by Nathan S
Suppose your company is writing a white paper. This white paper needs to have a certain set of information in it about your company, but also needs to do so in a way that makes your company seem useful. That is, white papers are designed to show how a company addresses a need. This requires a close familiarity with your business, your industry, and your expertise. However, all of these things take time for a writer to discover on their own, and will always drive the price up. So what do you do when you are on a budget? It is actually pretty simple. There’s an acronym that you need to keep in mind when you are looking for content:
GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out)
This is actually a computer science term, but it works just as well here. In computer science, GIGO was used a lot as a summary of a basic computing concept:
“If input data is not complete, accurate, and timely, then the resulting output is unreliable and of no useful value.” (Wiktionary, emphasis mine)
Writers are, at their heart, artists, it’s true. There’s nothing we love more than a well-crafted sentence. However, because writers deal in language rather than visuals, we have the responsibility for our well-crafted sentences to convey meaning. In professional writing, this means being informative. However, being informative requires either a) actually knowing what we’re talking about (less likely, especially for copywriters), or b) having enough input to fake it in a believable way. This means reading, and when input doesn’t come directly from the client, it means independent research.
Here’s the irony: Most writers do not get paid enough for their work for independent research to be worth their while. Therefore, a lot of what the modern copywriter is learning to do is to simply repackage the information which is given to them when the project is assigned. That is, the average copywriter today relies solely or very nearly solely on the information given to them when the content is assigned.
While you can pay a writer enough that they’ll do research on their own, chances are good that it simply is not in your budget most of the time. Especially when you need something big, like 60 pages of web content.
Getting quality in these situations, when you can only really afford a bit of the writer’s time per content piece, is all about giving the writer easily digested, accurate information, and lots of it. The more information the writer has up front from you, both about whatever it is you want to talk about and how you want to talk about it, the less research they will need to do on their own to create quality content. This doesn’t mean that the copywriter will use every piece of information you give them! However, the less independent research they need to do, the quicker they will be able to turn around a piece which meets your requests. When they can turn the piece around quicker, you get better quality for a given price than when they are forced to do a little research and a lot of guesswork.
No, your writer is not going to spend an hour researching a piece, then spend another hour writing it, and another hour making sure it’s perfectly crafted, all for $10. Would you do that much work for that price? Yet many companies expect writers to create these marvelous pieces with little to no direction, for $10 (or less). There’s something incredibly wrong with this idea.
So the moral of the story is this: You should take the time to tell the writer what you want, just as a programmer must be very specific in telling a program what they want to happen. This is especially true when you need content on the cheap. When you give a writer nothing but vague generalities, leaving them to figure out the rest (garbage in), it is likely that the content returned will be inaccurate, repetitive, lackluster, ill-suited to your purpose, or all of the above (garbage out).