3 Article-Specific Instructions to Give Your Blog Writer
This article is for clients or marketers who outsource blog article writing. Also, if you’re a blogger, it may help you think about how to plan and organize your thoughts before you sit down to write your next blog post. I’ve put together a free template: Article-Specific Instructions Template as a companion to this post (no registration required).
Why is it important to provide article-specific writer instructions?
Those who write their own blog articles often do so by first getting an idea. They turn the idea into a working topic or title and begin writing their way into it. That process works fine for some, especially if you have a good grasp on the topic, audience, issues and so on. But it doesn’t work very well when you are commissioning someone else to do the writing. Giving scant direction and expecting a writer to come up with a killer article is a recipe for disaster, often resulting in revisionary hell!
When writers sit down to create your blog article they want to understand what you expect. It’s not enough to give them a keyword, title and some general instructions and expect they’ll turn it into something great. They need more, writers are not mind readers. They need clear and concise direction in the form of article-specific instruction. Your ability to effectively provide it is directly proportional to how satisfied you’ll be with the outcome.
The benefits of providing clear and thoughtful article-specific instructions to writers include:
- A sharper focus on the topic and what you want to convey about it
- Fewer revisions – saving everyone time and money
- A better chance the article will hit home with you and its target audience
So, what do writers want in article-specific instruction from their clients? Between my own experience and asking writers directly, here are the most important things you can provide (and a few things to try and avoid).
1. Give clear and concise direction of what you want the article to be about
Your writer needs something concrete to get their motor running - and going in the right direction. Imagine trying to steer a parked car – doesn’t work too well. That’s what it’s like for a writer without some clear instructions of what you want them to write about.
One writer put it this way: “Being specific ensures that your vision translates into the article. You don’t have to write several paragraphs to get a point across, just a couple paragraphs detailing what you want the article to focus on.” And another indicated her reluctance to accept assignments without sufficient direction: “I’m hesitant to take jobs that provide very little information because I don’t want to go through four or five revisions just to find out what the client initially wanted.”
When composing a summary paragraph or two, keep in mind that each blog post should be confined to a single, specific topic. According to one of my favorite blog writers, “this is the single most important thing to communicate to your writer: exactly what is this post about? The more specific you are in defining the topic; the easier it will be for your writer to deliver.”
So as you consider your keyword/topic and the title for the post, start giving article-specific instructions by completing this sentence: “I want this blog article to be about...” It’s also very helpful to tell the writer what you do not want the article to be about. For example, in the instructions I gave writers for this assignment, I was specific in saying I didn’t want them to write about things like word count, SEO and page format - like the use of subheads and bullet points – all these would be covered in the “general writer instructions.” I wanted their remarks to go deeper and deal exclusively with the topic: “article-specific writing instructions.”
Bonus insights to give the writer:
- State your goal for the article in one sentence. For example: “This blog post is to provide compelling reasons for small business owners to use online video in their marketing mix.”
- Let them know if you want a particular type of tone and narrative (voice) for this article. Think about your audience and goal for the article and convey the type of tone and narrative that best fits your overall purpose. Tone refers to how the article is positioned and relates to the audience. Popular tones articles can assume include: formal, professional, factual, instructional/educational, informal, conversational, entertaining/humorous and promotional. Tell the writer what, for instance, “instructional” means to you. Should it read like friendly advice or be more of an academic discussion? Narrative refers to the point of view of the article being either in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd person. First person narrative speaks from a more personal or autobiographical voice using “I” or “me.” Second person is typically characterized by an informative, educational or conversational voice using pronouns “you” or “your.” Third person narrative speaks from a more detached, neutral perspective and makes use of “he” and “she” pronouns. Combining tone and narrative in clear expressions of what you’re looking for will help guide the writer and fire their creative imagination to higher levels of expression.
- Give them your angle. Give the writer your pitch, perspective or angle on the topic. Doing so helps him/her position the message consistent with your unique views and values.
2. Provide some good examples and supportive information
Once you’ve given clear and concise information on what your vision is for the article, back it up with providing some supportive (bullet) points and references. A writer put it this way: “When I start on a new piece of blog writing, I appreciate having links and some references of supportive information from the client, so I know I’m heading in the right direction. I’ll still do research on my own to make sure I have a solid understanding of the topic, but anything that makes getting started easier is a bonus.”
Don’t think you need to provide a boat load of references for the writer to review. There’s kind of a delicate balance here. Providing too much may overwhelm the writer (and steer them in far too many directions) while too little may not give enough depth. A rule of thumb is to provide enough on-topic references the writer could absorb in one hour of prep time. Most writers will spend one to two hours in research before they start writing (an average 500 word blog artice). Giving them a few references should do the trick.
The types of examples and supportive information to give writers include:
- Statistics and references to reputable outside sources
- Any research or web links that support your argument (central idea)
- Contrasting information or differing points of view on the topic
- Links to other blogs you want the writer to either emulate or avoid
- Articles revealing a writing style or tone you want the writer to take for this particular article
Types of examples that should be avoided:
- Files or links to live or on-demand webinars
- Research papers, white papers or eBooks
- Anything that would be too broad and consume more than an hour (or two) of research time
3. Connect what the article is about to a next step
This instruction should answer the question: How should the writer wrap up the discussion and call for a response from the reader? This is the conclusion part of the article where the writer will sum up the value of what’s been said, apply what it means to the audience and encourage a next step. What, in your mind is the preferred call-to-action? Whether it’s to invite a response in the blog comments or a call to some relevant action or offer, let the writer know your preferred call-to-action.
What can you expect on the first draft?
Once you’ve articulated to the writer what the article should be about, shared supportive information and connected the content with a logical next step, relax and wait for the first draft. What should you expect?
First, don’t expect to end up with a blog article written exactly as you would have written it. The goal is to produce an article that aligns with the direction you’ve given in the article-specific instructions and is reflective of the writer’s creative range, experiences and skills.
Secondly, you should expect to request only minor revisions to correct any inaccuracies. Normally, when the writer is sufficiently prepared with the type of client-provided information I’ve discussed, very little, if any, corrections, additions or changes need to be made. In my experience, 90% of first drafts are approved as is when the writer is provided clear and concise expectations at the onset.
Free Article-Specific Instructions Template
As I mentioned at the top, I’ve put together an Article-Specific Instructions Template for helping to give blog writers what they need. It’s in Word format so feel free to download and modify it to meet your needs. Also, I’d welcome tips on what works well for you and your writers in the comments below.
But wait, there's more!
Download an all-in-one PDF version of this article with links to the template! Get the article: How to Provide Article-Specific Instructions to a Blog Writer and Template.
I also want to thank some of my top, go-to writers for contributing their ideas that went into this article. Thanks to Amy, James, Miranda and Jason - you guys rock as my favorite blog article writers!
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