Trust vs. Control in the Client / Writer Relationship |Part. 2

content marketing relationships

As I previously discussed in the first part of this article, trust and control are often at odds in the client / writer relationship.

We’ve already seen the potential problems that arise when a client insists on too much control, but equally dire problems can arise when a client doesn’t maintain enough control or a writer takes advantage of the trust they are given.

The causes and consequences of these problems are different from the previous problems discussed, and thus require different solutions.

Writing is an Art Form

While there are plenty of functional and mechanical rules that good writers know and follow, especially when producing content marketing, writing is still very much more of an art than a science. And, like most artists, writers take pride in their work.

Unfortunately, sometimes pride becomes ego, and that is usually what causes writers to take advantage the trust they are given by clients.

The final product that has been created may be creative, unique, and even artistically masterful, but it simply fails at its one goal: marketing.

Most likely the writer doesn’t even realize that the final product isn’t fulfilling its purpose. And even worse, because the prose and style is so good, the client may not realize the product won’t be effective either, creating a situation where weeks or even months have gone by before the client realizes they need to update the content to properly market to their audience.

Solving this problem is tricky, but not impossible. Here are a few good approaches.

Mea Culpa

If you are a writer, you need to learn to take responsibility for your mistakes with good grace. An immediate apology and offering to provide a prompt solution can keep your professional relationship from being irreparably damaged.

Do you always have to apologize and offer reparations? No. But if you know that you violated the instructions given or allowed the focus of your work to stray from actually marketing the client’s content, then you certainly should.

Ask For Direction

“It is often easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” – Anonymous

This may be true in some situations, but it is not the mark of a professional. As a professional, while you should be able to produce great content with minimal direction, there are definitely times when you simply need clearer instructions.

If you receive a content marketing project that doesn’t have clear instructions, ask your client for additional direction. Whether you realize it or not, it is actually your responsibility to recognize when instructions are unclear and request clarification. If you don’t, you are harming your client and your own reputation.

Should you be unable to contact the client before the deadline, it is still best practice to identify to the client points of confusion you had and provide explanations for how you approached them.

This clearly indicates to the clients what portions of the content may not be sufficient and helps the client provide clearer instructions in the future.

A Light Touch of Control

If you aren’t maintaining enough control as a client, it is probably because you either trust the writer you are using or don’t want to inhibit the writer’s creative juices. That is perfectly reasonable, but there are ways to maintain brand guidelines without shackling your writer.

The best way is to offer examples of successful content marketing similar to what you need. This creates a framework for the writer without forcing the writer’s hand. Great writers are remarkably creative at innovating even while adopting a particular style.

Explain Your Motivations

Most clients are very good at defining their goals, but few clients offer information about the motivations behind those goals. For example, if you are trying to market a new line of clothes to teenagers, specifically because summer is approaching, explain that motivation to the writer.

The knowledge that the content should be seasonal will significantly alter the writers approach and make it more likely that content fits your marketing needs.

Ask For a Synopsis

If none of the above approaches are working and you continually have difficulty maintaining control, try asking the writer for a synopsis before they start the project.

This slows down the process, but it can give you additional control in a way that still gives the writer creative leeway. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it is an excellent compromise. And at the end of the day, the relationship between a writer and a client should be one where both parties are willing to make reasonable compromises.


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Mickey has degrees in linguistics and logic from a top 25 university. He has been writing online for the approximately five years, specializing in gaming, hobbies, and media. He has never missed a deadline. Quality and speed are equally important to Mickey and he'll never sacrifice one for the other.

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