August 19, 2010
Let us suppose for a moment that you have made the decision to hire a permanent, in-house writing team as opposed to seeking out writers on a more per-contract basis. The advantages of this decision are numerous, of course — for one, you get to grow a team with a focus on your business so they grow more and more aware of it as time goes on, benefiting from long-term exposure to what you have them writing about.
However, now that you’ve got them, what’s the best way to maximize their creativity? Having a dedicated writing staff is a fine thing, to be sure — but in order to get the most out of the investment, you need them to produce solid, creative and reliable content. It doesn’t matter if they produce entire reams of articles if the material produced isn’t worth reading.
This is something broadly known as a meta-concern. Meta means “alongside” or even “outside.” A meta-concern is a matter that isn’t immediately related to your primary purpose, but can have significant implications all the same. Time spent helping your writers be creative is time you aren’t spending on direct branding efforts. However, it can pay off in solid support and respect for your brand in the long term. To that end, have a look at a handful of techniques that have been demonstrated to help spur productivity and creativity in your writers.
Let them Own the Project
Group brainstorming is creative asphyxiation. Yes, it will result in a quick sampling of several different ideas, but none of them will be particularly well developed. Creativity is an odd little thing. When it’s highly personal, as in a project one or two people own to work on specifically, more effort gets invested into it out of a sense of pride and desire. When control (and therefore responsibility) of the matter is spread around, however, there’s a sense of disconnect.
The latter comes as a result of two phenomena. First, there’s the lack of privacy it causes. Some of the ideas creative types put forward are very personal, representing the best of their own minds. Exposing their best to others is intensely difficult at times, so a group setting can hinder them out of modesty or shame. Second is the shared laziness of a group. In short, when the work is spread around to many people, no one person pulls quite as hard on their share. The work will get done anyway, after all, so what’s the point of putting forth more effort?
Instead of forcing intellectual exhibitionism through group sessions, share your particulars with small teams or, even better, with individuals if possible. Give them the parameters, ask them for their input and let them put their effort into the task. Let them own the project, and you will be more likely to get their best work.
Work Individually, Edit Collectively
Very few writers can edit or revise their own work. The best ones can, but there are few who couldn’t benefit from a bit of critical advice from another source. When the article or project is done, hand it off to an editor not directly involved with it. Let them help refine what the team has put down. The creative portion being complete, this technical portion allows for more dispassionate, cooperative analysis that can really make a project shine.
Bring in New Blood
There are two ways to go about making sure your team stays fresh creatively, both along the lines of “new blood.”
The first is exposure to new ideas. Your writing team is hopefully very widely read. People who study and read in more diverse circles are more likely to come up with the clever and creative ideas you most need from them. Part of this will come from reading their coworkers’ projects in the editing process, but make sure they’re spending part of their time reading materials and articles of many sorts, be they literary or factual.
The next is exposure to new people. Sometimes a writing team needs an outright boost from a new party. Even if you’ve hired your permanent, on-staff writing team, consider hiring the occasional project out to freelancers of a certain level of experience. This can have the effect of taking the workload off your standard workers, exposing them to new ideas or serving as an impromptu job interview.
Listen to Them
Writers are a notoriously picky lot. Yes, there is a benefit in making them stick to the grind and show some initiative, but there’s also a great value to catering to some of their needs. Make sure to listen when a writer mentions a concern they have. Your input might make all the difference between an acceptable article and an outstanding one.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of having a writing team on-staff, you have to make the effort to bring them into the staff proper. The rest of the team might not understand why some people are being paid to just tap keys, and you need to foster the relationship between them so that the crew knows these writers are giving them good press. Connect; listen, network and you’ll have the team you need.
Enzo F. Cesario is an online branding specialist and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, articles, videos and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. It makes sites more findable and brands more recognizable. For the free Brandcasting Report go to www.BrandSplat.com or visit our blog at www.iBrandCasting.com.