Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hired Pens: In the Web 2.0 World, The Pen Truly is Mightier!

One of my New Year's resolutions was to spend less time blogging and more time in personal and professional development. In the past six weeks I've done a lot of both and in the process picked up a lot of interesting tips. One such tip is indicated in the discussion stream below, which I've conducted with my friend Pete Caputa who writes a blog called PC4Media.

After he ran in his blog a piece I wrote (, we began a fascinating discussion on blogging and communications in our Web 2.0 world.

Pete writes: One particular challenge that I foresee happening is... I'm signing on all of these companies to start blogging. The reasons they're starting to blog include:
1) to improve their rankings in the search engines since more content = more chances to be found; and
2) engage their customers and their prospects in a conversation... which gets more prospects to convert into "signups" or "leads" sooner and gets your clients to "sell you for you".

However, I think I'm going to need to come up with a "package" for the business owners that need help writing or totally need to outsource it. I'm going to need someone like you that can understand their business, write and engage. I will have 200+ customers by end of 2008. This could be a full time freelance opportunity. I could see it morphing into more of a project manager that manages writers and maybe even other hands on services. Any interest?

My response below is, I believe, a relevant and timely commentary on what business owners need to consider when blogging. It also fleshes out an idea I've been considering for a while: "Writers for Hire" (or, "The Hired Pens")... Like hired guns, and just as effective and powerful.

My thoughts on your proposal follow: There are A LOT of blogs out there, and many (in fact, most) are poorly written, rambling, off subject and add little (if any) value that relates back to the product, service, or business someone is trying to promote.

After all, it's challenging to compose relevant, compelling content on a regular basis--after a few dismal attempts most business owners move on to something else. It's not that they don't have the desire; they don't have the time or the discipline to devote to a labor-intensive product like a blog.

The key is to help your clients understand how a blog (or a podcast, RSS feed, widget, etc.) should and must be integrated within a broader marketing and communications plan. For example, if they have a product in R&D or coming to market, they'll want to use the blog to build interest in and excitement about the product or service. They'll want to create a dialogue with consumers in which consumers can share their thoughts about the product or service.

When it comes to blogging in our Web 2.0 world, it's all about the 5 C's: Collaboration, Content, Converged services, Community, and Conversation. Your job is not only to help business owners understand the important of blogging, but also to invest the necessary resources (time and money) to creating a well-written, interactive online dialogue through their blog.

This is where talented communicators like me enter the equation: You need to have a posse of writers who know how to interview and, more importantly, write for the web. You need your posse of writers to establish relationships with the business owners so the latter truly trust that the former will convey their thoughts clearly, effectively and accurately.

Each has to have a level of trust and comfort with the other--a mutually beneficial relationship that is built over time--which you would facilitate and monitor at first, and then gradually let go of. At first you (or someone you know and trust) will have to carefully and frequently monitor the blog posts and client satisfaction.

As for morphing into other services, I see that as the next step in the process of building relationships with your clients. First it's the blog, and once your clients start realizing value (CTR, interactivity, dialogue--however you measure it, you're going to have to demonstrate value before you propose a next step) from the blog (and the great writing they're getting) you can propose other services like enewsletters, print/online brochures, feature articles, PR, etc.

There is certainly a need for good writing on the web and a definite lack of good writers. I'd be happy to discuss this with you further, I believe you could benefit from someone with my experience and expertise, and I am intrigued by your idea.

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