Why Marketers Must Be Better Vetters

Jun 11, 2019

I’m sure I’m about to upset all sorts of smart, hard-working, well-meaning marketing folks, but I’m going to say it.

Marketers must do a much better job of vetting the strategic content that their organizations put out.

There. I said it. Now I need to explain myself. Faithful readers will know I think there’s far too much mediocre content out there that’s being passed off as insightful thought leadership. More worrying: the quality of that content hasn’t improved over the last 20 years. I’m not alone in believing that.

So is that Marketing’s fault? Of course not. Nor is it because thought leaders are any less smart. If anything, it’s because of the pressure to publish – to publish something to try to break through all that noise – and because nobody has any time to think big thoughts these days, let alone test them with peers and then write about them.

But I contend that it is Marketing’s job to act as the first line of defense in the fight for editorial quality.

Simply put: marketers have to be better vetters. Otherwise, they risk being couriers of substandard content.

Vetting should start when marketers send the content brief to authors who have declared that they have something to say – or when marketers expect that they will have something important to say.

Vetting is the first opportunity to elevate the standard of thought leadership – to stand up to authors to say an idea isn’t quite ready for publication, or ready for discussion with a writer, or that the idea doesn’t fit with the organization’s marketing themes.

However, many marketers don’t do that – for a host of perfectly good reasons. For a start, the big-dog authors are often the marketers’ bosses. It can be really challenging and stressful to mount effective counterarguments against articulate, opinionated, forceful subject-matter experts. And often, marketers are simply too busy. For most of the marketing folks I know, strategic content is just one of a thousand issues they’re juggling on any one day.

And yet… if marketers simply pass along mediocre ideas to a writer, they’ve just implicitly blessed the idea – which then puts the writer in the position of being bad cop. If the writer is freelance, that’s a more difficult role to play. Mixing metaphors here, but somebody has to call that baby ugly.

Here’s my request of Marketing, then. Assuming you’re already using a content brief to capture information about the proposed article or blog or report – at least to pinpoint deadline, likely length, and target readers – then please just carve out 10 more minutes to gauge whether the idea is good enough.

Your rebuttal may be that you can’t argue otherwise with a highly experienced author. Maybe so, but a well-designed content brief will help expose the weaknesses in the proposed piece. Someone in your Marketing group will have a sense of what “good” looks like. And you can also reach out to a professional writer for input and advice. Provided that you’re not actually assigning the story at that point – not yet, anyway – the writer can be more candid about the strength or weakness of the story proposal.

Armed with fact-based inputs, you should then have what you need to request another round or two of due diligence from the authors. There may be grumbles, but the stronger your fact base, the more likely that they’ll accept your pushback.

Yes, I admit it – it sounds like all that pushback may take more than 10 minutes! Since nobody has invented the 48-hour day yet (and thank goodness they haven’t), you’ll have to find some magic time. It takes a village to produce strategic content that really gets attention – and which opens doors with prospects, creates new opportunities to get back in front of existing clients, and sparks the interest of the media.

Marketers are part of that village too.