Pros and cons of hiring content writers online

Perhaps I need to start this blog post with an apology.

I posted a (fake) writing assignment on Freelancer.com and held my breath, about three minutes or so. That’s how long it took the first freelancer to respond to my request “to do some blog posting.”

Since I am a content writer I felt I should check out the competition on a site such as Freelancer.com. The website claims over 18 million registered users.

About six additional freelancers followed in quick succession to let me know they would like to complete my assignment. Another dozen or so took a few days to send me an email. That’s an impressive and quick response rate. The website calculated the average cost quoted by the candidates. Each freelancer gets rated (up to five stars) and reviewed by clients. So far, so good!

Next, I completed a quick review of the candidates’ profiles. Allow me to summarize my findings: If a person can’t submit a basic bio, maybe said person shouldn’t moonlight as a freelance writer.

Here are two typical bios of writers with five stars:

“Being a platinum level expert ezine author and having 4 years of writing expertise (articles, rewriting, blogs, ghostwriting etc), I am fully confident that I can deliver you high quality, plagiarism free, seo friendly and error free articles within the earliest possible time and also at an affordable price. Please check my portfolio for samples.” (A 52-words sentence with multiple errors!)

“i am H. G., a first class degree holder of Geography/Environmental management and also a full-time professional writer. I write articles, SEO, Press releases, Academic assignments and Technical writings. With my services, your project shall be delivered as at when requested and also of the highest standards. Your satisfaction is my primary objective.”

freelancer2Next, the website sent me an avalanche of email with interesting subject lines. See illustration.

Next, I closed down the fake job and my account. My apologies to the candidates!

Does it make sense to hire through a website such as Freelancer.com? Based on my initial experience, I would proceed with caution.

Surprisingly, the average rate quoted by the Freelancer.com candidates came in at $80/hour. My assignment didn’t specify the amount of writing or research required. Nevertheless, that isn’t exactly cheap and in line with rates charged by many professional freelance writers in Toronto.

Looking for a qualified content writer who is registered with a professional association and accountable to a peer group? A person who knows your local market and Canadian context? Who is aware of differences in American, Canadian or British spelling, punctuation, vocab, measurements, currencies and preferences?

In the GTA, I suggest you visit PWAC or PIC, a group of Indies who are also members of IABC. And, of course, I’d love to hear from you at any time.

 

 

 

Do junior staff outperform on social media?

old computerIf you wish, call this post Confessions of an Older Communications Consultant.

Often, organizations hire young staffers to fill social media jobs.

Is this an example of ageism in the workforce?

I used to think so.

After reviewing media consumption logs maintained by a Canadian university class recently, I gained a different perspective.

The average student self-reported six and a half hours of media consumption in a typical 24-hour period. This included three hours on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube  and Instagram.

Apparently, for many young people, social media is in their DNA; it’s a lifestyle.

Employees with family responsibilities, jobs, commutes, community commitments, and after-hour Inbox overload can’t spend hours a day, every day, on social media.  Moreover, would they have any desire to do so? (And, here is my confession: I certainly do not have the desire to do so.)

Does it take 180 minutes daily to become truly social media savvy? Probably not. Can older individuals successfully invest significant professional time into social media? Understand how it interacts with other tools in the communication toolbox and can help to build customer loyalty, brand and bottom lines? Absolutely.

But, to be fair, a young employee who routinely invests 180 minutes each day into social media will likely be highly qualified to accept social media responsibilities, and, more importantly, love the job.

One footnote: When a business wants to target Boomers and older consumers, the online strategy and content should likely to be driven by a content writer who understands this cohort. A person who engages in new media consumption and “hangs out” on Facebook like other middle-aged consumers.  After all, almost half of those over 65 who use the Internet now have a Facebook account according to a recent Pew study.

 

Cash and content are king in our digital world

cartoonby Nandy Heule

An SEO marketing company recently plastered simple flyers on telephone poles to advertise their services in mid-town Toronto.

One of their offers included “content bundles.” For example, three articles and 40 social media posts each month will cost you $99 for 1,500 words.

Maybe it sounds self-serving, but I’m concerned about this service offering.

The general consensus now suggests “content is king.” Your online info will be read if it is of serious interest to the readers you are targeting as well as SEO-friendly. Moreover, such content needs to be free of grammatical errors, typos and plagiarism.

A steady trickle of new, quality content will improve search engine performance. Such blog posts and news updates showcase an organization’s experience, creativity, and commitment to excellence. Quality content helps build influence and reputation, not just web traffic. It builds brand and bottom lines.

