How to help writers succeed

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Does your company ever need to hire writer? Here are some tips on how to help writers succeed…

I recently accepted a contract with a small communications firm. They wanted me to write some stories that perfectly fit the style I best like to produce: 500 words, one to two interviews per story, quick turnaround.

Yes! I could do all those things! I accepted the contract gladly and it mostly went very well. With this recent experience in mind, here are some tips for how you can get the best possible results from your writers:

  • Give detailed assignments: This means explaining the questions you want the story to answer and providing reasonable sources (with email addresses and telephone numbers) who can be interviewed. Send each assignment as a separate email (or Word document), not all bunched together on one document.  If there are any additional requirements — such as finding photos or selecting pull quotes — be sure to mention them here. Don’t add more work later. (Thankfully, my client did the detailed assigning part really well.)
  • Pre-interview the sources: I know. This sounds like work. And it is. But if you’re expecting the writer to produce a story along a certain lines, hadn’t you better make sure the source is the right person to be interviewed? In this recent case, I had to completely re-do a story because one of the sources wasn’t right. This created extra work for me and forced me to juggle my schedule for my other clients.
  • Make sure your sources are actually going to be available: For another one of my stories, one of the subjects was tied up in meetings for an entire week, which effectively put the story “on hold.” Always check with your sources first, before you assign them to the writer, making sure they’re actually going to be available.
  • Iron out the approval process: I’m really good with the approval process, although that’s not what I call it. I call it FACT CHECKING, which puts the emphasis where it belongs — on accuracy, rather than style. Anyway, I never mind doing fact checking. I view it not as a burden, but as a chance to check the accuracy of my understanding of a topic.

Assigning writers  — especially if you’re not a writer yourself — will save you time and get you a better result. But it won’t mean you’re entirely free of work. How well you assign, and the care and attention you put into it, will have an inevitable result on the finished piece of writing.

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