social media posts, thought provoking eBooks, in-depth white papers and more and your brand has effectively become a beacon of insight for your target market.

Finding an individual or agency who can consistently deliver quality content writing and editorial services is sort of the elephant in the room of content marketing.

The content writing conversation focuses on the importance of quality, as well as all the factors that may go into improving quality – better storytelling, consistent brand voice, understanding your audience, and all the technicalities of word count, white space and seamless SEO. Which leaves most marketers hanging.

Where does one find this magical written content?

Unless you already have content writers and editors on your team, you’ll have to find the services your organization needs – either internally, or with an agency or freelancers. And, in the not too distant future, you may even be able to rely on good old AI for some of your written content.

You can just call me and I can help you. Or consider what you should look for on your quest for excellent, lead generating, brand authority building, engaging content writing and editorial services.

Copywriting vs. Content Writing and Editing – Is There a Difference?

Can a copywriter write your blog posts? Can a content writer compose your press release? Is there a difference between the two services?

Before you can find the ultimate writing and editorial services, you need to have a clearly defined idea of what you are looking for.

The difference between copywriting and content writing lies less in what is written, and more in the intent.

There are a lot of differences between content and copywriting. Copy is intended to brand. It is, traditionally, your traditional advertising copy. In the digital age, it refers to business landing pages, ad copy, email subject lines, taglines, and other written copy meant to sell like brochures and catalogue product descriptions. Then, content marketing was born and marketers started using blog posts, email newsletters, articles, eBooks, white papers, social posts, case studies and more to engage, build trust and connect – but not directly to sell. And the confusing part: content is meant indirectly to sell.

While there are distinctions in style, tone, and the actual written products, there is also a very blurry line that separates content and copywriting services. A lot of marketing professionals view the terms interchangeably. And for good reason.

A lot of copywriters write content and you can find a skilled content writer who can pull off killer promotional copy. From a practical perspective, if a copywriter already understands your brand voice, it’s not a leap for them to create some of your copy and your content.

Also, as content marketing continues to evolve the way brands communicate with their customers, less traditional advertising is being used in favor of more content. What is happening, is the principles of copywriting – to engage and motivate, moving the audience from awareness down the pipeline to a sale – are being used to enhance the principles of content writing – to inform, educate, inspire, entertain, and improve the lives of your audience.

As a result, the best content has the strengths of copywriting at its core, without the reader realizing it. Content is, after all, meant to market your brand.

When looking for the right content writing services, decide if you want one central source (individual or team) to cover all or most of your organization’s writing needs. Or, do you want to use multiple providers? For example, outsource your white papers and blog posts to a freelancer, have your internal team handle the copywriting, and hire an agency who specializes in social media marketing to write and publish your social media posts.

In general, copywriting is recognized as a more specialized skill. You’ll want someone who has specific experience with writing branded copy. Good copy is clear and direct, rather than being controversial, cutting-edge or full of character like good content can be.

On the other hand, content writers may be more adept at keeping your customers interested and offering value with your written content through traits like industry expertise and subject knowledge.

If you can find an agency or hire an individual or team that can do both well, all the better. If you find great copywriting services, and separate but equally as compelling content writing services, that can work as well. All that matters in the end is quality.

In-House or Outsource Your Editorial and Writing Services?

The next burning question – should you hire internal content writers and editors or outsource to freelancers or an agency?

As with the question of using different marketing writing service providers or not, there’s no right answer. In-house and outsourcing both have their pros and cons. It’s not really an either-or solution in reality anyway for most organizations. A lot of companies use some sort of hybrid model to get all their content needs covered.

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You may have your staff write some of your content and then hire freelancers or work with an agency to take care of the rest. A hybrid model also offers the greatest flexibility. Have an overflow of content that needs to be written quickly? If you have a working relationship with an agency, you can call on them when your content writing needs become heavy.

Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each option to help you figure out the perfect content writing formula for your organization.

In-House Writing and Editorial Team

Pros

  • Having writers and editors who you know and trust makes communication about what you want easier
  • Dedicated in-house writers will get to know your brand, as well as your buyer personas, more intimately because they aren’t working for other brands as well

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Limited by your internal team’s talent

Outsourcing to an Agency or Freelancers

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • At scale content writing is possible with an agency
  • With an agency, you may have access to a wider talent pool, which can put you in touch with writers who may specialize in areas where your in-house team isn’t that strong

Cons

  • May take time to get to know your brand
  • Turnover at an agency means you may regularly deal with new writers
  • Freelancer and agency writers are balancing multiple clients, which means you receiving your content on time is dependent on their ability to manage their workload

What’s the bottom line? Quality trumps all. It doesn’t matter if someone works in your office or across the country if the writing is good.

But, how do you know where to find quality?

What Makes a Great Content Writer?

Whether you’re interviewing to hire someone full-time, exploring agencies or searching for freelancers that are a good fit for your organization, here are the indicators of a content writer who should be able to provide the quality content you need:

Experience

Content writing, just like any other form of writing, is a craft unto itself. Which means, the more experience someone has, the more likely they are skilled at their craft.

Ask how many years a potential candidate has been writing content for, preferably full-time. Ideally, you want to work with someone with a minimum of four or five years.

Reach

Content encompasses a wide range of written forms. The content found in an email newsletter is going to be remarkably different from the writing in a well-researched white paper.

Find out what types of content they have written and ask for samples of each.

Specialization

This is a big one – does your writer specialize in your industry? Someone who can engage customers for the real estate industry may not be able to strike a chord with your software clients.

Content writing, because it should be helpful and insightful to the reader, often needs to be written by someone with expert knowledge. This is even more relevant for B2B content writing as your audience will already be knowledgeable.