It makes sense to hire an experienced freelance writer who can work with rough notes, industry research, client success stories and other materials. She can turn such information into compelling copy — content that tells a brand story, demonstrates positive impact, and builds influence. Please plan to pay more than $99 for 1,500 words for this process. But, be confident that what you look like online matches the quality work you provide.

If the content marketing budget can’t exceed $99 a month, talk to a good writer who can produce 1 or 2 pieces of quality material. Less may very well be more!  A client testimonial, an industry event, an inspirational quote, a staff bio, an image with a caption, or a factoid can all provide strong content on a limited budget.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need a Toronto-based freelance writer to have a look at your content and evaluate its effectiveness.

Selfies smart PR strategy for campaigning politicians

Selfietripper

Illustration by Paul Faassen first published in Vrij Nederland, 11July 2015

At a recent campaign event, Justin Trudeau was giving lots of kids the opportunity to take a selfie with him. Smart move by our Liberal Leader.

If nothing else, he validated the parents’ decision to drag their children out to a political event early in the morning. And, these kids may well boost voter turn-out among youth in the near future.

At times, it must be painful for our national party leaders to suffer through endless selfie assaults by the party faithful.

But it’s also a great PR strategy.

The selfie has become a mandatory tool to illustrate our success in life, says Dutch writer Els Quaegebeur, in her recent article in the weekly news magazine Vrij Nederland. She adds, when we send these pictures we no longer need to explain our success, we demonstrate it.

(Are these images are our new postcards? Forget putting a piece of cardboard on the fridge. We can now Tweet, post, share, email, text, and Snapchat the evidence of our latest adventures.)

Once posted on social media, our selfies are the new show ‘n’ tell: Look, I met a famous Canadian! Hey, I met Trudeau (or fill in ____ for your favorite politician).”

In the process, these innocent pictures turn into powerful brand building tools for political leaders. The selfies we share on social media turn into thousands of public endorsements. “Me and my smiling MP”; last time I checked, that’s free, positive PR and leverages the exhausting, costly campaign events politicians must attend across the country to get (re)elected.

Go ahead then, do your share to build the brand of your favorite politician – try to grab a selfie at the next rally you attend, enjoy the moment, and hit the social media circuit.

T

Should you trust PM Harper’s Twitter account?

Harper TweetIs Conservative Leader Stephen Harper  still trying to suggest he is personally managing his Twitter account? And is it appropriate for @pmharper to stuff our news feed with Conservative propaganda during an election campaign?

Justin Trudeau’s Twitter account clearly states it is run by the Liberal Leader himself and campaign staff. Thomas Mulcair is rather blunt about the matter: “Account run by .”  Green Party’s Elizabeth May explains her Tweets are her own “unless signed by Hill Staff.”

I wrote about Mr. Harper’s Twitter feed earlier this year, asking a few simple questions: Where was Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 10th?

And what was he doing, exactly?

Apparently, he was getting briefed on Black Sea Operations. He let his 815K followers know about it on Twitter.

First, does the Prime Minister really want us to believe that he is personally Tweeting while being briefed on military matters? Let’s just say: I hope not.

Indeed, let’s assume a PR staffer can post on behalf of our Prime Minister — using his picture and official Twitter handle.

This seems to raise some security questions. First, how many staffers have access to the PM’s account? Second, is the PM really aware of the content being posted on his behalf almost constantly? How long would it take him (or staff) to learn about a fraudulent post?

Are Canadians asked to trust this information distributed by Mr. Harper?

Or are we collectively asked to accept that Mr. Harper’s Twitter account is just a PR ploy? I suggest our trust in all information distributed by our Prime Minister may be undermined when it’s entirely obvious he isn’t personally sending this information to us.

Likewise the credibility of corporation, non-profit or professional services firm may be undermined by its Twitter account.

Often, organizations delegate the production of social media content to communication departments. Indeed, senior leaders have more urgent matters to attend to most of the time. A major law firm recently sent the following Tweets to its followers: “Just received a package from one of our favs, @CLEBC!” Or what about this one: “Appreciate my job/colleagues more & more now!” Another firm wants its followers to know one of its lawyers is interviewed by several media outlets. Are these organizations expecting their clients to care about these trivial matters?

Twitter can be used to help an organization share relevant news instantly and build brand. However, the platform’s instant, quirky nature and the inability to pull back information can likely harm an organization’s reputation more quickly than other media platforms. Moreover, organizations who delegate the production of social media content on behalf of their senior staff may need to review how this could impact credibility.

So, what were you doing on June 15th? Reading your Twitter news feed?