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What is a strategic content writing consultant, anyway?

Frankly, content marketing is largely about the writing. It just won't work if the writing isn't exceptional. That makes finding top writing talent a priority.

But, one of the major content marketing talent gaps that marketing executives must fill in their content marketing teams is in expert strategic content writers. These are not "just writers." They are marketing consultants with strong editorial backgrounds who also have solid business acumen and marketing fluency, particularly as it relates to content marketing strategy.

As importantly, they are passionate about all aspects of content marketing including social media, visual content, storytelling, audience development, data-driven writing, and particular topics or niches.

They know all well and fluidly apply this essential mix of skills to content writing to produce unique content strategically. They also can act as consultants to help you improve content reach so it generates qualified leads for your brand.

One of the major content marketing talent gaps that marketing executives must fill in their content marketing teams is in expert strategic content writers. These are not "just writers." They are marketing consultants with strong editorial backgrounds who also have solid business acumen and marketing fluency, particularly as it relates to content marketing strategy. As importantly, they are passionate about content marketing, social media, visual content, storytelling and particular subject areas or niches.

They fluidly combine both sets of skills with their passion by applying this essential mix to content writing to write content strategically. They also can act as consultants to help you improve content reach, so it generates qualified leads for your brand. When you're reading industry news, you'll learn these specialists—often journalists who love marketing, too, and don't see engaging in marketing as "selling out"— are unicorns.

Despite being hard to find, they are not fictional characters you hope you'll hire to bring good luck to your content marketing program. Great strategic content writers or strategic content writing consultants do exist. If you know where to look and what to expect from them, you can hire them and integrate them successfully into your content marketing team.

What else should we know about these specialized writers?

Before you get started hiring strategic content writers, there a few thing to know. Like any marketing professional, many strategic content writers may not only focus on industry niches; they have a particular professional focus. While some are full-scale content strategists who also offer writing, many are not. Usually, those who do not concentrate on providing content strategy don't have equal passion for developing it as they do for writing.

It's not that strategic content writers don't understand how to develop a content marketing strategy. Like all marketing consultants, strategic content writing experts are quite adept at content marketing strategy creation.

They understand all of its aspects from determining target audiences to marketing automation to using martech to measuring ROI. They often participate in the process, too.

But, their passion usually is to combine editorial storytelling with content marketing strategy so their focus is providing the written aspect of a content marketing strategy. These specialized professionals' advisory services revolve around helping you modify your existing content marketing strategy so their writing fits seamlessly into your current content marketing program. They also may offer guidance on visual elements that will work well with their written content.

Accordingly, many will want your organization to have created a formal content marketing plan for which you contract their unique skills to provide the critical written assets. Those organizations are the ones where strategic content writing consultants or strategic content writers can contribute their best work.

How do we work with strategic content writing consultants?

Collaborate with strategic content writers as if they are marketing professionals with an editorial background. Again, they are not "just writers" but marketing experts who've chosen to focus on providing editorial content writing services that integrate well into content marketing strategies. Many also provide copywriting services and know the difference between editorial content and ad copy.

They're not less intelligent, less motivated or even less educated than other marketers; they're passionate about writing. They're not unlike attorneys who decided to do something with their law degree other than practice law.

Accordingly, they will expect the same level of respect and support from you as any permanent member of your marketing team. They also will want their work and contributions to your organization valued.

After all, how well will your content program work without their specialized skills?

Moreover, because most strategic content writers do have a strong editorial background, they approach their client projects with serious integrity. Your organization should count on that. They will be uncomfortable with any marketing tactics they know won't work and will share that with you.

They also expect that you will hear them when they tell you that particular content writing tactics—like keyword stuffing or SEO-centrism—won't make your content successful. They usually are keen on helping you focus your content on your audience first and telling stories they love. They understand in content marketing, your marketing or sales goals are secondary.

In that connection, they also may share that the best content is not advertising, which is a one-way, hit-or-miss broadcast session your brand is having with broad rather than targeted audiences. Strategic content writers know content is a conversation with your deftly targeted audiences about their needs and desires and how your brand meets them. There's a fine line here but make your content immediately useful, problem-solving or desire-gratifying, relatable and shareable not primarily promotional.

If they have told you what tactics do and don't work and you insist on employing those that do not, they will expect you not to blame them when you learn they are right.

