Never hire a contractor, freelancer, or an agency to do written, external-facing content for your team. (More so in the initial stages of the company’s journey.) Probably unpopular, but strongly held view.
First, context: There are three key communication strategies you have at your arsenal (This is obvious, but please bear with me)
1.Paid: This is when you pay for advertising space in mass media channels. It can digital ads, ads on social media — basically any form of paid content promotion. Consumers usually see right through this though. Think ads.
2.Owned: Website, social media et all. The key here to to be authentic, and figure how you can add value to visitors, should they consume your information here. It’s not about what your product does, but how it can help solve a user’s needs.
3.Earned: Public Relations — media credibility in a paper, online, trustworthy folks calling your org out, sharing positive information about what your org is building. This is the most difficult of the lot, and needs critical mass to arrive here.
My focus is on point 2: Owned. 1 is commoditized. Everyone does it. It’s simple. It’s also a ‘vanity metric’ haven. MY VIDEO GOT 1 MILLION VIEWS. Pfft. So what? 3 is hard, and not possible without tactically piggybacking on 1 and 2.
So, let’s talk about 2 — Owned.
Anything from owned media, is obvious company propaganda. (Let’s call it for what it is)😝 To break this set notion, you have to find a voice for the company, and build on authenticity.
How can your product add value to your readers — what are you conveying on your owned media properties that help a reader gain new knowledge? That forms the crux of quality owned channels.
Now, back to my first tweet: A freelancer or contractor is usually working on multiple projects. For them to dedicate 100% on the convoluted pursuit of ‘authenticity’ is hard. Almost impossible.
Why, you ask?
To drive authentic brand conversations, you have to understand teams, individuals and the machinery of the org. The nitty gritties and solutions to problems statements are usually hidden. You can’t expect someone to give you a story, if they don’t trust you. Imagine trusting a contractor with your numbers, data, and failures.
The best content about teams, and its peoples, don’t happen during 1-hour interviews. To deliver great content, you have to understand the mentality of the people behind delivering solutions, building products for the team.
This happens during water cooler conversations, in team outings, in slack channels, in football meetups, et all… A good storyteller sniffs out a story — instead of writing what’s told.
After all, we love anecdotes; ‘the story behind the story’, and that makes for interesting reading. To augment this, you need someone full-time, someone who buys into the founders’ idea of the company, its culture, what it aims to accomplish.
Above all, investing in someone to do this full-time, in-house, means they assimilate information from disparate teams and people — it’s the gift that keeps giving and this context on multiple stories is invaluable.
So, want to improve your overall branding?
Invest in someone who knows storytelling.
Give them time to understand the leaders’ vision.
Open doors for them to meet the doers executing.
A brand is born.