December 6, 2016 by greatcontent
How greatcontent actually produces great content
“What is the meaning of existence?” – Some of the most important questions in life can’t be answered. Luckily for us, others can. Here, for example, we intend to solve the eternal question “how does the greatcontent team actually produce great content?”
The answer, as you’ll soon read, will provide you with several applications for your own approach to content projects, as well as our own secrets (!!!) for success for delivering content projects for our clients.
We really get to know the client
The first conversation with a client is something of the utmost importance. We want to make it very clear that our commitment to a content project doesn’t end when the writing starts, so we ask many questions and learn all about their plans and goals.
The answers will provide the bone structure of the briefing, the time frame, and the quality expectations for the whole project.
- Target: Who will read the text? (Read more about: Personas)
- Goal: What should the reader do? (Read more about: Call to Actions)
- Quality: What level of information is needed?
- Deadline: How soon do we want this to happen?
We outline our expectations
A good text is the one which hits the right spot and achieves all of the goals. Therefore, thinking about the results we expect from a content project is the best (and only) approach to start outlining a client’s expectations, and to write a briefing that will be up to the task.
Creating a good briefing can be as simple as making a To Do List of what the content should be. This task can be made easier by breaking it down in the following key points:
- Target: who will read the text and what do they hope to gain from it
- Tone: formal/informal
- Content: what is the topic of the piece (don’t forget to add links to your homepage if the subject matter isn’t common knowledge)
- Vocabulary and style: also connected to the content, what is the level of expertise for the text?
- Structure: are there any expectations regarding the layout (titles, paragraphs, length, etc.)? Are they any HTML requirements?
- Dos and Don’ts: “don’t use too many adjectives” …etc.
More briefing tips:
- Be direct and to the point, we prefer short and precise sentences
- Organize the content by topic, do not repeat yourself
- If the briefing is unclear, ask for clarification from either a colleague or our support team.
We use checklists (a lot!)
To optimize our internal processes all the way through to completion, including working with writers and proofreaders, we make great use of checklists and bullet points.
They have the advantage of being easy to follow and being quick to adjust, so that they fit different requirements from one project to another.
Our checklists include all of the basic requirements (recap of the briefing’s dos and don’ts, a list of the most challenging details, etc.) and they are adjusted based on the point of view of the person completing the task. Whether it’s in the briefing for the writers, in an e-mail to the proofreader, or even for our internal team, each receives their own adjusted, checklist.
We give matching examples
Beside any formal guidelines, we believe it’s easier to understand expectations using specific examples, showing the correct layout, writing style, vocabulary, and tone for the target audience…
If such an example is not provided by the client, we usually either produce a short example sentence, or we pick one of the first texts produced during the project.
We keep the writers in the loop
After all client’s expectations have been outlined in the most precise way, it is still up to the community of writers to actually create all the texts.
We know how important it is to keep them informed of all changes and any challenges they may face. Therefore, we don’t hesitate to use our mass-messaging tool.
It is important to give them all the relevant information needed, to help them learn how to write the best possible texts for a project – and to do our best to filter any pressure regarding the deadlines away from them so that they can concentrate on the work.
When asking for revisions, we keep in mind that the goal is to teach our authors how to write better texts, not to point out errors.
We review with a fresh mind
We all know how this works: even after the most meticulous plan kicks off, many things can happen that force us to rush and make less meticulous adjustments to the original plan.
Don’t panic! The key to a successfully delivered project lays in reviewing it with a fresh mind.
Depending on the technical complexity of a project (and the length of its delivery checklist), reviewing it can sometimes take longer than actually writing and proofreading.
The review process consists of picking a random selection of texts, going through the briefing requirements and the proofreading checklist once again to ensure that all of the batches of texts produced match the client’s quality expectations.
We improve quality over time
With most of our clients, or their supporting agency, being mostly e-commerce, our strength definitely lays in delivering reliable quality, at ever increasing production speeds, for large batches of very similar texts (usually product and category descriptions).
So it is only natural that we don’t just maintain consistently high production quality standards, but that we work hard to continually improve them over time. Here is what we do to achieve this important goal:
- We improve the briefing, adding more details or rephrasing the parts writers misunderstood
- We review our checklists, adding more points or specifying the challenges to pay particular attention to
- We change the sample text for a better or more suitable one or use more than one example to show a broader range
- We select a higher quality level or we restrict access to a group of writers (group order), to those with first-hand experience of an advanced topic (note: this measure affects the project’s price)
- We train our proofreaders and writers specifically over e-mail and phone
Last but not least: we really love Excel
Sometimes a project with a particularly complicated series of technical requirements comes along, requirements such as a specific formatting, or with the need to attach more information than the briefing can provide.
For anything that can’t be fixed using the layout tool (which can fix a lot of problems!), our Excel-passionate team has created a transitory file to transform data from and into the required format and structure.
If you don’t share our love for Excel, but your content project demands interaction with a database of sort – please get in touch with us for more detailed support, as the examples are too many and too varied to list.
In a nutshell
At the end of the day, the success of any content project is determined by three elements: finding qualified writers, communicating clearly, and being diligent about the details that make for great content.