Turnaround

Depending on your organization’s deadlines, turnaround time can make or break your experience with a writer. When interviewing, communicate your organization’s needs. Your in-house writer will likely be more capable of sticking to tight deadlines. If you are working with a freelancer, make sure you are on the same page about timing and when you need your content. Agencies will often manage the turnaround for you as a project manager will be in charge of making sure you get your work on time.

Willingness to Revise

This won’t be an issue with your in-house content writers, but when outsourcing, you’ll want to make sure your writers are open to multiple revisions. Especially when you first start working with a new writer, it’s likely there will be a second and third draft (or more) before a project is exactly what you want.

Make sure this won’t be a problem. Find out what their policy is for corrections and timing. For example, unlimited revisions within one week or a maximum of four revisions with no time limit. Will their policy work for your organization’s workflow?

Style

Your brand requires a specific tone and style. From professional to provocative, the style of the content will dictate how your audience feels about your brand. Make sure a writer can comfortably write content that fits your brand’s personality. When you look over their samples, pay attention not just to writing skill, but to how close they can get to your brand’s style. If they don’t have something that fits, you can always ask them to write a sample for your organization to ensure they can write in the right tone.

What Makes a Great Content Editor?

Your content is only as good as the editor who refines it. Just as with your writers, they can be in-house or outsourced, depending on what model works for your organization’s budget and workflow. What should you look for in quality content editorial services?

Formal Training

An English or Marketing degree isn’t a must, but some sort of training in SEO, content writing or digital marketing can help your editor act as the tight quality control your content needs.

Diverse Writing Background

Who makes a great editor? An excellent writer! Even with 18 different relevant certifications, your editor won’t be able to properly polish your written content or give feedback to your writers unless they understand the writer’s perspective.

Area Knowledge

As with your content writers, familiarity with your organization is important. A solid editor may be able to catch and correct every comma error and transform choppy text into a flowing river of words, but if they don’t understand your industry, they won’t be able to catch the major mistakes.

Meticulous to a Fault

An eye for detail is what makes an editor an editor. A professional content editor will know how to get your content as close to perfection as possible.

What Makes a Great Content Writing Agency?

Because of the flexibility and cost-effectiveness, as well as the potential for professionalism, a lot of companies opt, at least in part, for the outsourcing-to-an-agency option for content writing and editorial services.

The biggest challenge with this route is there are so many choices, it’s hard to know where you’ll find real quality and where you may be disappointed. To make things more complex, there are agencies that are dedicated to content writing – or you can work with a digital marketing agency that also provides content writing and or editorial services.

Here are a few traits to look for in an agency that’s worth your time:

In-House Editing

Number one, you want your content writing service to have its own quality control. Look for an agency that has an in-house editing team.

Project Managers

One of the perks of working with an agency is that someone will be in charge of getting your project to you and managing issues. Having a dedicated point-of-contact means you can have your questions and concerns addressed quickly, leaving the writer or editor to focus on doing what they do best.

Experience

There’s a huge demand for content. That also means there are a lot of services out there that have popped up just to capture that demand. If an agency hasn’t been in the business for a few years, you may want to look elsewhere to a company that has the experience to know how to properly vet writers and manage quality.

A Reasonable Price

Avoid cheap content writing services. Think of it this way. If someone writing your company’s blog or email newsletter isn’t making much to write your content, they probably aren’t a good writer or don’t have a lot of experience.

Flexible Policies

An agency you can count on knows it has good writers – which means they’re more likely to have flexible policies in terms of revisions and returns, customized work, and approval deadlines.

How Good Is AI at Writing Content?

Humans aren’t the only content writers and editors any more. Artificial intelligence is already proficient at writing content with advancements in areas like natural language generation (NLG) and automated storytelling technology.

Chances are, you’ve probably already read AI-generated content. Quill, for example, creates more than a million words a day writing reports for blue chip clients like Credit Suisse and Forbes. Wordsmith lets users upload data, which the AI then transforms into insightful reports. The Washington Post has created its own in-house AI content creator, Heliograf, which has created hundreds of news articles and social posts for the newspaper.

You may not want to jump straight into robot content writing services. But it’s worth paying attention to how this technology unfolds over the next few years. Depending on your organization’s content requirements, AI created content or AI editing services may be just what your company needs to round out your content offerings.

The fact is, content marketing continues to grow and evolve. So should your strategy.

If there are areas where different types of written content would serve your strategy, whether it’s quarterly white papers to establish your brand’s authority, blog posts to build your brand’s reputation as a thought leader, better newsletters to keep your existing customers interested or more social posts to drive engagement, then it’s worth it to seek out the quality services that will get the job done.

Content May Be King, But Only if It’s High Quality

In-house, agency, freelancer, or AI – if it’s good stuff, it will strengthen your content marketing and your brand.

Good writing can capture your audience’s attention. Great written content will compel action. And when the written word is bent, twisted around, folded and warped with a master hand, it can open doors to whole new worlds of possibility for your audience and your business.

Your content writing services are writing the story of your brand. Take the time to find the writers that can make it a good one.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
Showing 2 comments
  • Niel Malhotra

    Good stuff as always Michael.

    As someone who has a CS degree and knows machine learning, I wouldn’t be too afraid of the robots taking our writing jobs. Right now, AI is just taking simple algorithms and throwing a lot of data at them. It’s great for routine writing but falls apart when it comes to anything truly creative.

    If AI is able to write as emotionally compelling content as a human, then it’s probably just as intelligent as a human. In that case, capitalism as we know it would probably end as robots would take over every single job. Writing would be the least of our worries.

    I know it’s a little glib, but it’s my thoughts on a topic I’ve thought way too much about.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Niel, I think you are absolutely right and I’m not sure that the prediction is that far off. Just a question of when and how we handle it.