Moreover, it's important to treat them like an important part of your team even if they work remotely. Include them in meetings about content marketing strategy, particularly as it relates to their project. Ask for their ideas and take them seriously.

However, refrain from asking them to offer consulting services when you have not or will not compensate them for providing that expertise.

Only telling them what you have decided they will do is not an effective way to get the best work from them. They are not support staff (whom it's hoped you don't treat this way). They are marketing professionals with a strong editorial background who bring hard-to-find, essential skills to your content marketing program.

Treat them that way, especially if you're collaborating with one who operates as an independent consultant. Remember how hard you've worked to add this pro to your content marketing team.

How do we find experienced strategic content writing consultants?

How you go about doing so depends largely on your organization size and type and the resources you have available to you. Remember that you can expect to find top strategic content writing consultants only by using professional recruiting strategies.

If you're able to hire a content marketing agency to conduct content marketing activities for you, they will have contracted with strategic content writers. You will be able to choose among those, in most cases.

Also consider placing ads on social media and digital recruiting platforms like PowerToFly, Mediabistro or LinkedIn. Twitter and Facebook ads could work, too, depending on what kind of content you want to be written by these consultants. Be creative by going to those social web platforms where strategic content writers in your marketing sector live to find them.

Another way to find them is through their self-marketing activities. Because strategic content writers are professional marketers, they will be marketing themselves expertly, usually with a content marketing strategy. In fact, the best strategic marketing writing consultants often are found through their content marketing efforts.

By conducting their own marketing campaigns, they are showing you that they know both editorial writing and content marketing strategy and take the time to execute theirs well. These professionals also will be sharing content in your industry and engaging in conversations about industry topics or content marketing.

Look for those who are doing this via social media, Q&A sites like Quora or LinkedIn Groups where they are answering questions. Review their blog content or email newsletters shared with you. Pay attention to them on other marketing platforms and professional listservs.

Next, see if you can get recommendations from your colleagues at other brands. But, keep in mind that because excellent strategic content writers are so hard to find, they may not want you to "steal" their talent. (Obviously, this is an issue for both consultants and marketers looking for them.)

Another place to look is on blogs that target marketers or audiences in your industry. Many strategic content writing consultants are contributors to those blogs, and you can usually reach out to them through those. This tactic is particularly useful if the strategic content writer is a member of professional associations in which you hold membership.

They may blog or write other content for those professional organizations. Looking at that content may offer a better way to evaluate them than finding them in a provider directory on the association's site. You might also find them on sites of professional organizations for top freelance writers.

If yours is a smaller enterprise with fewer resources, be more creative finding these professionals. In addition to using many of the techniques above, you also could try freelancer recruiting sites or online classifieds. The challenge is to avoid platforms that require freelancers to bid to get work.

Also, avoid offering rates that are too low. Do some research to understand market rates for professional strategic content writing consultants. They're competitive, but they aren't very low. You should pay more for less content to get quality over quantity until you can pay for what you need.

If you decide to use these platforms regardless, keep in mind that top strategic content writing talent is unlikely won't be on them actively seeking work. The best strategic content writers only offer their services to thriving—high growth or established—enterprises.

Focused on building their businesses the way you are, excellent strategic content writing consultants avoid those sites, except if they are payment platforms for clients or they're are using them to enhance their SEO.

Mutually Exceeding Expectations is Important

Because these specialized writing consultants are not "just writers" but are real business owners who understand your business imperatives, you can expect excellence from them. But, also expect to pay strategic content writing consultants well and on time.

Expect them to want a mutually beneficial agreement in place before starting work and to ask for agreement changes, if necessary. Expect them to want regular communication with you, especially while working on projects. And, as stated before, expect them to want the same respect the other members of your marketing team receive.

If you treat strategic content writing consultants as the professionals they are, you'll get what you expect from them. You'll receive excellently crafted final content delivered on time, on budget and that fits seamlessly into your content marketing strategy.

(c) 2016. Dahna M. Chandler for Thrive Writing, Inc., a division of Audience First Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without express written permission of the author.

I'm an experienced strategic content writer with an award-winning journalism and content marketing strategy background. My passion is helping thriving enterprises, particularly consultancies and premium newsletters, in the financial services reach their next revenue level. I can do that by producing lead-generating, targeted, content that converts. Let me benefit your business with my strategic content writing and marketing savvy. Call me at (202) 683-9934 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute introductory call to learn more.