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From the Trenches

Is Your Marketing Partner a Content Creator? How to Vet a Content Agency

Yvonne Lyons | April 18, 2019
Who Is Creating Your Content

We’ve published posts before on how to choose your content marketing agency, whether you should outsource or not, how to assemble your plan, and more. There are lots of questions to ask, many of them important. But if you are planning to have your new marketing partner help you with the business of creating and then marketing content, think long and hard about how that content might be developed, and then vet your prospective partner closely.

Not all content creators are equal. Lots of shops — and I mean LOTS of them — will tell you they can create content. Maybe they can. But you don’t just need a bunch of copy. You need the most appropriate types of remarkable content to position you as a thought leader in your industry and achieve your marketing goals. Fall short of leading the pack and your content will be swimming relatively unnoticed in the mix of the millions of pieces published every day on the Internet.

Mediocrity is easy. Content success comes only with concerted effort, real planning, and high-quality content creation from a staff of people who know what they’re doing. Maybe I’m biased. My job is to make sure that at Right Source we create remarkable content for our clients. And that happens in a variety of fashions. But every day I see the difference that really great, original content can have over content that is only… ok.

So how do you find the kind of partner who can create top-notch content for your company that will put you on the map as a thought leader? And why is it really that important?

Here’s what to look for and why:

A true partner. Find a company that is willing to learn your business and become your partner. You don’t want someone who is going to function as a vendor or a content factory. The goal should not just be quantity. Quality is more important. Add ideas and strategy, and your partner will be instrumental in moving your marketing goals and business objectives forward. That can all happen with remarkable content and the right team. It can’t happen with a mediocre partnership.

A dedicated team of content creators. Who is on the content team? While they might not be the same folks who will do your writing, nor should they be (see below), they are probably also not the same people sitting in front of you doing the selling. Ask to meet them, or at least their leader. Do you like his or her philosophy about content? Does she seem to have actual experience with this content thing or was she recently made queen of the content kingdom because this agency needed someone with that cool title? Ask about what kinds of writing or editing or journalism experience she has, who is on staff, how the team handles editorial planning, whether they believe all editorial plans should be similar (Eeek! No), and how they start an engagement. Does she sound like she has a plan? Like she’s done this before? And if you like this wonderful queen of the content kingdom, will they substitute someone else in her place once you sign on the dotted line?

Original content creators. While many clients may think that their industry is so specialized that no one can write about it except for their internal staff, I have rarely met a client who has many trained writers on staff. Or any trained writers on staff. So clients think the answer is to have internal staff become writers.

Wouldn’t your engineers, or accountants, or physicians, or technicians, or chemists be willing to talk to a writer who specializes in their field for 30 minutes to offer focus on a topic? Would they rather do this than try to write a blog post or an entire eBook themselves? Is writing an eBook the highest and best use of your engineer’s time? No, of course not. Find an agency that specializes in locating the right writers for niche industries and then let them ghostwrite for your staff. Your content will be consistently better across the board, you will be able to publish more consistently, and your staff can focus on their actual jobs.

Strategists. You shouldn’t have to come to the table with the strategy; your partner should have a documented history of doing this for other clients, and a detailed process for creating that strategy that they can describe to you. Ask to see one of their plans. Does the content portion include editorial planning, content optimization, distribution, and reporting and analysis? Does it include suggestions on creating messaging, themes, topics? Types of content? If not, move on.

Outside-the-box thinkers. Ask your prospective partner for the types of content programs/strategies they are providing to other clients after planning. What types of content do they suggest, and with what frequency? Does it seem like they recommend the same package to every single client or are they talking about ideas or content types you haven’t heard of? The message should be that every client and situation is different, because every client’s goals are different. Your partner should be willing to create a solution that is customized for just you.

Find a great marketing partner who can create your content. You can focus on your job (as can your staff) and your partner will focus on creating remarkable content, which will make you look like a superhero. But use these tips to choose the right group. A quality partner can be invaluable and can put your company on the map. A mediocre one will find you no closer to your goal at the end of the year than you are right now.

Trying to figure out whether to outsource content marketing? Download our eBook, “Insource, Outsource, or Hybrid? How to Build the Most Effective Marketing Team.”

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and communications.