It’s fair to say that “content” is one of the most misunderstood and overused buzzwords of all time. Don’t believe me? Then let me paint you a (slightly exaggerated but still accurate) picture that I’ve mashed together based on dozens of conversations with potential clients over the years:
Potential client: “Hi. We need some content marketing, please.”
Agency: “Alright. What are you aiming to get out of this for your business? What does successful content look like to you?”
Client: “I think we need blogs. My CEO needs a blog.”
Agency: “We can write blogs, but I’d like to know why you think you need them. What’s the goal here?”
Client: “We need more eyeballs on our website. But actually, can you create more snackable content? And make it go viral.”
Agency: “Um, I have lots of questions.”
Client: “We’ll send you all the information you need. But can you also do influencer marketing? I think that’s the best way to create awareness. Can you provide content for that? Just talk us through a typical content strategy. And give us some examples of social media content that has worked.”
Agency: *head explodes*
Here’s the thing – content is lots of things. But it can also be absolutely nothing because “content” and all it embodies has become a broad umbrella term, reduced to a catch-all phrase that ignores or pushes aside the intricacies of everything within it.
If you don’t know what your business needs from “content”, you’re not going to get very far – or many results.
So, before you approach an agency to “do content” for your business, consider the following points so that you know what to look for, what to ask, and what to be wary of:
Know what you want from an agency
I’m hitting this point again because it’s worth it. Different businesses (and people) have different definitions of what content means. To one, it will be a constant churning out of new tblogs, but to another it means planning, creating, amplifying and measuring social media posts. Then, to a third, it’s about providing a full content marketing strategy that includes everything from content creation to amplification and lead generation.
So before you approach an agency, you need to have the answers to a few key questions: Why are you even approaching an agency for content in the first place? What are the business goals you need to achieve with said content? How can an agency provide the right type of work to get you the results you need? This should be your starting point.
Oh, and pleasehave a budget. Content comes in all forms, which means the cost does, too. We want to help you – and we can – but we need to know how long that piece of string is to be able to offer the most cost-effective solution for you.
Know what to look for in a content team
While many agencies have beefed up their content capabilities, what you want is a group of people who can actually write well. And not, “oh yeah, I have a food blog in my spare time,”kind of writing. You need professional, qualified and experienced former journalists, editors and content leads who can pen a research piece on renewable energy one day, and deliver compelling social posts to launch a new perfume the next.
The members of a fully-fledged content team should work across content creation, marketing and public relations (yes, PR people should have strong writing capabilities) and be a mix of strategists, writers, editors, digital marketers, social media experts and more.
Ask about their storytelling capabilities. How do they figure out how to tell the right story? At Mutant, we hire former journalists, so we know how to probe and get all the juicy titbits of information we need to create a compelling piece. And because we are also PR experts, we know which juicy details to leave out. 😉 This integration across PR and content is absolutelykey, and will always provide stronger results overall.
Find the right fit
When you hire an individual in your company, you want to ensure the culture fit is right – the same goes for onboarding a new agency. Do a chemistry test with the entire working team for your account. Meet in person, see if you get along, talk about things other than your jobs.
Throughout this chemistry test, make sure you gain an understanding of the agency’s processes and turnaround times. How do they handle a high volume of work on short notice? How do they adapt to writing with different tones and styles (which shouldn’t be a problem for a bunch of former journalists), and how would they handle certain situations that are likely to crop up. The best results are produced in a partnership, so make sure the agency will really slot in with your team while having your best interests at heart.
Be wary of agencies that outsource everything
If it sounds too good (ahem, cheap) to be true, then it probably is. And it’s probably being outsourced somewhere with fewer checks and balances – and therefore way more difficulties and frustrations at your end.
At the end of the day, do you want something done cheaply, but that needs multiple rounds of edits to fix tone, grammar and spelling, all while dealing with people who don’t really understand your business? Or does it make more (financial) sense to increase your budget to get things right the first time around? Remember, you get what you pay for.
Ask about results
If an agency can’t share tangible results with you about the content they have produced, this should be a red flag. Results should always be the main driver behind any content – otherwise what the hell is the point?
How they will measure your business success with the work they are creating should be a key factor in choosing an agency. Not only will it help get management on board at your end, but it also means the strategy will actually work. Which, you know, is sort of important.
And there you have it – some key considerations to help you choose the right content agency.
If you have any further questions about content and what it means, feel free to drop me a line at [email protected].